Red Dead Redemption 2 — Rockstar’s Magnum Opus
Unpopular opinion: GTA V wasn’t that great. It was fun, sure. The world was massive and realistic with plenty of crazy things to do, but the actual gameplay just wasn’t doing it for me. In my opinion, Rockstar has never been great at combat or character progression. Autoaim feels to easy, turning it off feels too hard, and I need more than a minute improvement to health, stamina, and weapons handling to get my dopamine levels going. Although people would posit that GTA V is a masterpiece, a ten out of ten, I have to disagree.
Red Dead Redemption 2 suffers from many of the same problems I found in GTA V. However, this is not the same game as GTA V. GTA may be the more successful franchise in terms of popularity, but in RDR Rockstar has created a series that brings out the full potential of the studio. Red Dead Redemption 2 is without a doubt Rockstar’s best game.
The heart of RDR2 is its graphics. Now graphics didn’t really mean too much to me, I figure if the game was good, nice graphics would just be a nice bonus. Graphics shouldn’t make or break a game for you. Well in a lot of ways, graphics made RDR2 for me. I have never been so impressed with the visuals of a game in my life. This is the most beautiful and realistic video game world I have ever experienced. Rockstar has filled the game with beautiful landscapes and vistas. Everywhere you look there is a majestic photo waiting to be taken. The fast traveling in this game is limited so you spend a lot of time on your horse. I think it’s important to note that after 40 hours of gameplay I still never got tired of putting the game in cinematic mode and just sitting back and enjoying the scenery.
Realism is the name of the game when it comes to Rockstar’s world design, but in RDR2 this realism extends to the gameplay, elevating the game to the level of a masterpiece. The moment to moment gameplay is honestly nothing special, and has never been Rockstar’s strong suit. However RDR2 takes these individual moments and strings them together to immerse the player and really make him FEEL like an outlaw living in the Wild West. During your time in the game you will likely experience this sequence of events: you travel deep into the woods to track an animal, you hunt it down and harvest its parts, you set up camp for the night, you cook your fresh kill, eating some and stowing some for later, you wake up the next morning and head into town or back to camp to turn in your new pelt. Individually these tasks are nothing exciting, but when strung together like this the game truly becomes a Wild West simulator. This game makes the player feel the distances Arthur is traveling as well as the passage of time, instilling a level of immersion not commonly found in other games.
The story and soundtrack of RDR2 are some of the best in gaming. I would go as far as saying that the story of RDR2 is the best I’ve experienced in a video game. My attitude for stories in games is the same for graphics: indifferent, as long as the gameplay is up to snuff. Borderlands 3 was one of my favorite games this generation and everyone agrees that its story is unremarkable to put it mildly. RDR2 presented me with a tale of loyalty and betrayal within a band of outlaws during the final days of the “wild” west and my attitude immediately shifted. I found that it was actually difficult for me to get into side activities like hunting or fishing or going out of my way for strangers (side quests) because I just wanted to keep the main story rolling. The soundtrack is perfect for this game and may open you up to a new genre of music. It was integral in imbuing the game with the melancholic atmosphere that permeates the world and the story.
Like I said, RDR2 suffers from a lot of the problems that come with being a Rockstar game. But it is able to accomplish so much more than Rockstar’s other entries. I don’t think there is another game that puts the player in the protagonist’s shoes as well as RDR2. This is ultimately why I decided to put this game above The Witcher 3 and grant it the title of masterpiece. This game is one of a kind and the best third party release of the generation.
FINAL SCORE: 10/10