Some of the other folk here have been less lucky and have had had to endure the gut punch of euthanising their equine comrade (always pack some horse revivers, people). Red Dead Redemption 2 stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Grand Theft Auto V as one of the greatest games of the modern age. I liked having to click in the thumbstick to reassure my horse when he was scared – it makes him feel real and establishes a physical-to-digital bond between you two. Meanwhile, Arthur’s personal honour is something that’s in the background at all times, rising and falling based on his actions in the world. That’s a weird sentence, but you’re going to spending a lot of time looking at a horse’s butt. I still need to investigate further, but I’m really happy with how my playthrough turned out and the outlaw-with-a-soft-side Arthur I chose to inhabit. Did one of those fellas have a gold nugget in his trousers? There are some practical upgrades I acquired that had gameplay benefits attached, like a boat to go fishing in or a map at Arthur’s quarters that unlocks fast travel. The way rust builds up on a poorly-maintained firearm. It’s not essential to have played Red Dead Redemption to appreciate and understand what’s going on here, especially since this is a prequel story that takes place 12 years earlier, although I found it very rewarding being familiar with the larger plot as it connects to the eventual fate of the enigmatic Dutch van der Linde. The facial animation is a noticeable step up from GTA V, and the level of granular detail is almost absurd, from the way blood smears on Arthur’s shoulder after carrying a kill to the way individual strands of his majestic mutton chops quiver in the breeze. The unhurried pace of checking vanquished enemies for goodies is an interesting design decision but I quite like the risk versus reward loot loop, to be honest.
Some are harsh and beaming while others are warm and soft. The way wagon wheels become caked in mud. Perhaps you’ll never know. Playing through as a vicious monster is also possible, although it’s not entirely clear to me whether there’d be some dissonance between that approach and Arthur’s actual story. In practical terms, being an outlaw who refrains from killing in cold blood and who helps regular folk around the world gets you discounts in shops and generally means you won’t have to look over your shoulder quite as often for bounty hunters and lawmen. Your horse can die, too, and there’s no bringing him or her back if that happens. Red Dead Redemption 2 is an undeniably pretty game across the board. And what a world it is; broader, more beautiful, and more varied than the one we explored in 2010’s Red Dead Redemption by a massive margin (though parts of that game’s map are also included). Red Dead Redemption 2 is an undeniably pretty game across the board. I’ve sat and watched lumberjacks felling trees at a bustling logging camp and curiously tailed a perturbed Englishman wandering around town looking for his mate “Gav.” None of this is crucial to the progression of Arthur’s story; it just helps build a world around him that made me feel like a visitor rather than the centre of the universe. Dutch van der Linde and his gang are on the run after a botched heist in the growing town of Blackwater and they’ve retreated high into the mountains where an atrocious blizzard is covering their escape. The game's vast and atmospheric world also provides the foundation for a brand new online multiplayer experience. I don’t feel like I missed much by opting out of purchasing animal skulls and rugs and such.
Bounties don’t always come cheap. At any rate, it’s seriously worth settling into the pace Rockstar is trying to set here because there’s just so much to see and hear. Newspapers sold on street corners touch on the aftermath of Arthur’s exploits, as well as other things going on around the world. https://www.ign.com/articles/2019/06/07/red-dead-online-review And even after completing the epilogue, which is split into two parts and longer than many whole games I’ve played in recent memory, I still have a stack of strangers that need helping, gangs that need killing, and fish that need catching. The vast assortment of ecosystems and environments seamlessly stitched together here is nothing short of remarkable.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is a game of rare quality; a meticulously polished open world ode to the outlaw era. The admittedly brief bit of time it takes to swap back did elicit the occasional grumble from me. Even after finishing the lengthy story I can’t wait to go back and play more. Red Dead Redemption 2 is a sprawling Western tale of loyalty, conviction, and the price of infamy, chronicling the inevitable collapse of a motley crew of Wild West holdouts kicking against the slow march of civilisation and industrialisation.
Many of those function as organic ways to teach us about new side hustles and activities that can be undertaken, from selling stolen horses to playing poker or fishing.
Even better, however, is watching Dutch’s gradual descent from being the charismatic, successful, and clever leader of a gang of deadly outlaws to someone on track to become the cold-blooded and beaten man being hunted down by Marston 12 years later. There’s the muddy livestock town of Valentine, with its wooden buildings and rustic charm, and then there’s the imposing city of Saint Denis, a grimy and growing metropolis full of modern extravagances like electric trams, paved roads, and Chinese restaurants. Hallways are decorated with framed pictures I’ve never noticed repeated throughout the world. I kept the same horse from early in the game all the way to the finale and was truly attached to that big guy.
Woody Jackson’s original score is top notch – an evocative mix of jangling Ennio Morricone-esque guitar and more soulful pieces better suited to patiently trotting through the world absorbing its mixture of beauty and ugliness.
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