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Review

Red Dead Redemption 2 Review - Wild Wild West

  • First Released Oct 26, 2018
    released
  • Reviewed Oct 29, 2018
  • PS4
  • XONE

Yee (and I cannot stress this enough) haw.

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Rockstar's Red Dead Redemption 2 release has finally come. The new open-world game is out now on PS4 and Xbox One, though there remains no word on a PC version. New evidence in the game's official companion app suggests a PC release could be in the works, but that remains unconfirmed. If you pick up the game on console, you should first download the day-one update. It isn't required to play, but Rockstar recommends you install it first, as it includes "a number of last minute tweaks, bugs, and fixes." And if you're looking for some help, we've assembled a wide range of guides and tips to help you make the most of the experience, and more cheat codes continued to be discovered. Read on for our full Red Dead 2 review.

Red Dead Redemption 2 is a game about consequences where you have only the illusion of choice. Yes, there are some decisions to be made, and those decisions will shape your character and the world around you. But some of the most disastrous choices were made for you before the game even begins, leaving you to deal with the fallout. And because it's a prequel to Red Dead Redemption, you also (probably) know how the story ends. All that's left is discovering what happens in between and making the most of it. To that end, you fight against the repetitive nature of missions, frequent moral dilemmas, and the inconvenience of doing what's right. For the most part, the frustration that tension can cause is also what makes the story impactful, and when it all comes together, your effort is not wasted.

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At the beginning of Red Dead Redemption 2, the Van der Linde gang is already on the decline we know from the previous game is coming. After a heist gone wrong in Blackwater, they're on the run, down a few members, and on the verge of capture, starvation, and succumbing to a snowstorm. There are familiar faces--Red Dead Redemption protagonist John Marston chief among them--as well as new ones. As senior member Arthur Morgan, you're in the privileged position of being Dutch Van der Linde's right hand, privy to his machinations and included in the most important outings. Once the gang escapes the storm and settles into a temporary campsite, you're also put in charge of the camp's finances, meaning you pick out all the upgrades and supplies. If Dutch is the center of the gang, Arthur is adjacent to all its vital parts at once, and that gives you a lot of power.

With that power, you're encouraged to do as you see fit and at your own pace. A lengthy series of story missions early on introduces you to some of the ways you can spend your time, including hunting, fishing, horse-rearing, and robbery. There are a lot of systems, and covering the basics takes several hours. While they're not so cleverly disguised as to not feel like tutorials, the actual learning is paced well in its integration with the story, and the missions also acquaint you with the characters and the surrounding area. For example, the fishing "tutorial" has you taking young Jack Marston out for the day, since John is not exactly great at fatherhood. Jack is pure and sweet--and incredibly vulnerable to all the gang's wrongdoings--and the mission is memorable for it.

In addition to the mechanics of various activities, you're also presented with a few elements of semi-realism you need to contend with. Mainly, you need to eat to refill your health, stamina, and Dead Eye ability "cores," which deplete over time. Eating too much or too little results in weight changes and stat debuffs. Eating itself isn't a problem, and neither is maintaining cores in general, but eating enough to maintain an average weight is intrusive; despite experimenting with what and how often I ate, I couldn't get Arthur out of the underweight range, and eating any more frequently would be too time-consuming to justify. You don't have to sleep (though you can to pass time and refill your cores), and surviving hot or cold temperatures comes down to choosing the right outfit from your item wheel, so managing your weight sticks out as superfluous rather than conducive to immersion.

Limited fast travel options are the better-implemented side of Red Dead 2's realism, perhaps counterintuitively. There's next to no fast travel at the beginning and few methods in general, so you have to rely on your horse to get around. It can be slow, but there's no shortage of things to do and see along the way. Chance encounters are plentiful and frequently interesting; you might find a stranger in need of a ride to town or a snake bite victim who needs someone to suck the venom out of their wound. You can stumble upon a grotesque murder scene that sets you entirely off-track, or you can ignore someone in danger and just keep riding. And just as you can decide to rob or kill most anyone, you'll also run into people who will do the same to you. Even the longest rides aren't wasted time, and it's hard not to feel like you're missing something if you do opt for fast travel.

