It took me three attempts to get into Red Dead Redemption 2, the sequel to one of my all-time favorite games, Red Dead Redemption. The game is gorgeous, has a massive world to explore, and is incredibly well put together, but the controls are what kept me away. They were so clunky, I could barely ride a horse through town without running over someone and having the law chasing me down.
I normally wouldn’t put so much effort into trying to play a game, but I love Westerns and first Red Dead Redemption so I felt like I owed it to myself to try and experience this game that some were proclaiming was one of the best of this generation. So, on my third attempt, armed with a little more patience and a quick Google search of “fix Red Dead’s crappy controls” I was able to find a guide that helped me tweak the controls for easier use and then I just put in the practice. It’s taken me over a month and probably forty hours, but I’m pretty damn good on the horse now.
Last night, I finished up the main storyline in Red Dead and I must say, it truly did deliver. Like a good western from the 60’s or 70’s, the story takes a while to get churning, but once it does, you are so invested in the characters and how they are changing that it also propels you to complete the game to find our their fates. And that wasn’t an easy thing for me to do, because as soon as the game shifted from being solely on the untamed West to a big city and an island, I found myself in a game that I didn’t necessarily want to play. As I told my fiancée, “I want to do cowboy shit” and I didn’t feel like I was “doing cowboy shit” while riding my horse on cobblestone streets dodging street cars.
Here are a few thoughts on the game and may contain some minor spoilers:
What I Liked About It: -The character animation was wonderful as was the voice acting and you can’t help but look at this game and think, “Wow.”
-The scale of this game is amazing and I give Rockstar kudos for providing such diversity in the terrain. It was just my personal preference that I would have preferred to stay on the open plains, plantations, and mountains, but I guess when I look back it was a nice diversion.
-While not what I typically look for in a game, the intentional slow pacing was a nice change. You are forced to take the game slow and its not something you can just rush through and beat. This gave me time to become invested into the characters more and time to enjoy the beautifully created landscape.
-The amount of content this game provides is staggering. I’m not sure how many hours I’ve invested already but I’d argue to say its well over forty hours and I still have plenty to do.
-Rockstar is so detail orientated and I love it. There are small things you’ll notice like homeless people going into the train station late a night to sleep and it’s wonderful that so much thought and effort go into creating a real living world.
What I Didn’t Like: -I remember that moment in the first Red Dead when you journey to Mexico and Far Away begins to play and you felt like this was a magical moment in gameplay. I didn’t get that feeling in Red Dead 2 and their attempts at re-creating a different environment (San Denis and Guarma) felt sort of flat. I think it’s because of how dramatically different those locations were and how the game stopped feeling like a western. Even my fiancée made a comment about how dramatically different the game was vs. when I began and for some that may have been a great change of pace, but for me it was just frustrating. I rushed through those sections so I could get back to the wilderness as soon as I could.
-A good portion of the time that I spent running from the law was on accident, because of clunky controls. For example: I was running upstairs in the saloon in Rhodes to use the bath when I knocked a woman over by accident (the crazy physics kicked in), so I was wanted for disturbing the peace that then turned into murder and escalated from there. The next thing I know I’ve spent ten minutes riding out of town, trying to hide all because I bumped into a woman.
Red Dead takes a long time to get to the end of the story, but once it does it’s incredibly satisfying. The final chapter is fantastic, and Rockstar did a magnificent job of implementing a song with lyrics, in the midst of the story, to evoke an emotional response. Ultimately, Red Dead is about a man who is out for redemption, and we see this as one man has to face his own death along with the decisions he’s made and the decision he is going to make about who he will be. There aren’t many games with that much depth and it was refreshing to see the game not shy away from discussing something so deep.
I wasn’t expecting such a long prologue, but apparently it runs about five hours. I’m a little over halfway through it, but my game crashed for the first time in the middle of a mission and the idea of going through the ten minutes of riding into town, riding out to the mission, watching the bad guys, and all that just is not inspiring. I think I rushed through the game a bit too quickly and now I’m just done with it. I’m ready for it to be completely over. I’ll probably put it down for a bit and maybe I’ll finish it up sometime down the road.
I’m thankful that I was able to experience such a high budget Western story in a world where Western stories are not in vogue. I look forward to playing Red Dead Redemption 3 sometime, hopefully in the future.