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Red Dead Redemption 2

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Red Dead Redemption 2
Red Dead Redemption II.jpg
Developer(s)Rockstar Studios
Publisher(s)Rockstar Games
Producer(s)Rob Nelson
Designer(s)Imran Sarwar
Programmer(s)Phil Hooker
Artist(s)Aaron Garbut
Writer(s)
Composer(s)Woody Jackson
SeriesRed Dead
EngineRAGE
Platform(s)
Release
  • PlayStation 4, Xbox One
  • October 26, 2018
  • Microsoft Windows
  • November 5, 2019
Genre(s)Action-adventure
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer

Red Dead Redemption 2[a] is an action-adventure game developed and published by Rockstar Games. It was released for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in October 2018, and for Microsoft Windows in November 2019. The game is the third entry in the Red Dead series and is a prequel to the 2010 game Red Dead Redemption. The story is set in 1899 in a fictionalized representation of the Western, Midwestern and Southern United States and follows outlaw Arthur Morgan, a member of the Van der Linde gang. Arthur must deal with the decline of the Wild West whilst attempting to survive against government forces, rival gangs, and other adversaries. The story also follows fellow gang member John Marston, the protagonist of Red Dead Redemption.

The game is presented through both first and third-person perspectives, and the player may freely roam in its interactive open world. Gameplay elements include shootouts, heists, hunting, horseback riding, interacting with non-player characters (NPCs), and maintaining the character's honor rating through moral choices and deeds. A bounty system similar to the "wanted" system from the Grand Theft Auto franchise governs the response of law enforcement and bounty hunters to crimes committed by the player. Red Dead Online, the online multiplayer mode of the game, was released as a beta version in November 2018 before a full release in May 2019.

The game's development began soon after Red Dead Redemption's release and was shared between all of Rockstar's studios worldwide. The development team drew influence from real locations as opposed to film or art, focused on creating an accurate reflection of the time with the game's characters and world. The game was Rockstar's first built specifically for the consoles, having tested their technical capabilities while porting Grand Theft Auto V to the platforms. The game's soundtrack features an original score composed by Woody Jackson and several vocal tracks produced by Daniel Lanois.

Broadly anticipated and marketed before release, Red Dead Redemption 2 broke several records and had the second-biggest launch in the history of entertainment, generating $725 million in sales from its opening weekend and exceeding the lifetime sales of Red Dead Redemption in two weeks. It received widespread critical acclaim, with praise directed at its story, characters, open world, graphics, and considerable level of detail. Considered as an example of video games as an art form, it won year-end accolades including Game of the Year awards from several gaming publications. It is among the best-selling video games of all time with over 26.5 million copies shipped.

Gameplay[edit]

The player may choose to respond positively or negatively to non-playable characters throughout the game world, which affects their reputation within the game.

Red Dead Redemption 2 is a Western-themed action-adventure game. Played from a first or third-person perspective, the game is set in an open-world environment featuring a fictionalized version of the Western, Midwestern and Southern United States.[1] The game features both single-player and online multiplayer components, the latter released under Red Dead Online. For most of the game, the player controls outlaw Arthur Morgan, a member of the Van der Linde gang, as he completes numerous missions—linear scenarios with set objectives—to progress through the story; from the game's epilogue, the player controls John Marston. Outside of missions, the player may freely roam its interactive world. The player may engage in combat with enemies using melee attacks, firearms, throwables, or explosives. Combat has been refined from the game's predecessor, and notable new mechanics consist of dual-wielding and the ability to use a bow.[2][3] Unlike the previous game, the player is granted the ability to swim.[4]

Red Dead Redemption 2's unexploited land makes up the largest portion of the game world and features diverse landscapes with occasional travelers, bandits, and wildlife. There are urban settlements in the game, ranging from farmhouses to towns and cities.[5][6] Horses are the main forms of transportation, of which there are various breeds, each with different attributes. The player must either train or tame a wild horse to use it, except for stolen horses; however, they must saddle a horse to acquire ownership over it. Increased use of a horse will begin a bonding process, which can be increased by cleaning and feeding it, and the player will acquire advantages as they ride their horse.[7] Stagecoaches and trains can also be used to travel. The player can hijack an incoming train or stagecoach by threatening the driver or passengers and then rob its contents or the passengers.[8][9]

The player may also witness or take part in random events encountered from exploring the game world. These include ambushes, crimes committed by other people, pleas for assistance, ride-by shootings, public executions, and animal attacks. For example, as the player explores the Wild West, they can find specific people in distress. If the player decides to help them, they will be thankful and may reward the player if they cross them again.[7][10] The player may also take part in side-activities, which include small tasks with companions and strangers, dueling, bounty hunting, searching for treasure or other collectibles around the map such as rock carvings, and playing poker, blackjack, dominoes, and Five Finger Filet.[11] Hunting animals also plays a major role in the game, providing food, income, and materials for crafting items. When hunting, the player needs to take into account several factors, including the choice of weapon and shot placement, which affect the quality of the meat and pelt and subsequently the price traders are willing to pay. The player can either skin the animal immediately or carry the carcass, which will rot over time and decrease its value and attract predators.[12][13]

