No doubt you’ve already read and/or watched quite a bit on Rockstar Games latest opus, Red Dead Redemption II. A few days ago I finally finished the single player portion of the game, while more recently delving into Red Dead Online.
Let’s get this out of the way first. This is Rockstar Games finest game, and for me the best game that I’ve played in the last few years. The graphics, sound, story and characterisations are stunning. I also can’t fault the motion capture or voice acting either.
Playing this game on the Xbox One X is amazing, and somehow, despite all that is happening onscreen the console still manages to display everything in native 4K, and a rock steady frame rate. I loaded up the original game that had also been patched to 4K and the difference is just staggering. This is one of the best looking open world games out on console.
Set in the late eighteen hundreds, this game is a prequel to the original Red Dead Redemption. The original game always gave some good clues about the gang John Marston was a part of (the Van Der Linde Gang) but this latest entry to the series shows you the eventual decline of the gang and its members. Even though John Marston is definitely in this game you play as another long term gang member, who happens to be Dutch’s second, Arthur Morgan.
Arthur Morgan is by far one of more complex characters in the Rockstar Games worlds. He is an outlaw, and has known nothing else since he joined the gang. As the story develops though you start to see some incredible characterisation, and how Arthur interacts with everyone else. The single player component of this game is absolutely huge. I took my time and did quite a few side quests, plus roamed the world just exploring, before I finally finished playing somewhere north of 100 hours game time. Even if you try and just play the main story missions you are easily looking at 50+ hours.
The quality is excellent too, and almost always you feel like you are roaming in a true living breathing world. The AI for all of the townsfolk and people you run into is incredible, and non scripted random events pop up all the time during your exploration of a very decent sized map. There is huge environmental variety to the world too. Head north, and you climb higher into the mountains with your trusty stead, until you start getting in some heavy snow. Head south, and you’ll find yourself in hot and humid swamp territory.
Everything from the previous game has been improved, from hunting (skinning is completely realistic now and not done off camera), foraging, treasure hunting, bounties and playing poker and other games. Customisation of your outfits and weapons is fantastic too, and you can tweak each part of your gun to have a different metal, different engravings and different stock / varnish types. It really helps make your take on Arthur truly unique. What’s more, you can equip up to two hand held guns, plus two larger guns with the right equipment. Amazingly these show up on your character too, just like the clothes, and in the story cut scenes (99% of the time) how you have equipped and dressed Arthur is replicated during the story.
You have a lot of customisations for your horse now and your trusty stead bonds with you allowing more fancy moves to be unlocked. You have to look after your horse by feeding and grooming it, otherwise it affects how good the horse is. The same applies for your character too. If you forget to eat and rest Arthur starts to look extremely haggard. You also need to bathe yourself, so as not to offend the townsfolk from all your killing and hunting activities. You also have to wear appropriate clothing for the conditions as Arthur will suffer if he is wearing summer clothes in the snowy mountains.
This leads me to the animation of the world, which are just incredible. Rockstar seemed to have thought of almost everything when it comes to environment and how your character interacts in the world. The amazing animations are some of the best found in any game. An example of the level of detail is that when I had killed a deer I had slung it over my back to put it on my horse. Once it had been secured on the horse I noticed my left shoulder was covered in blood where I lifted the carcass. Just fantastic.
The single player story is an opus, and a bloody good one. Yes, you’ll find yourself riding a lot (fast travel is available after certain upgrades) but because the scenery and environments are so good on the high end consoles you won’t mind.
Red Dead Online (part of RDR 2) also came out a week ago in beta. This is a completely new story, set in a persistent online world and from the 2 hours I’ve played looks extremely promising. The fact that the entire world is also open for multiplayer is an amazing accomplishment.
It is very hard to write a review without giving away too much so I’ll end with this; this is definitely one of the best games currently and most likely my Game of the Year. It improves on everything from the first game, and has such a well rounded story within an immersive time period and world. I can’t recommend this game enough.