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Red Dead Redemption 2 - Early Game Review and First Impressions

VO: Dave Thibault
Dave takes a stab at Red Dead Redemption 2. His full review is on the way, but for now here is his spoiler free review of the early game and his early impressions.

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Red Dead Redemption 2 Review Part 1

Hey MojoPlays viewers, for Red Dead Redemption 2 we’re doing something a little differently. Because Rockstar only provided us with a review code after the game’s launch I still haven’t fully completed the game.

At the time of writing according to the in game status screen I’ve crossed through about 52% of the game’s story. That may not sound like much but keep in mind I’m also about 35 hours into the game, and that’s with stories and a few side quests. To put that into perspective, if I were to marathon the Uncharted series, I’d be just finishing up the 2nd game and still have two more to go within that same timeframe. So for this review I’m going to be doing this game in two parts, this video will mostly be a spoiler free first half of the game, where as the 2nd half next week will be a deeper analysis into the game overall and to see if it truly deserves to be called one of the greatest games ever, as no doubt its fans have be expecting for years now. Welcome to Part 1 of MojoPlay’s two part review of Red Dead Redemption 2.

Red Dead Redemption 2 is set 12 years before the events of the first game, and picks up with Dutch Van Der Lin’s gang on the run after an operation in the town of Blackwater went horribly wrong. You play as Dutch’s right hand man Arthur Morgan who operates by his own moral code, a real anti-hero that is ready to look out for the rest of the gang and help those he comes across, but isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty whenever the need arises, which it does quite a lot.

There’s a real sense of comradery within the gang, they’re less like a group of thugs and more like a close extended family each with their own charms and flaws. While there are quite a few troublemakers within the group, each member of the caravan feels very fleshed out with unique personalities, in fact ... not since say … the Mass Effect series have a come across a group so tight knit in the game that you’d want to look out for all of them. And you’ll have to as well as they’ll be moments when the camp has to pack up and move location, and with every move comes a whole new story arch that feels distinctly different than the last. While I do have some issues with the story, I’m going to save that for the spoiler discussion in the next video.

Rockstar has spared no expense when it comes to the game’s visuals, as the game looks absolutely stunning, from the amount of details in the game’s terrain, to it’s near perfect recreation of natural and artificial lighting, the world is filled with so many breathtaking vista’s and immaculate attention to detail. Perhaps even most impressive is when a storm sets in and you see the games cloud effects in action.

Now this high graphical fidelity does unfortunately come at a cost, as the framerate at least on the base PS4 does noticeably get choppy at times, mostly when you’re within towns. I’ve also had a fair share of graphical glitches, mostly ranging from a few lighting hiccups to characters clipping into one another which can be rather immersion breaking at times. Their frequency rate is pretty low but they do happen.

As for the gameplay … Red Dead Redemption 2 is arguably Rockstar’s biggest open world map to date stretched across multiple distinct environments, covering lengthy grass plains with rocky monuments, to perilous mountain ranges all the way to swamplands complimented by the New Orleans inspired city of Saint Denis. There’s plenty of moments where you’ll just want to stop and stare at the scenery. Plus there’s lots of things to do in this world; just like the first game you can collect bounties, hunt for food and animal pelts, or help out random strangers that you’ll come across in your travels in randomly generated events. It often pays to help them too as you may come across them again with rewards that’ll help you in the long run. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of side activities. It’s the main missions that I’ve had issue with.

Remember how I said I’m about 35 hours into the game only recently hitting just over 50%, well the thing is that; a lot of that time has been spent travelling during missions, see the game still uses Rockstar’s traditional mission structure where you pick up a mission at one location, then be forced to travel with another NPC to that location. And while riding out to that location, the aforementioned random events stop occurring, meaning you’ll spend a lot of time just riding from A to B.

The game even seems to acknowledge this by including a cinematic camera that makes riding seem more grandiose than it really is, but it ends of coming of as the game just playing itself with nothing happening on the way. Conversation will start up with other characters during these sequences but they being used as a vehicle to drop exposition, most of which ends up being rather pointless.

I know Rockstar has used this method in nearly all of their open world titles, though at least GTA gives you the opportunity to weave through heavy traffic. But the thing is, Rockstar isn’t the only big open world developer anymore. So many open world games in recent years have allowed players the choice of how they want to travel to the objective, with the mission starting close to the location where most of the action is going to go down rather than force players to go down such a linear path.

It also doesn’t help that missions still invoke very heavy hand-holding, often requiring the player to follow very strict instructions with little in the way of using alternative routes or thinking outside the box. It’s especially bad in the first few hours, as the game takes a VERY long time to let you explore the world freely. Again this wouldn’t be as much of a big deal if it weren’t for the fact that other recent open world games have offered far more player freedom than what’s on offer here.

Gunplay is also a bit of a mixed bag, the game does offer the ability to play in either Third of First Person and I have found its best to mix both styles since they both offer their pros and cons for specific situations, plus the game at times; will like to show off your more visceral hits in slow motion if you land a headshot or vital organ. My issue however is with the guns themselves where variety is unfortunately held back by the game’s time period, as they often fall in the category of: Pistol, Shotgun or Longgun with only a few situational extras.

That’s not to say the missions themselves are all bad, not at all, there’s quite a lot of memorable moments that I’ve experienced so far, which I’m going to save for the spoiler discussion.

So far though my time with Red Dead Redemption 2 has certainly been a memorable one, the story and characters are an absolute highlight, further executed well with amazing visuals and fantastic cinematography. Though my experience with the gameplay has been pretty conflicting so far. While there’s a lot of sights worth taking in, the automatic forced travel sections have so far been more of an issue than what I’m willing to let go of, especially seeing as they take up quite a hefty chunk of the gametime.

Maybe there’s something I haven’t seen yet that’ll make this adventure absolutely remarkable though so far I’d be very hesitant to call it a perfect experience. I know this is going to annoy a few fans out there who are expecting me to say the game is the best thing to happen to entertainment since Orson Welles discovered how to create symbolic imagery in film. But I’m more for judging the game for what it is, not for what they want, and I am not sorry about that.

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