The game focuses heavily on player choice for the story and missions. Certain moments in the story will give the player the option to accept or decline additional missions and lightly shape the plot around their choices.[14] The player can communicate with any non-player character (NPC) in dynamic ways new to the series. The player can choose different dialogue trees with NPCs, such as having a friendly chat or insulting them. If the player chooses to kill an NPC, they can loot their corpse.[15] Red Dead Redemption 2 brings back the Honor system from its predecessor by measuring how the player's actions are perceived in terms of morality. Morally positive choices and deeds like helping strangers, abiding the law, and sparing opponents in a duel will add up to the player's Honor. However, negative deeds such as theft and harming innocents will subtract from the player's Honor. The story is influenced by Honor, as the dialogue and outcomes for the player often differ based on their Honor level. Hitting milestones for the player's Honor level will grant unique benefits, such as rewarding the player with special outfits and large discounts in stores. A low Honor level is also beneficial, as the player will receive a greater number of items from looted corpses.[16]

Red Dead Redemption 2 sees the return of Dead Eye, a targeting system that allows the player to slow down time and mark targets. Once the targeting sequence ends, the player fires to every marked location in a very short space of time.

Maintaining Arthur and John is important, as they can undergo conditions that affect their health and stamina attributes. In addition to a health and stamina bar, the player also has cores, which affect the rate at which their health and stamina regenerate. For example, wearing warmer clothes will mean they avoid freezing in a cold environment, but wearing them in a hot environment will result in perspiration. Freezing or overheating will rapidly drain cores. The player can also gain or lose weight depending on how much he eats; an underweight character will have less health but at an increase of stamina, while an overweight character will be able to better absorb damage but will have less stamina. The player can eat and sleep to replenish their cores. The player can bathe to remain clean, and can visit a barber to change hairstyles; hair also grows realistically over time. The game features weapon degradation, with weapons requiring cleaning to maintain their performance. When the player uses a certain type of gun for a long period of time, they become more experienced with it, which improves weapon handling, reduces recoil, and increases the rate of reloading.[17][18][19]

Gunfights are an essential mechanic in the game. The player can take cover, free aim, and target a person or animal. Individual body parts can also be targeted to take targets down without killing them. When the player shoots an enemy, the game's AI reactions and movements depend on where they were hit. Weapons consist of pistols, revolvers, repeaters, rifles, shotguns, bows, explosives, lassos, mounted Gatling guns, and melee weapons such as knives and tomahawks. Red Dead Redemption 2 brings back the trademark mechanic in the franchise: Dead Eye, a targeting system that allows the player to slow down time and mark targets. Once the targeting sequence ends, the player fires to every marked location in a very short space of time. The Dead Eye system upgrades as the player progresses in the game and grants the player more abilities, such as being able to spot the fatal points of their enemies.[20][21]

The bounty system also returns from Red Dead Redemption, a crime-governing mechanic inspired by Grand Theft Auto's wanted system. When a player commits a crime, witnesses run to the nearest police station to get the law to intervene, and the player needs to stop the witness to avoid repercussions. Once the law is alerted, law enforcers appear and will start investigating. When the player is caught, the Wanted meter appears with a bounty sent on their head. The bounty grows higher as the player commits more crimes, and more lawmen will be sent to hunt them. If the player has committed serious crimes and then manages to escape the law, bounty hunters will be hired to track them down in the wilderness. After committing enough crime, the U.S Marshals will be sent to the player's location. To escape law enforcement, the player must evade a red circular zone in the map and the wanted meter will slowly deplete. They can alternatively hide from the pursuers or kill them.[22] Whether the player escapes or gets captured, the bounty will remain on their head, lawmen and civilians will be more vigilant, and regions where the crimes have been committed will be on lockdown. When caught by lawmen, the player has the opportunity to surrender if they are unarmed and on foot, though bounty hunters will not accept surrender if the player is known to slip out of apprehension attempts. The player can only remove their bounty by paying it off at a post office.[23]

Synopsis[edit]

Setting[edit]

The world of Red Dead Redemption 2 spans five fictitious U.S. states. The states of New Hanover, Ambarino and Lemoyne are new to the series, and are located to the immediate north and east of Red Dead Redemption's world, whilst the states of New Austin and West Elizabeth return from Red Dead Redemption.[b] The states are centered on the San Luis and Lannahechee Rivers and the shores of Flat Iron Lake. Ambarino is a mountain wilderness, with the largest settlement being a Native American reservation; New Hanover is a wide valley that has become a hub of industry; and Lemoyne is composed of bayous and plantations resembling Louisiana, and is home to the Southern town of Rhodes and the former French colony of Saint Denis, analogous to New Orleans.[24] West Elizabeth consists of wide plains, dense forests, and the modern town of Blackwater.[6] This region has been expanded from the original Red Dead Redemption to include a vast northern portion containing the small town of Strawberry.[25] New Austin is an arid desert region centered on the frontier towns of Armadillo and Tumbleweed, also featured in the original game. Parts of New Austin and West Elizabeth have been redesigned to reflect the earlier time; for example, Blackwater is still under development, while Armadillo has become a ghost town because of a cholera outbreak.[26]

