Red Dead Redemption 2 – Xbox One Review
Where the leather is scarred, there is a great story to tell.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is the benchmark that every other open world must aspire to beat. I’m saying that right at the start of this review so you can spend more time playing it rather than reading this review. Seriously it’s that good. Rockstar have poured all their know how and knowledge into this game and surpassed every expectation I had for it.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is a prequel to the highly acclaimed Red Dead Redemption. Set in a time when the wild west was becoming less wild. You are Arthur Morgan a member of the Van Der Linde gang who by a cowboy code that has seen them garner a fearsome reputation. A botched robbery has them fleeing the town of Blackwater with the law and bounty hunters following close behind. But this isn’t a one trick pony. The sheer size of the world your character lives in and the breadth of the main storyline is breathtaking and that’s without going into the multitude of other things that Red Dead Redemption II has to offer.
If you’ve played Red Dead Redemption you’ll come across a few familiar faces and a lot of unfamiliar ones. Every character you meet has his or her own unique backstory that twists and turns and drags you into their slice of the wild west. I’ve yet to meet a character that I found interesting or just tracked on for the sake of it. Your relationship with Dutch is the driving force behind everything you do as you strive to provide for the gang and make sure the camp is well provided for with supplied and the all important money. The main story-line will always centre on Dutch and the other members of the gang but this is only a small slice of what else is out there.
Spanning a massive six chapters the main campaign is huge and I do mean huge. The map opens up as you play to reveal a gargantuan slice of the wild west which is yours to explore at your leisure with only a few areas and activities off limits due to story constraints. Progression through the story and optional side missions helps or hinders your relationships with the other members of your gang. Argue with someone and they will remember the next time you see them help them out and they will also remember. Every action has an opposite reaction and you can steer how the gang and the games NPC’s feel about you as you see fit. Wanna be feared? We’ll go ahead and be merciless but there will always be a price to pay. Whereas being a goodie, goodie can see the cost of items you buy cut in half.
Your camp which serves as your main hub is where you will do most of your interacting with your gang and it’s here where most of the games main story-line missions begin. You can upgrade your campsite as long as you have the available funds which will unlock better medicines, provisions and ammunition/arms. Upgrading the camps lodgings also has the benefit of unlocking fast travel which I’ll get to in a bit. You can also upgrade the horses stables, add a chicken coop, buy leather working tools and buy a boat so you can go fishing. Wanna partake in a game of domino’s, poker or maybe change the way you look with a shave or a haircut? Well it’s all here waiting for you in camp. It’s a real living breathing environment and it’s the best hub I’ve ever had the pleasure of spending my gaming time in.
Fast travel in Red Redemption 2 is a funny beast due to it’s one way only travel. It’s great to use to travel to a location outside of your camp but it’s a long trek back. Rockstar have made it so you can’t fast track back to your camp and it’s a strange decision. It seriously limits its usefulness and riding a horse back to camp time and time again becomes very tedious after you’ve done it time and time again. You just can’t have as much fun riding a horse as you can driving a car in GTA VI back to your home. You can’t throw a horse around a tight bend at breakneck speed and slam on the handbrake to slide your horse around a corner. It’s my biggest gripe with game because you’ll trek for miles and miles to get back to camp and no matter how gorgeous the scenery is it becomes a chore.
Your horse (which I named Zuul) is as important as any human character in the game. How you treat your horse will determine how quickly it’s stats will increase. My original steed died of horrific brain injuries after ploughing straight into a rather large tree. This was due to my overzealous tapping of the A button and my misunderstanding of the games autopilot mode which lets you put your controller down and allow your steed to follow a predetermined route.horse This is especially useful on long journeys. After my original Zuul passed away Zuul 2 was born and I loved that horse like none before it. Grooming, feeding, petting and removing the saddle all help you to bond with your horse and increase its stats which boasts its health, stamina, agility and whistle range. I found myself just spending time with my horse because it’s such a rewarding relationship which even as I’m typing this sounds very strange.
Your horse is also a living and breathing storage container which will carry a ridiculous amount of items you have begged, borrowed or more than likely taken off the bodies of the dead. If you find a weapon you like the look of you can instantly swap it while on foot and store it on your horse and pick your old gun back up. Ammunition is never in shirt supply and I have never found myself in the position where I’ve had to part with my hard earned money to stock up. The amount your horse can carry is frankly ridiculous but everything you can carry will and can be used for something. You can craft with most things you find or just sell them on or donate them to the camps coffers which will improve your rating among your peers.
Robbing the games populace and breaking into homes is always fun but comes with severe punishment if your seen. The games Wanted system is how you’re tracked if you commit a crime. You’ll have to out ride the local sheriff, Marshall or bounty hunters in order to escape before your Wanted level begins to fade. Escaping your pursuer’s isn’t the end of the story though because you’ll find yourself with a bounty placed on your head. It’s all too easy to forget about these bounties and as you rack up crime after crime the bounty increases making you a more attractive target. It’s a great mechanic when it works as it’s supposed to but it’s all too easy to trigger by accidentally knocking into someone or something like a horse drawn carriage which is a shame because when it works it adds yet another layer of challenge on top of an already challenging campaign.
I haven’t even gone into Black Jack,Five-Finger Roulette, Drinking, Arm Wrestling and Dominoes. Or how about companion activities, hunter challenges, sharpshooter challenges, survivalist and treasure hunter challenges. Bounty Hunting, herding cattle, going to the cinema, duelling, Train robbery and so much more.. There is a staggering amount going on here that if I was to try and fit it all into this review I’d still be writing it this time next week but I’d rather spend that time playing the game than writing about it . Rockstar have redefined open world gaming in blistering fashion. If you don’t own this game by now you owe it to yourself as a gamer to experience an absolute classic. My only concern now is how do Rockstar top this.
Red Dead Redemption II is available now for £59.99
Red Dead Redemption 2: Special Edition is available now for £74.99
Red Dead Redemption 2: Ultimate Edition is available now for £89.99
Developer: Rockstar Games
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Website: Red Dead Redemption 2
Red Dead Redemption 2: Ultimate Edition review code supplied by Rockstar Games.