This review contains minor spoilers from the story – all major spoilers are not covered
Red Dead Redemption 2 (2018), Rockstar’s most ambitious work to date, set in the western times of America in 1899 during times when the west is dying and the civilized world is approaching. A prequel to its predecessor 2010s Red Dead Redemption, originally cast by the tortuous wanted outlaw John Marston (performed by Rob Wiethoff), a former member of the Dutch Van Der Linde gang. This time about the second entry into the franchise casts an entirely new protagonist Arthur Morgan (performed by Roger Clark), an outlaw like John Marston and the most trusted senior gun in the Van Der Linde gang — Red Dead Redemption 2 is set 12 years before the events of the original game and endeavours an extensive journey into the downfall of the gang.
This two-year-old title illustrates Rockstar’s biggest production ever yet featuring a 60-hour lengthy campaign of Arthur Morgan’s outlaw adventures and an enormous gorgeous open world packed with lush environments, bustling cities and towns. The game also features a ridiculous dynamic weather system which is just so impressive, which uses volumetric technology for many of the fog effects and rays scattering around the world for the first time in a Rockstar title.
Red Dead Redemption 2 also emphasises on much smarter AI for its NPCs, civilians around the world can fully remember the player’s actions in the game, whether you decide to rob a store in Valentine, the shop owner will comment on Arthur’s actions later when he revisits the store. Rockstar also brought in a new way to interact with NPCs in an all-new interaction system that enables players to use an array of a few options to greet, antagonize alongside other options. There was a similar interaction system with Bully (2006) and GTAV (2013), but it’s executed far better and it casts more than 100+ actors to perform pages of voice lines. That’s not even all – NPCs also feature daily routines, just like our daily lives, they work, they eat and they sleep on a daily game time basis. A really big step up in contrast with Rockstar’s GTAV from 2013.
Okay – so with all the technical bits of the way, let’s begin focusing on the story itself. Within my time with the game since 2018, it’s the greatest story in any piece of media. I felt very attached to Arthur Morgan within my 600+ hours of playing through the story. Before the title had released in 2018 – I didn’t think it would come close to John Marston, who played the main protagonist in the original title. Both protagonists possess the most amazing story writing within both of their title entities. I don’t think a single game has put so much attachment to me with John Marston and Arthur Morgan in video-games.
Arthur Morgan is an outlaw like John Marston – and plays a strong role in the Dutch Van Der Linde gang. Its gang are a group of thieves fighting to survive in the wildness west, following a ferry robbery in Blackwater, that went terribly wrong which led to the gang fleeing to the snowy cold mountains in the introduction of the game. It endeavours on a journey of Arthur Morgan and the gang during the times when everything begins to shamble and fall to pieces following the events of the ferry robbery in Blackwater – it is a very long story and over 60 hours long. But it’s worth every single minute of your time to get a taste of the before and after of the original game.
Rockstar gives the player a choice of the type of person Arthur can be with an honour system, it should be noted it plays a huge role in the game. I decided to be the good outlaw, so I helped out folk around the country during my time with the game and kept my actions in missions on a less violent side of Arthur. But, should you be the bad outlaw, characters in the story will judge you by your actions in the story missions and dialogue in the gang’s camp.
On the customization side of the game – it’s very deep and impressive. There is a live facial hair system where Arthur’s beard will grow over time during your time with the game. It can be later trimmed or altered with a different style at a Barbershop in some towns. Furthermore, his weapons can be fully customized at Gunsmith Stores with an array of different gun liveries and upgrades. Or if you want Arthur to have different clothing, Red Dead Redemption 2 features hundreds of clothing items to buy from – including outfits, hats, pants, and much more.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is an evolving game featuring a system where the map changes over time during the player’s progression of the story mode. Without giving too much away the map changes are very noticeable – especially in Blackwater where a player can experience the early version of Blackwater in 1899 (and beyond) and witness it being built overtime in the game. This really goes to show Rockstar’s commitment to their attention to detail and passion for building one of the most detailed and immersive titles to date.
The world’s map features a huge number of towns and cities and stunning environments and landscapes. Saint Denis is the game’s biggest city part of the game, it’s packed with incredible parallax texturing all over its flooring and walls and a bustling population. And it’s important to note the game has so many activities to do in freeroam, it’s ridiculously alive wherever you’re in the world with its random encounters occurring almost every few minutes.
RDR2’s score tracks hold a significant chunk of the game – Woody Jackson was previously the music composer for Grand Theft Auto V’s score collaborated a major part of the game’s core music, it’s worth note Matt Sweeney and David Ferguson additionally cooperated in its score music for the title. Red Dead Redemption 2’s score whether in missions or its ambience, it amazingly well done and feels so relaxing to listen to the music whistling away in freeroam. It feels so badass and powerful in the story missions.
The game’s cinematic experience in cutscenes is another aspect of the game I really much appreciate, at times the cutscenes feel almost pre-rendered, though it’s all rendered in real-time. The facial animations, its post-processing and performances from its cast is brilliantly executed and it feels like a badass wild-west movie. In contrast with Rockstar’s GTAV, Red Dead Redemption 2 illustrates a huge step up in polygon quality in the characters. Rockstar opted to provide cinematic borders, similarly used in the older GTA titles. It really provides the feeling of watching a film but it can feel unnecessary at times but still, it works quite well – but it would’ve been nice to have an option to disable the borders.
Red Dead Redemption 2 has been the most wonderful experience in my time of video-games, it’s Rockstar’s best work to date. Whether you’re a lover of Rockstar Games or looking for an open-world title to purchase, this game delivers on pure quality and Rockstar’s attention to detail. It’s a straight 10 out of 10 – if I had the option at launch I would’ve happily paid a third of its original price for Rockstar’s absolute masterpiece.