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TAC Reviews...Red Dead Redemption 2

Date Posted: 03/01/21


Released in 2018 Red Dead Redemption 2 is not surprisingly the sequel to the 2010’s Red Dead Redemption and serves as a prequel to the events of the first game. Now although I have meant to play the first game I have never actually gotten around to playing it, however, I have watched a series of videos by Outside Xbox in which Andy plays the game again after losing his 100% completion save file. As a result I have a pretty good idea of what happens in the first game so knew that John Marston was the protagonist of that game, whereas being a mostly non-player character here. 


Red Dead Redemption 2 Art


As you know I have played Red Dead Online and am trying to play it even when Rockstar themselves seem determined to kill it. But in an action that mirrored the fact that I played GTA Online for a while before I decided to play the story-mode of GTA V, I got weary of the online game so decided to play the story.


So without further ado, let’s crack on...


The game begins in 1899 when the Van der Lande gang are fleeing Blackwater after a botched robbery, leaving their money behind. They are being hunted by the authorities and travel through a snowy wilderness hoping to find shelter before they freeze. Stumbling across an abandoned mountain settlement the gang regroup, and rescue a woman named Sadie Adler after her ranch is attacked, her husband murdered, and her home burned down by a rival gang called [the] O’Driscolls. You take the role of Arthur Morgan, Dutch’s right hand man. The gang realise that the modern world is approaching and their lifestyle is coming to an end, Dutch decides that they just need one big score, and they can flee the United States into retirement.


The gang do not remain in the mountain hideout for long, and travel south looking for a way of making their fortune.


Arthur Morgan doesn’t just have to just follow what Dutch and members of the gang want to do, there is also a whole world of people out there with various tasks for him to complete...


If you have played a Rockstar sandbox before then you are already going to know what to expect from the set-up of Red Dead Redemption 2. You are given tasks to achieve by various members of the gang, but as you travel throughout the world you will encounter other opportunities to make money. Various Strangers appear on your mini-map and give us tasks to accomplish, which Arthur is happy to do as long as he gets paid.


If you stick to the missions then you have pretty much missed the point of a Rockstar game, it is not about doing the missions, it is about going out and finding your own adventures. This does lead to some paradoxical problems later on in the game but I will come to that a bit later on.


You have a horse, but can break wild horses to turn them into your own horse, each horse has a level of bonding which enables you to call it from further away, or do tracks on it. From the beginning of Chapter Two you are able to do this, and there are numerous wild horse that you can make your own.


The world is incredibly varied with you able to do hunting missions, finding legendary animals which can craft pelts and trinkets, as well as turn in pelts and skins to craft better pouches to hold more items. You can use the money you earn to buy equipment and facilities for the camp, as well as seek out animals with perfect carcasses or pelts to craft items to make the gang’s lives easier. Of course, all of it is optional; you can just stick to the missions if you so desire or you can be as sandbox happy as you want to be.


The thing is if you are not sandbox happy then there is really no point to you playing this type of game. Which leads me to one of my biggest issues with the game. I am very sandbox happy, and hate it when a game ties my hands by preventing me from doing what I want. In the case of RDR2 due to the events which take place before the game, namely the robbery in Blackwater, you cannot venture onto the Great Plains or the entire state of New Austin without being killed. The moment you cross the boundary lines bounty hunters come after you and you simply cannot get away from them. It makes me wonder the point of having such a large map if you can’t use most of it for the majority of the time. Yes in the epilogue you can but by then I had lost interest in exploring the whole map and just wanted to finish the game.


You are capable of having multiple types of weapons which can be stored on your horse, but you have to remember to equip them before to get off otherwise you will be facing missions with just your pistols. It was a tad annoying to equip a repeater then get off my horse and find Arthur had decided to leave it behind.


This will generally be a problem because most of the missions descend into a gun fight, so facing enemies with repeater rifles, and shotguns with nothing more than a couple of pistols gets rather aggravating.


Missions are also rated so if you use any health items you get a poor rating, if you don’t use headshots, you get a poorer rating, and so it goes on. It reminded me of playing Devil May Cry 4 in which I would be sitting on numerous health items, resurrection crystals, etcetera but wouldn’t want to use any of them for fear of getting a bad rating at the end of the game. I don’t like it when games give me the option of having health items but punish you if you actually use them.


