REVIEW – The West was never so much wild than it was in the first Red Dead Redemption and after about 100 hours of gameplay I can guarantee you that it goes even wilder in Red Dead Redemption 2. Once again, we are in the hard cowboy boots of an outlaw: this time around we ride with Arthur Morgan, another member of the Dutch van der Linde gang, in which John Marston, the hero of the first game was also part of. In true Rockstar fashion, you are entering into a fascinating world of western mayhem, full of bank and train robberies, gang wars and clashes with the Pinkerton Agency’s men. Always on the run, always outnumbered, always outgunned.
We had to wait eight long years for Red Dead Redemption 2, but I can guarantee that the last eight long minutes of its installation are almost eternal. You can only suspect that Rockstar has given the best of itself once again, and you can only wait passively and helplessly in front of your console to confirm it. Why do I say it? As soon as the studio logo is presented and the adventure starts, you have the control, you already have control over what is going to happen.
But as soon as the game starts, you will see at once, that RDR 2 is the closest thing to being a simulator of being an outlaw in the west that we have ever seen. It’s the life of an outlaw; it’s the life of an Arthur Morgan that is going to gain a space in our little heart even though the bar was very high with the first game.
The Dutch band
We are accustomed to seeing, that the sandbox games often have a single protagonist who performs different tasks for some and others, but he is basically alone. This changed a bit in Grand Theft Auto V because it had three protagonists who divided the weight of the campaign between them into equal parts: Michael, Trevor and Franklin.
Many thought that their new game could bet for it, but quickly Rockstar wanted to make clear that Red Dead Redemption 2 will have a single protagonist, and explained their reasons. Of course, Arthur is not alone, and the group he is part of is one of the best points in favour of the title.
Arthur Morgan is a member of Van der Linde’s posse, a dangerous gang of criminals who lead a nomadic life fleeing the authorities. When the campaign starts they have already carried out numerous crimes, which has forced them to have a wandering modus vivendi: they assemble improvised camps from where they organize their next blows, and they all live together as a great family that, of course, has its moments good’s and bad’s, joys, tensions love and hate affairs. Perhaps, one of the best achievement of the game is to make us feel part of this commune as I have rarely seen in a video game.
The Wild Bunch
What you have to understand that Rockstar does not use the Wild West only as a backdrop to its game, but instead it’s truly a one hundred per cent story-based simulation of an outlaw gang in the Wild West. In other words: Red Dead Redemption 2 is a twilight western in the broadest sense of the term, a story full of nostalgia that familiarizes us with feelings we have experienced in other games but rarely as much as in here. The camaraderie that we have seen in films of the genre as Wild Bunch of Sam Peckinpah’s here unbeatable translated into a playable formula in which everything is perfectly integrated to make it work.
While the title is an accurate open-world shooter, if you let yourself get soaked by its top-notch, non-linear story, it also transmits an authentic torrent of feelings and sensations. Arthur Morgan will be one of your favourite Rockstar characters ever, but the secondary characters of Red Dead Redemption 2 are also extremely well written. Each one of them has a little story behind, and they have blessed a well-laid personality and its motivations. My favorites? Sadie Adler and Dutch himself, for reasons that I will let you discover, although whose legacy and overwhelming temperaments will be burned into my memory.
A new hero
And what about Arthur himself? Some wondered if it would be possible for Arthur to overcome the affection by the community that John Marston the protagonist of the first Redemption has because of his charisma. Here everyone will have their own perception, of course. However, for me the answer is clear: Arthur surpasses it. Without wishing to detract from the protagonist of the 2010 game, one of my favourite releases in history, I think Morgan is clearly more interesting. His background is more three-dimensional and more profound at the same time.
In addition, he is a true human being who is wrong and who changes his mind many times. Of course, many times it’s up to you, how you finish some quests, but in the main story of Arthur is a true masterpiece of personal evolution. It is not too frequent to see in video games that its protagonist has such a credible psychological development, but in the case of the rough outlaw is exemplary. I would love to expand myself to justify everything I am telling, although the usual spoiler-free policy of review prevents me from doing so. I can only tell you, without spoiling anything, that the true story of Arthur starts when he finds his clear goal in life, and then turns away from many opportunities. The moment he finds his goal and sees clearly what his purpose is, he will not stop until he gets it … Moreover, we with him.
