Red Dead Redemption 2 Review

Red Dead Redemption 2 is a Western-themed open-world action adventure game developed and published by Rockstar Games for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. It is available for preorder now, and is scheduled to be released on October 26th, 2018.

In the original Red Dead Redemption, players followed John Marston on his quest to hunt down members of his former gang in order to protect his own family from their wrath. This time around, Red Dead Redemption 2 follows Arthur Morgan as he rises through the ranks of the Van der Linde gang while they try to survive in a changing world.

Red Dead Redemption 2’s story is an excellent continuation of the first game’s narrative. The plot focuses on Arthur as he struggles with a life of crime and works to improve himself. In the process, he learns about himself and comes to recognize those who have truly become his friends.

These people make him realize that there are other ways to live besides being a wanted outlaw. You do not need to play the first Red Dead Redemption to understand what is happening in this game, but fans will appreciate seeing how events from that game have affected some of the returning characters as well as seeing how their past actions continue to affect them in this one.

Red Dead Redemption 2 is a powerhouse. A big, heavy, gorgeous, violent game that will push your hardware to its limits. But if you can run it (and I mean if you can run it), do yourself a favor: buy the thing. It’s hard for me to find the words that are rare in game reviews: this game is worth your time. 

The production values are through the roof, with incredible graphics and sound design that make the world feel more real and alive than it has any right to be. The writing is top-notch, with realistic characters that are deeply flawed in a way that makes them more human than any other game I’ve played (I’m looking at you, Bioware). 

The gameplay is varied and contains tons of little systems that have been well-polished to work together seamlessly—a great example of this is how easy it is to track or hunt animals just by pressing the “Y” button.

The first Red Dead Redemption was a monumental achievement in video game storytelling. Bringing the Wild West to life like never before, the game had an emotional depth that I wasn’t prepared for. It earned its place as one of my favorite games ever.

RDR2 improves on that formula in every way possible. The story is more nuanced, the characters are richer, and the world is more immersive. While there’s a lot to talk about in this review—the opening of the game, for instance, is a masterpiece—I want to start with what I think is RDR2’s crowning achievement: its cast of characters.

Red Dead Redemption 2 starts with Arthur Morgan and the Van der Linde gang at the peak of their power—they’re riding high after a successful heist, but they know that their time is quickly running out. At the center of this story is Arthur Morgan himself: a man who has lived by his own code his entire life and now finds himself torn between his loyalty to Dutch van der Linde and his desire to escape the gang forever and settle down with his love, Abigail.

I don’t want to get into spoilers here, but I can say that the story does not disappoint.

If you haven’t heard about Red Dead Redemption 2 yet, it’s a western game set in 1899 that follows the outlaw Arthur Morgan and his gang as they are driven further and further into hiding by the changing world around them. While Red Dead Redemption 2 is a direct sequel to the first game, set 12 years after the original, you don’t need to play RDR1 to enjoy this one. The story follows a completely different group of people, although there are some characters from the original game who might show up from time to time.

The story is incredible. It’s not just a long string of missions that get boring after awhile—this is a huge open world with dozens of towns, outposts, and campsites where you can encounter all sorts of people, get involved in their stories, or just ride off into the sunset on your own. There are plenty of races and mini-games like poker and dominoes if you want a break from the main storyline.

Be warned: Red Dead Redemption 2 is incredibly violent. There are heists, shootouts, and more gunfights than I ever expected in a video game.

The Van der Linde gang has been around for about 20 years at this point, but it’s about to experience some major changes. When we first meet up with them, they’re hanging out high in the mountain range by Strawberry. As we progress through the game, we’ll get to see how this gang functions while hiding out in several other locations across America, and we’ll also meet members of the gang who aren’t with us when we first meet them. This is useful since some characters only join your gang after you’ve completed a specific mission or task.

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When I first got my hands on Red Dead Redemption 2, it was a dream come true. The opening cinematic of the game is pure wordless beauty, drawing you in with the gorgeous vistas and their accompanying music to set the tone of the game. It relies on powerful imagery to tell its story. Like any great work of art, it is meant to be appreciated on multiple levels: the visuals are stunningly gorgeous and the accompanying music is moody and atmospheric. 

But there is also an inherent message that speaks to the sort of story Rockstar Games wanted to tell in this game: a story about how we slowly lose touch with nature and our connection with it as we become less aware of how it affects us. It’s a message that resonated with me deeply as someone who has lived in cities for most of his life but has always enjoyed venturing into nature for camping trips and similar adventures.

The game certainly doesn’t rely solely on its opening cinematic to hook players – it also does a great job at introducing you to all its mechanics as well as giving you your first taste of gameplay. It accomplishes this by putting you into a sort of bubble during your time in camp; nothing pulls you out of the experience.

Red Dead Redemption 2 is a game in which you can do almost anything and go anywhere, but one of the clever tricks developer Rockstar Games uses to get you invested in its world is to start by keeping you stuck in a single location. The first hours of this Western epic are tightly focused on a group of outlaws and their camp, which makes that small area feel immense.

After some slick cinematics that introduce the main characters and the setting, your character is given the freedom to roam around the camp. You’re at first limited to just a few paths, but soon you’re able to go wherever you want within the perimeter of the camp. This helps establish an idea of how big the place is without overwhelming you with too much information all at once.

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Red Dead Redemption 2’s opening few hours are its strongest. The only thing you really have to focus on is the gang that Dutch has pulled you into, and that’s a good thing, because it’s a stellar cast of characters. When I was first dropped into the middle of the camp with the gang, I felt like I was back in high school, sitting around a campfire with my best friends.

The conversations are witty and playful, but they also feel grounded by the fact that you’re all in this together. Your character may be an outlaw, but he seems to genuinely care about Dutch and his gang members—not out of any real loyalty, but because they’re people he’s getting to know and his best chance at survival right now.

I knew the world of the Wild West was enormous and that Red Dead Redemption 2’s map would be massive. But I didn’t realize how much time I would spend just staring at the thing until I saw it in action.

Despite the fact that it’s a self-contained fictional world, RDR2’s map still feels like an actual space. Like a physical depiction of a continent. It’s a beautiful piece of art with so much personality packed into every inch of it.

When you first open the map, you’re given a few options: You can fast travel to any place on the map, or you can start from your current location to explore what’s immediately available to you. Either way, there is plenty of space for you to get lost in and plenty of reasons to do so. You could spend hours just traveling from one side to another without encountering anything more than your next target destination and simply enjoying the sights along the way. The world is alive with wildlife, from rabbits to deer to bears and moose—and sometimes even wolves and cougars—all scurrying about their own business, unaware (or seemingly uncaring) about your presence in their home territory.

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