RED DEAD REDEMPTION 2
By Ferry "Sadhonker" Adams on October 29, 2018
Howdy stranger! Are you ready to roam the plains of the Wild West? If so, then saddle up your trusty steed and come with me, Arthur Morgan, outlaw and gunslinger extraordinaire, as well as a respected member of the infamous Dutch van der Linde gang. If it's excitement and danger you seek, then you've come to the right place!
Yes, dear readers; after almost eight and a half years of waiting, we finally got what we were hoping for: a sequel or, in this case, prequel to the critically acclaimed 2010 game, Red Dead Redemption. Now that the time has finally come, we can once again release our inner cowboy and traverse the dangerous territories of the legendary wild west of America. Well, I say the Wild West, but the cowboy way of life is being threatened by the unstoppable rise of civilization, the discovery of brand new technology and the expansion of national law enforcement.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is set some 12 years before the events of the original Red Dead Redemption and follows the exploits of outlaw Arthur Morgan and the van der Linde gang as they try to survive the aftermath of a failed attempt to rob a ferry in the town of Blackwater. As we meet up with what's left of the gang, they are making their way through a snowy mountain pass. In order to survive, they will have to find shelter, which they luckily do, in the form of an abandoned mining camp. Knowing full well that they cannot survive here indefinitely, the group sets off to find a more permanent place to set up camp as soon as the weather clears up and finds this in the form of a hilltop site called Horseshoe Overlook, near the small town of Valentine.
This is where your adventure really takes off at gallop speed. You see, the gang's leader, the charismatic Dutch van der Linde, keeps on promising his people a better and brighter future in which they can live free and truly prosper. But sadly, as is the case with a lot of leader figures, he doesn't actually do very much to safeguard this future. Instead, he sends out his men to do the jobs that need doing for him. You are one of these men, so you jump on your horse and set out to provide for the gang. At first, Valentine is a welcoming town and no one looks at you twice. But a couple of fistfights later, people start making remarks like: "Haven't you caused enough trouble as it is?". I really like this; it's always cool to see NPCs react to your actions.
Now, making your way across the vast plains would take too long if you had to do it on foot. Therefore, Arthur mainly makes use of a horse to travel in order to quickly get where he needs to go. You can buy and sell various horses. After you've settled on a horse, it's time to bond with the animal that's going to be carrying you around for quite a long bit of time. The better you take care of your animal, the more willing it will be to follow your every command. Endlessly spurring your horse on will eventually result in said horse having had enough and throwing you off. But, if you take good care of it, feed it and brush it, a horse will become your most loyal companion.
And having a companion is a very good thing in Red Dead Redemption 2, because the game is loaded with more people who don't like you than you can shake a stick at. At the start, these enemies will mainly consist of the followers of the O'Driscoll clan, but as you steal, shoot and punch your way through the Wild West, you're bound to make a few additional enemies along the way. Aside from that, you are still a wanted outlaw, so the Pinkertons - members of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency - will also have a few things that they would like to "talk" about. All in all, this makes for quite an exciting life without ever a dull moment. With this many people gunning for you, weapons are also a nice thing to have.
Luckily, the game has quite the armory, so there's bound to be a gun out there that takes your fancy. As you start the story, Arthur will have his trusty Cattleman Revolver, and will slowly expand his weaponry with new revolvers, rifles, shotguns and the like. You will also find gun oil from time to time, which you can use to upgrade your weapon to a certain point. Is your weapon still not powerful enough? Well, then maybe it's time to start looking for another. Killed enemies drop their weapons which can be picked up and swapped for your current weapon. Naturally, weapons can also be bought from gunsmiths if that takes your fancy.
The emphasis in Red Dead Redemption 2 is on storytelling, as it should be. You can't have an epic game without an equally epic story. Now, I will not go into detail here, but let's just say that the people at Rockstar have truly succeeded in delivering nothing short of an awesome story. As was the case in the first game, Red Dead Redemption 2 features one main storyline, which is punctuated with a high number of side missions, chance encounters and additional activities. Unlike its predecessor, the game also focuses more on crafting stuff and keeping the protagonist in shape. Now, this kind of game mechanics have never been my favorite pastime, but in this case, it all makes sense somehow and doesn't really slow down the game. If Arthur is hungry for a prolonged time, he will lose strength and you'll need to eat to replenish that. If he gets really dirty, people may react aversely to his presence, so he'll need to wash. His beard even grows over time, so if you want to keep that in check, you'll need to visit a barber or be brave and groom it yourself.
In this genre of games, it's usually the characters that make or break the game. You can have the most beautiful landscapes ever made, but if you populate them with boring and generic characters, the game will get tiresome really, really fast! Luckily, Red Dead Redemption is filled to the brim with cool characters. The members of the gang each have their own personality and the interaction between them is awesomely done! The NPCs that inhabit the world have a wide range of responses and everyday sayings. Also everyone you meet seems to have a purpose and is clearly busy doing something that's important to them, or on their way to some distant destination. This means that the roads are also quite busy from time to time. Sure, there are regions in which you will not see a soul for miles and miles but, especially around larger towns, it tends to get a bit busier.
The game has a day and night cycle that, besides from looking really cool, also changes the inhabitation of certain areas. For instance: fairly at the start of the game I decided to try my luck and find my target at night, mostly because I just like the night sky and the somewhat more mysterious vibe the environment gives off at nighttime. Little did I know that the murderous bastards of the O'Driscoll gang were much more aggressive at night. While they will just call you names and make insulting remarks during the daytime, they will actually come after you all guns blazing at night. And as was also the case in the first game, the wildlife that roams the plains changes somewhat from night to day.
Visually, the game looks absolutely stunning! The environments are heavily detailed and make for beautiful vistas. On at least one occasion, I missed half of what an NPC was telling me because I was staring at a majestic sunrise. The environments are positively teeming with wildlife, which makes for a very dynamic and thoroughly interesting backdrop to Red Dead Redemption 2's epic western story. The choices you make during your missions will actually influence how people react to you and define your status. There is a meter, which I like to call the "who's a good boy?" meter that tells you exactly what the public opinion concerning you is. The bar of this meter is filled with a gradient from bright red to white, with a little cowboy hat depicting your current standing . The "redder" you are, the more you are acting like a true outlaw, with all corresponding consequences. Being the good-mannered cowboy I am, I managed to keep Arthur's meter in the white, which yielded me a reward in the form of an additional discount in a certain shop in town. Of course, being bad has its own rewards, but always try to think about the possible consequences of your actions!
All in all, after playing until my bum was sore from bouncing up and down in the saddle and my hands calloused from pulling the trigger too many times, I can only come to the conclusion that Rockstar Games has once again managed to deliver a truly awesome game! Story-wise, graphics-wise, sound-wise. actually, let's just keep it at everything-wise, Red Dead Redemption is just as good, or even better than its predecessor. The first game was somewhat more linear, which I liked, but the expanded universe of Red Dead Redemption 2 never gets boring and will keep for hours and hours. The game feels, looks and sounds like I hoped it would and then some! I also really like the fact that you can play it anyway you want and carve out your own path. Will you be a mild-mannered John Wayne or a short-tempered Clint Eastwood? The choice is entirely yours. So just do yourself a huuuuuge favor; get your hands this game, ride out to face your destiny and be the badass cowboy you were always meant to be!
RED DEAD REDEMPTION 2
October 26, 2018