Red Dead Redemption II Review - One Last Score!!!

This review contains heavy spoilers for the story of Red Dead Redemption II so read at your own discretion. This is my first review, so I'm open to feedback to make them better. 

"By 1899, the West had nearly been tamed" reads the screen as I fire up Red Dead Redemption 2. The gang is on the run in the Grizzlies after a botched heist in Blackwater.

Dutch, Micah, and an outlaw known as Arthur Morgan venture out into the storm to find supplies. We find an old house and Dutch approaches it as we stand watch.

"There's a body here" Micah whispers to Arthur. I equip my cattleman revolver and aim. The mission objective is simple: Protect Dutch. As soon as I fire and the theme kicks in, I knew I was playing the best game this generation.

Rockstar has worked hard to offer us a game that truly exceeds in almost every category. It will surely be hard to find a game that will surpass this one. Rockstar gave us a game based on realism. While I was astonished to find out how much reality was in there, I ask myself, was realism pushed a little far?

As the gang descends to the wide open meadows of New Hanover, you cannot help but look in awe at the beauty of the world. I don't want to sound clichè, but the world is truly alive. The world is teeming with over 150+ kinds of animals. Deer racing in the distance, bisons grazing, birds flying, and rabbits that like your horse's hooves.

The world is jam packed with detail. Detail that could've not been implemented, but you sure look amazed by it. From the muddy streets of Valentine, to the dirt on the denizens clothes, and even being able to customize whether you want your pants inside your boots or outside. You can interact with every NPC and each time a different conversation will initiate.

The world is even varied. The people of Saint Denis talk in a plethora of languages like Spanish, French, and Mandarin. It includes many beautiful biomes from the dank swamps infested with crocodiles to the snowy peaks of Mount Hagen.

The world is simply beautiful. The majority of the map is covered in countryside that is gorgeous. I stood in awe many times in my playthrough just to admire the view. Beautiful waterfalls, mountain ranges, swaying trees, and deep ravines. They all just look phenomenal.

My only criticism is the map, which is underdeveloped and empty. It only shows you the nearest activities and side-quests. This is a pain since you have to roam the world to find side-quests or you have to consult online.

In my opinion, the best way to play this game is to not wander off in the world during the story. Every time Dutch's gang moves, they move to a completely different part of the map. Entering Saint Denis or the mining town of Annesburg will always stick with you, and they're shining beacons of modern civilization.

Jumping to the story, you can tell from the very first theme when you shoot the O'Driscalls that this is a depressing, sad and brutal story. It is the tragic story of the Van Der Linde gang and its demise through the eyes of Arthur Morgan.

Rockstar simply nailed this prequel. We all knew the gang was going to break up, Dutch was going to go insane, John was going to be left behind, and Arthur was going to die. Even though I knew all this, I was still suprised every time I witnessed these events.

The story is the longest one I've played, clocking around 60 hours for me. It was a combination of really well made train and bank heists, a myriad of rescue missions and small jobs to make the gang money.

Each and every member of the Van der Linde gang is fleshed out. Even though not all of them had equal screen time, you can roam around the camp and just listen to their conversations. They didn't feel like NPCs, they were real people walking around with their own histories and stories. Did you know that Hosea was once sentenced to hang? Or that Uncle became a god in an African tribe? Yeah, me too.

Rockstar was not afraid to do anything with the gang. I have never seen a group of people become so miserable. The feel of the game simply changed as the story progressed. And that's something not all developers can pull off. Everyone was happy in Horshoe but the ones that were left in Beaver Hollow were all miserable and afraid.

I was amazed that the story was still good after 40-50 hours of play. Each chapter brought with it something new, like chapter 3 brought us a family feud, the fourth brought us a mobster story, the fifth a western turned Far Cry 3.

It included many moments that will stick with you for many years, like the Saint Denis bank heist, the Guarma military ship sinking, the ride back to Shady Belle, the gang breaking up, the Braithwaite Manor siege, LENNYYYY!!!, and Hosea's death, which was really hard to digest.

Overall, the story was an emotionally draining one which will remain with many gamers for ages. It was quality content at its finest, from start to finish. But with everything it does have its flaws.

As soon as I heard the story was boasting a 60 hour runtime, I immediately knew it was going to suffer from pacing issues and bloated parts. The epilogue was painstakingly long, filled with superfluous bounty missions that the impact of Arthur's death was diminished. The Gurama chapter, although very interesting at start, felt undercooked. Certain missions could've been omitted like the Beau and Penelope questline and the Evelyne Miller mission. Some missions were all recycled. In chapter 6, we had two sniper shootouts in Van Horn, one with Bill, one with Sadie.

