Red Dead Redemption 2, a game that I received for my birthday last year, but one that I’ve only just started to get into properly. It’s a game that many seem to love, but what took me so long?
When I first tried to get a flavour of the tale that Arthur Morgan spins, my venerable PlayStation 4 (no Pro here) was hooked up to a run of the mill 32” TV. Things looked fine, but it certainly wasn’t the visual tour de force that I had read so much about.
I’m not too stuck up when it comes to visuals, but the early moments were a let-down. Was that due to the setting of the opening to the game? Stranded in the snowy north and trudging through waist high snow drifts all made for a slow and particularly monotonous start visually. Combining this with an awkward control system and a screen that failed to show the game off in its best light, my attention was soon grabbed by the stupendous Resident Evil 2.
Returning to present day, a flick through my pile of shame revealed that Red Dead was still sat there, unloved for nearly a year. With a 50” 4K TV acquired in the meantime, I decided that a second attempt at walking in Arthur Morgan’s shoes was required.
Again, I found my first hour or so back with the game was tortuously slow. Apart from one fine assault on an O’Driscoll camp, there was simply so much snow to wade through. Even my introduction to hunting was a let-down, the deer wisely running away despite barely a noise being made save for the soft crunch of snow under feet.
While things started to pick up steam upon arrival at the camp near Valentine, it was another couple of hours until I felt like the training wheels were taken off and I was able to get out into the wild and really enjoy what the game had to offer.
Even when the game does start to let you of the leash, inventory management is still a pain, while I have no earthly idea what the difference is between health cores and health bars. A tonic doesn’t seem to keep me alive, but some crackers will? A bit less time spent on animating horse testicles and on general usability could have gone a long way.
I know I’ve been quite negative, but undoubtedly there is such joy to riding around in this world and soaking up the atmosphere. I was a massive fan of Deadwood, and the aesthetic of Westworld is up there among the very best in all of entertainment which makes me wonder why I couldn’t get stuck into the original game. Did that too suffer from the same problems of a slow start and poorly communicate controls and basic survival.
Perhaps what I appreciate most about the open world of Red Dead 2 is the laid-back nature of it all, even when you are being guided step by step in the beginning, you never feel rushed.
A look at your map might reveal a couple of mission markers, but there is never an overwhelming feeling that you are being constantly harried with quests, locations that you must visit or collectibles to find. It perhaps shows the difference between open world games that are happy to take you on a narrative journey, and those open world games where any and every RPG element the developers can think of gets shoehorned in.
The nature of the missions is a joy. An early trip into Valentine with a camp member led to drunken frivolity, a journey north to hunt a legendary bear was a chance to soak up the wisdom of a peer….and of course some of the robberies and assaults on hangouts stand out as best in class cinematic action experiences.
I don’t think Red Dead 2 is perfect, and it’s safe to say that I won’t be bothering to explore the online aspect. Trotting my own version of Roach around the plains and forests, an occasional spot of hunting all punctuated by brilliant missions suits me fine.
Yes, I’m late to the party with Rockstar’s latest, but I’m happy that I stuck with it and can start to fully appreciate what it has to offer.