A riveting story
Of course, Arthur is not the only character that evolves in the adventure; in fact, everyone does it because a certain time passes from the beginning of the campaign to the end of the campaign. Moreover, it is a joy to discover it. How is the story told? Everything related to main and even secondary missions is narrated with elegant cinematics. So far, Rockstar‘s works have been characterized by advancing the narrative with endless conversations and, of course, in Red Dead Redemption 2 there is much of that. But I also like to see an evolution in the art of storytelling by the studio. Many silent videos are accompanied only by beautiful music, or cuts where Arthur “talks” writing to his diary … Very well executed points that broaden the range of narrative resources of the company.
However, what’s even more to like is the most organic part of the narrative. What do I mean? Many times the best stories we are told come from conversations we hear casually or from people who come to us during the adventure to say us something. Without cinematics or anything at all… On the fly. For example, I loved to sit on the fire with the band to listen to stories and anecdotes that have made me feel closer to the most veteran. I also liked going from here to doing tasks in the camp and that one of the girls approached me to ask for help for something that has happened to her or to tell me that she has seen something in the city that might interest me. No cuts, no transitions. Conversations you have while you walk or do your things. Not to mention going out to hunt with this or that character and tell me something along the way, or go fishing with two of them and laugh with their jokes or feel nostalgic with their songs. It’s a true marvel of the story craftmanship.
The band is one of the best novelty ideas of the game, and you can feel so much sympathy for them that it has come to me in a very natural way to contribute with money and with hunting and fishing for the sustenance of the collective. Something very similar happens with the beings of the world that surrounds you, both humans and animals. Many aspects contribute to this, for example, with the men and women of their world, a degree of interaction is achieved that is so high that it is sometimes difficult not to see them as living beings. Pulling the left trigger and looking at whomever we can start a conversation with any one of them: with anyone, literally.
Each person you meet has its own personality and voice, in a truly impressive media deployment exercise. In the end, the options with the majority are reduced to greeting them cordially or to be challenging with them, but that first interaction opens many ways from there based on how they react.
Actions and reactions
Actions and reactions are also very important in the open world. Imagine that you catch someone doing something they should not, for example, a couple of robbers who have stopped a family and are stealing them in one of the many random events that we can run into. If we are kind, they may “only” invite us impolitely to leave and get involved in our affairs, but if we insist, maybe, they get scared and stop what they’re doing. If the situation get too hot, we can try to calm them or in the contrary: continue to tighten the rope to see what happens. The same, I repeat, with any other person in your world. A tramp who asks for alms in a corner is probably kind to us, whatever we say because he hopes that we will give him a penny, while a woman will not react the same if we use the “provoke” button when watching her walk down the street of her husband, or if she goes alone there.
Everything responds to a tremendous logic, a system that is overwhelmingly obvious and that, surely, if it has not been applied previously in open-world games is because it requires tremendous resources at the level of development, work of dubbing and testing later that not all can be allowed. These are details that we had seen in a much more basic way in some of the previous instalments of the Grand Theft Auto saga, but here they reach an incredible new level.
The ramifications of your actions are in fact, so spectacular that the way in which people behave with us is not only limited to what is inside a hypothetical conversation but reminds us. This is something that we had also seen in previous games, I remember that the Fable series, among others, had already implemented a system by which “your fame preceded you”, and people reacted accordingly, but again this is another level. If you go back to a town, Valentine for example, after having caused some scandal or have gotten into a fight in the Saloon, those around you will be more cautious talking to you and will not hesitate to remind you.
The third branch that affects your relationship with others is, directly, that of your honour. Whenever you press the cross of the pad down will appear on the screen information about your environment with the time or temperature (things that must be taken into account and then explain), but also the honour bar, which is a graphic representation of your actions: the more good actions more to the right, the more questionable acts, the more to the left. If you help people in distress in the meetings that are happening randomly, to give a single example, your legend will grow positively and your fame will spread: people will greet you on the street, will be more predisposed to help you and will even make you some discount in stores. If you kill innocents, you steal or rob out of the main thread, your name will have a halo of black legend around, and it will cost you more to interact with everyone, with essential disadvantages. So, yes, you are a criminal, and that does not change; although you can decide how much you have of rogue other than that. Of course, it’s not something new, we’ve seen it in other games, especially RPGs, but it’s fascinating to see how it translates here into an experience that reaches a new level and establishes deep ties of empathy with everyone around us.
The same goes for the horse, which also has an exceptional bond with you … or not. Again it is another thing that remains in your hand, as your relationship with the camp. Rockstar does not want to force you to do anything you do not want, so in the same way that your affinity with band members improves if you help with tasks or contribute money, food or valuables, it’s exactly the same with the horse in RDR 2. Treat him well, show signs of affection from time to time, and have him brushed and properly fed and improve your bond with him to increase his performances and unlock special manoeuvres. However, I warn you, you get to take much love to the different mounts that you have (you can have several) so take care to get close to shootings or fall down with him. Losing it can be a real drama.
