Yeah, I said it and I stand by it! Red Dead Redemption 2 getting perfect review scores across the board has absolutely baffled me. This piece is not an attack on that, it’s just my honest opinion. Each to their own. Maybe this game just isn’t to my taste but how it aggregated a 97 score on Metacritic is beyond me.
The lengthy development cycle has lead to an insane build up of hype surrounding Rockstars latest smash hit. Other publishers running scared of that Oct 26th release date only helped the hype grow. Red Dead Redemption 2 is unopposed on digital store fronts and in retail stores alike. The Horse-Em-Up is front and centre of the gaming world this week. Anybody who owns a console cannot help but bask in it’s warm glowing warming glow.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is a technical and visual masterpiece, especially on Xbox One X. Rockstar have created a new benchmark for visuals on console. Character models are top notch and the world they live in often looks photo realistic. GTA V looked incredible but it did carry baggage brought by porting from last generation consoles. Grand Theft Horsies 2 does not have this issue. Arthur Morgans adventure is built from the ground up for current generation hardware and it shows. On many occasions I stopped just to look out over a cliff and slowly spin the camera around to take it all in. It is visually breathtaking at times.
That, unfortunately, is where the fun stopped for me. I will preface this by saying I played Red Dead Redemption 2 for twenty hours. This is not a snap judgement. I gave it my all and powered on despite being bored out of my mind at times.
You start off with the gang battling a mighty snowstorm looking for shelter. You are slowly shown the basic mechanics of the game, the stuff you will need to do to survive later. It’s fine but it goes on forever. This is no Zelda: BOTW tutorial area. By the end I was begging Red Dead Redemption 2 to let me out in the open. Waiting for the snow to thaw was the epitome of watching paint dry. When this finally happens and we ride out for a new camp, it’s a relief. When crossing a bridge a wheel came off the wagon and I literally shouted “oh fuck off” knowing I would have to play a little quick time event to get it fixed so I could finally go have some fun.
In September, Eurogamer published an article that should have had alarm bells ringing for me. Gamestop employees were given an extended private look at the game at their annual conference. Staff said “beautiful game, but mostly just saw horse riding simulator. Very difficult to stay awake. There was a shoot out after a bank heist but before the heist we saw 15 minutes of meandering through some woods and some plucky guitar playing.”
Every story mission (every single one that I played in twenty hours) involves a lengthy horse ride to the objective. That is frustrating enough but nine times out of ten you have a partner with you. You have to sit through lengthy conversations, hammer to the face type exposition, as you head to the yellow blip on the map. That should be fine, you’re playing a Wild West game here. You can’t exactly hop into a Ferrari but there’s no way to speed it up. You are tied to the speed of your friend.
Tapping the A button is the method used to speed up the horse but you can’t do that here. You can slightly speed up but it’s basically like a jog instead of a stroll. Holding the A button matches his speed and trajectory so you eventually just give in and listen to 102.6 – Boat Chat In The Morning with your host Dickhole McSlowballs.
You grind your teeth as some dick rambles on about “what happened on that boat” over and over and over. Sometimes you can interact on the long journeys by holding LT. This will give you optional questions that can be asked of your horse riding buddy. I had to laugh the first time I did this. One of the options read “X – Ask about the boat”.
On some of the longer journeys you will be spared some of the travel time. A real time cutscene presents itself as music plays, it’s quite cool actually. You’ll be shown panoramic views of the area as deer and rabbits frolic around in wooded areas that you gallop past. It’s quite lovely. I would have prefered that to happen more often. It’s all so slow.
There is no discernable fast travel system. With such a giant map this is unforgivable. It’s all so very very slow. Red Dead Redemption 2 wants you to take it all in. It’s immersive to the point of complete and utter drudgery. Is this how playtesting was judged? “Ride to the Valentine township for the 50th time and let me know if it FEELS like a real journey. This time around a different NPC will need help along the way, slowing the player down further. That’s what really gets our dicks hard”. I’m not sure if this game is immersive or foolishly arrogant. I sat there, bored out of my mind, begging this game to let me go shoot people in the face. It’s all so slow.
Eventually, after seasons change outside your window, you will get to said face shooting and it’s quite enjoyable. Red Dead Redemption 2 is bound to the janky ass Rockstar control system and hilarious physics. All of this is fine though. Shooting is fun and the sound of the shots really struck me with how pronounced they are. The mission parts, the actual parts where there is a videogame to be played were very enjoyable.
Often the journey is longer than the mission. I wish that there was more gameplay rather than horse riding simulation because robbing trains and bar fights were great fun! That whole aspect of the games selling point was fun. When you feel the way I feel about this title it’s not hard to see why Rockstar and Take Two were so careful to stop gameplay leaks. Deep down they know the exposition and long journeys are not for everybody. I think a more casual gamer may enjoy this. That’s not a knock on casual gamers by the way. I feel like they will be more appreciative of the immersion involved and really get into the role playing aspect of it.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is not a game that respects it’s players time, nor does it reward it. When travel time can be three or four times longer than the actual objective it’s a real kick in the teeth. I honestly think the 10/10 reviews came from crackheads. A person’s opinion is hard to describe as “wrong” but if a person tells me that the grass in my garden is red then his opinion means dick. These reviews are objectively wrong. I can see a seven or eight mark, nine if you really enjoy extended looks at horse asscrack, but the entirety of games media calling this a TEN is shocking. Shame. SHAME!