Red Dead Redemption 2 Review: A Masterclass In Game Design

It's finally here, ladies and gentlemen. Red Dead Redemption 2, the title many of you have been waiting nearly a decade for since playing the original game on Xbox 360 and PS3, has been released—and yes, it's been worth the wait.

Red Dead Redemption 2 is a prequel to the original game released on the last generation consoles. It puts you into the shoes of Arthur Morgan after a robbery attempt goes sour. You're on the run from nearly every area as you try to piece your life back together and find the other people in your gang who've gone astray.

As you progress and become more notorious in the game's stories, more towns and places become unfriendly, which leads you to find another place to call home. In truth, though, the world will never be safe for bandits like you, so you'll constantly be on the run.

The Red Dead series has always been about exploration and offering the player a lot of things to do. This game is no different, with an expanded map, linear story, and plenty of additional missions to wet your appetite.

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With nearly a hundred missions, a bunch of mini-games, and enough content to waste a weekend or two, Red Dead Redemption 2 is the biggest entry in the series and arguably the biggest game Rockstar Games has ever made. So what exactly is it like?

The gripes

In a game filled to the brim with content and positive things to do, we wanted to get the negative aspects out of the way first.

It's worth mentioning that Red Dead Redemption 2 is a slow game. Movement feels slow, traveling feels slow, and even gunfights have a sluggish pace to them. You're always carefully trying to maneuver yourself to a safe point while slowly aiming toward opponents to shoot, and then you repeat the process.

The game starts off slow (as it should) as you learn more about the mechanics of the game in individual missions, unlocking things along the way. It takes some hours to finally get a lot of the items you need to go out there and enjoy the freedom of the Wild West. This could discourage some people from playing the game entirely if they don't have the time, or the patience, to commit to the pacing. 

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For those who invest the time, though, you'll be handsomely rewarded. The slower pace really helps you dig into the world and sample everything it has to offer. You'll get used to the game without being thrown into the deep end right away.

Red Dead Redemption 2 features a massive open world, however, most likely the largest made in a Rockstar game. Each town has its own aesthetics and things to do and no two places feel the same.

Our biggest gripe about this open world, though, is the lack of fast travel options available. Sure, you have the option to go from town to town using stagecoaches and trains, and you can unlock features from your camp for a one-way fast travel option. But the lack of a true fast travel option really hinders the overall experience.

We get it, Rockstar wants you to "enjoy" traveling in this open world from place to place and take in every pixel of grass they have painstakingly animated. But for a player who just wants to move around freely and quickly get to where they need to, it's a sorely-missed option that makes some of the game a long slog.

Explorating what's on offer

With the negatives out of the way, let's move on to the positive aspects of the game.

We want to first bring to attention the physics engine that was created for the game and just how impressive it is. If you've played a lot of open world games in the past, you know about horses levitating halfway over the ground when on a flat piece of Earth, how most things are stationary, and how there are a ton of bugs that can be exploited.

In Red Dead Redemption 2, however, this isn't the case. For starters, you could be going down a slope only for the rocks that were built into the ground to roll after you, dealing damage and creating a mini rockslide in the process. Horses will also fall backwards if they take a misstep over a slope, causing them and you to take damage.

There's no hand-holding either, so if you speed up straight into a wall with a horse (like we did) that horse isn't going to just stop like in most games. You're going to go in head first, kill the horse, and more importantly, kill yourself for not being aware of your surroundings.

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This just comes back to the idea of the freedom that the game offers. If you want to go and kill yourself, you can. If you want to go herding sheep, fishing, rob a bank, rob a train, tie up a poor stranger and have a train run over them, you can. The game is built to offer you the tools to do whatever you want so you can live out your dark western fantasies.

We haven't even touched on the hundreds of missions, side quests, and collectibles on offer alongside the legendary hunting missions that ask you to roam and find beasts all for the purpose of showing off. There really is something for everyone, no matter how long you plan to play, to get invested in.

Management is key

There's a lot of different things that you need to manage in Red Dead Redemption 2 that will require a pen and paper to jot everything down.

First, there's your health, which will force you to keep yourself fed and watered so you don't see any negative side effects. You also need to sleep regularly to keep your character in good condition. Then, you have to keep tabs on your health, stamina, and dead eye meter to make sure they're full so you don't go into a battle unprepared.

You can also craft items by collecting resources around you to have tonics and food regularly available. This will make sure that you're stocked to the brim with useful tools to keep your vigor up and keep your body from being underweight.

Your character isn't the only thing that needs to be managed, however. There's also your horse, base, and a bunch of other features that need to be taken care of to give you a better chance of advancing through some of the harder stages of the game.

This is all combined with an expanded leveling mechanic, which will see you constantly gain additional health, stamina, and deadeye points by just playing the game naturally. You can also bond with your horse by just riding it to increase its health and stamina, as well as unlocking special abilities along the way.

All of this just adds more management tools that can help you prepare for any situation. It pays to be prepared, because the more things that you have, the more options will be available to you while on a mission or when going about doing your own thing.

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Just be sure to invest enough time and money into everything on offer and you should be good for any scenario thrown at you.

The grand finale

Red Dead Redemption 2 is a cut above the rest and is already a contender for the game of the year—and it's hard to argue with that statement.

No game is perfect and each will have some small issues. Every person will have their own pet peeves and individual critiques about how the game could be improved—but Red Dead Redemption 2 is nearly as perfect as you can get.

It sits beside Grand Theft Auto V as one of the best games and has its own charm that differentiates itself from its predecessors. When it comes to open world games, Rockstar is the best in the genre and offers plenty of things to do to keep players entertained for hours on end.

It's arguably one of the finest games to come out during this generation of consoles and pushes the systems to the limit. Fans hope that it will follow in Grand Theft Auto V's footsteps and come out on PC and the next generation of consoles whenever they might be released.

Now, all we need to do is wait for the first DLC pack of the game to drop to enjoy more of what the game has to offer. Undead Nightmare 2, anyone?

Rating: 9/10