The story did justice to many plotlines, like transforming Dutch from the caring and charismatic leader to a psychopath who doesn't care about anyone but himself. But I think John was not fleshed out enough as a character. I'm stressing on him personally because you get to play as him. I completely lost interest in playing when Arthur died since I didn't care about John. Good thing the epilogue was enjoyable and satisfying that gave me some incentive to continue playing.

The pacing was also an issue. I didn't have a problem with the story until Guarma. The pacing after Guarma felt off. The Indian storyline was rushed in a way as I didn't quite care about Eagle Flies, and thus the last "The Last One" mission was less interesting than the ending of the third and fourth chapters.

Accompanied with the amazing story, was the phenomenal soundtrack. Each and every mission had a different theme and each theme fit perfectly with the atmosphere of the mission. During the kidnapping of Angelo Bronte, the theme was Italian, the very first theme mentioned above set the tone of the story, the return to Shady Belle, the ending, and many more had amazing themes that elevated the tension.

The sounds were so well done. Just a single ride through the forest you can hear a dozen types of sounds all distinct from each other. The sound of your revolver cocking is just so satisfying. The sound of the mud, the trees, and everything around you makes you stop for a moment and just listen.

Going to the honor system, it's much more fleshed out than the first. It affects the cutscenes you receive, the missions you can undertake, it even affects your ending. And it's pretty straghtforward, do good things and you're honorable and vice versa.

But I couldn't help notice that the game offers more for the honorable path. You can get more valuables, more cool clothing, better side-quests, and sharp price cuts if your honorable. I cannot name anything worthwhile from being bad.

The story doesn't help either. It's hard to be honorable when Arthur, in its nature, is a bad guy. Seeing my honor high and then going out massacring towns, robbing trains and performing heists, it doesn't feel good.

Red Dead Redemption II says farewell to the breakneck pace of the Grand Theft Auto series and opts for a more relaxed and slower gameplay. Everything takes a longer time to do.

Gameplay is extremely clunky but I think it fits well with the setting. Arthur is a big guy and every step he takes, you can feel his weight. You can even feel your horses hooves pounding the ground.

But this is the weakest part of the game. The clunky gameplay fits well, but during gunfights or narrow corridors or areas, it simply is a pain to maneuver Arthur to take a can of beans. Your horse will stray from the road if your not careful and while that does emphasize realism, it becomes almost impossible to control your horse in big towns and cities. The game giving you a bounty just for hitting a person because of the horrible controls is not fun at all. It's rather frustrating.

There's also this feature that your horse will fall if it hits something like a rock or a tree. It was a nice touch of realism and it was funny the first few times. But when my horse decides to hit something while escaping the law or during key story moments, it irritates me to the point to just giving up. The physics engine, though incredible, was a little strict in its own rules. This didn't help the fact that there is a lack of fast travel in the game. Horse rides tend to be long, and I have to be extra careful to not hit a small rock.

The clunky controls didn't fare well in shootouts either. As I mentioned above, the first time you shoot and the amazing theme starts playing, you realize this game is a masterpiece, but you also realize how horrible the controls are. Good thing auto-aim was on by default because it's damn near impossible to play this game without it.

Apart from the horrid controls, the basic gameplay  structure revolves around these cores that you have to maintain. The game requires a certain amount of upkeep like eating, cleaning, resting, feeding and cleaning your horse and etc. I delved into it really deep and I found it quite enjoyable, but the weight of your character feels unbalanced as Arthur loses weight really fast.

The game's economy is fairly balanced at the start of the game where you need to do a bit of work to earn money like hunting, bounty hunting and stealing stagecoaches for Seamus. But it literally breakes after a certain mission with Bill where you make a couple thousand dollars. I simply stopped making money as missions were giving me faster than I can spend.

The game gives you a lot of options to burn time. Some of them fun, some of them tedious, but that boggles down to opinion. There are numerous challenges, collectibles, side-quests, and points of interests to keep you interested for more than a hundred hours.

I had a love/hate relationship with the UI. It wasn't that extraordinary, but looking at the amount of stats and menus, I say it did the job fairly well.

As for bugs and glitches, I did encounter a fair few. I witnessed Arthur get thrown skyhigh in one story mission. There was also this bug where all your weapons disappear in the epilogue. That was a frustrating one, but nothing game-breaking.

At the end, Rockstar has crafted a magnificent game. Is it perfect? I don't think so. But damn did it deliver. This game, just like its predecessor, has solidified its name as one of the best in this generation. Will this game be remembered for its extremely clunky controls? No. Will it be remembered for its story, characters, world design and its beautiful slow pace that allows you to breath? Certainly. This game, although its problems, has made its way to my top 3 list.

What did you think about Red Dead Redemption II? Do you agree with my opinions? Or disagree? Express yourself down in the comments section and let's have a discussion.


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