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Red Dead Redemption 2's version of America is vast and wide open, stretching from snowy mountains and the Great Plains down to the original game's New Austin in the southwest. Further to the east is the Louisiana-inspired Deep South, which is still feeling the effects of the Civil War after nearly 40 years. There's a distinct shift when traveling from region to region; as grassy hillsides become alligator-filled swamps, Union veterans give way to angry Confederate holdouts, and good intentions and casual racism turn into desperation and outright bigotry. The variety makes the world feel rich, and it both reacts to you and changes independently of your involvement; new buildings will go up as time goes on, and some of the people you talk to will remember you long after you first interacted with them (for better or worse).

Incidental moments as you explore make up a large part of the morality system, in which you gain and lose honor based on your actions. "Good" morals are relative--you're a gang member, after all--but generally, it's more honorable to punch up rather than down. Helping an underdog, even if they're an escaped convict and even if you need to kill some cops or robbers to do it, can net you good guy points. In these situations, it's easier to be noble than a true outlaw. Committing a dishonorable crime is hard to do undetected, even in remote locations, and usually requires you to track down and threaten a witness, run and hide from the law, or pay a bounty down the line. While you'll earn money more quickly doing "bad" things, high honor gets you a pretty discount at shops, and you'll make good money either way through story missions.

In many ways, you're nudged toward playing a "good" Arthur. The gang members he's closest to from the beginning are the more righteous, principled ones who are motivated by loyalty and a desire to help others, while he insults, argues with, and generally reacts negatively to those who are hot-headed and vicious. The most rotten of them is Micah, who's so easy to hate that it's hard not to follow Arthur's lead and take the higher road. Unlocking camp upgrades like one-way fast travel and better supplies also essentially forces you into being honorable; although everyone donates, you have to invest hundreds of dollars yourself if you want to afford anything, and that automatically gets you a ton of honor points whether you like it or not.

One of the best, most understated details in the game is Arthur's journal, in which he recaps big events as well as random people you've met and more mundane, everyday things. He sketches places you go, doodles the plants and animals you find, and writes out thoughts he barely speaks out loud. The journal changes with your level of honor, but at least for a relatively honorable Arthur, the pages are filled with concerns and existential crises--inner turmoil over being either good or evil, for instance--that make you want to see him become a better person.

Like any good prequel, there's an incredible amount of tension in knowing what happens without knowing exactly how.

It's a lot harder to feel like a good guy when doing the main story missions, though. Arthur, along with nearly everyone else, is loyal to the gang first and foremost. This means following Dutch into trouble, busting friends out of jail, and committing a number of robberies in the interest of getting money for the gang. Even if you're trying your hardest to be good, you'll inevitably slaughter entire towns in mandatory story missions--stealth and non-lethal takedowns aren't always an option, and the snappy auto-lock aim makes shootouts a far easier option anyway. The dissonance is frustrating to play through in the moment, but it's incredibly important to Arthur's arc as well as your understanding of the gang as a whole. To say any more would venture into spoiler territory.

That extends to the structure of story missions, which start to get predictable around halfway through the game. It's not that they're boring--the opposite is true, actually, and you see a lot of action from beat to beat. But after a while, a pattern emerges, and it's easy to figure out how any given heist or raid is going to unfold. This too becomes frustrating, partially because you often have no way of significantly affecting the outcome despite any decision-making power you thought you might have had. But your weariness is also Arthur's, and that's crucial. The mid-game drags in service of the narrative, which only becomes apparent much later. There's also enough variety between missions and free-roam exploration to prevent it from dragging to the point of being a chore to play.

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Like any good prequel, there's an incredible amount of tension in knowing what happens without knowing exactly how. If you played Red Dead Redemption, you know who survives and as a result who probably won't make it to the end of the game. Even during the slower parts, you're waiting for betrayals and injuries and other events you've only vaguely heard mention of before. You're waiting for characters to reveal their true selves, and watching as everything unravels is riveting and heartbreaking if you know what's to come.

You can still enjoy the story in its own right without that background knowledge, though. Some of Red Dead Redemption 2's best moments have almost no relation to its predecessor. One mission takes you to a women's suffrage rally, and a painful side mission has you facing a woman whose husband you killed and life you ruined. The new characters are among the best, too; Sadie Adler is a personal favorite for reasons I won't spoil. Another, a young black man in the gang named Lenny, mentions how the Southerners treat him a little differently; Arthur says that he hasn't noticed anything weird, to which Lenny replies, "All respect, Mr. Morgan, you wouldn't notice."

