Rockstar games has released its highly anticipated third installment in the Red Dead series and it is nothing short of pure excellence. Since Red Dead Redemption 2’s release a week ago , I’ve managed to secure 46hrs of gameplay with maybe 6 of those hours being story missions and the rest dedicated to immersing myself into a euphoric frenzy enjoying all the wild west sandbox has to offer. There’s so many captivating things in this game, it’s hard knowing where to even begin, so let’s start from the beginning. The year is 1899 and the age of the outlaw is coming to an end. You play as Arthur Morgan. A cool, calm, rough and tough outlaw and right hand man to Dutch Van der Linde, Leader of the Van der Linde gang.
You and the gang are the last of the Mohicans so to speak in a world where laws are put in place with lawmen to enforce them. Order has arrived in the wild west and lawless outlaws have no place in this new world order. The beginning of the game finds you and the gang chased out of blackwater on the run from the law. The gang seeks refuge up in the mountains losing their pursuers in the heavy snow storm but find themselves in another equally grave situation. Limited supplies, limited food, and stuck in the middle of a huge blizzard, you and the core members of the gang must hunt, kill, and steal your way to survive the long winter. The 1st chapter of the game is pretty much your tutorial on how to play. Right off the bat, I was taken back by the attention to detail. The visuals were stunning. The lighting brought depth and an authentic look to the environment. Facial expressions are a whole notch up from GTA 5 getting more and more realistic. footprints in the snow and visible breath in cold weather are a must! it’s 2018 and any detail like that left out just isn’t acceptable. But Rockstar does you one better. Not only are the visuals a piece of wonder, the audio is not to be outdone. The sound of gunshots vary. From inside a bar, outside in the plains, or up in the mountains in the echoing valley, gunshots all have a unique recording depending on where you’re at as it should. Creeks from old wooden bridges, buzzards and frogs heard near lakes. Not only that, the deep, well written conversations you have while riding upon your horse to your next destination had me so engaged, I had no complaints about there being no fast travel button. One amazing thing I stumbled upon by accident was when I was falling far behind my partner of whom I was having a conversation with. He was still talking to me but with a much louder tone almost shouting. I noticed that it wasn’t the game mechanics turning up the volume on his dialogue, it was actually another whole recording of the same dialogue. Making two different recordings of the same dialogue to make the conversation fluid and realistic depending on the distance may be a feature that’s overlooked by many but greatly appreciated and speaks to the effort Rockstar puts into minor details that go a long way.
Before we talk about the main story, lets delve a little more into the activities, side missions, and Easter eggs that fill in every nook and cranny of this full-bodied game. RDR2 stays true to the simpler old western times where things take their time. For instance, if you shave your head and beard, a visit to the barber wont put a full set of hair back on your head. You’ll have to brave it out in the world a couple days as Mr. Clean until your hair grows back so shave wisely. Little things like doing chores around camp doesn’t go unnoticed by the gang as you earn honor points and a few compliments passed your way. Side missions aren’t repetitive but feel like main story missions, each with an interesting and unique task from the one before. There’s no drive thru for your convenience here. Coffee will have to be brewed and food will have to be cooked before consumed. You can visit the local butcher or general store for food or hunt your dinner to save some money. Hunting is a huge focus in this game and Rockstar left no stone unturned with the endless possibilities to hunt your prey. Track your prey by following trails of clues like footprints, dead prey, or even the animal’s own feces. You can study the animal before hunting to know what concoction of bait to put together, most effective weapon as well as what body part of your prey to aim for to get the cleanest kill. The cleaner the kill, the better the condition of the animal’s pelt when you skin it. Trappers will pay good money for perfect condition pelt. Nothing is wasted either, you can carry the skinless carcass to your horse and ride into camp for provisions or sell it to a local butcher. Just be prepared to get blood on your shoulder and your horse, it is a bloody carcass after all. In this game about gun-slinging outlaws there’s about 79 different animals and in that 79, about 39 are fish and I’ve caught about 2 different fish so far so there’s that.
