Monday, 04 February 2019 11:52

REVIEW: Red Dead Redemption 2 (Playstation 4)

Written by BRUTALEO
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After an 8-year absence, the faint sound of hooves dashing over wild, wild Westernized plains began to stir. The rumour mill suddenly sprung to life, each blade turning with a new theory of what Rockstar Games could be planning. Were we getting an original Red Dead Redemption HD remaster? Was the hero of Red Dead Revolver, ‘Red’, getting his own story? Or were we finally getting a sequel to the masterpiece that captured our collective video game hearts and minds?

The later proved to be true, to an extent. Yes, Rockstar Games had proudly announced a sequel, naturally dubbed ‘Red Dead Redemption 2’. However, it would be a prequel, establishing the preluded tale of Red Dead Redemption’s main character, John Marston, and his relationship with our new protagonist for the prequel, Arthur Morgan.

STORY

We’re transported to the year 1899, and the outlaw ways of the American cowboy are starting to be phased out. Notorious gang leader (and in-game best friend) Dutch van der Linde and his gang of misfits and rebels are on the run, after a ferry robbery job in the town of Blackwater went terribly wrong. The game provides absolutely breathtaking cinematics, which leaves you feeling like you’re partaking in an interactive movie, rather than a video game. The story takes the gang though various highs and lows, such as having to deal with (and steal from) an Oil Tycoon, get caught between a bickering family feud plus many more adventures, all whilst trying to outrun the law!

After the initial intro movie ends, the game loads in as the gang are hiding out in a blizzard-ravaged mountain range, where you take control of Dutch’s right hand man, Arthur Morgan. Here we get our first chance at moving around the new world.
The intro does a stellar job by doing two things:

1) If you’re a returning player from the original game, it provides a nice, guided refresher course and how to move, how to adjust the camera, how to interact with the world and, most importantly, how to shoot.
2) If you’re new to the series, the introduction will guide you through above mentioned mechanics whilst not making it overly complicated, which is what some introductions to video games fail to register.

Speaking of mechanics...

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GAMEPLAY

Rockstar Games have taken what worked in the original game, added countless benefits (including swimming, which was missing from its predecessor) and additional gameplay options to expand the story-lined based gameplay to at least 60+ hours! The world map has been drastically expanded, with the game taking place over five different made-up states, providing a cavalcade of new gaming opportunities and moments that will leave the player hunting out for more.

Your main save point is the base camp. Here the main story missions are provided by various members of the gang. Completing them its completely under your control, as the game does not hinder or punish you for wanting to go out and explore the world before diving into the story. However, the game does notice that you’ve been out exploring, as various gang members from the camp may approach you, claiming to have ‘been worried you’ve been away so long’ and ‘hey, the travellers back!’ which makes you feel like you’re a part of a family, rather than just another character on screen.

Taking influence from Grand Theft Auto V, Red Dead Redemption 2 provides a ton of side-story missions, optional ‘random event’ activities, collection tasks, mini-games (which sees the return of five finger filet) and easter eggs. Most side-missions are time-related, meaning that you must reach a certain point in the main story for the side-missions to appear on the map. Most of these are complimentary to the main story, with characters you’ve recently met, coming to you with their own missions and requests, which you can do at your leisure. For the trophy hunters and completionists out there, finishing off the various side-story mission arcs wield numerous bonuses ranging from exclusive weaponry, horses, clothing and even cosmetic upgrades for your base camp.

Hunting animals makes a return and is another element of the game that has been tremendously enhanced. This time, hunting animals provides not only their pelt (which will range from 1 star to 3 stars in quality, depending on what weapon / procedure was used to capture and / or kill said animal), but will also provide food and money (via selling to in-game market traders). Be warned, killing an animal, removing its pelt and storing it on board your horse will cause it to slowly decay over time. There is also a Legendary Animal string of quests that will introduce you to tracking animal movements, using a bow and arrow and hopefully downing a famed animal. Note that Legendary Animal pelts do not decay like regular animal pelts do.

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The Honor system makes a return to the world of Red Dead, focusing on your choice of actions. Sadly, yes, deciding to launch into a gunslinging shoot out with an entire town will cause your Honor scale to decrease (who would have thought?). On the other hand, saving strangers in need, doing the right thing and genuinely resisting your itchy trigger finger will reward you with a positive Honor scale. Both sides do have their plus and minuses, as good Honor will reward you with in-game shop discounts on food, items and clothing whilst reaping a bad Honor will have the townsfolk fleeing, certain spontaneous encounters may differ and the law will make your adventure quite the hard one.

Self-maintenance is a new feature for Red Dead Redemption 2. Fans of the Grand Theft Auto series may find this feature similar to that last seen in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, where you must consistently feed Arthur to maintain good health and stamina. Wearing heavy jackets and winter-themed clothes in the snow is also advised, but removing them when the sun and temperature is hot is probably a good option too. Horse maintenance is just as crucial, for as you continue to ride around the country, the horse will be suspect to dust and fatigue. A quick brush and some horse-food related items should quickly remedy the situation. For more dire circumstances, including the horse being close to death, potions and remedies can be made or bought from in-game stores to help combat the unfortunate situations your horses health finds itself to be in.

Another maintenance feature comes in the form of item deterioration. Your weapons and equipment have a condition scale (as seen above) that will start to decrease over time if regular cleaning is not undertaken. To combat the decrease, simply buy and use ‘Gun Oil’ from local in-game shops. If it all sounds a bit overwhelming, don’t worry, the game provides a guided in-game storyline related tutorial of how to do it.

Visiting your local barber when your hair and beard length gets too wild, even for the wild west, is an option too! Hair growth is new to the series, providing cosmetic appeal to go along with whichever outfit you’ve recently bought for Arthur.

