Red Dead Redemption 2 is one of those games where you come home, boot it up, and think "I'll just play a couple missions before going to bed." After countless hours of not even completing a single mission, you finally look up and it's 2 AM and you have to be at work in 6 hours. It is so realistic that it will suck you into its world and won't let go, and that immersion and attention to detail by Rockstar has both its positives and negatives.
To simplify it entirely, the game consists of riding your horse to your mission marker, riding your horse again to the mission, shoot a bunch of people, and then ride your horse back. It's more fun than it sounds, but it definitely grows old by the end of this 100 hour game. The game is about 50 hours too long, in my opinion. There are entire chapters (looking at you Chapter 5) that could have been completely cut out of the game and wouldn't have made a bit of difference in the overall story or enjoyment of the game. The missions can be really incredible and consist of things as varied as getting super drunk and dancing on a bar or collecting fake zoo animals from around the world, but too often the game relies on the same exact mission objectives of go somewhere, shoot people, and come back. The developers showed us that they can come up with awesome ideas that are a lot of fun, but spend 80% of the game with the same exact mission objectives, which is really frustrating.
This isn't to say I don't like RDR2, I really liked it in fact. The sidequests, for one, are super interesting. The characters (for the most part) are interesting and fun to get to know. The world that RockStar created is full of life, totally gorgeous, and a joy to explore. Towns especially feel real, with people going about their day with or without you being there. The attention to detail is the best I've ever seen in a video game, with mud tracks that follow you while riding a cart and how you walk into a store and can literally peruse the shelves to look for real food to eat to replenish your health. I really like how you have to manually reload your guns, and the impact that has on how you approach battles. There are no "boss battles," where an enemy has more health than anyone else and you have to shoot them 100 times to win. Everyone dies just the same.
RockStar went out of their way to make this game realistic, and they succeeded totally. Sometimes, however, I don't want my game to be *this* realistic. The main gripe I have is how much time you spend just...riding your horse. The game knows this and literally lets you press a button to cinematic mode where you can put your controller down while your character travels without you pushing any buttons at all. But why is this required? You will have places you have to travel that are literally 15 full minutes away and you have to either hold X the entire time or put your controller down and do something else for 15 minutes just so you can do the next mission. Why RockStar? Yes I know you can fast travel or take a train, but oftentimes you're not anywhere near a place where that's even feasible and it doesn't save any time.
There is a truly insane amount of things to do in this game. Don't feel like playing a mission? Don't worry, there is a girl over there who wants to race you, a poker game over there, and a dozen animals you can go hunt. Want to go fish? Go ahead. Want to go shop for clothes and get your picture taken? Go for it. This game will keep even the most picky gamer entertained for dozens and dozens of hours. But you can also just plow through the story if you'd like and skip all of that.
The controls are generally fine, but I have gripes there as well. Why would you map the button to talk to people as the same button as aiming your gun at them? Now I have a bounty on my head and I was just trying to say hello to that nice man over there. God forbid you try and speed up the glacial pace of getting around in this game and try to speed through town. Inevitably you will barely graze someone and 40 cops will go out hunting you down for assault. It's cool that the towns are immersive and interesting, and Saint Denis is downright fantastic, but some of the choices RockStar made here are just inexplicable. The shooting is hit or miss, literally, where sometimes your character will aim right away at someone and sometimes he just aims randomly into the distance and you die. And I like the slow-mo where it shows some of your best shots, but when I'm in the middle of trying to kill 30 people the last thing I need is a random slow-down in time, it throws me off what I was trying to do just to show some gory scene where a man gets shot in the face. It's unnecessary at best.
Now it may sound like I don't like this game based on everything I said. But the reason I really enjoyed this game and played it for 100 hours is because the story is one of the best I've ever seen in gaming. Arthur Morgan may be my new favorite main character in a game. He is nuanced, deep, and you really grow to care about him by the end of the game. He is not a black-and-white good or bad guy, and neither are most of the people in your little gang. Even Dutch, who everyone loves to hate, is a really interesting character throughout that game and it was fun to watch him go completely nuts by the end and become the person you know him as in the first RDR. Ms. Adler is another favorite character, and just sitting at camp and listening to the members fight, sing, and go about their days is really fun. Arthur grows and changes throughout the story and the whole thing is a joy to watch unfold.
Obviously spoiler alert, but the one big issue I have is how long I have to sit and watch Arthur die. Jesus, did I really need 10 hours of knowing he was slowly dying? I can understand 1-2 missions, but literally 10-15 missions of this is downright painful to watch. I can appreciate how Arthur changes knowing his own death is imminent, but you can just wander off into the world of side quests and hunting and never die but it almost feels obligatory to just go get it over with by the end with all the hacking up blood Arthur is doing in the last chapter. I also didn't think the epilogue was even remotely necessary, it takes away from Arthur's story and feels like just a play for nostalgia from RDR players. I don't need to go from shooting up an entire town to picking up horse poop for several missions in a row. I think this could have just been accomplished in cut scenes, and cut at least in half.
Some of the best graphics in gaming. Gunfights look real, water looks incredible, and you can see the ripples made when you're rowing a boat through the water. Sunsets are absolutely stunning and seeing them from a mountaintop or cliff is worth just sitting and looking at for no reason other than how pretty it is. The lighting in the game is perfect, and even Arthur's guns look unique and cleaning them shows them noticeably get cleaner. Horses are also really well done, with their movements looking real and natural. Arthur's hair and beard will grow and you can get all kinds of hilarious hair cuts. The clothing you can wear is super varied and somehow all of it fits Arthur well and looks great. I can't say enough about how beautiful and immersive this game is, it's really a joy to just sit and even watch someone play this game because it's just that stunning.
Meh. I don't think there are a lot of standout tracks on here. The music fits well with where you are, but you will hear the same tracks over and over and over and luckily they aren't super noticeable other than the music that plays at the end, which is very good. If you want to check out the best music from the OST, try out "See the Fire in Your Eyes," "True Love," "Do Not Seek Absolution," and "That's the Way It Is."
Overall, this is game that you will love/hate. It will take a ton of hours of your life, but most of them are fun and rewarding, the story is great, and if you can past the gameplay grievances you will have a great time. The fact that there are so few issues and bugs with such a huge game is actually quite impressive, and this is a game well-worth playing that I would recommend to anyone that likes pretty graphics and a great story.