Red Dead Redemption 2 PS4 Review: A Legendary Gunslinger?

Not that I need to do a formal introduction here, I doubt there is a person alive who hasn’t at least heard about this coming out, but to appease the gaming gods (and the boss man) here it is:

Red Dead Redemption 2, the latest addition to the Rockstar Games Wild West Franchise takes us back into the world of John Marston and Dutch Van Der Linde. This tale however, is told back in 1899 before the events we know from the original Red Dead Redemption.

I’ve seen all the hype and rave reviews of 10/10 etc. spread across the internet and gaming media for this release, but I have my own views which to be honest I’m not sure everyone is going to like (but I might be wrong). So let’s find out if this truly is ‘the greatest game of the year’.

Gameplay

Red Dead Redemption 2 brings us back into this world as Arthur Morgan. A trusted member of the Van Der Linde gang (essentially Dutch’s right hand man). It won’t take long for anyone to notice the return of John Marston (Is it ‘the return of’ when this is a prequel to the original Red Dead Redemption?).

Given that this is a story heavy game, I will avoid discussing the story element in any great detail as it can be easy to spoil things. Instead I will try to keep it to the game mechanics etc.

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Firstly, anyone expecting Red Dead Redemption 2 to be an action packed 3rdperson shooter from start to finish is going to be disappointed. That isn’t what this game is about and I think some people have been a little overly critical of it at times because of that.

Having said that, I don’t normally start a review with a negative point but I have no choice here. Red Dead Redemption 2 is full of bugs and game breaking moments right from the start (which for a triple A title like this is ridiculous). I don’t expect a game to be perfect, but after an hour or more waiting for the install (on 2 discs – I feel for anyone who purchased the digital download) to barely get through the first 20 mins of gameplay before my horse fell over a very small rock and threw me off the side of a cliff.

You would think that would kill me and I could just restart. No, this didn’t kill me, instead it pushed me through the map into an eternity of falling animations. Needless to say as I had only played 20 mins within the tutorial I had to restart all over again.

I know I’m not the only one experiencing this as all the social media platforms have been covered with images and videos of exactly this sort of problem.

So what happens if you don’t get hurled into the falling abyss? Well you will be travelling from town to town enjoying how stunning the character animations and landscapes are (more about that later in the graphics). Trust me you will spend a lot of time just riding around exploring as it looks amazing!

The controls are pretty similar to the original Red Dead Redemption which is to be expected as it’s a prequel. Although there are some adjustments and tweaks which give it a little unique flavour (such as the Cinematic Camera on the Touch pad).

Unfortunately though at times the controls are not exactly reliable. A number of times I have been trying to rob a homestead (side mission) and it’s taken me 5 minutes to pick up a money clip because the characters and items weren’t perfectly lined up, but easily within arm’s reach. Very annoying when you’re on a time limit.

There are a number of controls that are quite useful but the game doesn’t even tell you exist. For things like Intimidation, keeping track of missions and a whole bunch of other things I’ve accidentally stumbled across then been puzzled as to why the game felt they needed to be kept secret.

For more info on a few of these check out our ‘tips and tricks’ article here

As in Red Dead Redemption, there are a number of places to visit and stores to purchase upgrades in almost every town. Of course this also means more places to rob if the mood takes you. My favourite store to visit at this time is the gunsmith. The customisation options alone are great fun and before you realise it you have spent all your money on gold engravings and Leather Wraps.

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As well as the character customising options (weapons, clothing etc.) you can also customise your horse. When you visit a stable you can upgrade saddles, stirrups etc. also the horse’s tail etc. can be edited, both in style and colour giving plenty of options to give a unique look to everything.

Anyone looking at the Rockstar line-up (such as GTA) and then looking here and thinking ‘it’s the Wild West, surely I can pick up a prostitute or two’ well you’re going to be a little disappointed. They are in the game, however they’re just basic NPC’s and you can’t request their ‘services’. The closest you’ll get is within the saloon for the ‘deluxe bath’. However this is literally how it sounds, they will help you take a bath. Sorry guys!

One common issue that I see mentioned a lot is that the world feels largely empty (in terms of encounters and quests) and that is true however the map is considerably large (without fast travel) so it’s understandable. Don’t forget were in the Wild West, large areas of America were actually empty at that time so it’s hardly unrealistic.

There is a fast travel option which can be unlocked within camp, however it’s one way only (from camp to a town) so you will still have to find your own way back to camp to use it again.

Once the tutorial is over and the world opens up to give you a little freedom (basically the start of Chapter 2), a number of quests and tasks appear that can be started by traveling around a little by the first town (Valentine), then going back to camp to rest and restock as well as do some chores for the gang to keep everyone happy.

