Red Dead Redemption 2 is a prequel to the 2010 game, Red Dead Redemption, and relatively speaking, it improves on everything the original game had and makes it much better as well as adding its own unique charm and flavour to the formula.
For a very long time, the idea of a sequel to Red Dead Redemption 2 seemed to just be a dream for fans of the original game. New and more improved hardware was coming out, the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 had just hit the shelves and the desire for another entry in the series that brought westerns into the AAA spotlight was only exacerbated.
Much like Bully, rumours of a sequel being in the works began to arise – a supposed leak of the game’s entire map came out and then… a trailer. It was real. Red Dead Redemption 2 was a reality. To me, that moment of euphoria when I first saw the trailer was a moment that I’ll never forget.
After playing the game, I believe that although the nostalgia for the original game is still there, Red Dead 2 completely eclipses its predecessor in every way. The controls are fluid and not too disjointed; the soundtrack is phenomenal, the game is fun to explore through those small side quests you can encounter, the missions aren’t too hard and add to the story as well as refining character progression and personality outside of cutscenes. Red Dead 2 is the sequel I had always wanted.
Once again, mechanics such as horse-riding and the wanted system have returned to the franchise and have been drastically improved on, while retaining their core mechanics. Horse bonding has become critical to the effectiveness of one’s companion, and the more that you ride it and grow accustomed to it, the higher the level of bonding will be. Personally, I think expanding on the utility of horses in general was a great idea and allows for more personalisation – you’re still able to choose what breed of horse you’d like (and from a wider variety) and it’s your job as the player to ensure that they’re taken care of to maximise their usefulness in different situations that you can come across.
The wanted system has also been given a nice facelift. Like other Rockstar titles that have encorporated the system into their core gameplay (Bully, Grand Theft Auto), this western has made it much more significant to the story of the character. Depending on the actions that you make throughout your journey across the Wild West, it will increase or decrease the public’s perception of you and whether or not you’ll be regarded as a criminal upon entering settlements (which will give you an instant five star wanted trip back to the sheriff’s office), and will effect the type of ending you’ll get once you finish the main story. Don’t worry though – the outcome is mostly the same, except one can be regarded as the “bad ending” and the other can be seen as the “good ending”. Even after that, there’s an epilogue that ties both games together more than just their namesakes.
While on the topic of the story, it seems appropriate to bring up the story and characters present within the main plot of the game: Phenomenal. It’s not unheard of for Rockstar to create great narratives, but yet again they’ve outshined themselves and have created something special.
The connection between each of the characters has clearly had a lot of thought and effort into them, and it’s easy to empathise with people such as Arthur Morgan and Dutch van der Linde, whose conflicting ideals are brought to life by the amazing voice acting work of Roger Clark and Benjamin Byron Davis but also from the animators of the cutscenes.
It’s so easy to get caught in the moment and accidentally make one small mistake and fundamentally change the narrative if you haven’t been carefully with your actions. Not once have I ever felt this engrossed in a game’s story since BioShock. Even secondary characters such as Lenny, while not significantly driving the plot, still have something to offer to the table in terms of their characterisation and personality and how they affect those around them. Each character serves a purpose, whether big or small, and that is something that I’ve greatly enjoyed about the campaign of Red Dead Redemption 2.
Even if the story of a game is the greatest in the world, it can be watered down by the atmosphere of the game not feeling right or by not fitting at all – but this game has got the atmosphere of the beginning of the 1900s nailed down to a near tee. The areas and places that you can visit really show how time is passing in the game world, whether it’s through economic developments or by age itself. Compared to its predecessor, which focused on a more western-associated palette with beige and yellowish colours for the landscape and nature, Red Dead Redemption 2 uses more rich and vibrant colours; different shades of blue and green and even red.
Because of this, as well as the graphical upgrades to fit with modern expectations, the setting feels alive and diverse – and the game benefits heavily from it, with more industrial and developed areas also evoking this believability, their exterior and interior design as well as from the people that inhabit these areas show this off tremendously. The world design really hones in on the idea that you’re living at the dawn of the 20th century and makes it awe-inspiring as well as pleasing to look at, no matter how economically developed.
It’s one of the few games where I believe that the sequel is much better than the original game – everything that made Red Dead Redemption such a standout and incredible game was given a facelift, updated and improved for current games and Red Dead 2 greatly benefits from it. The voice-acting is phenomenal, the atmosphere is immersive and the gameplay is exciting and there is enough to do to keep you interested even after the main story is done. It convincingly brings to life the type of world that I fell in love with as a child, grew to love even more with Sergio Leone’s western epic and can now fully appreciate and love with a AAA game that has faithfully created an open-world Wild West game.
To me, Red Dead Redemption 2 is one of the best sequels ever made and one of Rockstar Games’ greatest accomplishments.