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CONTROLS

The controls for Red Dead Redemption 2 share similar button mapping and traits to that of its predecessor and also that of the famed Grand Theft Auto V game. As the story progresses, the game does an immaculate job of informing you how to utilize the controls and if any context-sensitive moments require your input. For example, you may be required to consistently mash a certain button in order to move, continue shooting, or interacting with the world around you. The in-game menus beautifully detail every possible position your character could find himself in and label what to do and how to do it. For example, the default camera option is to sit behind Arthur in what’s called a third-person perspective. However, you do have the option of switching to a first-person perspective! (which I truly do insist you try during many of your upcoming shoot-outs).

Granted, it does take a little bit of time to get comfortable with roaming the wild west but, you’re guided every step of the way, especially when it comes to combat.

As predicted, gunfights and shootouts are the lifeblood of the game. You can take cover, target a person or animal (can also auto-target in the returning ‘Dead Eye’ aiming mode) and blind fire. There is an avalanche of purchasable in-game weapons, ranging from revolvers all the way to tomahawks and TNT. Special non-purchasable weapons include that of a mounted Gatling gun, which provides a huge advantage if you find yourself outnumbered.

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MULTIPLAYER

Launched a month after the single player story, Red Dead Redemption 2s online mode (dubbed Red Dead Online) features a vastly different approach to the world we knew through the eyes of Arthur Morgan.

Upon entering this mode, you get to style and create your own character. There is a storyline element to prelude your involvement in the world around you, and you are presented with various tasks and missions to partake in at your leisure. The main focus of Red Dead Online is to join and build up gang, travelling around in a collective unit and choosing to either conquer the in-game activities on unleash your pack upon unsuspecting townsfolk and other in-game players.

In addition to most of the features and abilities provided in the single player version of Red Dead Redemption 2, Red Dead Online adds gold, a second in-game currency (other than in-game money), that can be used to purchase special items. In addition to this, players of Red Dead Online have the option of restocking their supplies via an in-game handheld catalogue, allowing you to restock with said supplies at your own base camp or nearest town’s post office.

The base camp hosts similar upgrades to that of the single player version. You can theme and upgrade it to your will, providing that certain pre-requisites have been met.

Much like GTA Online, Red Dead Online has its difficulty and activity timers based on other in-game players. If you’re able to complete a mission, and someone kills you, then you’re out of luck. If you’re trying to complete an activity, and need a required number of people in order to start said activity, and there isn’t anyone else joining then, again, you’re out of luck. Certain elements can’t be overcome other than via the options of waiting, but when the server is full of players, then it really does feel like taking your own place in the Wild West. Any moment, a shoot-out could ensue...

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GRAPHICS + SOUND

It goes without saying that Red Dead Redemption 2 is an immaculately looking game. Priding itself on preferring the user to play via the current gen 4k-based consoles, you really notice the depth and beauty of the world, moments upon start up. The lighting system alone is one of the best to ever grace a current gen game, with subtle moments of moonlight and candle’s flicking across Arthurs face as he ponders what the world has in store for him, to battling the harsh lighting-ravaged storms, covering both Arthur and the screen in heavy, streaming, saturating drops of rain. Complimented in this time is the addition of mud, for falling in or travelling through mud leaves remnants on Arthur and his preferred way of transport. Another feature that goes over well is that of blood. Some games suffer from the famous ‘disappearing blood’ mechanic, moments after a story-based shootout or situation has taken place.

The game keeps the blood as important as the light and the rain, for if you were to enter a creek bed after a gunfight, then the water around you turns red, cleaning you of your recent fight. Hunting an animal and causing it to drastically bleed before taking it to your horse for storage and / or delivery, leaves remnance of blood upon Arthur, ranging from a mark to a saturation.

Everything ranging from other characters, to buildings, animals and all forms of scenery have been crafted with precise vision and extreme detail. Horses take on a life of their own, giving the sense of Arthur really taking care of a live animal. The coats shimmer in the sunlight, dampen in the rain, the massive muscles react and pull as each gallop is completed... and yes, if you must know, male horse testicles will shrink when entering the vastly snowy northern regions of the map.

Returning characters and their famed voice actors from the predecessor make their return, along with a cast of new and delightful sounding characters. Foley sound effects are met with cinema like precisions as charact ers devour their supper, slurping down their morning coffee and gunfire cracks through the wooden buildings or carriages.

Sounds only to which become further complemented by the vastly in-depth and perfectly structured soundtrack. When the acoustic rendition of ‘May I? Stand Unshaken’ comes strumming over the detailed game, you get a real emotional investment in the story which you are partaking in, almost as if to have you sit back and think on just how much you (and Arthur) have gone through so far.

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CONCLUSION

Mixing the best of what the HD remake of Grand Theft Auto V gave us, along with the characters and world of the former Red Dead Redemption, Red Dead Redemption 2 has cemented itself as one of the greatest video games in recent history. Arthur Morgan proves to be a relatable, loveable character than makes you want to play the game over and over again. The post-game story is one to behold, providing a branch to the original game, as the fate of the outlaws hang in the balance...

Upon single player story completion, I urge you to remain seated during the credits. You may come to find an ending to more than just one side of a story...

From storytelling, to the artistic and authentic recreation of a by-gone era, to the inner turmoils and emotions of every member of the gang, you really do feel like you’re strapped in to a movie rather than a video game.

Additional Info

  • Review Score: 5.0 / 5.0
  • Release Date: Out Now
  • Platform: PS4, XBOX ONE
  • Developer: Rockstar Games, Rockstar North, Rockstar San Diego
  • Genre: Action / Adventure, Role-Playing