With the bulk of side quests that I’ve played (after approx. 25 hours) being similar in pattern (travel here and fetch this or travel here and rob that), some people may find them a little annoying rather fast, the good news is you can just choose to ignore a lot of them and as the main story progresses they will disappear.

There are a large number of tasks and mini games that you can choose to play at pretty much any time. Fishing, Dominoes, Poker, Five Finger Fillet etc. as well as hunting (however hunting is a much bigger task so I’m not sure it should be classed as a mini game). Each of these will give you different items / rewards that can either help with Camp Upgrades/mood inside the camp or a cash reward for the gambling games. All of them are fun to play and potentially you could spend hours just going around a single town playing these.

I can’t help but feel I’ve discussed the more negative side here on the gameplay and that is a shame as even with all these issues I am personally enjoying it. But, if I was to ignore all these issues and just talk about how I’m enjoying it then I don’t think I would be writing an honest review.

Graphics

I don’t think anyone can say that Red Dead Redemption 2 doesn’t look amazing. It’s a perfect reflection of what the current gen consoles can offer.

I mentioned earlier about how the traveling back and forth to do side quests can be boring and annoying after a while, but the landscapes do help counter this as I’ve found myself travelling to one of the towns and ended up just exploring and enjoying the views.

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I’m sure everyone heard the rumours of what happens to the horses when in the cold weather… Well I’m not going to dwell on this topic, or include pictures. But, I can confirm this is in fact true and while it does show attention to detail, personally I feel it was just included as a method of advertising (similar to the tactic used in Conan with adjustable genital sizes). They have no impact whatsoever in the game it’s simply there to create a discussion.

As I mentioned I’ve spent a lot of time travelling around enjoying the views. Well there is one small thing I like to do while exploring and that’s using the Cinematic camera. It essentially changes the view at any time from the standard gameplay to look as though it’s a cut scene and the angles can be changed at the push of a button (I wouldn’t recommend doing it during a gunfight unless you have stable cover).

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Audio

It’s good to see that the voice actors who were in the original Red Dead Redemption return for the prequel as it helped settle into the game very quickly, like putting on a new episode of a beloved TV Show. It also eased any nerves I had regarding poor voice acting (sure some of the more basic NPC’s suffer from the typical same voice / phrase syndrome, but that’s to be expected – Not excused though Rockstar!!).

The soundtrack is very well suited and definitely helps to add that little bit of atmosphere to the game that you would expect from a classic Western, even if you don’t always pick up on it being there.

I do enjoy the sounds of nature that have been added; snakes, animals, the wind in the trees etc. They are all very subtle and can easily be ignored, but if you stop and take in the details it’s very immersive and there is a lot of detail here for something mostly in the background.

I have noticed a few instances where the audio has been out of synch with the actions, gunshots for example. It doesn’t tend to last long, but it’s yet another niggling little problem that should have been ironed out prior to release (quite a list of problems now Rockstar!!).

Longevity

After doing some research I found that the original Red Dead Redemption only had a total completion rate somewhere around 10% which says to me that most people moved onto another game fairly quickly.

I do think that Red Dead Redemption 2 will follow a similar pattern as it has similar mechanics but it’s much longer, the main storyline is said to take around 50-60 hours on average but then add onto that all the hunting, mini games, challenges, bounty hunting etc. and the hours are going to tick up pretty quickly.

Given the sheer length of the game the trophies are going to take quite a while to pick up. There are 52 in total and from the information I have picked up, the Platinum (PS4) is said to take around 200 hours (yes this will also include online only trophies).

Conclusion

Red Dead Redemption 2 is a huge game that tries its best to follow up the original and improve on it. Given the time between the two games the hype was inevitable and as such I think the expectation I had for this game perhaps set the bar a little higher than it should’ve been.

That being said there are some glaring screw ups here and issues that Rockstar should have fixed prior to release or at least on the day one patch but they still occur frequently and a quick visit to any social media platform has tons of examples of this. Rockstar have even confirmed some of them (such as the missing camp members in Chapter 2).

Does that mean that the game isn’t enjoyable? Of course not, but it does mean that it can be very frustrating at times. Add that to the repetitive nature of the side quests and it does make you realise that perfection is a long way away here and for me personally the hype definitely didn’t help.

While I’m sure once the game is patched and these issues are fixed it will be an incredible entry into the franchise, my experience at the time of writing this review is somewhat underwhelmed and that is the most disappointing feeling for me as I’m sure there are a lot of people feeling the same.

Based on my experience at the time of writing this review, Red Dead Redemption 2 deserves the Thumb Culture Silver Award. (Perhaps should be gold, but for me right now it’s too broken to be worthy – I may revise this once fixed).

Thumb Culture Silver Award

Disclaimer: A Code was supplied for us to review this game, but Arthur robbed the train it was on and the local Sheriff was useless.

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