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Is Red Dead Redemption 2 Boring?

VO: Riccardo Tucci WRITTEN BY: Jarett Burke
As much as most people, us included, LOVE Red Dead Redemption 2, there are still a lot of people out there who find the game boring. Why? Join MojoPlays as we try to figure out why people are calling Red Dead Redemption 2 slow and dull.

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Is Red Dead Redemption 2 Boring?

Sure, we can lug water from one side of the camp to the other, go on four-day hunting trips, and start up a conversation with everyone in sight in “Red Dead Redemption 2,” but the question remains: is that boring in a video game? Is Rockstar’s faithful adaptation of reality during the American Frontier too real, more simulation than video game, and, thus, more interesting on paper than it is in a game?

It seems weird to be asking this question in light of Rockstar’s past of delivering really fun open world games, but never the less there’s a large contingent of people (and a smaller circle of critics) who just find the game too dull, too slow and too methodical. Just look at some of these Metacritic user reviews. Some of the complaints surrounding “Red Dead 2’s” more simulation-based world are that it’s much slower than any prior “Grand Theft Auto” game and this gameplay speed feels slightly unnatural in an open world environment. Also, it’s a heavily story-based game, meaning there is a ton of exposition to be had in its early hours – along with an introduction and series of tutorials that seemingly go on forever – so some folks are miffed that they just can’t pick up the controller and create chaos from the get go.

Also slowing the game down are some updates to the traditional Rockstar control scheme, making it less “player friendly” and more “practice, practice, practice.” Yes, there’s a learning curve in the new “Red Dead” and, further, it’s more challenging as well. We understand all these complaints and, yes, we’ve even had them too! The first few hours of the game can be tedious, but in deciding whether the entire game is boring just on it’s first few hours … we have to say otherwise. Is the game perfect? No. Of course not. As mentioned, the complaints being made are valid. But, after having completed the game and jumping back in for more, we’re also convinced that that it’s truly one of a kind and that an increased focus on realism does not mean a game has to be boring. Let’s break it down…

First off, the pacing of this game is very deliberate and not some type of bug or mistake. No, it’s not “GTA 6” like some wanted and it’s unlike anything Rockstar has done, but that’s one of the things we’re loving about this game right now: it totally bucks open world conventions. The game plays its best when we’re NOT rushing about, trying to complete missions back to back, or trying to race to its conclusion.

Instead, interacting with gang members, helping out at camp, and hunting or socializing not only act as buffers between missions but they help fill in the story of who Arthur Morgan is and why he’s with this group of ruffians in the first place. To play this game in a traditional manner of constant forward progression could be boring, as you’d just be constantly riding from one mission to the next while getting pummeled with backstory and similar-style shootouts.

True the game’s 6th chapter does introduce a new mechanic and tougher camp conditions that works against this recommendation, but it’s also at this point where the initial slow pace starts to have a strong payoff in the narrative. “Red Dead Redemption 2” has its own rhythm, and once you buy into it, it becomes very rewarding. Also, for those still not convinced, there are many ways to make aiming, moving and the camera much more responsive through the settings menu. Don’t be afraid to tinker with controls!

Further, as mentioned earlier, realism doesn’t have to be boring. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. The time in which this game takes place made for brutal living conditions, and thus some of the slog in terms of eating, resting and chores just makes sense in context. Instead of taking us OUT of the game, we’re finding ourselves more immersed in the open world BECAUSE of them. Honestly, we’ve found ourselves acting more responsible and moral to those around us, as well as our environments, because not doing so makes the game that much harder – it puts us at odds with the open world, which can be brutally hard to survive.

Arthur isn’t an overpowered God or a superhero (even if does murder half the state by the end of the game); he’s a dude with a pistol, so going about playing this game like it’s “GTA 5” makes very little sense. In “Red Dead 2” it’s all about the little details and these details can make the game more fun and enjoyable too. Falling off a horse has never been so dangerous, hunting is a risk, the gunplay has never felt so brutal and violent… it’s literally changing the way we play open world games; and, with all the nearly identical sandbox titles out there on the market, isn’t this a good thing?

Also, this vast open world feels more alive and jam-packed than others in recent memory. So, if you’re not a fan of the game’s slow pacing, there’s no shortage of other things to do in the meantime: hunt, fish, gamble, rob and loot, treasure hunt, find Easter Eggs, and so on. These actions almost always relate back to the story somehow and are not mere throwaway tasks, so they may actually get you looking forward for the next mission. Hell, even interacting with a random person in some random town can open up new details about a mission or quest and thus make chance NPC encounters memorable, meaningful and nearly essential to the game’s storyline.

And if you’re talking to the folks in your gang, it’s almost impossible not to come away with something more than you did before speaking to them – some little tidbit, some little item of information that strengthens the overall narrative.

It’s hard not to get wrapped up in it all, especially seeing as the game contains some of the best character development we’ve seen in a video game, period. The story and characters feel right at home with other epic tales about the death of the Wild West like “The Wild Bunch” and “Once Upon a Time in the West;” and characters like Dutch and Arthur feel like modern versions of Pike Bishop and Deke Thornton, or Frank and Harmonica, or other great Western two-somes. (0:23) Hell Dutch’s appearence even looks like a splitting image of Bill The Butcher from “Gangs of New York”

All These films are long and are not afraid to take their time, and neither is “Red Dead Redemption 2.” Also, the fact that this game serves as a prequel to “Red Dead Redemption” really justifies the slow pacing because, ultimately, we already know what happens in the end… so why rush getting there? What we don’t know is why things turned out the way they did and, so, the minute to minute details of “Red Dead 2” take on increased importance in terms of the series’ overall narrative.

When it comes down to it, we’d recommend savoring the game’s pace because it’s trying to do something new. It’s more in line with “Breath of the Wild” in terms of how it seeks to revolutionize open world gameplay and that should be celebrated (even if it’s not your thing). Sure it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s OK! For us the game’s mission design could have eased up on the handholding much sooner. But, whether we like it or not, “Red Dead Redemption 2” is a giant leap forward for open world games and the future looks bright.

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