Red Dead Redemption 2 Review

When the original Red Dead Redemption first launched, I wasn’t too keen on it. By no means did I see it as a bad, or even an average game, it was simply a far cry from the Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood, which served as a much better representation of the Spaghetti Western genre. Also Techland’s shooter, in comparison to the original Red Dead, was also much more concise and to the point, whereas as Rockstar’s tale of redemption, lacked direction at times. And when I fired up Red Dead Redemption 2 for the very first time, I was dreading that I’m going to be as underwhelmed with it, as I was with the original.

The biggest issue with the original Red Dead Redemption stemmed from its rather inconsistent and at times shambolic pacing. As the title in question was either firing on all cylinders, barrelling down the highway at 200 kilometres an hour, or was simply coasting down a barren and desolate road at a turtle’s pace. And thankfully, Rockstar has learned from its past mistakes, and ironically enough redeemed itself with Red Dead Redemption 2, as the sequel – which is a prequel – features impeccable pacing, which is neither boring the player with its lack of any progress, nor is it tiring him/her out with constant changes and alterations to the narrative.

Unlike the original, Red Dead Redemption 2 is not a straight forward tale. As from chapter to chapter, the narrative changes drastically, and what begins as a Hateful Eight-like story of survival, quickly turns into an impeccable Hollywood’esque heist flick, which is then followed by a family feud, seemingly pulled straight out of Leone’s notebook, and all this culminates in a three-part miniseries of clarity, redemption, and rebirth. And while constantly changing sub-narratives may seem a little confusing to those who haven’t played the game, then they should worry not, as Red Dead Redemption 2 features an overarching narrative, which bonds all those tales together, and culminates in a rather depressing, yet immensely fitting manner.

If you were to look at all the above mentioned descriptors which I’ve used to describe some – not all of the in-game chapters, you could conclude that Red Dead Redemption 2 is nothing more than a scrapbook made out of beaten to death cliché’s which Rockstar has put together, in a chaotic and hasty manner, due to lack of guidance from the now independent Leslie Benzies. But the reality is thankfully much more positive, as in truth, all those comparisons are rather slight as each and every in-game chapter, while borrowing heavily from other works of entertainment, follows its own course, which always culminates in its own and independent conclusion. And once the Ts are crossed and the Is are dotted, you are left with a rather unique, and immensely entertaining story, which is Rockstar’s best ever. As narrative wise, it is head and shoulders above all of the studio’s previous titles – Max Payne 3 included.

While the story of Red Dead Redemption 2 is an absolute gem in its entirety, then it has to be said that it is equally impressive when absorbed in parts. As each and every in-game chapter, once absorbed independently, is just as impressive. And that’s because each and every section of the game, features its own introduction, continuation, and conclusion. And each and every one of those always keeps you on your toes, as the final mission of each chapters, tends to end in a rather unexpected way. It’s just a shame that the same cannot be said about the conclusion of the story as a whole, as the final sequence of chapter six, which serves the role of the finale of the main narrative, will be figured out by most by the end of chapter two, as the signs are on the walls both hypothetically and literally speaking.

There is no doubt in my mind that the ending of Red Dead Redemption 2 is going to be quite divisive, as many will not be happy with how the tale of Arthur Morgan and Dutch Van Der Linde comes to an end. However, those who have played the original, and followed it to its conclusion will find it incredibly fitting. As the final sequence of chapter six does not just provide one with closure on what shaped John Marston into a man who ultimately gunned down Dutch in the original, but it also allows the player to aid the main protagonist of this particular tale, to find an inner peace and become the quote-on-quote good man, who he always wanted to become. But the route to the mountain rock where the finale takes place is laden with blood, bullets, and corpses, which pile on as you barrel towards the title’s end credits.

Red Dead Redemption 2 is a violent, gory, and unforgiving game. And while the gun slinging is not as slick as in games such as Uncharted 4, it is ultimately ten-fold more satisfying. As the animations of both the characters and firearms are immensely impressive, and showcase force, feedback, and ferocity of each and every shot. And the enemies clench their teeth in agonizing pain, as your bullets force them to the ground, as your rifle forces your shoulder backwards; all the while you work the weapon’s mechanism. In short, it is simply poetry in motion – and a brutal one at that as Red Dead Redemption 2, unlike most modern shooters, features a tremendous amount of gore. From neck stabbing, through hanging, all the way down to complete mutilation.

Red Dead Redemption 2 is a Rockstar Game through and through, and seemingly the worst thing about it is the fact that it showcases how archaic Grand Theft Auto V truly is. As both the amount of features, and the sheer minute detail tops everything we have ever seen from Rockstar. And said detail ranges from dogs which you’ve petted before bolting straight towards you as soon as they see you again, to bullet holes remaining in your and your companions’ hats throughout the game. And I’d like to point out many more of those, but unfortunately I can’t do so without spoiling the game for you, as each and every thing which I have on my mind right now leads to many gratifying outcomes – which are most impactful when experienced in person.

