Having seen through the 60 hours or so of Red Dead Redemption 2’s story, I’m now a dozen more into the meat of it all; the idling around a lush open world, picking up threads of stories here and there, tracking the trails of legendary animals in the wilds or following the rumours of supernatural goings on and seeing whatever dark forest they might lead to. It’s the part of any Rockstar game I love the most, made all the more enjoyable when everyone’s wading through those uncharted areas together, where whispers of strange NPCs or derelict households are shared online like tales around a campfire. It’s where the freedom, brilliance and detail of these open world marvels really comes into focus.
It’s where the real fun is, basically, even in a game whose main through line is, at times, pointedly no fun at all. But that’s the funny thing about Red Dead Redemption 2, a game that’s aggressively sedate in its pacing, its earnestness and its eagerness to impress on you what a serious, dreary business this outlaw stuff can be; thematically it’s consistent as it tells Arthur’s tale, yet systemically it pulls its punches.
Not always, mind. There are moments in Red Dead Redemption 2 where everything comes together beautifully, brief glimpses of the story being backed up by the systems and pushing you towards a certain type of play. Up in the mountains at the very start when you’re struggling for survival the cores which dictate your health, stamina and dead eye take a hit, the money from your camp has run dry and there’s very little by way of sustenance for your or your comrades. It’s grim, but pointedly so.
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