Blockbuster of the Year: Red Dead 2

[DISCLAIMER: Before you continue reading this, I want to firmly state that this game is rated M for mature and that this game is targeted towards audiences aged seventeen or older. This game will consist of the following: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Nudity, Sexual Content, Strong Language, and Use of Drugs and Alcohol. My review will not mention anything inappropriate in that list other than analyzing some of the violence and firearms the game will showcase.]

All across the board, Red Dead Redemption 2 has been nominated “Game of the Year” after receiving many ten out of ten scores. Developed by Rockstar Games, they have set new standards for triple A open world video games. In this article I’ll explain what you can do in the game, I will provide a beginners guide, and finally end with a review.

Red Dead 2 is about playing as an outlaw named Arthur Morgan, who is surviving the dying days of the Wild West, as the industrial world begins to reshape America. The game play is centered around open world exploration, mainly through horse. You can interact with everyone you meet in multiple ways, gun down your opponents in a western-esc shoot down, or interact with the gang Morgan is affiliated in, which is known as the “Van der Linde” gang.

The Van der Linde gang is technically Morgan’s family. He can progress through the story by accepting requests from the members, and sometimes members will interact with him, nothing more than small chatt. You can contribute to your gang by donating in their camp site, mostly through money; you can also donate by hunting animals and bringing them to “the trapper”, a butcher that can help you craft cosmetic items out of the animals you hunt.

The characters I’ve met are also really great. There’s the leader of the gang, Dutch Van der Linde, who is Arthur’s partner in setting up a heist. Micah Bell, a helpful ally that assists you in taking down the O’Driscolls (one of the rival gangs you’ll meet in the story), and Javier, a bounty hunter and Mexican revolutionist who helps Arthur save someone very important (I won’t spoil who though).

The world of RDR2 takes place in five fictional US states with diverse regions and environments. Ranging from the intense snowy mountains of Amabrino, to the plain yet beautiful grasslands of New Hanover, to the crocodile-filled swamps of Lemoyne. With approximately two hundred species in this game, no location would ever feel empty.

Each region has its own town where the player can interact with the townsfolk and participate in events as the player’s choice. Each town has its own general store that sells foods, tailors that sell clothes, and saloons where you can purchase a meal or drinks. There’s also a barber inside the saloon, at Valentine (the first town I came across) who’ll trim your hair and beard.

Of course there’s the crimes you can commit and the wanted system. You have to protect your identity when committing a crime, such as robberies or murder. Police will be called if a witness (nearby NPC) sees you causing trouble, you have to silence that person otherwise that person would not only call the cops, but call a “dead or alive” bounty on you. It’s best if you wore a bandana and change outfits often so people won’t memorize you next time.

Now let me explain more in-depth about Arthur as a playable character. Arthur has three cores to manage while playing the game: health, stamina, and deadeye. What makes these cores different from health bars is that once a core runs low, it will take a longer time to refill. Your health core will drain if you’re exposed to hunger, extreme temperatures, or poisoning so eat provisions to not only refill your health and other cores, but fortify your cores with certain provisions to make sure your cores won’t drain, for a limited time. Also there’s your third core, the deadeye core; which allows you to slow down time, target as much enemies as you can see, and shoot them all in one succession.

Throughout the game, Arthur will always have a horse accompanied with him. You start with a horse, but you can also retrieve a wild horse or purchase one at the stables. Horses also have health and stamina cores too, so make sure your horses are fed to prevent being exhausted or feed them certain provisions to fortify their cores. Be warned that your horse can easily be spooked by loud noises so avoid gunfire when your horse is nearby. Fun fact, if you set a waypoint on the in-game map, and your horse begins to move, hold select on the horse so that the horse moves on its own and the camera shifts to a cinematic view.

The last feature I want to showcase is the firefighting and overall combat in this game. Arthur can equip a multitude of firearms such as revolvers, repeaters, rifles, and shotguns; each with their own types of ammunition, damage, and ranges. You can also customize your firearms to either upgrade it with accessories, or re-engineer it to cosmetically look different. You also have to watch out for the weapon’s condition, if the weapon gets overused or rusted, you need to purchase gun oil at the store to clean it. Despite the detailed inclusion of firearms, you don’t need to use them (most of the time)! You’ll be equipped with a bow and arrow as well as a knife, these weapons are best used for silent combat or for hunting animals. You can also use your lasso to defeat your enemies without killing them.

That’s all I have to say about the game itself, but there’s one aspect I want to quickly review, Red Dead Online. RDO is a separate experience from the single player where you customize your character and explore Red Dead’s world with 32 other players. You can form a posse (a clan of players) and go on missions and play for money. I had fun with this mode by doing the missions but this mode is very flawed for several reasons. The main problem is that there isn’t many things you can do because single player content was cut and will probably be featured in a future update.

All you can do is missions, game modes such as horse racing and death match (which I haven’t got a chance to play yet), and grind the cash and gold for better clothes and money. You can’t play cards or rob people, other than pickpocket dead corpses. Another problem I don’t personally have but the community has is the in-game economy. Cash rewards are so long and everything in this game is ridiculously expensive. There’s also the gold bars, which are an alternative currency used to buy certain clothing and shopping items. The rate of earning gold is extremely slow, like it would take many real life: hours just to earn one gold bar, and there are items that cost twelve. The fastest way to get a lot of gold and cash for me is through treasure chests which are really fun to find.

Overall the online mode is fun, while at the same time being disappointing, hopefully Rockstar’s patches will help benefit the online mode. Now for my final thoughts on the single player. Based on a couple hours of play time I was impressed and genuinely happy with the game. The graphics and cinematic gameplay caught me off guard as I’m rarely ever stunned by a game’s visuals and cinematography.

The combat, fishing, hunting, shopping, socializing, and horseback riding all felt so good! I’m not saying the gameplay is perfect, and the flaws are certainly noticeable. I love the kind of stories where the main character rises to become the very best, and what makes this story interesting is that there’s no emphasis on who is “good or bad,” more so who “can you trust or not.”

Although I consider Red Dead 2 a fantastic game, it’s far from my favorite game because of what kind of game it is: an open world game. Open world games have a lot too offer and I enjoy playing them, but I find the exploration to be overwhelming. I personally prefer linear games, which is why I did more story missions than exploring the world.


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