Red Dead Redemption 2 is a vast improvement on both the original, and the most recent release within the Grand Theft Auto series. As it features an unparalleled amount of the so-called meaty content, which outshines even The Witcher 3 – as much as it pains me to say it. And while the main story and the now famous Strangers and Freaks missions may be the main course of the said content, then they are surrounded by an abundance of appetisers and desserts which range from random encounters which feature their own narratives and rewards, to hidden quests which will have you face off against slavers, cannibals, and all other kinds of undesirable folk.

Rockstar’s most recent release may last you anywhere from 30 to 100 hours, depending on how much of the content you want to indulge yourself in. And while it may not be the 100 hour RPG epic which was supposed to challenge The Witcher 3, it is still an incredibly complex and satisfying game, which as strange as it may sound, may just feature too much content. And I know when it comes to $60 games, there is no such thing as too much content – especially in this day and age where games are butchered into pieces by publishers, just so they can make an extra buck. But when it comes to Red Dead Redemption 2, this is just the case. As this particular game, features so many auxiliary missions and quests, that they could form their own, standalone title.  And once you add the 6 hour or so long episode you are left with a game which easily could have been split into three.

Personally, I have to commend Rockstar for not butchering their title into pieces, but at the same time, I feel like some of the additional content could have been spaced out a little better. And this applies most accurately to the Strangers and Freaks missions, which are so plentiful and drawn out, that they would be much more suited for the title’s end-game, free-roam, chapter. As during the main portion of the game, they at times feel like a chore, which you have to complete, before the chapter six comes to an end, because you know what’s coming, and in the end, you might not have the opportunity to do it, once the epilogue starts.

Thankfully, despite of all the events which transpire during the title’s final main act, it still allows you to complete all of the side missions from the main story – as they all remain on the map even after the credits of the epilogue roll. However, this does not change the fact that all those quests can be incredibly distracting while playing through the main narrative, and some can find themselves struggling for air, while drowning in a sea of content.

Red Dead Redemption 2 is simply an incredible title, one of the best of this generation. And it could be said that it is borderline flawless, considering that an abundance of content can be a subjective matter. But this would only be the case in a perfect world, in which we unfortunately don’t live in. And in reality, Red Dead Redemption 2 does suffer from some minor bugs which can impede one’s enjoyment of the title, depending on how picky he/she may be.

The title’s bugs are mostly limited to in-game articles of clothing lacking form and rigidity, necessary to prevent them from clipping through characters, weapons, and at times even horses. And this just like the abovementioned flaw is entirely subjective, but having to watch your bandolier clip in and out of your jacket, during what is supposed to be a tear jerking scene, can be immensely distractive. But ultimately, just like the AI of the in-game animals, it is not an end of the world. But at this time, I would advise against relying on auto-run mechanic applied to the cinematic camera, as in its current form it is not very reliable, and if you leave your trust in your horse to get you to your destination, while you go to grab a drink, then do not be surprised if you come back to a game over screen, because your horse has run thrown you off a cliff.

I like to pick games apart, and point out their flaws, I really do. But when it comes to Red  Dead Redemption 2, there is nothing significant to pick on. Hell, even outlets like Kotaku and Gamespot will struggle to nit-pick, as Red Dead Redemption 2 features a number of strong female characters for which those outlets have been crying out for, while at the same time it does not rely on what they perceive to be ‘offensive stereotypes’.  And that’s nearly as if Red Dead Redemption 2 was a serious, down to earth experience, whereas the Grand Theft Auto V, which they all have slandered, was a largely satirical work of art. But who knows, in a week or two we might see a hit-piece complaining about a lack of gender fluid characters, or some other nonsense.

Not to prolong, I would just like to underline that Red Dead Redemption 2 did not just live up to its hype, but it has conquered it, beaten over the head with a bat, and thrown off a cliff. And that’s simply because it is above and beyond one’s wildest expectations. But despite of all of its impressive qualities, which range from meaningful and memorable storytelling, to obsessive attention to detail, it may struggle against the likes of God of War, when the time comes for the Game of The Year awards to be handed out.  But even if it fails to capture all the aluminium and tin trinkets, it will still remain one of the best games ever made. And at least in my eyes, it will be remembered as the best game of 2018. And unless Naughty Dog creates the second coming of Jesus Christ with The Last of Us II, then  I can’t see it being toppled from that particular pedestal anytime soon.

REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to editor@bonusstage.co.uk.

Red Dead Redemption 2 Review
  • Gameplay - 10/10
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  • Graphics - 10/10
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  • Sound - 10/10
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  • Replay Value - 10/10
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User Review
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Overall
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Summary

I would just like to underline that Red Dead Redemption 2 did not just live up to its hype, but it has conquered it, beaten over the head with a bat, and thrown off a cliff. And that’s simply because it is above and beyond one’s wildest expectations.