As Rockstar Studios’ epic Red Dead Redemption 2 approaches its fifth anniversary, it’s time to revisit its Wild Western world and examine its impact. Has the passage of time left the game a relic of a bygone era, or aged like a beauty?
In this article, we jump back into the world of Red Dead Redemption 2 and find out if its magic perseveres, half a decade on.
A Wealth of Activities to Explore
Loading up the game for the first time in years felt like running into an old friend. The first hour or so of the game introduces its characters, basic gameplay mechanics, and a small sliver of its world, but it’s the end of this short introductory chapter where things really get going.
Once the open world was available to explore, I felt just as much excitement as I did five years ago, and couldn’t wait to delve into the activities on offer. I soon ended up in a saloon in the small town of Valentine, playing poker. Unfortunately, the only variety of poker the denizens of the game’s world know is Texas Hold’em — so you can’t play Four Card Poker, Mississipi Stud, or any of the other card games I love playing on online casino sites. However, they can play blackjack — my experience with this and other online casino games served me well, and I managed to beat my opponents. You can also play dominoes and Five Finger Fillet (a game involving a knife that I’d never want to try in real life!) in many of the game’s locations. As I exited the saloon they gave me some dirty looks and I worried they might chase after me (something I would have had no experience dealing with playing real-world games!), so I hopped on my horse and headed out into the country.
The horse-riding mechanics can be slightly tricky to get your head around after five years, but it wasn’t too long before I got the hang of it. Hunting animals is fun and intuitive, although crafting items and navigating the various menus (horse menu, items, weapons, etc.) is a little fiddly compared with similar open-world games like Grand Theft Auto V and the previous Red Dead Redemption.
Breathtaking Graphics and World Design
Playing the PS4 version of the game, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the graphics still hold up pretty well. It’s still an extremely pretty game, despite the grittiness of its storyline. There’s a level of detail and craftsmanship to the world’s visual design that many games lack — light reflects off rushing streams as you fish, blades of grass sway beneath your feet, and the sun sets over imposing mountains and canyons.
This combination of visual technology and inventive design means that even riding around the forests, plains, and valleys with no particular goal is extremely relaxing. When I tried out the game on my PC (which has had a few upgrades in the last five years), it looked even better, rivaling the graphics of many more modern releases. Advanced anti-aliasing options, in particular, made Red Dead look notably better on PC.
A Gripping Storyline
A significant reason for Red Dead Redemption 2’s popularity has always been its narrative. As well as the game’s world being gorgeous and immersive, it’s filled with some of the most memorable and three-dimensional characters in the history of gaming, from the grizzled protagonist Arthur Morgan to the gang’s charismatic leader Dutch Van der Linde, as well as a diverse cast of supporting characters.
Replaying the game, I noticed how much more well-written and realistic most of the characters were than in similar games like Grand Theft Auto V.
True to the game’s title, the theme of redemption is a focal point of the storyline, and the game often makes you think about the morality of your decisions (although there perhaps could have been more opportunities to choose your own path, especially in the game’s first half).
While the game’s storyline has been compared by many critics to that of a novel or television drama, there’s still plenty of action and excitement in its missions — from regular shootouts to train and bank robberies. However, if you’re into a faster-paced, high-octane experience, you may find the game’s focus on small details and character development over action sequences a little frustrating.
The End of an Era?
Although Rockstar Studios has claimed that a new installment in the Red Dead series is planned, there are no concrete details yet. Considering news of the next Grand Theft Auto still comes slowly despite the last release being a decade ago, I think we could be in for a long wait.
Thankfully, Red Dead Redemption 2 still holds plenty of re
play value. Besides, the game’s previously-released instalment Red Dead Redemption follows almost directly on from its events, so you can consider it a sequel — and it still holds up pretty well too!