The Hoofbeat vs. The O’Driscolls
By Oscar Yanek
“Red Dead Redemption 2” is another installment from video game company Rockstar that explores the lawless frontier of the wild west, following in the footsteps of its predecessor, “Red Dead Redemption.” It is already a hit, outselling many games from 2018 that had months of a headstart on sales. That being said, nothing less is expected from Rockstar at this point. Between this series and its “Grand Theft Auto” franchise, it would seem that the company has criminal behavior down to a science (or in this instance, video game). But “Red Dead Redemption 2” is so much more than just a cowboy game; it takes players through a gripping story of hardship and loyalty, all while placing you in one of the most gorgeously detailed open worlds in gaming.
The game follows the story of Arthur, who is a member of a gang of fugitives on the run from a botched heist they committed in the town of Blackwater. The gang is led by Dutch, a charismatic leader who is trying to get them out of the mess they made for themselves, and hopefully lead them to an escape into the continuously diminishing western frontier. The story in the game develops your relationship with Dutch and the gang. Throughout the story, players become sympathetic with the aging cowboys and their search for what remains of the American dream in the west.
Whether you play it in long, multiple hour-long sessions, or in quick portions stopping in for a mission here and there, the “Red Dead Redemption” world will suck you in and keep you there. It is no wonder that there was nearly a decade-long gap between the release of “Red Dead Redemption” and “RDR 2;” the game makes you feel like you are actual in the post-Reconstruction United States. The graphics feel like they are leaping through the screen at you. The voice acting and character-building feels genuine, down to the non-player characters that you meet from town-to-town. The game totes a massive 60 hours of gameplay and Rockstar’s development team definitely went to all lengths to make a game that felt real.
Sometimes that realness can be a downside, however, and the game has a very steep learning curve. There are a lot of different stats that players have to manage, which can be confusing to beginners at first. This confusion leads to much of the early mission design being focused around learning mechanics like keeping your horse fed, sleeping and eating, stamina for you and your horse, camp maintenance, and more. However, if you can make it through the introduction on cowboy roleplay alone then the later parts of the game reward you with intense cowboy heists and gunslinging action.
Another area in which the game is lacking is multiplayer, which is by far the greatest, if not the only, real problem with “Red Dead Redemption.”. Best described as an utter flop, one would expect that the company that saw blockbuster success in Grand Theft Auto Online has the skills required to make a fun and interactive open world multiplayer experience. Rockstar does not manage to do this for their cowboy IP, however, and the feature is fairly lackluster. The actual multiplayer games in Red Dead are not very fun to play and lack the balance required for team or objective-oriented play. This leaves players with free roam as their only option to play with friends. Multiplayer free roam sessions are no better though, with nothing for players to do with their friends besides hunt and kill other lower level players. This causes a giant barrier for entry for those just starting online. The only hope left for Red Dead Redemption 2’s online component is that Rockstar provides it with as many free content updates as it has for Grand Theft Auto Online.
If you are looking for a fun cowboy roleplaying game for you and your friends to play together you may be disappointed with Red Dead Redemption 2. That being said, if you are looking for captivating storytelling, a rich open world, stunning graphics, and endless side quests, then this game is perfect for you.
Rating: 9.8/10 IGN