Game Review - Red Dead Redemption 2

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Rockstar Games’ trailblazing western series makes its long-awaited return. Red Dead Redemption is commonly praised as a cowboys-and-Indians rendition of Grand Theft Auto, when it’s actually an increasingly somber, narrative-driven franchise in comparison. This iteration is definitely more cinematic than its predecessors, and slower paced, but there’s a method to the mosey. A leisurely pace forces you to, quite literally, stop to smell the flowers, ensuring that you are fully immersed in the digital heartland. As a result, you’re treated to a living, breathing world full of rich details and interesting characters. There are no race cars or helicopters or rocket launchers. There are, however, plenty of horses, stage coaches, six shooters, and train robberies. Red Dead Redemption 2 is a technological marvel and has set the new standard for open-world video games. It also functions as the best frontier-simulator on the market, which is something I’m not sure anyone expected.

I don’t like to write reviews for AAA games because a multi-million dollar marketing campaign will showcase their product better than the pithy 200 words I can offer from my couch. So, instead of gushing over the game, I’ve decided to detail my adventures from one full day in the world of Red Dead Redemption 2. Buckle in, buckaroos.

One Day (48 Minutes) in Red Dead Redemption 2

7AM — The sun rises. As the vast plains are slowly unveiled around me, I decide to stow my lantern. It looks like morning and my pocket watch seems to agree. My horse trots by my side as we lumber towards the horizon. Dust swirls beneath our feet. In my living room, one of my cats starts chewing on a plastic bag and, two feet to my right, an infant begins to cry. The scene is set.

7:15 AM — I spot a nearby river on my map and decide to do some fishing. My horse neighs in agreement.

9AM — Finding the trip to be a little long, I divert from the trail in hopes of discovering a shortcut through a thicket. My horse smashes violently into a tree and lets out a whimper before collapsing. I’m ragdolled and thrown at least six feet from the incident. After regaining my senses, I feed us both a bottle of medicine. I also opt for some bourbon...

9:10AM — ...and cocaine gum.

10AM — We’ve arrived and the buzz is wearing off. I bait my lure with a small bit of cheese and cast my line into the water. We’ve got a nibble! The 9oz fish doesn’t put up much of a fight as I reel it in and stuff it into my satchel.

11AM — Much like real life, fishing starts to feel like a chore. I saddle up  and follow the bank towards adventure.

11:10 PM — More cocaine gum.

12PM — An old coot is panning for gold up the river. I sneak up behind his tent to better hear his murmuring. Apparently he’s found something valuable. Feeling pressured to make things interesting, I run back to my horse to retrieve a bandanna and my shotgun. The coot is quick to give up his treasure to a masked assailant.

1PM — Gold nugget in hand, I scope out a shop where I can cash in on my newfound wealth. We ride. One more handful of cocaine gum for everyone.

3PM — Civilization at last. The gold nugget turns out to be more valuable than I thought, so I treat myself to a new hat. Feeling refined, I head for the local saloon. It’s the kind of place known for reputable behavior.

4PM — Two cigarettes and a bottle of gin to take the edge off. I’m fully stimulated.

4:10 PM — I’ve been suckered into a poker game. My disposable income has left me with no choice but to risk it all. With visions of buying even more hats, or, better yet, more cocaine gum, I start winning 85 cent hands. It may not seem like much, but that’s not a bad haul in 1899.

7PM — As I try to leave the table, a man blocks my path. He isn’t inclined to move, so I persuade him with a right hook to the jaw. Then another right hook. My hand is covered in blood splatter and he’s not looking great, either.

8:30 PM — A brawl breaks out. At some point, I’m thrown to the ground and catch a decent beating. Nothing cocaine gum and a cup of coffee can’t fix. My brand new hat was lost in the mayhem and I forget all about it as I rush towards the back exit.

9PM — A final dose of cocaine gum.

9:30 PM — I build a campfire outside of the city limits and cook up the trout from earlier to restore my senses. There’s now a ten dollar bounty on my head for starting all the rootin’ and tootin’ back in town. Worst of all, I’m out of my precious gum. After stumbling across a patch of wild Indian tobacco, I harvest what I can and chew it up. That’ll do for now.

11PM — I’m sprinting down a deserted road, firing my pistol into the moonlight. Various wildlife scatters in the distance. It begins to rain. I lose my footing on an embankment and tumble down a rocky hill. This one hurt. My clothes are covered in mud and I’m not feeling too hot. I see a lantern in the distance.

12AM — Unfortunately, the distant lantern belonged to a local lawman who recognizes me from town. After words fail to diffuse the situation, we exchange bullets. He slumps from his horse and I quickly reap his worldly possessions. I’m rewarded with an apple, $2.50, and my temporary freedom.

2AM — I call for my horse and offer it the apple and a few encouraging pats. While we’re bonding, another stranger happens to pass by the scene. He’s quick to notice the corpse and label me a murderer.  Before he can ride off and rat me out, I lasso him from his stagecoach and threaten his life. I hear footsteps.

3AM — I’m trapped in a comedy of errors. I can’t stop capturing witnesses because I can’t stop being witnessed. The middle of the road was a bad place to commit a crime. On the plus side, I’ve looted a small fortune for my effort. My karmic compass, however, has taken quite a dive.

5AM — Without much time left, I head towards my main hideout. A wayward deer catches my eye in the wrong place at the wrong time. It, much like the five witnesses I met down the road, doesn’t stand a chance. Dropped in a single shot, I graphically flay the body in eerie silence. The skin is stowed for crafting and my horse helps haul the carcass back my to fellow outlaws at camp. I expect high praise when I return.

6:50 AM — Home sweet home. Our cook goes to work butchering the deer meat for the day’s stew and I receive a warm greeting from the rest of the gang. I may be missing my hat and horribly dependent on cocaine gum, but I’m also beaming with accomplishment. My pockets are full and, soon, my belly will be, too. The Wild West sure makes for a strange and savage life.

7AM — Sleep.

Now, it’s probably time to see what that baby was crying about.

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