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Red Dead Redemption 2 Game Review
October 29, 2018
As one of the most highly anticipated games of 2018 - if not the most anticipated game - Red Dead Redemption 2 has finally arrived.
Released on October 26 for the Xbox One and PS4, this expansive open-world role-playing game (RPG) and Western-themed action-adventure video game takes place in fictional towns within the historical Old West, with a bevy of colorful characters befitting that period.
Read our game review based on several hours of gameplay to learn about this latest big title release from Rockstar Games.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is the prequel to Red Dead Redemption. It follows the story of Arthur Morgan, who you play as throughout the game, an outlaw and member of Dutch van der Linde’s gang (the first game’s protagonist, John Marston, is part of this gang). Red Dead Redemption 2 takes place during 1899, 12 years earlier than the first game.
This was an interesting time period: Western expansion was in full throttle, yet the age of the outlaw was already waning, butting up against the burgeoning constrictions of a quickly growing modern world. It’s a perfect time period to tell the tale of a bunch of outlaws, and Rockstar Games takes full advantage of it with this epic open world game.
As anticipated, the setting of Red Dead Redemption 2 is truly breathtaking. You will feel fully immersed in the beautifully rendered, gorgeously lush vistas of this game. The flora and fauna look incredibly realistic, and you can interact with nearly every bit of it. The gameplay - even only a few hours in - is fluid, responsive, and immersive as well.
Red Dead Redemption 2 opens into an epic blizzard on a snow-covered mountain in the Grizzlies. Arthur Morgan and the other members of Dutch van der Linde’s gang are heading into these dangerous conditions for one reason only: to get away from their pursuers in a robbery gone awry in the town of Blackwater. “We’re safe now,” Dutch tells the gang. “Nobody’s following us through a storm like this!”
He bids the gang to make camp so that they can survive and wait out the storm for a few days. “Get yourselves warm,” he tells the desperate, hungry, and now broke group. “Stay strong…We ain’t done yet!” He’s an outlaw, this we know. But there is something heartening about the way Dutch seems to have genuine concern for his gang’s welfare.
Dutch and Arthur then set out to find food and supplies as well as the scouts that were sent out earlier. Making your way through two to three-foot snow drifts, you get an immediate sense of immersion as you’ll leave tracks behind you and hear the whirling wind. It’s a pretty realistic scenario in that it’s actually a bit difficult to hear conversations over the sounds of the snow and wind.
During their journey, Arthur asks Dutch about what went down in Blackwater, since he was apparently off doing something else. Dutch isn’t very forthcoming, and the subject isn’t discussed further. But it’s evident that something bad happened.
After running into fellow gang member Micah Bell, who tells you and Dutch about a homestead up ahead, you then find and stop at a dilapidated house full of holes that the wind is blowing through. There are people inside. Dutch asks you to stay behind as he attempts to make contact.
It’s not off to a great start as the people soon recognize him, and the first gunfight ensues. Not only can you shoot your targets directly, but you can also shoot off their hats. Try to keep yours on, but if you do lose it, you can look for it as an icon on your map.
During the gunfight, you’ll encounter a bad guy hiding out in the barn. You can choose to kill him or save his life, and your choice will affect your morality meter and how Arthur’s future encounters go down in addition to what rewards he’ll reap. The music changes subtly as do your facial animations and posture to reflect your heroic or villainous nature.
After the gunfight is over, you head inside to forage for provisions. When you’re near an object that you might want to explore further, you can hold down your square button on the PS4 (or the “X” on Xbox One). Arthur will automatically sift through that object and pick up any supplies.
Scavenging is best in first-person perspective, which is now a choice that you have in this prequel. In the house, you can find provisions such as canned food, oatcakes, and more. As we pointed out in our Red Dead Redemption 2 preview, you’ll need to make sure that Arthur eats periodically throughout the game. This will help increase his stamina and health meters.
You soon learn that the people inside the house were part of rival Colm O’Driscoll’s gang. They were squatting in the house because they killed off the guy who was living there previously. You’ll meet a woman named Sadie Adler hiding out inside, from whom you learn that the O’Driscoll’s raided her family’s home. So, they’re not quite heroic by any stretch.
Then a small commotion happens with Micah, after which a lantern gets knocked over and ends up burning down the house. Says Dutch, as Sadie’s family home is in flames, “We’re bad men, but we ain’t them.”
Robbing a train
With the burned-down house ensuring that it won’t be usable for shelter, Arthur and Dutch head back to the camp, now armed with knowledge about a train robbery that the O’Driscoll gang was planning to pull off.
While looking for Colm O’Driscoll himself (who is the Dutch van der Linde of his gang), you’ll go on a mission along with Bill Williamson and John Marston. Yes, the protagonist himself from Red Dead Redemption, Marston is still part of van der Linde’s gang at this point in the story.
Though you end up killing everyone in the rival gang's camp, O’Driscoll is nowhere to be found. You do capture a guy named Kieran Duffy from the O'Driscoll gang, though, and you take him back to your camp to interrogate him. While it’s not necessarily gruesome because you don’t see anything, you do hear your other gang members take hot prongs and tell Duffy that they’re going to rip off his testicles unless he tells them some information about O'Driscoll.
Duffy confesses to the train heist. Here again you’ll have choices about how heroically or heinously you want Arthur to act. You can either agitate, threaten, or even kill him, or you can just interrogate him through questions.
Equipped with the information about the train heist, and the necessary explosives, Dutch sends Williamson out to plant the dynamite by the railroad with you, as Arthur, helping him out by stringing the wire over to your plunger. When you depress it, it blows up the train tracks. You then head back up to the lookout point while Williamson is working at blowing up the dynamite.
