Red Dead Redemption 2: The long road through hell

I’ve just about hit the 30 hour mark in Red Dead Redemption 2, which is actually kind of incredible, considering that I rarely get more than an hour at at time to play anything in one go.

The thing is, 30 hours in a lot of games would have seen a high percentage toward completion.  Not here!!  I think it sits at 57% right now, and the story itself is closer to 67%

This is no ordinary game!

Witnessing the decline into chaos and madness of the Van Der Linde gang is quite spectacular to be honest.  But it’s quite taxing.  The narrative is told over so so many missions and cutscenes, I’m loving it, and dreading what’s going to happen next to be honest.

 

The times are changing

Red Dead Redemption 2 is essentially about contending with change, and trying to move forwards, in spite of the world around us.  It’s something I think we all go through in one way or another, and I see a lot of parallels to things I’ve witnessed in real life (not so much the murder and robbery…..).

In Arthur’s position, I genuinely feel for him.  Seeing things change and happen, and have people you’re close to being completely oblivious to it.  It’s hard in real life, and the delivery of the dialogue here makes it seem sincere and genuine. 

Watching this all unfold, being a part of the “plan”, it takes it’s toll on Arthur, and honestly, 30 hours of chaos, things going wrong over and over and seeing a small percentage increase after hours and hours of gameplay…….also kind of taxing.

There was a time in my life where an 80 hour game was to be relished! Now, I see that I probably have these 30 hours again before I can say the story is complete.  Is that a sign of my attention span or has the world moved on from such time-sinks?

Naturally, I’ll see this all the way through, and I’ll enjoy it, but I’ll honestly be pleased when it’s over. I need to see how this all turns out, I need to know that Arthur is going to be ok, along with some of the other good ones.

I also want to see if I get the chance to kill Micah…..what a prick.

Times have changed for these old westerners, and so too, it seems, they have for me.

 

The joys of the wilderness

Starting out in Red Dead Redemption 2, I wanted to see and do everything.  but I’ve become laser-focused on seeing the story through, above all else.

Sometimes though, I just let myself wander.  This, to me is where the game is at it’s best. Wandering, hunting, meeting random strangers, fishing, camping and just living out that cowboy fantasy that it’s all about.

Honestly, I feel guilty when I’m off the path of doing story missions, but I’m almost relaxed and experiencing a completely different game.

All the mechanics come together to allow you to just do what you want. Deadeye (slow-mo shooting ala bullet time) a squirrel while you have your bow out.  Speak to the locals in a town, pay off your bounties and roam free.

Red Dead Redemption 2 truly shines when you’re not taking part in the narrative, but writing your own.  How cool is that? You can literally play a whole different game and live a virtual life and not worry about why you’re actually there in the shoes of Arthur Morgan.

That’s where I want to be, but I want to earn it and know the world as intimately as possible first.

Seeing how NPC’s react to you in the world, especially if you meet them again after an earlier interaction.  It’s wonderful. So many tiny choices and actions can lead to completely different future interactions.

I play as “good” as I can, but sometimes, some people need sorting out. Bloody O’Driscoll’s…….

 

Tough living

One thing that Rockstar have achieved (beyond this rich, detailed world to play in), is balancing the fact that you’re playing a game and essentially a fantasy, against a level of realism that you don’t experience too often in games these days.

Living in 1899 wasn’t quite how it is now, and being an outlaw on the run means camping, being out in the cold and wet and not being able to wash all the time.

Baths are a luxury (deluxe baths, even moreso….), clean clothes aren’t particularly a consideration and you need to eat what you’ve killed.  Meat and furs, feathers and fish.  That’s life!

It isn’t so hyper-realistic that it becomes a borderline survival game, but you know the era and the place that you’re living in isn’t an easy ride.

Again, the story is a rough ride, a sign of those times and the whole experience of playing Red dead Redemption 2 is soaked in this feeling.  No matter what fun takes place, there’s an air of despair and struggle hanging around at every turn.

Also, bears make life very difficult!

 

Ugly bits

Life in the old west is tough and ugly, absolutely.  This game, though, for about 90% of the time, just looks incredible.  Those vistas, that lighting!

There is that 10% though, and as I’ve ploughed through cutscene after cutscene, I’ve seen more and more textures popping-in late, I recognise all these movements and this animation from all other Rockstar games.

It’s uncanny how beautiful and unique this game looks, whilst still carrying all the weight of the previous entires in the Rockstar back catalogue.  Some might call it their trademark style. I personally struggle to get fully immersed into the world when I see the shades of GTA all-over it.

This game took 8 years to make, it comes on two discs and I’m seeing the texture on Arthur’s jacket switch constantly throughout cutscenes now.  Sure, I’m on an original Xbox one, and no doubt clearing the cache would help, but why should I?

Beyond that, there’s the usual odd AI issues with people you’re working with on missions, there’s horses that don’t always find a good path to you, even when there’s nothing in between us.

Little things that don’t matter, but…..they kind of do. All the reporting around the working conditions for the staff all over the world.  The “crunch”, this excessive, almost extreme QA testing, and for what?  Similar issues to any other game in the world.

If forcing staff to work ridiculous amounts of overtime brings a game that’s nicely polished, but still showing flaky bits, just like every other game.  Is it worth it?

 

Fleshed-out and full to the brim

I know it sounds like a lot of complaints, when in reality I believe this is easily one of the best games of this generation, perhaps ever.

The fact is, niggles aside, that Red Dead Redemption 2 is a HUGE game with so much to do and see.  So many stories to be a part of, and better still, so many stories of your own to create.

Sure, the story feels like a slog at the minute but I think it should, it fits the whole tone.  Perhaps it’s even by design?

In truth, I’m gripped enough now to have to know how it all pans-out, so I’m on my mission to get it done.  Then I can start hunting some legendary animals, and I want to fish more, get my satchel finally upgraded, fulfill some of those early quests I took on for strangers.

If anything else, it’s excellent value for money.  Then, we’ll see Red Dead online, which at the moment I can only wonder about.

All being well, fishing, hunting, holding up trains with my friends.  So much potential, and we know how good GTA online is, so expectations are high.

Once I’ve finished the story I’ll score it, but for now I need to get back to the wilderness! 

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