Red Dead Redemption 2 review: was it worth the wait?
Rockstar’s ‘landmark’ new open-world adventure heads to the Wild West
Rockstar’s Western epic Red Dead Redemption 2 has finally hit store shelves.
Set in America’s Wild West in 1899, the game puts players in a band of thieves called the Dutch van der Linde gang. Players take control of Arthur Morgan, who begins to question the gang’s motives after a lifetime of loyalty shortly into the game’s story.
Not only is Red Dead Redemption 2 Rockstar’s first game designed to work with the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles, it’s also tipped to become one of the best-selling games this year.
The company’s previous release, Grand Theft Auto V, launched to critical acclaim in 2013 and still sells in big numbers today.
And with the original Red Dead Redemption from 2010 being one of the highest-rated games of all-time, can the latest Wild West adventure live up to all the hype?
The Week Reviews Read Dead Redemption 2
A prequel to the events of the Western-themed action adventure Red Dead Redemption, the game opens in 1899. Dutch van der Linde and his gang, including John Marston, the earlier game’s protagonist, are on the run and struggling to regroup after a botched heist.
The player takes the role of Arthur Morgan, a surly enforcer with a heart of gold, raised from boyhood by his criminal father figures.
The storyline is full of twists and turns. Arthur makes for a captivating protagonist – aided in no small part by nuanced work from voiceover artist Roger Clark – but Red Dead Redemption 2 (RDR2) is really about the world it creates.
The first Red Dead Redemption was rightly praised for its ambitious backdrop of plains, mountains and prairies, but the landscapes in RDR2 will blow away even franchise veterans.
The story kicks off as the gang takes flight in the mountains, an icy white tundra pulsating with sleet. The plot takes them down into New Hanover, a fertile prairieland replete with shady woodland, rolling hills and abundant wildlife.
Later missions take Arthur and the gang to Lemoyne, a Louisiana-inspired region of tobacco fields and red clay roads, rivers teeming with fish and swamps thronging with alligators (and other unfriendly inhabitants).
Other adventures see you head into snow-capped peaks, dense forests and even tropical jungle – all rendered in stunningly evocative detail.
When you fancy a break from heists and hold-ups, you’re free to roam across this vast world and have your own adventures. You can help strangers in distress, take on a rich array of side quests or simply spend time camping, hunting and fishing in the wilderness.
Are there any flaws? Certainly. It won’t surprise those familiar with the gaming community to learn that players have picked up on them almost immediately.
Most spring from a forgivable foible: too much ambition. The level of world interactivity is so high that it sometimes overwhelms the capability of the mechanics, making handling a little fiddly in places.
And you definitely shouldn’t expect to escape from life’s mundane chores, even in the Old West. Neglect routine tasks like chopping wood and you’ll soon find yourself at the receiving end of a ticking-off from fellow gang members.
Along with that your character needs to eat, sleep, shave and wash on a regular basis. He needs to clean his guns regularly to keep them in good condition. He needs to groom his horse.
All of this might overwhelm the casual gamer, but that’s okay. RDR2 isn’t really a game to dip in and out of. Instead it’s a world that’s rewarding but also requires total immersion.
The Western world Rockstar has created for its Red Dead Redemption sequel is “unlike anything we have seen before”, according to The Daily Telegraph. “The pristine white mountains of the Grizzlies give way to the greenery of the Cumberland Forest,” the paper adds. The land is packed with wild animals that help make the world feel real.
“Rockstar is the master of open-world building, of course, with nothing coming close to Grand Theft Auto V’s urban sprawl until now,” the paper continues.
The Verge agrees, adding that the fluidity of the game’s mission structure fits perfectly with the open-world setting.
While main story missions and side quests are treated as two separate categories in most games, Red Dead Redemption 2 blurs them together, the tech site says. “There are missions to take on, which typically revolve around a big score, like robbing a bank or hijacking a train. But virtually every other thing you do in the game contributes to [the story] as well.”
Ars Technica, however, found one shortcoming in an otherwise “excellent” video game.
The tech site took issue with the “morally repugnant” moments that happen in the game’s story. These scenes can be skipped and players are warned in advance, but “it’s worth wondering how often those flags will be ignored”.
With the game taking around eight years to develop, GQ says there is no doubt that Red Dead Redemption 2 is “a generation-defining release. One so accomplished that it’s hard to identify where, if any, corners have been cut.”
“It's a landmark moment for the open world genre, and for the medium as a whole,” it concludes
Price and release date
Red Dead Redemption 2 is available to order from Amazon now.
Prices start at £49.99 for the standard PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions, while the special editions on both consoles start at £74.99. The special edition includes exclusive story missions, a unique horse to ride and in-game cash bonuses.