Characters[edit]

The player takes on the role of Arthur Morgan (Roger Clark), a lieutenant and veteran member of the Van der Linde gang. The gang is led by Dutch van der Linde (Benjamin Byron Davis), a charismatic man who extols personal freedom and decries the encroaching march of modern civilization. The gang also includes his best friend and co-leader Hosea Matthews (Curzon Dobell), Red Dead Redemption protagonist John Marston (Rob Wiethoff), gang members Bill Williamson (Steve J. Palmer), Javier Escuella (Gabriel Sloyer) and Micah Bell (Peter Blomquist), the elderly Uncle (James McBride and John O'Creagh), African-American member Lenny Summers (Harron Atkins), Native American hunter Charles Smith (Noshir Dalal), former O'Driscoll gang member Kieran Duffy (Pico Alexander), housewife-turned-bounty hunter Sadie Adler (Alex McKenna), Irishman Sean MacGuire (Michael Mellamphy), cook Simon Pearson (Jim Santangeli), loan shark Leopold Strauss (Howard Pinhasik), Dutch's lover Molly O'Shea (Penny O'Brien), taskmaster Susan Grimshaw (Kaili Vernoff), Tilly Jackson (Meeya Davis), Karen Jones (Jo Armeniox), Mary-Beth Gaskill (Samantha Strelitz), reverend Orville Swanson (Sean Haberle), and Abigail Roberts (Cali Elizabeth Moore) and Jack Marston (Marissa Buccianti and Ted Sutherland), who are John's partner and son respectively. The gang's allies include conman Josiah Trelawny (Stephen Gevedon), and Arthur's former partner, Mary Linton (Julie Jesneck).[27]

The gang's criminal acts bring them into conflict with various opposing forces including the wealthy oil magnate Leviticus Cornwall (John Rue), whose assets become a gang target. In response, he recruits a team of agents from the Pinkerton Detective Agency, led by Agent Andrew Milton (John Hickok) and his subordinate Agent Edgar Ross (Jim Bentley), to hunt down the gang. The gang also encounters the Saint Denis-based Italian crime lord Angelo Bronte (Jim Pirri), the controversial Guarman ruler Alberto Fussar (Alfredo Narciso), and Dutch's nemesis Colm O'Driscoll (Andrew Berg), leader of the rival O'Driscoll gang. Along their travels, the gang becomes entangled in the warring Gray and Braithwaite family, primarily through their affiliations with Leigh Gray (Tim McGeever), the sheriff of Rhodes, and Catherine Braithwaite (Ellen Harvey), the matriarch of the Braithwaite family; other members of the families include lovers Beau Gray (Bjorn Thorstad) and Penelope Braithwaite (Alison Barton). Additional enemies in the game include the Del Lobo, Laramie, Skinner, Murfree, and Lemoyne Raiders gangs. Some members of the gang also become allied with Guarman rebellion leader Hercule Fontaine (Guyviaud Joseph), as well as U.S. Infantry Captain Lyndon Monroe (Jake Silbermann), who is helping Rains Fall (Graham Greene) and his son Eagle Flies (Jeremiah Bitsui), both members of the Native American Wapiti tribe whose land is being targeted by Colonel Henry Favours (Malachy Cleary).[27]

Plot[edit]

After a botched ferry heist in 1899, the Van der Linde gang is forced to leave their substantial money stash and flee Blackwater. The gang realizes that the progress of civilization is ending the time of outlaws, and so decide to gain enough money to escape the law and retire. They rob a train owned by Leviticus Cornwall, who responds by hiring Andrew Milton and the Pinkertons to apprehend them. Arthur and the gang perform numerous jobs and heists in Valentine, and Dutch continually promises that the next heist will be their last. Arthur becomes bothered by recent recruit Micah's recklessness and willingness to resort to violence.

Cornwall retaliates for the train heist, which culminates in a deadly shootout in Valentine and the gang relocates to Lemoyne. They meet the Grays and Braithwaites, two warring families who are rumored to be hoarding Civil War gold. Dutch tries to pit the families against each other but underestimates them. The gang is ambushed by the Grays and Sean is killed; meanwhile, the Braithwaites kidnap John's son Jack. The gang retaliates and destroy both families. They learn that Jack is with Saint Denis crime lord Angelo Bronte, who returns Jack and embraces the gang. He offers them leads on work, but double-crosses them. Dutch kidnaps and feeds him to an alligator as revenge.

The gang remains in Saint Denis, where Hosea and Dutch lead them in a bank robbery. The Pinkertons intervene, arresting John and killing Hosea and Lenny. Dutch, Arthur, Bill, Javier, and Micah escape the city via a ship heading to Cuba. A torrential storm sinks the ship, and the men wash ashore on the island of Guarma, where they become embroiled in a war between the tyrannical sugar plantation owners and the enslaved local population. The group successfully aids the revolution against the plantation owners and secure transport back to the United States.

