Red Dead Redemption 2

Already being hailed as the ‘game of a generation’, Rockstar’s obsessive fascination with the American dream is realised in unparalleled quality with their latest release, Red Dead Redemption 2. As an avid fan of both the game’s predecessor and the Rockstar franchises in general, I’d been eagerly awaiting the announcement of this game for almost eight years. I am very pleased to say that this has not been in vain.  At the beginning of the game the player finds our hero, Arthur Morgan, and his gang battling through a hellish mountain snowstorm in an attempt to evade the law after a badly botched robbery. What instantly struck me was the incomparable level of immersion: sat on the floor of my squalid (yet admittedly warm) living room, the in-game environment was brought to life so convincingly I began to feel cold just watching the characters struggle through the thigh deep snow. From my somewhat brief playthrough of the title, this was, in my opinion, perhaps the most impressive achievement of the game. The world feels as one would expect the American Midwest to: dangerous, beautiful, exciting, vast, but, above all else, truly involving. The quality of storytelling trumps even that of The Witcher, as the script oozes both quotable lines and intelligent observations on both the American experience at the turn of the century, and the outlandish situations the characters find themselves in. The snappy exchanges between characters often feel like they’ve been lifted out of an unreleased Tarantino picture.

As per typical Rockstar style, the attention to detail verges on the neurotic. Players are encouraged to interact with the world more than ever and the good, the bad and the ugly cast of NPCs (non-playable characters) return this interest. New to Rockstar, the incorporation of RPG (role-playing game) and survival elements, such as hunger and temperature, raises player engagement to an unprecedented level. If the protagonist is dirty, blood-soaked or otherwise unpleasant to be around, characters respond appropriately. After returning from an only just successful bear hunt – my housemate decided to turn on the hoover so I didn’t hear the enormous bear charge and blindside me from behind – Arthur was soaked in mud, blood and other less pleasant things. Upon being refused service at the saloon due to my unfortunate state, other townspeople began jeering and throwing insults. My patience worn suitably thin, the gun battle that ensued brings me on to another excellent aspect of the game: the gunplay. More layered and considered than GTA V, the action remains frantic and gripping despite the weapons handling very differently to modern weapons present in many other titles. Bullets achieve a real sense of impact, packing a meaty wallop against anyone unlucky enough to get in your way, and the introduction of a Max-Payne-esque cinematic killcam only heightens the almost filmic quality of an already deeply immersive experience. If mowing down unfortunates isn’t your cup of tea, the game boasts a wealth of enjoyable distractions and mini-games in order to further divert your attention from the already generous 65+ hour story.

However, it is the innumerable tiny details that help this game to be the Rockstar title to date: the dazzling new mechanics, the interaction of characters, the unsettlingly hypnotic animation of horse buttocks, and above all else, a truly beautiful game-world. Expanding upon all the things that made its predecessor great, this is an experience you owe it yourself to play. Even saddled with the hefty price tag of £60, a game this exciting is worth every penny.

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Edward Hampson

June 2021
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