“Go west, young man!”
It seems that something inherent in a Rockstar game is that people ask you to have a huge map. Something that earned him many criticisms, in my opinion unfair, a Grand Theft Auto IV that opted for a much more characterized approach by density than by size. Red Dead Redemption 2 is a mid-point. It is monstrous, the largest map by far that has made the study to date but, at the same time, full of things to do as random events, side quests, small events, hidden treasures, commissioners of rewards and many distractions and activities in the form of mini-games.
Arthur Morgan and his adventure do not reinvent the wheel, so they are the main missions those that advance the narrative. A great selection of stories to let us know more details about the group that we are part of, yes, but also to introduce ourselves to the usual selection of villains that make the wheels of the plot turn more strongly. It is always good to have a nemesis that helps focus the narrative, and there are several in the game, and they also work great. Everything in the campaign is well orchestrated to take us from one place to another, and thus achieve an interesting variety of environments. From snowy areas to others much more spring. From rural areas to urban centres as big as Saint Dennis.
It also helps in this regard the selection of missions, a careful deck of more than a hundred objectives that somehow manages to be also quite diverse. Do not forget that Red Dead Redemption 2 is, first and foremost, a shooter, so most of the time they conclude in formidable gunfights to demonstrate Arthur’s ability for weapons, either on foot, on horseback or board vehicles. However, Rockstar manages to incorporate elements throughout the adventure to introduce other formulas such as drops of stealth here and there, some sequence characterized by the use of costumes, an escort mission, another hunting with some member of the band, more than a beautiful fishing outing with part of the group … And, of course, robberies. The narrative and playable high point of the different blocks that make up the video game.
Being as they had been one of the greatest attractions of Rockstar‘s latest work, it was to be expected that he returns in an environment that lent itself to it as well as that of the Far West. Although, yes, their presence is less characterized by planning than in the previous title. If in that one we had to carry out tasks of the study of the objective, of information and means collection, and even of the election of the members of the group that would conform to the thieves; this time everything is much simpler and is pushed purely by the narrative. That yes, that is simpler in appearance does not mean that they are not the most fun and worked moments of the game, with fantastic action scenes in trains or banks, and with some spectacular later escapes.
As for number? Good. I do not want to give specific data to avoid spoilers, but it should be remembered that with the half dozen robberies of GTA V some felt that the story mode was somewhat short in what should have been its main support. However, I have the feeling that having as much importance as the story of Red Dead Redemption 2 has on all things; there will not be so many fans who oppose that the number of hits of the new game is very similar in volume.
The shooter mechanics of Rockstar have been polished so much since the studio in recent years. The introduction in Max Payne 3 of an action model from which they have been drinking to a greater or lesser extent all their subsequent works were something revolutionary internally for the team in playable terms back in 2012, and the game is back on the seen at. At the level of action mechanics, it is a mixture of what we remember of the first Redemption and that evolution of which I am speaking, and that has been seen launching to launch until reaching spectacular levels of formidable spectacle.
The importance of using coverages in favour of a more direct, standing experience, firmly based on skill and with higher levels of epic, has been sharply reduced. After all, during the campaign, I used parapets practically to recharge and also only when I was alone and clearly outnumbered regarding numbers although, as always in these cases, that has been my style and yours can be entirely different. Oh, and let’s not forget about hand-to-hand fighting either. It’s pretty simple, with just three buttons, but quite useful and more based on the sense of opportunity than in carrying out complex key combinations.
The game invites totally to the interaction with the world. Not only with people, as I said before, but also with their objects. As already happened in GTA 5, the importance of money is emphasized, so everything you pick up from the bodies of the enemies or looting other people’s houses will be good for you. Either food that you can consume yourself, valuables that you can pawn in any shop or economic quantities that will be more or less modest depending on the risk of what you are doing, of course. It is not the same to steal a poor devil who is lost with his horse in the middle of nowhere, who will dock the post office. The biggest booties, logically, will be for the big operations you do with your team.
Those dollars are dumped in a lot of things of Arthur himself, and that is that you can not only dedicate it to the improvements for the band that we have talked about before. For example, you can choose to pay for accommodation or a bathroom in a hotel, since it is important to be rested and clean for Arthur’s statistics or to personalize the appearance of the protagonist. Change clothes in stores with a generous range of clothes, pay the barber for a haircut or a shave (although you can also shave in your own home) or customize the weapons with the infinite possibilities for each component of your arsenal.