Generally, Red Dead 2 tackles pertinent issues of the era with care. Rather than defining any of its characters by the bigotry they may experience, it allows them the room to be well-rounded individuals while still not ignoring that things like racism and sexism exist. One arc focuses squarely on a very serious issue, and here, the lack of real choice in the story's direction--and your resulting involvement in what transpires--will likely make you uncomfortable in a powerful way.

While Red Dead Redemption was mostly focused on John Marston's story, Red Dead 2 is about the entire Van der Linde gang--as a community, as an idea, and as the death rattle of the Wild West. It is about Arthur, too, but as the lens through which you view the gang, his very personal, very messy story supports a larger tale. Some frustrating systems and a predictable mission structure end up serving that story well, though it does take patience to get through them and understand why. Red Dead Redemption 2 is an excellent prequel, but it's also an emotional, thought-provoking story in its own right, and it's a world that is hard to leave when it's done.

Back To Top
The Good
The story has incredible weight as a prequel with the anticipation that comes from knowing how it all ends
New characters are among the best and help make the story enjoyable on its own
A varied and reactive world filled with chance encounters and surprises to discover compels you to explore
Well-written missions and side activities both draw you into both the game's systems and its narrative
Mission structure and morality mechanics create tension that increases the story's impact
The Bad
Elements of semi-realism take you out of the experience rather than draw you into it
9
Superb
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Kallie spent around 55 hours playing Red Dead Redemption 2, completing the main story, a handful of side quests, and a robbery or two. She played on PS4 Pro using a code provided by Rockstar for the purposes of this review.
819 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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Gib501

With all due respect, (not about the score) this is a pretty bad review of the game.

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pinkfloyd6789

Kallie, i respect ur opinions, i respect feminism and i believe in it. Thanks for the review and this is a good one. But you as a woman, naturally concentrate on woman side of the game. This game is set in a time of the world which men had more power over women. But let the player judge and see that for himself, the harsh truth of the game. My point is you should talk about more gameplay style or presentation review and leave the moral judgement to the player. Talk about how i shoot my pistols and beautifull it is rather than if it is moral or not?

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yeknomdab

Has anyone else considered how great a survival mode for RDRII could be? I'm talking about a solo experience, but a version with optional co-op could also give the extremely basic online beta the boost it would need to shed the shadow of pointless mediocrity that GTA Online has cast.

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yeknomdab

In spite of its flaws, frustrations, and slightly-refined GTA control mechanics, I love RDR II even more than the "sequel" 8 years ago. I play with the simple goal of becoming lost in the atmosphere. It's the little details that draw me in. After a while, I find myself sharing Arthur's distaste for the suffocating noise of "civilization." So I save the story missions for last. That's right--I have had this game since day one, and have yet to "finish" the central plot. I'm in no hurry.

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pladortagger

I just love this game. Come visit <a href="https://https://theanxiousgamer.blog/2018/12/10/red-dead-redemption-2/">this</a> review if you are still hesitating.

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DeadManRollin

Anyone who starts playing this game with the thought that it's a) GTA V with horses and a western setting and b) It's a shooter where there will be less talk and more action is naturally going to be utterly disappointed with the game.

It has a steep learning curve and a slower pace. The missions rely a lot on narratives, and simply getting in to them with guns blazing won't do you any good. Also, the game often takes an RPG like approach; forcing you to eat, interact with people, take care of your ride, and allows you to customize your weapons, attire and many other stuff.

Thus, I assume people who found this game boring are actually Call of Duty players. I wonder why they bought the game in the first place.

I am taking the game slowly, enjoying every ride and cherishing every mission. I spent 2 hours playing the poker game and enjoyed every minute of it. There's just too many things to do in game. I haven't had this much fun in a long while--the last time I had this kind of fun was when I played Witcher 3.

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pinkfloyd6789

@DeadManRollin: Poker is really fun.

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SingletreeAve

I bought a PS4 just to play this game and was bored 30 minutes in. Thank god for Ebay.

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pinkfloyd6789

@SingletreeAve: Because in the start i was bored too. After a while i am playing it as one of my best experiences.

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Game-Critiques

@SingletreeAve: maybe stick to something more your speed. Candy Crush?

