Red Dead Redemption 2 Review: “Ain’t no country for ol’ men!”

This could very easily have been a multi-million Hollywood blockbuster production. Red Dead Redemption 2 is a game so enormous, so detailed, so beautiful yet ugly at the same time that it captivates you. The work that has been put into it is obvious, every corner you turn. And it is my firm belief that this story has nothing to be jealous of from great Western films of the 60’s or the 70’s, in fact it could easily stand beside them. The fact that this game even exists and we as an audience can appreciate it for what it is, makes me think how far along we’ve come as a community. I don’t believe we were ready for the original and I see now how further ahead for its time it was as a title.
Yes, but what is it that makes it so special, you may ask? Well, yes first of all the visuals of New Hanover, Saint Denis, Strawberry, Blackwater and other areas I cannot mention to avoid spoilers are one of the main attractions. The wildlife you see in the swamps, the cold, harsh winter in the mountains and the stark contrast to the heated, moldy deserts, the stormy nights that give that ominous feeling, it’s all right here in the early 1900’s. And it is here that you can see just how difficult it was for people to do things we have such a convenience with that we take them for granted, like shower, call each other from afar, or even get from one place to the other. Things like the post, baths, or carrier horses have all but become obsolete in this day and age of technological advancements but back then, they were all they had to live by.

And speaking of technological advancements, this game does a fine job of showing you the squeaky first few steps of the cinematography industry or the theater, meanwhile staying close with the story. It is truly remarkable how the game manages to keep the atmosphere of the age tied to the story and actually make it one of the core elements around which it develops. Arthur Morgan seems to be a victim of the old age and it is amusing to see his reactions to some of the things he comes into contact with during the course of the story.
And speaking of Arthur Morgan, that is where the game focuses. Arthur is a member of a gang of outlaws (not criminals) that is run by Dutch Van Der Linde. The start of the game finds them having botched a job in Blackwater town and running from the authorities. Meanwhile, Dutch has a fewd with the leader of another gang called the O’ Driscolls that sees them getting into a shootout during which they manage to save a young lady by the name of Sadie Adler. The story goes on from there.

You won’t care for many members of the Van Der Linde gang, some you won’t even remember their names, but what they go through and how they end up will have you screaming. This isn’t a game about “happy endings”, this is a story that shows how life can break even the best and strongest of characters and how sometimes just when we think we have nothing left to lose and we’re standing at the edge of the precipice, that’s when our true colors shine through. Honestly the term “test of character” is the best I can think of for the Van Der Linde gang. Even John Marston (who we know is the one that makes it out okay, since he stars in the sequel, released back in 2010) goes through so much in this that I feel players will want to go back and replay the original.
Sometimes, what can make or break a game is its main character. Well, I can testify that Arthur Morgan is one of the greats. He belongs right up there with Nathan Drake, Joel, Solid Snake and many others. A true cowboy, he knows when to use his words and when to let his guns do the talking. He gives everyone a fair chance though and doesn’t jump to conclusions. Morgan seems like he wanted to do other things with his life, better things, yet he never really had the opportunity to do so, being raised by Dutch and the gang. Morgan is a true man, that doesn’t take the words “loyalty” or “family” lightly. Not at all.

Regarding pacing, I felt like things were interesting up until chapter six, then it began to tire me out a little and I was beginning to look forward to the end. Then, just as I thought the end had come, I got hit by the other HALF of the game that was equally tiresome since I could already tell where it was going to lead! We’re talking about a notoriously large main scenario campaign that takes days (if not weeks) to complete. Most of it is good and the payoff is definitely worth it, however some of it I felt was a little unnecessary and dragged out for reasons that shouldn’t be mentioned at all.
Of course, Rockstar being who they are, there are over a hundred things to pass time alternatively or if you complete the main story. From playing poker, milking cows, fishing, taming strange horses to see which one rides best, hunting legendary animals or just hunting for food, crafting items, taking on bounties or just plain old shooting and killing people or throwing poor old Morgan off a cliff just to create a funny compilation video for your YouTube channel, you can do it all. The only limitation is that, compared to Grand Theft Auto V where things are more advanced, this is 1899, so you could only do so much at that day and age. But whatever there was, you can bet Rockstar has thrown it in there!

This is a great, long story about people who needed to survive and find a place within a world that was leaving them behind, each in their own way. It may even be about redemption, as the title implies. And all that, wrapped up nicely in fantastic (yet based on real) environments, and so much entertainment that you could never get tired of it even if you tried. Red Dead Redemption 2 has gone beyond was is simply a video game by pushing the limitations of the consoles to their limits (this is the first time a single title required two disks). This isn’t just game of the year. It is the one that will define this entire generation.
Even if you’re not a gamer, or even a fan of western films, I urge you not to miss out on this story…

Originally published at on November 4, 2018.



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