The group reunites with the rest of the gang, and Dutch obsesses over one last heist. Although he insists that they must wait to liberate John, Arthur and Sadie disobey him and rescue John. Dutch doubts Arthur's loyalty and replaces his role as the lieutenant with Micah. Arthur becomes concerned that Dutch is no longer the man he knew, as he is becoming insular, abandons their ideals, and murders Cornwall. Arthur is diagnosed with tuberculosis, which he caught while beating a sick farmer who owed money to the gang. Faced with his mortality, Arthur reflects on his actions and how to protect the gang following his death. He persuades John to run away with Abigail and Jack and openly defies Dutch by aiding the local Native American people.

When the Pinkertons assault the camp, Dutch becomes paranoid that a gang member is working as an informant. Several gang members become disenchanted and leave, while Dutch and Micah arrange one final heist of an Army payroll train. Arthur's faith in Dutch is shattered when he abandons Arthur to the Army, leaves John for dead, and refuses to rescue Abigail when she is taken. Arthur and Sadie again disobey Dutch to rescue Abigail from Milton, who names Micah as the Pinkertons' informer before Abigail kills him.

Arthur returns to the camp and openly accuses Micah of betrayal. Dutch, Bill, Javier, and Micah turn on Arthur and the newly returned John, but the standoff is broken when the Pinkertons return and all six flee into the wilderness. Arthur can choose to aid John's escape by delaying the Pinkertons or return to the camp to recover the gang's money. Micah ambushes Arthur, and Dutch intervenes in their fight. Arthur convinces Dutch to abandon Micah and leave. If the player has high honor, Arthur succumbs to his injuries and disease and dies peacefully while watching the sunrise; if the player has low honor, Micah executes him.

Eight years later, in 1907, John and his family are trying to lead an honest life. They find work at a ranch where John fights back against outlaws threatening his employer. Abigail believes John is unwilling to give up his old ways and leaves with Jack. This encourages John to take out a bank loan and purchase a ranch. He works with Uncle, Sadie, and Charles to build a new home and John proposes to Abigail on her return. Against Abigail's wishes, John, Sadie, and Charles pursue Micah. They find that Dutch has also recently arrived at Micah's camp, but Dutch shoots Micah and leaves in silence, allowing John to finish him off. Inside their cabin, John finds the Blackwater stash, with which he pays his debt. John marries Abigail and they start their new life on their ranch alongside Jack and Uncle, as Sadie and Charles leave for other pursuits.

The final scene shows the former Pinkerton agent Edgar Ross—now the director of the Bureau of Investigation—observing John's ranch, foreshadowing the events of Red Dead Redemption.

Development[edit]

A billboard advertising the release of the game in Edinburgh

Preliminary work on Red Dead Redemption 2 began during the development of the original game, Red Dead Redemption (2010),[28] though the main production did not take place until after the game's release in May 2010.[29] Rockstar San Diego, the studio behind the original game, had a rough outline of the game by mid-2011, and by late 2012, rough scripts of the game had been completed.[30] When Rockstar Games realized that a group of distinct studios would not necessarily work, it co-opted all of its studios into one large team to facilitate development between 1,600 people; a total of around 2,000 people worked on the game.[29]

While the main theme of the original game was to protect family at all costs, Red Dead Redemption 2 tells the story of the breakdown of a family in the form of the Van der Linde gang. The team was interested in exploring the story of why the gang fell apart, as frequently mentioned in the first game.[29] Rockstar's Vice President of Creativity Dan Houser was inspired by film and literature when writing the game, though he avoided contemporary works to avoid being accused of stealing ideas.[30] The team was not specifically inspired by film or art but rather real locations.[31] The team was focused on creating an accurate reflection of the time, with people and locations. The citizens in the game feature a contrast between rich and poor, while the locales contrast between the civilization and the wilderness.[32]

Red Dead Redemption 2's recording sessions began in 2013.[30] Rockstar wanted a diverse cast of characters within the Van der Linde gang. The writers put particular focus on the individual stories behind each character, exploring their life before the gang and their reasons for remaining with the group.[29] Several characters were cut from the game during development as their personalities failed to add to the narrative.[29] The actors sometimes improvised some additional lines, but mostly remained faithful to the script.[33] The team decided that the player would control one character in Red Dead Redemption 2, as opposed to the three protagonists in Rockstar's previous title Grand Theft Auto V (2013), in order to follow the character more personally and understand how the events impact him.[29] They felt that a single character felt more appropriate for the narrative structure of a Western.[32]

Red Dead Redemption 2 is the first game from Rockstar built specifically for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.[34] Rockstar had tested the technical capabilities of the consoles when porting Grand Theft Auto V to the consoles. Once the team had defined what limitations were sustainable, they found the areas that required the most focus.[35] One of Rockstar's goals with Red Dead Redemption 2's gameplay was to make the player feel as though they are living in a world, instead of playing missions and watching cutscenes. A method used to achieve this was through the gang's moving camp, where the player can interact with other characters. The team ensured that the characters maintained the same personality and mood from cutscene to gameplay to make the world feel more alive and realistic.[29]

