Red Dead Redemption2: The Nitpick Review
That’s gonna hurt in the mornin’
There’s no getting around it. The mission design is generic, linear, and stale, copied wholesale from older games like GTA IV. They built this immensely beautiful world, and then demand that you play through missions by staring at the radar screen and doing exactly what they say, when they say it. Directions are often banal and overly dictatorial. If you don’t approach objectives from the right angle, with the right weapon, at the right time, MISSION FAIL. Playing through missions from a gameplay standpoint is a boring chore that I find little enjoyment in, and it should never have come to this.
Given the budget and time spent making this game, this was a giant missed opportunity to provide more freedom with the mission parameters than their past games. You’re playing as an outlaw flaunting the law; shouldn’t the gameplay support this idea of personal freedom, and not fly in the face of it?
Ignore the screen, focus your attention solely on the lower left. RDR1 got this part right… so how’d they get it so wrong for the sequel?
Maybe Arthur’s satellite-fed GPS radar is all the realism we can handle. So just sit there and do what Rockstar says, when they say it. Don’t have fun. Don’t try to break the rules. What, you think you’re an outlaw or something?
RDR1 used yellow Xs to follow if the hud was off.
The premise, the filters, and the resulting ‘photos’ are all GREAT. But.. you can only save 200 photos, and not locally. It’s like there’s some sort of console limitation Rockstar couldn’t be bothered to remove when they ported to PC. And you’re not told of these restrictions in advance. So to preserve the photos on my roll, I had to go into the game, pull up the photo feed, individually upload photos to the Rockstar Social Club, and then manually download each one via browser. At that point, I had the joy of going back into the game and deleting the photos… one at a time. After hitting the 200 limit, it took me 5-7 hrs over the course of a few days to do this for all 200 photos. Things improved drastically once I used nvidia’s screenshot button to save photos directly, which provides all the benefits of the camera and none of the mind boggling limitations.
Them’s some beeee-autiful filters
A game about outlaws should have a properly defined focus around being an outlaw. When you decide to be an outlaw, it should be a real power fantasy where you get to do things your way and tell everyone else to pound sand. But in reality, if you try to play as an outlaw, you’re gonna have a bad time. The wild west frowns on your desire to fire all of your guns at once and explode into space. Witnesses will take note of and report all of your petty misdemeanors no matter how far from civilization you think you are. This includes lightly bumping into someone, stumbling upon a crime scene, dealing with a gang that killed a sheriff, and even self defense. And what’s worse, there’s nothing empowering about having a bounty on your head. All missions and activities are locked off until you pay your bounty, so being a bad guy is more like constantly being put in time out. And if you go really wild, the bounty you accrue is often more than the cash you earn from your crime spree. See the problem here?
And your interactions with the law in this game are just bad. One of many frustrating encounters began after I accidentally bumped a stranger in the middle of nowhere; he started shooting at me. A witness popped up and took off to report me for bumping him, entirely ignoring the fact that he was the one firing shots. I chased down and dealt with them… just in time for another witness to show up. While dealing with them another witness showed up. I’m supposed to be on top of a mountain, there are no towns, no houses, nada. And by this point the law magically knows a murder has been committed and 5 officers have spawned onto the scene out of thin air. Luckily my pocket gps started flashing red to let me know they were coming. Man, this is some wild west simulator! 2 or 3 dead witnesses later, I found myself on a beach with bullet fire exploding all around me, low on ammo, with a $5,000 bounty on my head and the dead bodies of about 30-40 lawmen strewn about. As they finally break my defense, I collapse into the surf next to the shredded body of my horse. With my final breath, I can only laugh maniacally over how this came to pass – I bumped into someone in the woods. Road rage, writ large.
I could begrudgingly accept the above if the law systems were at least built upon a good foundation. Nope. Lawmen constantly spawn out of nowhere, in numbers no small western community would ever be able to support. I understand that letting you ‘depopulate’ an entire town and keeping it empty forever would interfere with the story, but sending 50 mustachioed terminators after you for petty crimes just seems preposterous.
And yet they found time and money to really perfect horse poop.
For a game that forces me to craft and cook things one at a time because ‘realism,’ this is highly disappointing. Don’t give me the ILLUSION that I can be an outlaw and commit crimes, only for you to spawn invisible Terminators with GPS tracking and magical guns. I just ultimately don’t understand how a game this large, this well-financed, whose very premise is being an outlaw… can have such horribly inferior systems for managing the law. Did they copy-paste this from GTA III’s source code?