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IrishInstigator

This game has some of the most awkward, clunky, and downright unwieldy controls I've ever encountered in a game. The shooting is just horrendously clunky unless you rely on the crutch of the auto lock system, in which case it loses any sense of being a shooter and instead is just the game holding your hand through the process of killing people. The story and characters are interesting, but there is no way I can recommend this game so long as it has the awful control scheme that it does.

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Game-Critiques

@irishinstigator: i honestly think the shooting mechanics are fine. The autolock is kinda strong and its a bit too easy but if you dont like it you can tweak the controls in settings to make it a lot more responsive.

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CRAPCOM1926

@irishinstigator: thats rockstar for you. But i love cowboys and i loved RDR 1 so this was a must buy for me but now that i am in the epilogue i....have nothing to do besides the story missions. money become worthless and the Crafting and enhances to your camp are loss at the end and they dont do anything.....the bags improvement are also hard to make and you can buy them in the epilogue anyway and they dont add to anything. You also have to twek the options to get the Aiming right.

And yet the game was for the most part, fun so is an 8/10 but it could be a lot better.

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giustoe

@irishinstigator: well controls are not the most intuitive but I got used to them in a few hours. Problem is if you are looking for a shooter then this is not the game for you. I like the game very much but I prefer a good story over the action. This is like a cowboy simulator ... and a very good one indeed but I understand it's not for everyone. I haven't read or seen anything about the game before last week cause I wanted to avoid spoilers before starting to play it but got few friends that told me since day 1 that the game was amazing. When I tried it I could only agree with them but ... it's just my opinion.

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IrishInstigator

@giustoe: Well this is a shooter though. Games can be multiple things at once. This is a cowboy simulator AND a shooter. Unfortunately, the shooting mechanics suck ass. Your argument almost seems to be that I'm not allowed to criticize the shooting mechanics because its more of a simulator, which is bullshit. It is a shooter and has awful shooting mechanics. That needs to be pointed out so people are aware of what they are getting into before they buy the game.

That being said, if you prefer story over gameplay, that's fine. That being said however, I would add though that the story in this is not really that impressive. I'm about 35% completion in the game and honestly I have started skipping cutscenes at this point because I really don't care about the characters or the world enough to watch them drone on about the inane crap they tend to spew. So I don't really get the argument that this game has an AMAZING story like everyone is claiming. The shooting is awful, the story is alright at best, the game is not some masterpiece. Best score it deserves is maybe a 7/10. Maybe...

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Game-Critiques

@irishinstigator: gameplay is always first and foremost in a video game. The shooting i feel is fine but i leave that to personal taste. The shooting itself is mediocre along with the cover mechanic but the sound of the guns and the environments and music all make it 10 times more enjoyable. Theres more to the gameplay that keeps it entertaining though. The story and characters are phenomenal, maintaining and managing things like camp upgrades, cleaning your weapons and shopping feel very personalized and rewarding. The progression and other things you can do in the world like random encounters and side missions are so fun and the tongue and cheek humor is perfection. I know this game won't be for everyone but i adore it.

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CRAPCOM1926

@irishinstigator: use the fist person view, it does make shooting more fun, but i agree with you.....for the most part....but the story is alright????? wut???? The story is the only Great thing about this game, geez what kind of game have you play to say this game has alright story? Please dont tell me crap like Last of us.

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IrishInstigator

@CRAPCOM1926: Lol. Last of Us knew about a little thing called creating actual characters. The characters in Red Dead don't feel like humans, they feel like mechanical men acting out rolls for me at a circus. Arthur is underwhelming as a lead. I have no sense of his personality other than he is a smartass (but not a very good one). And it doesn't feel genuine, instead his personality just feels forced and artificial.

All the missions are so scripted and the game holds your hand so much I can't find myself to give a shit about what's happening. It's literally "start quest, mount horse, follow npc and listen to them talk, find place, scout out, go in and shoot people, more talk, get reward, finish". I've played other games that do a similar cycle but feel more authentic, this just feels like I'm trying to play a role as something but never quite succeeding. Sorry, but the story really just isn't that good.

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crimsonmar

@irishinstigator: don’t recommend it. The 97% on gamerankings proves that the game is godly.

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IrishInstigator

@crimsonmar: The 97% proves that people are utterly devoted to Rockstar. If there is any company whose games I DO NOT TRUST reviews for, its Rockstar. They're like a fucking sacred cow that you're not allowed to ever criticize when it comes to rankings and games journalism. So I take that 97% with a massive grain of salt.