Woody Jackson, who worked with Rockstar on the original game and Grand Theft Auto V, returned to compose Red Dead Redemption 2's original score.[30] Red Dead Redemption 2 has three different types of score: narrative, which is heard during the missions in the game's story; interactive, when the player is roaming the open world or in multiplayer; and environmental, which includes campfire singing songs or a character playing music in the world. The game's music regularly reacts according to the player's decisions in the world.[36] Jackson purchased several instruments from the Wrecking Crew that were featured on classic cowboy films.[36] In total, over 110 musicians worked on the music for the game.[37] Daniel Lanois produced the original vocal tracks for the game, collaborating with artists such as D'Angelo, Willie Nelson, Rhiannon Giddens, and Josh Homme.[36] Director of music and audio Ivan Pavlovich also engaged saxophone player Colin Stetson, experimental band Senyawa, and musician Arca to work on the score.[37]

Rockstar Games first teased Red Dead Redemption 2 on October 16–17, 2016,[38][39] before the official announcement on October 18, 2016.[40] Originally due for release in the second half of 2017, the game was delayed twice: first to Q1/Q2 2018,[41] and later to October 26, 2018.[42] According to Rockstar, the game required extra development time for "polish".[42] To spur pre-order sales, Rockstar collaborated with several retail outlets to provide special edition versions of the game.[43] A companion app, released alongside the game for Android and iOS devices, acts as a second screen wherein the player can view in-game items such as catalogs, journals, and a real-time mini-map.[44] The game was released for Microsoft Windows on November 5, 2019,[c] and will also be a launch title for Google Stadia when the service launches on November 19, 2019.[46][47] The Windows version has visual and technical improvements over the console versions and features new bounties, weapons and hideouts.[45]

Reception[edit]

Critical response[edit]

Reception
Aggregate score
AggregatorScore
Metacritic(PC) 91/100[48]
(PS4) 97/100[49]
(XONE) 97/100[50]
Review scores
PublicationScore
Destructoid9.5/10[51][52]
Edge10/10[53]
EGM10/10[7]
Game Informer10/10[54]
GameSpot9/10[55]
GamesRadar+5/5 stars[10]
Giant Bomb5/5 stars[56]
IGN10/10[57]
USgamer4.5/5 stars[22]

Red Dead Redemption 2 received "universal acclaim" from critics, according to review aggregator Metacritic.[49][50] The game is the highest-rated PlayStation 4 and Xbox One game on Metacritic alongside Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto V, and is the fifth-highest rated game overall, tied with several others.[d] Reviewers praised the characters, narrative, gameplay and combat, open world design, and music. Matt Bertz of Game Informer described the game as "the biggest and most cohesive adventure Rockstar Games has ever created",[54] and GamesRadar's David Meikleham felt that it "represents the current pinnacle of video game design".[10] Keza MacDonald of The Guardian declared it "a landmark game" and "a new high water-mark for lifelike video game worlds";[59] IGN's Luke Reilly named it "one of the greatest games of the modern age".[57] Peter Suderman, writing for The New York Times, considered Red Dead Redemption 2 as an example of video games as a work of art, comparing the game's abilities to "[tell] individual stories against the backdrop of national and cultural identity, deconstructing their genres while advancing the form" to the current state of film and television with similar works like The Godfather and The Sopranos.[60]

Meikleham of GamesRadar wrote that, "story-wise, this is perhaps the boldest triple-A game ever made", praising the unpredictability of the narrative and comparing the game's "high caliber" epilogue to the narrative of The Last of Us (2013).[10] The Guardian's MacDonald also praised the twists within the story, applauding the writers' ability to feed the smaller stories into the overall narrative.[59] Nick Plessas of Electronic Gaming Monthly noted that the game's best stories "are to be found in the margins", discovered and written by the player.[7] Game Informer's Bertz felt that the game's narrative rarely suffered from repetition, an impressive feat considering the game's scope.[54] Conversely, GameSpot's Kallie Plagge was frustrated by the predictability later in the narrative, though admitted that such repetition was a "crucial" part of Arthur's story.[55] Alex Navarro of Giant Bomb felt that the narrative suffered in its cliché Native American portrayal and "blandly obnoxious" side missions.[56] Some reviewers also commented on the game's slow opening hours.[22][61]

