How do you follow up one of the most successful multimedia properties of all time? If you’re Rockstar Games, you bring your audience more of the same - but what if that won’t cut it? After all, the rise of HBO’s Westworld wasn’t the only thing weighing the devs behind the sequel to 2010’s Red Dead Redemption.
You see, in 2013 Rockstar released Grand Theft Auto V, a title that went on to become not just a popular game but the most profitable media product ever released. It has continually made the publisher a ton of money since its initial debut and it has done this through its robust “Social Club” online suite of games. GTA V isn’t just a big, single-player console game, it is also one of the most profitable and largest online games out there. This addition not only put a ton of pressure on Red Dead Redemption 2 but also made it a prime candidate for its own online service.
Imagine that: You have to not only build out an insanely awesome single-player experience but also a fully-functional, robust online service as well. And you have GTA V as your template. Has Rockstar Games succeeded in their quest? Only time will tell with the success of the online multiplayer, but the verdict is in as far as the rest of the title is concerned.
Easily the best single-player game of 2018 and possibly even this generation, Red Dead Redemption 2 is a lovingly crafted, amazingly detailed game that preferences simulation and immersion over run-and-gun combat. It will take you on journeys to far-flung bayous and distant trading posts, all while offering up a gorgeous landscape that puts what little nature that is seen in GTA V to shame. Brimming with secrets and stuff to do, Red Dead Redemption 2’s locales are exactly what you would expect from a setting in the Wild, Wild West and offer some of the best set pieces in gaming this generation.
Graphically stunning, the game is very much situated in the Rockstar Games library. Controls are adapted from previous titles and are reminiscent of Grand Theft Auto V’s for those gamers who have not experienced Red Dead Redemption. This means that they can be clunky and frustrating as well as very context dependent. That said, the game offers you a ton of customization options to choose how you want to play. Not only will this make life easier for people that aren’t that hardcore but also it will give you the right sense of balance to enjoy the game’s very dangerous world.
Combat is central to most everything you do. You won’t be able to peacefully make your way through West Elizabeth and you need to know how to fight when traversing Bayou Nwa. Appropriately, your character is the right balance of marksman and human so you will have as much death as you do success. Don’t worry - death isn’t very punishing, just slightly frustrating.
Where players who have not previously picked up an RDR title will be surprised is in how serious the story is and how earnest the game is in its presentation. While some of the social commentary present in GTA games is here, it is mostly in small amounts here and there. The game shines when it tells its story and players need not have experienced any of the other games to appreciate it. Plunked down into a living, breathing world filled with danger at every turn, Red Dead Redemption 2 is a must-play game and the sooner the better.