Red Dead Redemption 2 Review: The New Frontier

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Rockstar Games has a number of hit titles in its gaming pantheon, but few are as good as Red Dead Redemption.

As such the task laid before Red Dead Redemption 2, it not only matching the gaming experience of its predecessor but also upping the ante, is certainly a tough undertaking.

If any game developer is capable of doing so, however, it’s Rockstar.

So how does Red Dead Redemption compare to the previous game, while also forging a unique path for itself by offering gamers something different?

A new hero

One of the first steps that Rockstar took for RDR2 is recasting its hero, with John Marston now replaced by Arthur Morgan.

We must admit that it took a bit of time for us to warm to the new protagonist, mainly as he’s a lot more surly than Marston, but also as we’ve dedicated an innumerable amount of hours to him in the previous title.

Unlike Marston though, Morgan is a bit more concerned with the well-being of the Van de Linde gang he’s a part of, as it’s the only real family he has. While he might complain about it most of the time, it’s clear to tell that he always wants to do the right thing.

As such it feels a little difficult at times to opt for the bad option whenever a choice is directed towards gamers in certain situations. That said, walking the virtuous path in RDR2 is difficult indeed, especially considering the body count that Morgan racks up along the way.

As a new hero then, Morgan might be different to Marston, but over time he’ll grow on you and become a fan favourite in his own unique way.

A deeper experience

Now that we’ve established how the new protagonist feels, let’s talk about gameplay and story.

The latter plays out rather slowly at first, which we guess is a natural aspect of the early tutorial-isation that any Rockstar game features. Much like getting to grips with Marston then, the same can be said of the story.

The campaign moves things along, but also does not force gamers to go on missions in order to access more portions of the Red Dead Redemption 2 experience.

This may be a result of Rockstar opening up more time for gamers to explore and try out some of the new elements they’ve enhanced for the gameplay.

Examples of this are hunting, foraging, helping strangers and getting along with your horse (yes, the equestrian arts are a big part of RDR2).

To an extent these are all things you could do to some degree in the first Red Dead Redemption, but the follow-up takes all these aspects and turns them to 11. For those gamers then that want a more immersive experience, RDR2 delivers in spades.

There are so many little nuances that you won’t notice, but that will make the gameplay all the better.

Picking up someone who you’ve killed for example, will leave blood stains on your clothes. Things like weather and the amount of cargo stored on your horse will affect how fast and for how long it can can run. Morgan’s beard grows over time, and you can shave portions of it to style as you please. Your weapons need to cleaned and maintained in order to ensure they’re firing properly at all times.

These are just some of the ways that Rockstar has deepened the larger would that they’ve built-in Red Dead Redemption 2.

Close to perfection 

While there is plenty to love about RDR2, it’s not without its issues.

One of those that cropped up quite regularly is gunplay. It lacks the smoothness that it did in Red Dead Redemption. This may be Rockstar’s way of making the experience a bit more realistic, but on the whole it could become frustrating at truly inopportune times.

Pressing the aim button (L2 on the PS4) did not always lock onto an enemy target even if they were in close proximity, and there is no real way to switch between multiple targets quickly.

For gamers that intend on entering many skirmishes then, the gunplay leaves a bit to be desired.

Next is the horse, but this issue is more up for debate. For RDR2 Rockstar has looked to add the kinds of elements to these companions that one has for their main character. This namely takes the form of Cores, which serve as indicators for the horse’s wellbeing – namely its health and stamina.

Much like Marston, these Cores need to maintained, with failure to do so often leading to a horse that runs out of steam fairly quickly.

In Red Dead Redemption this wasn’t an issue. Yes, your horse would neigh if they were being worked too hard, but for the most part it’s not something that effected the speed at which you could reach a destination.

It’s something that we wish we could do RDR2, with the purchasing of a stronger and faster breed of horse failing to yield any noticeable difference.

That said, neither of these two issues are deal breakers when it comes to the overall RDR2 experience.

Final verdict

There was always the slight chance that Red Dead Redemption 2 was going to be a dud, but we were quietly confident that Rockstar would hit out of the park, as they’ve done for so many games in the past.

RDR2 is no different.

Does it have the same instant classic feel of that Red Dead Redemption? Well not quite, but then again it was going to be hard to replicate that anyway.

Is it a deeply immersive game that offers up hours of things to do and get lost in? Yes, most certainly.

What should be interesting to see is the multiplayer quality of Online aspect of the game that will be ready in the next few weeks, especially in terms of how it will increase the longevity of Red Dead Redemption 2.

Robin-Leigh Chetty

Robin-Leigh Chetty

Editor of Hypertext. Covers smartphones, IoT, 5G, cloud computing and a few things in between. Also a keen photographer and dabbles in console games when not taking the hatchet to stories.