Electronic Gaming Monthly's Plessas found the journey of redemption for Arthur Morgan to be "far more redeeming" than John Marston's in Red Dead Redemption, noting that his sins heightened his sympathy for the character.[7] Conversely, Eurogamer's Martin Robinson considered Arthur to be less compelling than Marston, leading to a confusing narrative as a result.[62] GameSpot's Plagge wrote that the new characters in the game contribute significantly to the quality of the story.[55] Williams of USgamer felt that the secondary characters "feel like actual people" due to their varied personalities, and the player feels a closer connection when events occur in the game.[22] IGN's Reilly praised the cultural variety within the cast of characters and the game's avoidance of caricatures.[57] Giant Bomb's Navarro echoed this sentiment, noting that the characters possess humanity often lacking in other Rockstar Games, particularly in the thoughtful portrayal of Arthur's internal conflicts.[56] MacDonald of The Guardian felt that the characters felt more believable due to the "excellent performances with unexpected range".[59] Polygon's Chris Plante found the game's portrayal of Native American characters, inspired by a "mashing together of real-world people, locations, and groups into single entities", to be insensitive and confusing, but that the game's political commentary shined when focusing on the entitlement and power of the Braithwaite and Gray families.[61]

Game Informer's Bertz felt that the game has "unequivocally the most well-crafted and fully realized open world in video games".[54] Many other critics echoed this sentiment: Giant Bomb's Navarro considered the open-world population to be the game's best aspect,[56] and Electronic Gaming Monthly's Plessas noted that the game's map "pushes industry boundaries in both size and detail".[7] Robinson of Eurogamer considered the world to be Rockstar's largest since Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (2004).[62] The Guardian's MacDonald described the open world as "close to miraculous", praising its imitation of real American landscapes.[59] Reilly of IGN considered the game's world to be "broader, more beautiful, and more varied" than its predecessor's, due in part to how each environment feels alive.[57] GameSpot's Plagge felt compelled to explore the open world due to its variety, reactivity, and surprises.[55]

Red Dead Redemption 2's open world, a fictionalized representation of the Western, Midwestern and Southern United States, was praised as one of the greatest in video gaming.[7][54][56]

GamesRadar's Meikleham declared Red Dead Redemption 2 as "the best looking video game of all time" with some of the most impressive lighting and weather systems.[10] IGN's Reilly described the game as "undeniably pretty" due to the lighting engine, facial animation, and level of granular detail present in the world.[57] Game Informer's Bertz praised the attention to detail of the historical period, writing that the "wide expanses of wilderness feel alive thanks to an unrivaled dynamic weather system, ambient sound effects, and the most ambitious ecology of flora and fauna ever seen in games".[54] Plessas of Electronic Gaming Monthly felt that the game's artistic and graphical design was impressive in its physicality and reactivity, as well as visuals.[7] USgamer's Williams found the game to be one of the best-looking on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.[22]

Red Dead Redemption 2's gameplay received praise from Giant Bomb's Navarro, who noted that, "from the biggest missions right down to the smallest interactions, all of this stuff feels like it was constructed individually".[56] GamesRadar's Meikleham similarly lauded the amount of detail and worth in the game's secondary mechanics.[10] Plessas of Electronic Gaming Monthly wrote that the game's subtle details are "vital for immersion", noting that they remove any divide between the player and the overall experience.[7] Game Informer's Bertz appreciated the game's missions that avoided violence, wanting more "quiet moments sprinkled throughout the story".[54] IGN's Reilly felt that, despite feeling "heavier" than the protagonists of Grand Theft Auto V, Arthur's movement throughout the world did not feel cumbersome.[57] Polygon's Plante considered the game's conversation options limited, but still an improvement over the violence of other action games.[61] Eurogamer's Robinson voiced frustration at the game's lack of freedom in some story missions.[62]

IGN's Reilly felt that, while the game's combat borrowed from the formula of Grand Theft Auto games, the closer battles with more primitive firearms led to more intimate and "exciting" encounters.[57] Chris Carter of Destructoid described the gunplay as "fantastic" and praised the game's Dead Eye mechanic for allowing the "further beautification of some of the more hectic confrontations".[51] Electronic Gaming Monthly's Plessas wrote that "few games attempt to reinvent the point-gun-pull-trigger quintessence of shooters, but Red Dead 2 achieves it with confidence and grace".[7] Sam White of The Hollywood Reporter found that the guns are "slower, more meaningful tools", making them feel deadlier in combat.[63] USgamer's Mike Williams felt that the game is better than its predecessor, but is "not the best third-person combat system".[22]

Woody Jackson's musical score was described as "top notch" by IGN's Reilly, who described it as "an evocative mix of jangling Ennio Morricone-esque guitar and more soulful pieces".[57] GamesRadar's Meikleham wrote that the score is "both electrifying and eclectic".[10] Bertz of Game Informer noted that the soundtrack "leverages elements from early American folk to bring authenticity to the world".[54] Dave Thier of Forbes described the score as "soaring, grand, and sometimes tender", praising the vocal tracks for having as powerful an impact as in the game's predecessor.[64]

Some reviewers criticized the game's control system, with Film Crit Hulk, writing for Polygon, summarizing the feeling of it as "not one of difficulty and accomplishment, but constant monotony or frustration".[65] Kotaku's Kirk Hamilton disparaged that interacting with the world became "frustrating and inconsistent" as a result of the game's "sludgy kinesthetics, jumbled control scheme, and unclear user interface", describing gameplay as "more like giving directions to an actor" due to "arduous, heavy, and inelegant" navigation and slow or unsatisfying button inputs.[66] Forbes' Thier echoed this by criticizing the game for having a noticeable input lag,[67] while Forbes writer Paul Tassi described the game as "an absolute slog when it comes to the actual controls, mechanics, and UI".[68] Robert Ramsey of Push Square called the controls "serviceable" but at their worst "infuriating", and that the button layouts for various actions were too convoluted.[69]