Besides hunting and fishing, RDR2 offers a wide array of ways to bring in some cash flow. As an outlaw it’s your God given right to rob everything and anything you see fit in this game right? Anything from banks, trains, shops, homes, carriages, and people can be robbed at any given time but be warned. With high rewards comes high risk and sometimes the bounty put on your head getting away from these crimes can cost you most of your spoils, so make sure to wear a mask to hide your identity before committing a crime. Maybe you’re an honorable person that would rather make an honest living without risking government agents all over you. You can be a hunter profiting off the meat and fur or even tame wild horses to sell them at the local stables or keep as your own if you choose. Or if you’re like me, you can be a high-stakes gambler and test your luck at a game of dominoes or poker. Nothing like cleaning house at the poker table then getting piss drunk at the bar with your winnings. Helping random strangers throughout the map can also benefit your wallet but helping strangers, getting a reward and then robbing them for the rest of what they got can be twice as beneficial. Just some food for thought *wink*. After a huge payday I like to spoil myself and my horse by going on a shopping spree. Going to the Tailor or gun shop and browsing the catalog can be a bit overwhelming with the wide selection but customizing your threads and your guns can be just as overwhelming, in a good way.You can customize your guns not only to improve performance but to change the aesthetics as well. The thread options aren’t just limited to the cowboy department so don’t be afraid to mix it up. I personally went for the suave, rich and handsome gentleman type look as oppose to the regular boots, jeans and leather vest cowboy look. Even bought some pom-aide to slick my hair back to complete the look. The weather also plays a part in what you should wear. While wearing a long duster coat looks bad ass, if it’s hot outside, wearing warm clothing can take it’s toll on your stamina and you may even hear comments from strangers about your body odor. I stepped inside the saloon in Valentine for a drink when a bratty gentleman at the poker table said “it’s hard to keep a poker face with your foul odor”. It took a lot of self-restraint to not put a bullet between his eyes but the man had a point. I had to look at it as the game’s way of saying “you need to shower”. Bad hygiene can result in your stamina core draining faster than normal. Same goes for your horse so do take care of both.
The size of the map is Rockstar’s biggest and most ambitious up to date. Bigger than GTA V’s map and dwarfing the original Red Dead Redemption map. GTA V’s map is quite different as it is full of paved roads and buildings that make it a lot easier to access and fill the map. The Old Western map on the other hand has a handful of trails that connect throughout the map leaving lots of space in between them. If not executed properly, it is real easy to screw up a good game. If you’re familiar with Metal Gear Solid: Phantom Pain, you’ll know that the open world map left a lot to be desired. It felt like a barren desert sandbox with enemy camps sprinkled across the map and nothing in between those camps but dead real estate. No enemies, no scenic landmarks, and no activities. Just dead space for you to travel from one enemy filled base to the next. Rockstar meticulously designed this map to have players engaged and busy. The map is so beautifully thought out, that every trail, big or small is unique and no two trails look the same. Side quest, wild animals, and random strangers keep the map full of things to do. Not to mention random Easter eggs and treasure hunts though I’ve yet to find them in my journey. If you want to see all the neat Easter eggs or maybe a guide to help you find all the hidden treasure in the land look no further than Youtube.
Finally lets talk about the main story.**SPOILERS AHEAD** The gang is comprised of Arthur Morgan, Dutch’s right hand man and enforcer. John Marston, strong-willed and fearless. He’s also the main protagonist of the original Red Dead Redemption. Notorious Mexican bounty hunter and revolutionary Javier Escuella. Sadie Atler, a widow that vows to take revenge on those who killed her husband. Micah Bell, an unpredictable loose cannon that made a life of becoming a hitman and their idealistic, charismatic leader Dutch Van der Linde. There’s also more members of the gang you’ll encounter in game. The story’s focus is on the gang’s desperate journey to stay one step ahead of the government. Whether it’s keeping a low profile in Valentine or hiding in plain sight by becoming deputies in Rhodes(My current place in game), Dutch always appears to have an elaborate scheme to keep the gang afloat. As the main story progresses, the pressure of being hunted and having to move from camp to camp seems to take its toll on gang leader Dutch as members of the gang and even his right hand man Arthur start to question his choices on the direction the gang should head. But the Van der Linde gang has more of a family bond than most gangs and members are loyal to the core and will gladly die for each other so they follow Dutch through hell or high water. The main story also revolves around each member of the gang as you help them with their own individual struggles bringing out rich character development and plot twist that you might or might not have seen coming. Side missions, helping random strangers, and finding random encounters each have a different experience and feel part of the main story with cutscenes and vibrant characters to interact with. I am clearly moving at a very slow pace when it comes to the story because I’m still exploring everything I can possibly do in this game and I don’t want it to end. I’ll play for about 4 hours every night and probably do one story mission and five side missions and maybe muck around exploring or hunting the rest of the time and somehow I get the satisfaction of a fun and productive game session. Maybe that’s just me or maybe its Rockstar telling a compelling story not just with an interesting plot and crazy good gameplay, but also with stunning visual and audio effects and about a hundred different things to do in game to keep you occupied. I’ve played my fair share of great single player rpg games and Red Dead Redemption 2 takes the cake as number one hands down. I can’t wait for the much anticipated RDR2 online multiplayer coming soon. I look forward to doing heist and playing poker with my buddies in game and you can definitely expect another long winded review from yours truly.