But like the best-laid plans of mice and men, it turns out that the dynamite doesn't work. So now you and the gang have to run. You and a gang member named Lenny Summers manage to jump atop the moving train from a ridge, working your way down to get to the engine to stop the train while shooting guys in your way.
Once you’ve accomplished that, you make your way to the back of the train where there are a few fellows who aren’t budging. Shooting through the caboose, you make a hole that you can enter. Inside, you’ll find savings bonds. Afterwards, you get off the train and once again are faced with the choice to kill or save those stubborn men.
Contributing to the camp
As part of the gang, you’ll be expected to contribute to the gang’s collective money till to improve the camp. There is a ledger that details chronologically who donated what and what those items are worth. So if you come upon money or items, you can use it to upgrade parts of the camp.
You can upgrade things like Dutch's quarters or storage for different kinds of wagons. If you upgrade the medicine wagon, for example, you’ll have access to medicine directly at the camp, which eliminates the need to go into town and buy it from the general store. You can update your food supply as well, so you can have fresh fruit and produce available within the camp.
Hunting and cooking
You’ll be able to participate in missions at the camp, and one of these is hunting for food for the gang. You and fellow gang member Hosea Matthews set out on a two-day journey (game-time) to track a very large and legendary grizzly bear. When you eventually find and kill him, you’ll then be privy to a ten-second animation detailing the skinning and removing of his pelt. Hunters will probably appreciate the attention to detail here. Non-hunters? Maybe not so much.
Once you’ve got his pelt removed from the rest of the carcass, you put it onto your horse and take it to sell it or bring it back to the camp’s butcher to prepare. But keep in mind that you’ll only be able to carry one skin on your horse. You may be able to carry more on other horses once you upgrade them later on during the game. So if you come upon other game during your journey, you won’t be able to carry those. Although you will be able to set up a campfire and eat them.
Unlike the first game, in Red Dead Redemption 2 you’ll have to cook your food (at least your game) before eating it; you won’t be able to eat raw meat. Certain types of food and game, in fact, will restore your health and stamina cores differently . There are rabbits, for instance, that you can shoot with your bow and arrow, and then bring back to the campfire to cook and eat.
In another mission, you can join gang member Leopold Strauss (basically the gang’s accountant) as he goes about collecting debts from people to whom the gang loaned money. Using Arthur’s persuasion skills or menacing looks, you end up looting the debtor’s house and finding antique earrings, as he claimed that he didn’t have any money. You’ll be able to add these to the camp ledger.
Another involves going to a farmer’s house who similarly claims that he doesn’t have anything valuable. In this case, Arthur uses physical force and threatens him, essentially saying, “This isn't a charity. Where's our money?" The man’s family corroborates the “broke” story and Arthur then returns to Strauss, explaining that they’re destitute. Strauss retorts that the gang would not have loaned them money if they weren’t destitute. So we learn that he’s more loan shark than accountant.
Watching out for bounties
Your character doesn’t operate in a vacuum and there are consequences to his, and others’, actions in Red Dead Redemption 2. So if you commit a crime, for instance, and there is a witness who then reports it, there will be a bounty out for you.
You’ll learn about any bounty through an onscreen prompt that tells you where to pay it off - for instance, at the post office. If you encounter the law or bounty hunters, you may have the choice to surrender and pay up, or to start shooting your way out of it.
Heading to town and buying horses
Close to camp is a picturesque Western town called Valentine, complete with a general store, saloon, and stable for horses. It’s bustling with realistic-looking activity, and you can really take the time to explore this place in-depth, talking with people and non-player characters (NPCs). You can genuinely examine items closely in the general store before you buy them.
Check out the stables while you’re there. One of the missions is, in fact, to bring an old horse from the camp to town and sell it. When you arrive, you can either sell it back to the stable or stable it there. If you do the former, you’ll get to choose from among five different horses, each with different stats (such as speed, strength, etc.) and prices.
Remember to spend some time bonding with your horse through petting, grooming, and feeding. You’ll need to do the last one specifically to keep it alive, and the other actions to enhance bonding with your horse - which will eventually pay off with increased stamina, health, and speed for your horse.
Getting drunk (or L-Y-N-Y-E-L-L spells Lenny)
One particular mission has Dutch asking Arthur to find and save Micah, who got into a bunch of trouble with the law. You’ll have the choice to save Micah or head to the saloon with Lenny. If you do the latter, you’ll experience a rather amusing mission.
At the saloon, you start drinking and talking with Lenny while pounding down drink after drink. It doesn’t take long until Arthur is drunk. You’ll know this by Arthur’s increasingly blurry and skewed vision, while he searches and stumbles around the saloon, looking for a lost Lenny.
And when you try to talk to somebody, the on-screen prompts and dialog are blurry as well. The people that you’re seeing at the saloon all look like Lenny to you, and the visuals show this, simulating inebriation in a really interesting way.
Red Dead Redemption 2 PC
Although Rockstar has not officially confirmed a Red Dead Redemption 2 PC release, there are rumors abounding that that is indeed the case.
According to Rockstar Games, Red Dead Online is planned for launch in November 2018, initially as a public beta, with more news to come soon. Access to Red Dead Online is free to anyone with a copy of Red Dead Redemption 2 on either PS4 or Xbox One. So be sure to periodically check the developer's website to keep up.
You’ll probably want to check out some of the Red Dead Redemption 2 reviews on Metacritic before buying or playing the game.
About the Author: Jolene Dobbin is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Jolene is an East Coast-based writer with experience creating strategic messaging, marketing, and sales content for companies in the high-tech industry.