Reviewers also critiqued how the focus on authenticity translated to gameplay in terms of player convenience and freedom. Gaming journalist Jim Sterling felt that the sheer amount of realism in the game limited capabilities and caused various scenarios or animations to be prolonged.[70][71] In addition to these complaints, reviewers also found that despite its focus, the level of realism was concurrently lacking, with discrepancies noted between the game's sense of immersion and its presenting of mechanics which defied the laws of physics and animations they considered unrealistic;[68][72][73] Film Crit Hulk, writing for Polygon, felt that the ability to interact with numerous items resulted in meaningless interactions, and that striving for realism in a video game did not work in practice.[65] VentureBeat wrote that, in spite of presenting a range of options for the player, the gameplay was still notably restrictive by preventing other opportunities.[73] USgamer's Williams and Forbes' Thier felt that the wanted system was unfairly punishing to the player from committing crimes that were difficult to avoid, such as accidentally knocking into NPCs.[22][67] Wired's Matt Reynolds was mixed on gameplay elements relating to the well-being of the player character and the required dedication, noting that the game "exchanges immersion for observation" and that "at times, the constant character maintenance feels like a chore".[74]

Red Dead Redemption 2's Microsoft Windows release also received "universal acclaim", according to Metacritic;[48] it is one of the highest-rated PC games.[75] Sam White of PCGamesN thought the graphics improvements made the open world "[look] the best it ever has".[76] Destructoid's Carter praised the addition of the Photo Mode.[52] Sam Machkovech of Ars Technica felt that the game's animations during cutscenes do not scale well to higher frame rates, but considered the gameplay to be far superior to the console versions.[77] Matthew Castle of Rock, Paper, Shotgun lauded the adapted controls, particularly when painting targets in Dead Eye, though felt they took time to familiarize oneself with.[78] PC Gamer's James Davenport found the first-person perspective to be superior on the Windows version due to the responsiveness of the mouse.[79] Jean-Kléber Lauret of Jeuxvideo.com noted that the graphical and technical enhancements meant that advanced hardware was required, citing several crashes.[80] Polygon's Samit Sarkar criticized the port's technical issues, writing that "the freezing issue is bad enough that I simply can't play the game until Rockstar fixes it".[81]

Accolades[edit]

Red Dead Redemption 2 received multiple nominations and awards from gaming publications, winning several Game of the Year awards. Before release, it was nominated for Most Anticipated Game at The Game Awards in 2016 and 2017,[82][83] and for Most Wanted Game at the Golden Joystick Awards.[84] On Metacritic, it was the highest-rated game of 2018.[85] At The Game Awards 2018, the game received eight nominations and went on to win four awards: Best Audio Design, Best Narrative, Best Score/Music, and Best Performance for Roger Clark as Arthur Morgan.[86] At IGN's Best of 2018, the game garnered seven nominations,[87] winning two awards[88][89] and named runner-up in four (behind God of War).[90][91][92][93] The game earned eight nominations at the 22nd Annual D.I.C.E. Awards, including Game of the Year.[94]

At the 6th SXSW Gaming Awards, Red Dead Redemption 2 was named the Trending Game of the Year and won for Excellence in SFX and Technical Achievement.[95] The game received seven nominations at the 19th Game Developers Choice Awards,[96] and six at the 15th British Academy Games Awards.[97] The game also appeared on several year-end lists of the best games of 2018, receiving Game of the Year wins at the Australian Games Awards,[98] Brazil Game Awards,[99] Fun & Serious Game Festival,[100] Global Game Awards,[101] IGN Australia Select Awards,[102] and Italian Video Game Awards,[103] and from outlets such as 4Players,[104] AusGamers,[105] Complex,[106] Digital Trends,[107] Edge,[108] Electronic Gaming Monthly,[109] Gamereactor,[110] GameSpot,[111] The Guardian,[112] Hot Press,[113] news.com.au,[114] The Telegraph,[115] USgamer,[116] and Vulture;[30] it was named runner-up by several other publications.[117][118][90]

Sales[edit]

Since the previous installment in the series was among the best-selling games of the seventh generation of video game consoles, many analysts believed that Red Dead Redemption 2 would be one of the highest-selling games of 2018 and would have a great effect on other game sales during the fourth quarter. When discussing the delay until October 2018, Paul Tassi of Forbes said that a successful launch "could be a crater that dampens sales of all competitors in that window, so I have to imagine this shockwave is being felt pretty hard right now around the industry".[119] In July 2018, industry analyst Mat Piscatella predicted that Red Dead Redemption 2 would be the best-selling game of 2018, outselling other blockbuster titles such as Battlefield V, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, and Fallout 76.[120]

