What Makes Red Dead Redemption 2 A Masterpiece?

Rockstar Games is no stranger when it comes to developing excellent titles in the modern video game industry and their most recent release, Red Dead Redemption 2, does nothing but further establish their dominance over nearly every other developer in business today. In my opinion only Naughty Dog of “Crash Bandicoot”, “Uncharted”, and “The Last of Us” fame as well as CD Projekt Red, makers of “The Witcher” series stand anywhere near Rockstar’s ability to craft near-perfect gaming experiences in this current generation.

From the painstaking amount of detail in every facet of gameplay to the way the narrative unfolds with surprises (even for those of us who played the original and knew what the end result had to be), Red Dead Redemption 2 is a masterpiece in every sense of the word. That is not to say that it does not have flaws, even the best of the best games do, but it does mean that it stands as one of the best single player experiences of the last several years.

Now that Red Dead Redemption 2 has finally come to PC users in 2019, we figured we would break down exactly what made it such a great game for console players last year and what PC users who pick it up have to look forward to. Here’s a breakdown of why we think Red Dead 2 is worth playing:

Details and Immersion

This game may actually be the first I have ever played to have too many details in some regards. Snow and mud reacts to your footsteps with unbelievable precision. Choices and decisions you make throughout the game are remembered by main and optional NPCs alike. Even the smallest of things are accounted for, like how your horse’s relative carrying weight affects how much stamina is drained from it or how keeping it well groomed will affect his bonding rate with you. Guns fire more efficiently and accurately when kept clean and polished, your own stamina bar is based on how often you eat as well as what you eat, and the attitude or mood around your camp will change based on your decisions too.

It is clear to me that more time and planning went into making this game feel real and lived in than any other experience there has ever been. This isn’t just due to the technology available today, but also to Rockstar’s goal in particular to be the best video game developer out there.

For some people this may actually be a little bit too much to handle but if you are a fan of serious RPGs and the western asthetic excites you, then there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t already be playing this gem of a game.

The only complaint I have of the game in regards to the detail found therein is that Rockstar seems perfectly willing to sacrifice simplistic and easy to follow game mechanics in favor of every aspect of their game feeling real.

One example would be the players method of transportation. Often times I would find myself paying to ride in a stagecoach from one location to another in favor of riding on horseback simply because my thumb physically hurt from tapping “A” two thousand times across the map. I understand that riding a horse for that long would be hard work and tiring, but I don’t want to work hard or feel tired while I play a game, I want to enjoy myself.

All of that being said, there are only a handful of instances where a player might feel this way and other than this issue I have no other major complaint at all. Here’s to Rockstar figuring out a few better control schemes and mechanic setups before their next big title.

Combat and Exploration

Combat in Red Dead Redemption 2 feels visceral and heavy, but there is also an ease to it that allows anyone to figure out the rhythm rather quickly. Shotguns reel the player back in accordance to whether they hip fire their weapon or aim down the sights, rifles shots ringing out send enemies sprinting for cover, and there is almost nothing like tagging four or five headshots with a handgun and watching the slow-motion carnage unfold.

Destructible cover mechanics have never looked or acted quite as good as they do in this game and it adds to the tension and overall combat experience greatly. In all the hours I spent in Rockstar’s beautiful western world, I don’t believe there was ever a moment where I found the gunplay to be boring, repetitive, or uninspired; which is something that I cannot say for every game, even the great ones.

This game definitely isn’t meant to make you feel like some unstoppable force of nature like Master Chief in Halo or the Doomslayer from Doom, so if you go into the experience thinking that way it may not turn out well. Cover is taught early and should be used often. Inventory, Stamina, and Health management is also key to success. This game is actually meant to make you feel vulnerable and human and it is all the better for it.

Exploration in this game is truly one of the main draws for it because in order to uncover locations or missions out in the world you must simply get out there and find them. Coming across a bandit camp, a shadowy fence hideout (shop for stolen goods), or a towering train bridge is actually exciting in this game because you feel as though you stumbled across them as you rode from one objective to the other. It takes more time to explore this way but it feels right considering the era the game is set in and the way people would have actually navigated the western country during this time period.

Characters and Missions

One of my favorite things about the first Red Dead Redemption was the amazing ensemble of awesome characters, locations, and stories that were crammed into every inch of the game’s world. Although the prequel’s characters are not anywhere near as zany or fun as the original’s, they are endearing and relatable which helps to make the over-arching narrative of the game an unforgettable one.

Your character, Arthur Morgan, is particularly well written and acted which obviously means a lot seeing as how you will spend quite a bit of time (AKA almost all of it) with him on your journey. His booming gravitas and well mannered, yet easily agitated nature is fun to see unfold throughout the game. He may not go down in gaming history as one of the best playable characters, but he certainly ought to be mentioned in the conversation. Topping John Marston and his story from the original Red Dead Redemption is not something that I even thought would have been possible but if I am honest, I enjoyed my time with Arthur just a little bit more.

Having already played the first game and knowing that Red Dead Redemption 2 was actually a prequel, I knew what the ultimate outcome of the story had to be. Yet with each passing moment in the game, Rockstar keeps the player guessing with clever twists and unexpected moments. Even as the ending came and I knew what the final result would be, it still came in a way that I wasn’t considering. That just goes to show how much time and effort the developers and story tellers put into making this game worth playing even to those who think they know what to expect.

Missions in this game are varied and interesting. Side quests and small adventures are worth seeking out and squeezing every last drop of enjoyment from. Even just general wandering with no real aim is a blast and it is all due to excellent character direction and writing.

Just like in the first Red Dead, a handful of un-skippable set pieces occur within the games story, such as a casino boat and a covered wagon chain-gun shootout. They are all well deserved and earned in the writing for the story and none of them feel forced or thrown in for cheap thrills. I am sincerely looking forward to getting to these sections again when I undoubtedly make my second run through the game in the future.

A lot of open-world games in the last five or six years have cut a lot of corners when it comes to character development and depth, as well as mission variety and interest, but lore lovers and explorers like me are grateful that there are still a few developers out there doing it the right way. Now if only a few more would take some notes….

Conclusion

Now that the game has come to PC and gone down in price significantly do yourself a favor and pick up this astonishing title. You may walk away from it saying it was a bit much but I promise you won’t ever say it was not enough. It is one of the best games of the last decade and a definite contender/ frontrunner for the most realistic game of all time.

Adam Rahn

From the moment I could pick up the controller of my family's Super Nintendo I have developed a deep and continuous passion for the world of gaming. From narrative-driven adventures to sprawling open worlds, my love for the medium has only grown with every new title on the horizon!

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