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Game Review

Read Dead Redemption 2 review – total immersion in the wonderfully, wild, wild, west

The open world western is a landmark - even for the revered Rockstar Games

Red Dead Redemption 2

It is a known fact that open world games are extremely hard to pull off. Even more difficult is creating a world that is full of life, immerses the player, and sinks them into a new universe detailed enough to make them forget about all others. Rockstar Games are known for their diverse and engaging open world games that do exactly this, going back as far as 2003’s Grand Theft Auto III, all the way up to world renowned Grand Theft Auto V but I honestly believe that their latest title; Red Dead Redemption 2 is not just the best title that the company has developed but one of the greatest video games of recent years.

The story follows Arthur Morgan; Lieutenant of one of the few gangs of outlaws left in a dying Western Frontier, the Van Der Linde Gang. It’s a difficult comeback after a failed robbery attempt in the growing town of Blackwater, one of the biggest towns in the original Red Dead Redemption and one that can be visited in this new game, along with a fair amount of the original map.

The story is slow paced and relaxing, and although that may seem like a bad thing, it isn’t at all. Like the rest of the game it enables a greater level of immersion into the world and characters than most, if not all games out right now. You really get a sense of family in the gang and a depth to the world through the almost Hollywood style of storytelling. The game is often cinematic, to the point that sometimes I forget I’m even playing a video game. To me, this is a good thing but those with a shorter attention span and used to faster paced games such as Call of Duty, it may feel boring and tedious at times. Even mundane tasks such as climbing onto your horse or even loading an autosave require you to hold down buttons in order to complete the action, which is said to make the gameplay more immersive.

“The world looks much more polished and pristine than the original, with less desert overall and more forest, woodlands, great plains and even mountain peaks. Rockstar has developed a sprawling world which has genuinely given me goosebumps on multiple occasions.”

The game is a prequel to 2010’s Red Dead Redemption and is set 12 years before the original game, in a time when the Wild West is slightly less dead than we were consistently told it was in the first one, and the world feels this way too. As Arthur you meet a few more friendly faces than previously. Traveling with a gang of fellow outlaws, including the original game’s main protagonist John Marston and infamous gang leader Dutch Van Der Linde, makes the game certainly feel more vivid than the original. This feels like an aspect that the writers were trying to subtly convey throughout the densely packed world. This is not the only subtlety that Rockstar Games have embedded into the 60+ hour story. Perhaps much more blatant, even after 15 or so hours, is the slow dissolve and collapse of the Van Der Linde gang which sets up the story well for the 2010 instalment.

In fact, I find ‘subtle’ to be one of the best ways to describe Red Dead Redemption 2. The game offers an incredible amount of attention to detail, from visual aspects such as blood on the back of Arthur’s horse after carrying a freshly skinned pelt of a deer, all the way to the honour system which slightly influences dialogue of passers by or town folk depending on your recent actions in the game. Something as small as getting into a bar fight will make shopkeepers and strangers warier of you when you’re around them, and they’ll often mention this fact, whereas helping people out in the wilderness will occasionally reward you with the gift of weapons and outfits.

Quite the opposite are Red Dead Redemption 2’s graphics, which are anything but subtle – graphics which certainly make it stand out from the competition. The fictional regions of West Elizabeth, New Hanover and Lemoyne are nothing short of stunning. The world looks much more polished and pristine than the original, with less desert overall and more forest, woodlands, great plains and even mountain peaks. Rockstar has developed a sprawling world which has genuinely given me goosebumps on multiple occasions. Lighting shines through pine trees on a brisk evening ride to the small town of Strawberry, whilst the streets bustle with life and colour on the opposite side of the map in the game’s main city of Saint Dennis. Snow is compacted under Arthur’s feet while trekking up mountains in the Grizzlies, his long, unshaven beard (the player’s choice on length and style) gently moving in the wind. It really is a feat, and an incredible accomplishment to create a game of this size and this beauty with a level of detail unparalleled to any game in recent years. I’m not surprised that it’s been in development for 8 years and from where I’m sitting it was 100% worth the wait.

Red Dead Redemption 2 is certainly a masterpiece to me, but it is by no means a perfect game. That being said, most people will agree that the small foibles it possesses are more than made up for with a fantastic story, beautiful visuals and an outstanding sense of character which is unique to an increasingly competitive video game marketplace.

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