There are also different elements that you can increase in terms of your equipment, of course, although those are more complex. You can increase the performance of everything you carry, from the ammunition you can carry with you or the number of inventory items you can carry. In this sense, there are also legendary animals, which are much more complex to hunt but which have much better value. In the end, everything is important, because the realistic approach that the game makes on aspects such as the team prevents us from carrying an infinite number of weapons or objects with us, and the whole formula joins a fabulous planning concept: simple, but effective. How does it work? I explain myself briefly.
Arthur cannot do like in a Grand Theft Auto and carry all the weapons with him, so he can only equip a limited number based on what fits in the holsters and what you can carry in your hand. You will be able to carry two short weapons in the covers of the sides, and a long gun in the back. The fourth, for example, a rifle or a bow, you will have to carry it in your hand, which limits your movements. That, as I say, makes you think. What should I equip for this mission? Do I want a sniper rifle for distance or better a cut for much closer and visceral combat? Do I want a stealthy approach with bow and machete or casualties quickly with a repeating rifle and both revolvers? Choosing what the shootings are going to be like is in your hand and is just incredible.
The Rockstar show goes on
It has not always been like that, but in recent times Rockstar has been known for turning its video games into graphic referents. Grand Theft Auto 5 was launched in the final stretch of PS3 and X360 and proved to many that there was still juice to be taken from those platforms. Red Dead Redemption 2 does not arrive so late compared to the current cycle, but it again gives reasons to those who think about whether it is too early to talk about the end of current video consoles and the arrival of new ones within a couple of years.
He achieves it on the one hand because his excellent art direction is an aesthetic point to embellish the formula. With an extraordinary portrait of the cities, yes, but without forgetting the beautiful natural landscapes that surround them and where we will spend more time. The areas are steeper than in John Marston’s adventure, so it is easier to generate beautiful prints that, accompanied by the lighting of which the game shows, end up around tremendous plasticity for the whole.
As for performance? It was something that worried many fans. The video game on PlayStation 4 Pro moves very smoothly and presents a fantastic visual aspect. In the standard version of PS4, it is also very stable, although the difference concerning its more powerful sister in elements like the distance of drawing and in a greater presence of popping (late drawing of the objects that approach the player) is noticeable something. As far as Xbox game consoles are concerned, the result is also magnificent. In Xbox One standard we are talking about a very consistent version, although somewhat more limited in some details as with the normal PlayStation 4, while in Xbox One X we talk about the most recommendable and impressive version from any point of view. Yes it has some very slow and barely noticeable slowdown, I will have experienced about half a dozen light “scratches” that almost did not notice during the tens and tens of hours that I have dedicated to the program, but in return you get a higher resolution until a glorious 4K natives and an absolutely bestial level of detail. The beast from Microsoft gives us the greatest drawing distance, and the most manifestly spectacular effects and filters.
The sound is a section that Rockstar has pampered since the beginning of his life as a studio, and translates here into probably his roundest video game in this sense that they have released to date. It was very spectacular during the promotional phase to say that the title soundtrack has 192 themes: it is a very large and bulky number, but for practical purposes, this supposes something more than words or figures. In an open-world “standard release” there are usually a handful of music for the action scenes, another group for the persecutions, and many others for the exploration sequences … For many that add up, they end up repeating themselves throughout a story mode. That does not happen here because each mission has its own themes that we will not hear again. Moreover, except for four or five variations of some similar ones when there are thematic links between the objectives, they all sound totally different.
And then there are the details, of course. How carefully Arthur removes the skin of a hunted animal, the differences in lighting to create environments with natural light and those with artificial light, the difficulties with which horses walk through the snow and leaving furrows or elegance with which they do it on surfaces such as grass or a mud on which their helmets are marked. How spooky are the storms with rays that really fall on the surface of the map and can even get sparks if they come in contact with a tree … Lots of examples that could be listed for hours, but I prefer you discover them because part The charm of the game is to do it by yourself.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is an absolutely amazing video game in every way. There are few reproaches to make an adventure that leaves us a hero to remember, Arthur Morgan, and one of the best written and most exciting groups to discover: the Dutch van der Linde band. Rockstar once again sets a high bar for the open worlds, and not only in the playable facet, but also in the narrative and in the sound and visual. In short, an outstanding in any section imaginable. And that’s not all, of course, Red Dead Online arrives in soon… can you ask for more?
+ Magnificent story with an unforgettable main hero
+ A huge, 100% believable western world full of life and characters
+ A true western outlaw simulation
– Some activities could be a bit more developed
– Also, more of them could have been added
– You’ll feel empty afterward, not wanting to play anything else
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Developer: Rockstar Games
Genre: Western open world TPS
Release date: October 26, 2018