Video Game Review: Red Dead Redemption 2

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A gang of outlaws is fighting to survive in Red Dead Redemption 2 as civilization begins to emerge on the once lawless frontier.

Developed by Grand Theft Auto powerhouse, Rockstar Games, Red Dead Redemption 2 is the enveloping prequel to the first installment following the tribulous life of charismatic gunslinger, Arthur Morgan. Morals are questioned and bridges are burned throughout the game as Arthur’s displaced gang fights, robs and kills for economic security and the resulting freedom from their lifestyle.

Red Dead Redemption 2 is immersive. The player feels small in the sheer totality of a virtual world that seems to go on without you. Actions have consequences and trouble looms throughout. The game isn’t afraid to make the player suffer. Bandits send trees toppling in ambush as players traverse between towns, brown bears devour the unsuspecting hunter and a dynamic weather system rustles the homefront with explosive lightning and menacing winds. Red Dead Redemption 2 doesn’t heed to the player, and that’s part of what makes it so great.

One of the most important gameplay aspects in Red Dead Redemption 2 is the honor system. The player’s honor level increases or decreases throughout the game, corresponding to the player’s actions in the open world. For example: helping a hunter caught in a bear trap will raise your honor, while robbing that same hunter at gunpoint will decrease your honor. Honor level greatly impacts how the world interacts with the player. Achieving high honor results in lower prices in shops, law enforcement looking the other way when committing small crimes and citizens responding well to the player. A low honor level does the contrary, along with heavily armed bounty hunters tracking down the player with bloodhounds.

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The story, above all else, is what sets this game so far above its competitors - admittedly, well above the entire industry. Red Dead Redemption 2 boasts an approximately 2,000 page script. The plot is more intricate than any movie you’ve ever watched and any book you’ve likely read. Even when the game is beaten, it continues to tailor itself to the actions of the player in a world that persists despite one story coming to an end. This story is one that shatters the expectations of a video game, complete with complex nuances and persistent ethos that leaves the player questioning their motives and direction.

Red Dead Redemption 2 is an immense, meticulous work that demands recognition in the worlds of art and literature. Rockstar Games has challenged the societal view of video games as a lesser art form and blazed the trail for forthcoming developers with similar approaches. Red Dead Redemption 2 will live on, having set the bars for the industry in terms of narrative and scale far beyond what was thought possible.

“Outlaws forever!”