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JustTheTip

@crimsonmar: Dumb.

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Sw1tched

LOL. Gamestop with it's edgy reviews refusing to give games a 10 when completely deserved. That goes for ANY game that deserves it, not just RD2.

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JustTheTip

@Sw1tched: Why does it matter? Do you like the game? Yes? Then it could be given a 1 by someone and it shouldn’t matter to you. It is literally nothing more than a number. Does that number actually affect your enjoyment of the game?

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LDemonKnight

@justthetip: totally agree... the bottom line is ...did you love it or not? .....who cares what everyone else thinks about the game....if you played only what ppl like and what reviewers like...you would have a very limited collection.

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Sw1tched

@justthetip:Wasn't the point. It's just Gamespot seems to always attempt to flaunt there journalistic integrity by being different from all other review outlets and critics, without fail. Don't get me wrong, different is good ... but giving a masterpiece as in this game (and countlesss others) a 9 or even 8 just to sound like an informed, intelligent review is just tiring.

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Game-Critiques

@Sw1tched: this game might be good but every game has flaws. some more than others. Red dead 2 i would not call a 10. A 10 would be something revolutionary and groundbreaking and one of the greatest games of all time. Red dead 2 does some amazing things but it has some issues.

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aross2004

@Sw1tched: This would maybe be a valid argument if GS was the only outlet to not give the game a perfect score. But plenty didn't so your comment holds no weight.

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JustTheTip

I’m having the hardest time getting into this game. It is so damn slow. I’m 20% through it and I haven’t had a single bit of fun yet. I keep hearing it gets better, but man... The first game was a blast pretty much right from the get-go. So far, this game is a big letdown.

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killersushi

@justthetip: Same here. Not even that far in but everything is tedious. I even find the controls kinda sluggish. I think I'm just gonna sell it and be done with it.

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JustTheTip

@killersushi: Yeah. At this point I’m only playing through it to get my $60 worth. This game is definitely getting traded in/sold soon. I may not even make it to the end.

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IrishInstigator

@killersushi: I'd say the controls go beyond sluggish. The shooting specifically is absolute ass.

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JustTheTip

@irishinstigator: Yep. The shooting is the fucking worst.

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niv0070

@justthetip: It's actually the same as it was on the first..

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sirfapsalot

@niv0070: it is. People just want to complain about anything.

“You need to use a controller to control the character. F*ck that”

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JustTheTip

@niv0070: No. It definitely isn’t.

Avatar image for niv0070
niv0070

@justthetip: Not a strong argue there.

It's the same magnet aim, the shooting itself feels the same (which is great), the revolver for example is exactly the same if not slightly better, I love it.

But no, let's be angry and shit on the game cause popular opinions suck, "The shooting sucks!! What a chore fest!! 00000". (BTW chore by definition is "a long or arduous search for something.", therefore, chore).

The game like its predecessor (or sequel, however you want to look at it) is amazing and is one of the best to ever grace the video game world, especially current-gen. The Witcher 3, MGS:V, BOTW and RDR2 are amazing, with RDR2 slightly topping the others.

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MisterVulpes

Just finished the story. Game is a methodical, slow burn masterpiece.

The criteria for a 10 is apparently “essential”.

I’d call this game essential. Anyone thoughtful, with an attention span superior to a plankton should play this game.

Arthur is probably one of the best written and acted characters of all time, even with the scope of choice you’re given in his moment to moment behaviour.

I immediately started a new game.

It’s that good.

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crimsonmar

@mistervulpes: this guy knows what’s up

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metalkid9

This game is complete ass. Very dissapointed. The first was was a gem.

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JustTheTip

@metalkid9: That’s how I’m feeling right now. I hear it gets better after about 20 hours, which is ridiculous.

Red Dead Redemption 2 More Info

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  • First Released Oct 26, 2018
    released
    • PlayStation 4
    • Xbox One
    Red Dead Redemption 2 is an epic tale of life in America’s unforgiving heartland.
    8.7
    Average Rating338 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Red Dead Redemption 2
    Developed by:
    Rockstar Games
    Published by:
    Rockstar Games
    Genre(s):
    Action, Adventure
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Mature
    Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Nudity, Sexual Content, Strong Language, Use of Drugs and Alcohol