Red Dead Redemption 2 Review – Making Outlaws Great Again

Developer Rockstar Games has finally released the next installment in the Red Dead series, Red Dead Redemption 2. Should you jump on your horse and ride in to help out or ride away as fast as you can?

Read our review to find out

Rockstar Games has been developing the Red Dead series since 2004, with releases coming few and far between. In this day and age of annual releases from some popular titles like the Call of Duty and Battlefield franchises, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. When Read Dead Redemption released in 2010, 6 years after the original Read Dead Revolver, it was not only met with critical acclaim, but also went on to sell more than 17 million copies through 2017. It was the most expensive game ever developed at the time, but its longevity is a testament to how great of a core game Rockstar Games created and shows that the development cost was money well spent.

Fast forward to 2018, and we now have the next installment in this series, Read Dead Redemption 2. It is the prequel to Red Dead Redemption and takes place about 10 years prior to it. It follows the story of outlaw Arthur Morgan and the Van der Linde gang, and even includes the main character from Red Dead Redemption John Marston. The story follows their exploits as they try to evade and escape the law and the Pinkertons through the mountains, woods, plains, and the bayous spread out across the living and breathing map that is the open world of Read Dead Redemption 2.

The storylines of the game are many, with the main storyline just being a fraction of the whole. Non playable characters are everywhere, and all of them can be interacted with. Arthur has the option of being a nice guy or an asshole to anyone and everyone he meets, and your overall Honor Meter will reflect your general attitude and can even net you some discounts if you are a nice enough guy. How some missions play out will be solely dependent on these choices, and Arthur can choose between defusing a situation with his words, his fists, or his guns, or he can just ride on by and ignore some of these situations altogether. Not much fun in staying out of it, though.

Suring some missions Arthur will have other choices that determine how a mission is accomplished. For example, Arthur and the gang are approaching a cabin in the woods with a sworn enemy of Dutch Van der Linde possibly inside. Arthur can opt to go in nice and quiet, maybe sneaking up on all of the bad guys outside without alerting whoever is in the cabin, or he can opt to go in guns blazing, blasting through the bad guys and giving the guy in the house a chance to maybe barricade himself in. The choice is entirely up to you, and each method has its pros and cons.

Arthur is more than just a static video game character that you’ll use to kill and maim folks. He’s a living, breathing human that needs constant care in order to survive and stay pleasantly approachable. One more than one occasion I have found myself being told by a town’s merchant that my odor was unpleasant and that the town’s hotel or saloon offered bathing services. two weeks can go by fairly quickly in the game, and the next thing you know folks that get too close to you are giving you an olfactory offended look and a wide berth. Your hair can get long and scraggly as well, but a shave and a haircut is a quick solution to that, and both come with many options for the out and about outlaw who wants to look dapper for the ladies. Arthur’s wardrobe options are pretty expansive and more options are unlocked as you progress through the main storyline. One quick tip if you ever lose your hat: Jump on your horse and open the weapons wheel, toggle to your inventory and your hat will be waiting for you.

Your relationships in the game with other NPCs is sometimes determined by how you interact with them. Folks can be very friendly if you are a nice guy, and just the opposite if you aren’t. The most important relationship, in our opinion, has to be your relationship with your horse, though. Your trusty steed is more than just a method of travel, as it too is a living and breathing animal, in constant need of care and nurturing. Early on we found a wild Arabian Stallion in the Northwestern wilderness, high in the snowy mountains. Once tamed and saddled, Sweet Caroline became our trusty steed and we have spent many hours riding her through the backroads and wilderness of the game. With her being white, it’s easy to see how dirty she can get, and not keeping her clean is detrimental to her overall health and abilities. A quick brush down and she’s snowy white again. Keeping her well fed is also a must, so be sure to keep apples, carrots, and hay handy for her. Shop owners and stables do sell revives for horses and we always keep stocked up on them because if your horse dies, it’s dead forever.

One of the biggest complaints we have for the game is the pace of play. Early on, there is next to nothing for fast travel and due to the large map, it takes a while to ride from point A to point B. While this does introduce you to many side stories and missions, it can also become repetitive and almost boring. While the environments are gorgeous to look at, and alive with a lot of wild life, sometimes you just want to get to your objective and start or complete a mission. Eventually you’ll be able to use stage coaches and trains for fast travel, and you’ll even get a fast travel map that’s stationary at camp, but that takes a while to get to and it would be nice to be able to travel a little faster between points A and B.

Red Dead Redemption 2 is first and foremost an RPG, and as with most RPGs, you have an upgrade system for almost everything, and this includes your camp, your horse, and your firearms. One of the things that surprised us was how our weapons would get dull looking and dirty over time. A quick trip to a gunsmith was needed so as to clean all of our weapons. While we were there, we went ahead and added some extra rifling to our barrels, better sights, and even a scope to our favorite hunting rifle. The also had some nice engravings for the stocks and grips, as well as engravings for the metal, but those were only cosmetic and those don’t improve the handing of the weapons. As for the weapons themselves, you’ll find your basic Old West type of firearms, plus a few newer semi-autos that are a nice addition and very handy.

As we mentioned earlier, the landscape is alive with many animals, and all of them can be hunted, skinned, and eaten. The hides for these critters can be sold or used around camp, and the meat can be donated to the camp or sold to a butcher. There are also legendary animals waiting for you hunt them down or fish them out of water , but be warned that these aren’t just ordinary critters. Fishing for one of these legendary animals was one of the toughest things we’ve had to do yet, and we spent 30 minutes reeling that sucker in.

Red Dead Redemption 2 not only has a large open world, it is also a gorgeous large open world. So much time was spent with an attention to detail by the developer, that everything looks incredible in 4K with the PS4 Pro. Character animations while running, tripping, falling, diving the hell out of the way, everything looks lifelike. Watching the facial animations of characters through a cut scene shows true emotion through the eyes and mouths and brows, with looks of anger, surprise, fear, disgust, and more easily discernible. It’s a pretty impressive feat in a video game with very few others reaching this level.

Developer Rockstar Games set a high bar for this series with their last release, and we have long wondered if they would be able to get anywhere near it with Red Dead Redemption 2. Well, pardner, they not only got near it, but raised it a few more notches as well.

Red Dead Redemption 2 is clearly a Game of the Year front runner.


Red Dead Redemption 2 review code provided by publisher. For more information on scoring, please read What our review scores really mean.