If you’re not familiar with this term, it’s basically the push and pull between the narrative being presented through the story and the narrative being presented through the gameplay. As mentioned in the intro, I don’t want to spoil things, so I’m going to keep this as vague and non-specific as possible, but if you have played the game, you’ll probably know the missions I’m referring to. The biggest two issues here are the inclusion of a morality meter that has almost zero tangible impact on Arthur’s actions, and gameplay forcing you to murder people by the hundreds, but the story acting like it was but a handful.
The Morality Meter
You’re given the option of playing as a nice guy with high honor, or as a horrible dirty outlaw with no honor. You’re probably never going to play as a horrible dirty outlaw, because it’s nothing but pain, Highness.
Outside of a few outlying places, this has ZERO impact on Arthur’s actions throughout the campaign.
The lie detector determined this was a lie.
Like almost all of Rockstar’s games, the mission combat is often escalated beyond the scope of the narrative, presumably to ensure the game remains ‘challenging’ once you become a time-stopping cyborg. In the open world, this isn’t a huge problem; you are rarely forced into wholesale slaughter (I reload when witnesses railroad me into a recreation of the ending to Scarface), and exploration and finding things are the main objectives. But during the missions? By the end of the game you will have run up a death count that rivals the fatalities suffered by both sides at the Battle of Gettysburg – roughly 8,000. Do we really need to have multi-wave missions where you are slaughtering upwards of several hundred people at a time? The story features characters constantly asking what the worth of one human life versus another is, but – oh hey, it’s mission time! Quick, getcher guns and started mowing down everything in sight! It is ludicrous, given how often you are decimating their numbers, to think that a gang like the O’Driscolls could swell to the nearly 1000 members required to sate your blood thirst. At one point, having taken out upwards of 100 federal agents, the gang casually proclaims they better hurry up and move out within the next few days. You would think the US Army would have the place circled and bombarded with cannons by the next morning, but no, the story treats it like you overcame 4 or 5 agents, at most.
The Continuing Adventures of Murdy McMurderFace
This won’t end well.
I spent 5 minutes trying to figure out how to loot bodies after the first gunfight, only to discover that you CAN’T loot them, because you need to be “introduced” to the concept first. Same goes for taking animal pelts, and almost every other function in the game. Until Rockstar says something exists, the game completely disables it. At some point they need to make an open world game that’s just a LITTLE more open, especially when the controls are so similar across their games.
Couldn’t take a few hours to tidy this up, guys?
For a game with roughly 10k costume and outfit combinations, it’s rather sad that you can only save 4 custom outfits. To make matters worse, the system is horribly cumbersome. If you modify a previously saved outfit with a new hat and want to save over the old one, you can’t. You have to save it as a new outfit, and if all of your outfit slots are taken, you need to delete one first to make room. So you’re constantly deleting old outfits in order to save new ones, but since none of them are named, you’re constantly playing dress up just to figure out which one is which.
I really don’t understand who ok’d the crafting system. There are TWO main places to craft items – with a traveling fur trapper in the woods, or with your cook in your camp. But unlike almost every other game in existence, where you use items you own to craft with, this game does it backwards. In order to craft something at your camp, you have to DONATE a pristine pelt in advance – having it on your person is effectively the same as not having it. Once you donate, it will move the pelt in question to an invisible inventory, and then you can go craft. Where this moves beyond ‘odd’ and into the ‘highly annoying’ category is this means you need to track who-gets-what in advance. Let’s say you stumble upon a pristine cougar – which can be difficult to take down cleanly. What do you do with it? If you don’t have a spreadsheet to track your progress, you need to visit your camp cook, see what the crafting options are, and then visit the fur trapper (they’re nowhere near each other, by the way), and see what he needs. Then if you decide it should go to your camp crafter, you need to drag it back to him. This is way more time consuming than it has ANY right to be.
Updates based on X’d items to right.
This is my dedication.
I have issues, or a lot of time on my hands. Maybe both.
This is a two-fold issue. For starters, having a single key stroke bound to so many things is unavoidably going to cause issues. The ‘E’ key is used for vaulting obstacles, mounting/dismounting a horse, choking random strangers standing next to you, looting corpses, and a few other things based on context. I’ve jumped off 30′ tall bridges trying to loot a body. I’ve choked a woman I’m actively trying to help because she was too close to my horse (cue the teleporting police). I mean, seriously, who thought “mount horse” and “choke” should be mapped to the same key?
Yes, it’s Lloyd Bridges.