Unlike GTA which only gives you a health bar, in RDR2 like Red Dead Online, you have a health, stamina and dead eye core. I generally managed to keep my health and stamina high, but my dead eye core was always depleated. I didn’t even use it that opten, but if I did then it ran out in seconds. So one of the main features of the game I quickly abandoned trying to use because it ran out so fast it wasn’t worth using much. Yes I could use tonics and items to recover it, but as I said, if I did that the game waggled its finger and chastised me for not being able to do the missions without needing health items.


The game has an honour system with Arthur capable of doing good acts or bad which affects the way he is seen in the game, how cut scenes play out, and so on. The thing is that I think the game wants you to be playing as a bad guy because it makes it very difficult to keep your honour going in a positive direction.


EVERYTHING gets you a wanted level and a bounty. It doesn’t matter if you are wearing a mask when committing a crime, or if you get attacked, and defend yourself because either way you get a wanted level. NPCs can glance at a man in a mask and instantly know that it is Arthur Morgan. If Arthur has a wanted level the police chase you mercilessly and guess what, if you try to fight back, your bounty goes up and up and up. Plus the cops seem to know instantly where you are hiding, fine in GTA as they have radios, but how do cops in the Old West instantly know where you are if they have lost line of sight???? I spent so much time and money just paying off bounties that I had basically gotten through taking actions that the mission parameters forced me to do.


Like I said, the game itself makes it very difficult to be an honourable character as the majority of the stuff the game wants you to do is bad


Due to the Honour system, you can choose the good option or bad option, yet you seem to get a mosquitoes’ bollocks worth of positive honour for good acts and -50 honour for any bad stuff you do. You can loot the bodies of enemies without a problem, but if you find a dead body on the side of the road and choose to rifle through their pockets, there goes some more of your positive honour. I was riding around in the world when a man fell off his horse near to me, I thought he might just be sick (as you do encounter sick people in the world), so I loaded him onto my horse to take him to the nearest town seeking doctor. As I approached, a witness suddenly popped up on my radar, and next thing I knew I was wanted for murder with a bounty on my head.


The thing is with any kind of honour system or supposed free roam games is that they give you freedom when not in a mission, but then instantly lock you into the way the game wants you to play it whenever a mission begins.


It becomes painfully obvious that Dutch has absolutely no idea what he is doing, and is leading the gang into further ruin. He has all these plans but they just go south one after another. But you can’t just chose to leave the gang behind. An old flame from Arthur’s past returns as if you have positive honour she seems to recognise that he has changed his ways, and asks you to leave them. But you have no choice, Arthur refuses to go. But why?? Dutch has already pissed off a very powerful man by attempting to rob a train that not surprisingly went tits up. So why can’t you literally just drop everything and go. Why wasn’t that a possible ending, to choose to go, and the game ends there?? Arthur says he can’t because he doesn’t have the money but at the time I had over $3500 in my back pocket, which I’m pretty sure would be enough to start a new life back in 1899.


The game forces you to play its way and whilst it gives you some choice, it doesn’t let you make the big decisions. Dutch keeps going on about needing money to start a new life but I had thousands in my back-pocket, so what is he even going on about?? I had upgraded the camp will all the possible extras, I had donated hundreds of dollars to the lock box, how much more money was needed to leave the country???


As Dutch starts to go increasingly off the rails, you have to go along with what he is doing, and cannot simply refuse to help. Why have a honour system at all if it only makes an arbitrary difference whilst all the time you have to follow an obvious moron that has clearly no idea what he is doing??


There is plenty to do in the game so you never have nothing to get on with, but I resent the game for locking an entire state away the whole time. I like to blitz stuff in one go when playing a sandbox but couldn’t do what I wanted. Having a linear experience is one thing but I dislike the illusion of choice when the truth is that you have no choice.


I did enjoy the game and I am curious to play it again being a right bastard just to see how things change, or if they even do much. Red Dead Redemption 2 is a massive game, and was generally good fun to play. I will give the games a Thumbs Up because there is certainly plenty to do and I did enjoy playing through its 40+ hours of game play.



8/10 – Red Dead Redemption 2 is a good game and whilst I did enjoy it, the missions descending into one gunfight after another got a little tiresome. The thing is that there is so much to do that there is something for everyone, and I still have 13% left to do if I want to get to 100% completion. 


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© Chris Sharman