Red Dead Redemption 2 Review: Red Dead Redemption 2 is all about consequences where you only have the illusion of choice. Yes, some decisions need to be made, and those decisions will decide your character and the world. However, some of the most disastrous decisions were made for you before the game even starts, and you will have to deal with the fallout. And since it’s a prequel to Red Dead Redemption, you also know how the story ends. All that’s left is to discover what happens in between and make the best of it.
To do this, you fight the repetitive nature of missions, the frequent moral dilemmas, and the discomfort of doing what’s right. For the maximum part, the frustration that tension can happen is also what makes the story impactful, and when it all combines, your effort is not wasted.
Red Dead Redemption 2 Review: About
- Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows, Stadia
- Developer: Rockstar Games, Rockstar North
- Publisher: Rockstar Games
- Genres: Action-adventure
- Release Date: October 26, 2018
Red Dead Redemption 2 Review: Official Trailer Video
Red Dead Redemption 2 Review: Gameplay
At the starting of Red Dead Redemption 2, the Van der Linde gang is already on the way back we know from the previous game. After a robbery in Blackwater, they’re on the run; a few members are about to be captured, starved, and give in to a blizzard. There are familiar faces-Red Dead Redemption protagonist John Marston among them, as well as new faces. As senior member Arthur Morgan, you are in the privileged position of being the right hand of the Dutch Van der Linde, in possession of his machinations and included in the main outings.
When the gang escapes the storm and settles on a temporary campsite, you’ll also be in charge of the camp’s finances, which means you’ll pick out all upgrades and supplies. If Dutch is the center of the gang, Arthur stands next to all the vital parts of the gang, and that gives you a lot of power. With that power, you are encouraged to do what you want and at your own pace. A long series of story missions will introduce you to some of the ways you can spend your time, including hunting, fishing, horse breeding, and robbery.
There are many systems, and it takes a few hours to cover the basics. Although they’re not so cleverly disguised that they don’t feel like tutorials, the actual learning goes well with the story, and the missions also introduce you to the characters and the environment. The “tutorial” on fishing, for example, lets you take young Jack Marston out for a day, as John isn’t exactly great at fatherhood. Jack is pure and sweet – and incredibly vulnerable to all the gang’s evils – and the mission is memorable for it.
Limited quick travel options are the better-implemented side of Red Dead 2’s realism, perhaps contradictory. There’s almost no fast travel in the beginning, and there are few methods in general, so you’ll have to rely on your horse to get around. It can be slow; however, there’s no shortage of things to do and see along the way. Opportunity encounters are plentiful and often exciting; you might find a stranger who needs a ride to town or a snake bite victim who needs someone to suck the poison out of his wound.
Red Dead Redemption 2’s version of America is vast and wide open, stretching from snow-capped mountains and the Great Plains to the original game New Austin in the southwest. Further east is Louisiana-inspired Deep South, which still feels the effects of the Civil War after almost 40 years. There’s a marked shift in travel from region to region; as the grassy slopes become alligators, Union veterans give way to Confederate holdouts, and good intentions and casual racism turn to despair and outright intolerance.
Occasional moments you explore form a large part of the morality system, where you gain and lose honor based on your actions. The “good” morality is relative – after all, you’re a gang member – but generally, it’s more honorable to save than to go down. Helping an underdog, though if they’re an escaped convict, and also if you have to kill a few cops or robbers to do it, can earn your good guy points. In such situations, it’s easier to be noble than a real bandit. Committing a crime is hard to go unnoticed, even in remote locations, and usually, you have to track down and threaten a witness, run away and hide from the law, or pay a bounty in the future.
In many ways, you’ve been pushed in the direction of playing “good” Arthur. The gang members he’s closest to from the start are the more righteous, principled people who are motivated by loyalty and a desire to help others. At the same time, he insults, quarrels with, and generally reacts negatively to those who are hotheaded and vicious. The most rotten of them is Micah, who is so easy to hate that it is difficult not to follow Arthur’s example and take the higher road.
However, it’s much harder to feel like a good man when you’re doing the missions of the main story. Arthur, along with almost everyone else, is loyal to the gang in the first place. This means that you follow Dutch people in trouble, get friends out of prison, and commit several robberies in the interest of money for the gang. Even if you do your best to be good, you’ll inevitably massacre entire cities in compulsory story missions – stealth and non-lethal takedowns aren’t always an option, and the snappy auto-lock target makes shooting a much easier option anyway.
Like any good prequel, there is an incredible amount of tension in knowing what is happening without knowing exactly how. If you’ve played Red Dead Redemption, you know who will survive and who is unlikely to make it to the end of the game. During the slower parts, you’re waiting for betrayal and injuries and other events you’ve only vaguely heard about. You’re waiting for characters to reveal their true selves, and if you know what to expect, watching everything that unravels is captivating and heartbreaking.
While Red Dead Redemption focused on the story of John Marston, Red Dead 2 deals with the whole Van der Linde gang as a community, as an idea, and as the death rattle of the Wild West. It’s also about Arthur, but as the lens through which you look at the gang, his very personal story supports a bigger story. Some frustrating options and a predictable mission structure ultimately serve that story well, although it takes patience to get through it and understand why.
Overall, the Red Dead Redemption 2 review is an excellent prequel, but it’s also an emotional, thought-provoking story in itself, and it’s a world that’s hard to leave when it’s finished.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is all about consequences where you only have the illusion of choice. Yes, some decisions need to be made, and those decisions will decide your character and the world.