Key Mapping isn’t grayed out. It just doesn’t exist. C’mon, Rockstar. If you want it to be inactive on the main screen, GRAY it out, don’t REMOVE it.
I could do this all day.
Once you get past the 200 photo limit, it’s a wonder. The game can be paused at anytime, during combat, out of combat. In a limited fashion, you can pull it up during cutscenes. I’m afraid to tell you how many screenshots I’ve taken, but let’s just say… it’s a lot.
Mmmmm, variable lens focus.
I’m surprised this number isn’t bigger.
Without question the lighting in this game is the best I’ve seen. So many little tricks and interplays of multiple light sources, god rays, etc. I can sit at a campfire and watch the bouncing light for hours.
Sound in this game is up to par with the visuals. When you walk around in broken down old houses, the wood creaks audibly, your boots scuffle, and in the wintry mountains you can hear the snow crunching beneath your feet. It really helps sell the world, and if you close your eyes and just listen, it’s a wonderful treat. When you explore different environments, it is striking how vastly different the soundscapes are. When you’re near a beaver pond with geese in the background and woodpeckers in the trees, it sounds nothing like a forest filled with elk, rabbits, and whippoorwills. I’ve never heard a crow caw without a crow being visibly present. I’ve only heard roosters at sunrise when I’m near a farm, same with sheep, pigs, cows.
Much like a classic Bioware game, the writing for the characters and their performances are both top rate. Even the side characters that only show up for a mission here and there are excellent. The main cast from the first game return, which means continuity for characters like Dutch, John, and Bill.
Hundreds of little details sell the world. Snow gathers on your clothes; when you go near a fire, it melts, your clothes get wet, and then you slowly dry off.
Accidental or intentional, lamps, lanterns and random sticks of dynamite can become fire hazards. The system is not implemented as well as in Far Cry 2, as fires won’t propagate and spread across the heart lands, but during shootouts, knocked over lamps can cause minor camp fires and destroy tents, chests, and loot. Sadly, buildings can’t be burned to the ground. I tried. Multiple times.
Arthur is a dirty, dirty boy.
Tearin’ it up & burnin’ it down!
Zoom in on anything – it will be highly detailed.
Meet “Pierced” Brosnan
First person has a lot of custom animations.
You are a very fine person, Mr. Morgan, and I am very fond of you;
but you are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all.
Cities have their own flair.
These guys are not practicing appropriate social distancing.
There are jokes that the hunting in this game is better than actual hunting games. I don’t play hunting games, so I can’t compare, but if I got the hunting component from this as its own game, it would feel like a complete experience. In RDR1 you could run your horse around like a madman, spray every animal in the face with bullets, and call it a day. The process to be successful now is a lot different:
- Find high ground with good view of the landscape
- Pull out binoculars and search for animals
- Locate a pristine animal, study, and track (use bait/scent cover if needed)
- Approach from downwind silently w/ proper weapon/ammo
- Get a clean kill
- Plop corpse on horse, ride to butcher/camp/trapper, skin/sell/donate parts for $/crafting
… whatchu lookin’ at, pardner?
You can upgrade almost every weapon in a myriad of ways once you get cash. Better scopes, better sights, better rifling, better stocks. And beyond that, even just the visuals…. you can change metal types, engravings, wood types, varnishes, and even wrap them in leather or cloth to decrease fouling from gun powder residue.
$41 fer that gaudy mess?? Shuddup an’ take mah wooden nickels!
My favorite part is that the upgrades you can get are varied and numerous. For Arthur, better gear means better carrying capacity and visuals. For your camp, you can craft better tents, tables, stations, and decorations. You just need the right animals for crafting. It’s a sweet reward for hunting, and though your posse members won’t thank you, it’s nice to see the many visual upgrades you can craft.
Rarely have I played a game that swings so wildly from minute to minute. Every single mission is a deluge of pain as I’m treated like a 2 year old and forced to stare at the radar and do everything Rockstar commands when they command it. But the content and open world is absolutely amazing.
Sooo… do they offset each other? It’s such a hard thing to answer. Maybe? Sometimes? I’m conflicted. The 5-6 hours between missions where I’m just free roamin’ are wonderful. The linear missions are a total gameplay slog. But at the end of the day, what can I say? I haven’t even finished the campaign yet, and I’ve put in a LOT of hours. Not sure if that’s a badge of shame or one of honor, but I guess that’s the ultimate point here – much like the honor system, it doesn’t really matter. Good, Bad, or Ugly… I’m still here playing it to find out what happens next, enjoying both the beauty and atrocity of it all.
I’ve played a lot of hours.