Red Dead Redemption 2 had the largest opening weekend in the history of entertainment, making over US$725 million in revenue in three days, and over 17 million copies shipped in total in two weeks,[121] exceeding the lifetime sales of Red Dead Redemption.[122] Additionally, Red Dead Redemption 2 is the second highest-grossing entertainment launch (behind Grand Theft Auto V) and set records for largest-ever pre-orders, largest first-day sales, and largest sales for the first three days in market on PlayStation Network.[121][123] The game had shipped 24 million copies by May 2019,[124] and 26.5 million as of November.[125]

Red Dead Redemption 2 is the best-selling retail game in its first week of release and the second-fastest-selling game of 2018 in the UK (behind FIFA 19). The game's opening week UK physical sales were doubled from its predecessor's, with 68% of sales from the PlayStation 4 version. Red Dead Redemption 2 is also the third-fastest-selling non-FIFA game released in its generation, behind Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.[126] Within its first week on sale in Japan, the PlayStation 4 version of Red Dead Redemption 2 sold 132,984 copies, which placed it at number one on the all-format video game sales chart.[127]

Red Dead Online[edit]

The online multiplayer component to Red Dead Redemption 2, titled Red Dead Online, was released as a public beta on November 27, 2018, to players who owned a special edition of the base game, and then progressively opened to all owners.[128] Upon entering the game world, players customize a character and are free to explore the environment alone or in a "posse" group. As players complete activities throughout the game world, they receive experience points to raise their characters in rank and receive bonuses, thereby progressing in the game.[129] Though Red Dead Online and Red Dead Redemption 2 share assets and gameplay, Rockstar views them as separate products with independent trajectories, reflected in its decision to launch the multiplayer title separately.[130] Player progression in the public beta carried over when the beta ended on May 15, 2019.[131]

Controversies[edit]

In October, Houser stated that the team had been working 100-hour weeks "several times in 2018".[30] Many sources interpreted this statement as "crunch time" for the entire development staff of the game, comparable to similar accusations made by wives of Rockstar San Diego employees in regards to the development of the game's predecessor, with Rockstar Games receiving strong criticism.[132] The following day, Rockstar clarified in a statement that the work duration mentioned by Houser only affected the senior writing staff for Red Dead Redemption 2, which comprised himself, Michael Unsworth, Rupert Humphries and Lazlow Jones, and that the duration had only been the case for three weeks during the entire development.[133] Houser also added that the company would never expect or force any employee to work as long as was stated, and if anyone was staying late at the development studios, it would be due to their passion for the project.[134][135] However, other Rockstar employees argued that Houser's statements did not give an accurate picture of the "crunch-time culture" at the company that many of its employees worked under, which included "mandatory" overtime and years-long periods of crunch. Due to the salary-based nature of employment contracts, many of these employees were not compensated for their overtime work and instead depended on year-end bonus payments that hinged on the sales performance of the game. Nonetheless, a sentiment echoed across many employee statements was the observation that working conditions had somewhat improved since development on the original Red Dead Redemption, which had been so demanding that a number of the developers' spouses had voiced their disapproval to Rockstar.[136][137]

In early November 2018, YouTuber Shirrako posted several videos of his player character murdering a female suffragette NPC, including feeding her to an alligator and dropping her down a mineshaft. The videos were both applauded and criticized by YouTube users. In response, YouTube suspended the channel for violation of their community guidelines, citing its graphic nature for shock purposes and for promoting violence.[138] Audiences, including other channels, protested the decision. Conversely, the channel had also published additional videos of similar actions to other non-playable characters, such as those from the Ku Klux Klan.[139] On November 8, 2018, YouTube restored the channel and designated an age restriction to the suffragette videos, commenting that "the reviewer will be educated on this outcome and on how to avoid repeating this mistake".[140]

Rockstar received a cease and desist notice from Securitas AB, the parent company of the modern-day Pinkerton National Detective Agency. Securitas asserted that Red Dead Redemption 2's use of the Pinkerton name and badge imagery was against their trademark of both marks, and demanded royalties for each copy of the game sold or that they would take legal action. Rockstar instead filed a complaint against Securitas in January 2019, asserting that the Pinkerton name was strongly associated with the Wild West, and their use of the term did not infringe on the Pinkerton trademark. Rockstar was seeking a summary judgment to declare the use of Pinkerton in the game as allowed fair use.[141] By April 2019, Take-Two, Rockstar, and Securitas agreed to an undisclosed settlement, with Securitas subsequently dismissing the lawsuit.[142]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Stylized as Red Dead Redemption II
  2. ^ The Mexican state of Nuevo Paraiso, which featured in Red Dead Redemption, is not a part of the new game world.[24]
  3. ^ The game launched for Windows through the Rockstar Games Launcher and select other storefronts in November, and will launch on Steam in December.[45]
  4. ^ Red Dead Redemption 2 shares its status as fifth-highest rated game on Metacritic with eleven others. Four games are rated higher.[58]

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