From the moment I started Red Dead Redemption 2, I knew I was in for a ride. A slow ride, but a joyous one. The initial hours of this open world mammoth are s-l-o-w, taking almost 2 hours to get out of. But it’s in these 2 hours that the game teaches you all of its’ nuanced mechanics, and then some. Even long after I got out of the tutorial segment, I was constantly learning new things about the world, and by extension, the game.
Red Dead Redemption 2 has a lot of things going for it, chief among them being the ability to blur the lines between what is scripted and what’s not. It manages to make you feel like you’re in control in a way that very few games have come close to. With the simple press of a button, you can interact with almost anyone in the game. And while that might sound like what every other open-world game seems to offer, RDR2 really delivers on it.
The game may not market itself as an RPG, but it very much plays like one. You take care of your loot, you interact with NPCs, and you make decisions that affect the story, no matter how small that decision might look like. Right off the bat, you can greet or antagonize people. You can even rob people, and if someone sees you committing a crime, they can go and call the town sherrif on you. That coupled with a morality system not unlike that of Mass Effect really makes you think twice before committing any action.
Rockstar had promised that in RDR2, NPCs have memory. What that means, is that whenever you meet them afterward, they’ll remember your previous actions and comment upon them. Sound familiar? Yeah, the Middle Earth games did something similar. However, where Red Dead Redemption 2 excels is in the variety it provides with its NPC encounters. While in the Middle Earth games the NPCs which did have memory and AI worked on them were just the Orcs (i.e your punching bags), RDR2 enhances that experience by extending that functionality to every NPC in game. That means that even the supporting characters, as well as any bystander you meet on the streets, can be interacted with.
Now, in general any contextual engagement has 3 options : Greet, Antagonize & sometimes, Rob. You can find a variety of other options depending upon the situation, such as “Surrender” when facing a gang of bounty hunters. This type of interactivity heightens the immersion of the player in a way that rarely any other game ever has.
Taking realism to another step is the fact that a lot of what we generally assume to be superficial “game” features actually act real here. Take for example that in the game, you’ll have to constantly take care of your horse. Or he/she’ll die. Yeah, they’ll die for real. They won’t magically spawn back when you whistle for them a while after their death. They’re gone. Meaning all that bond that you worked so hard for (and you do), is gone because of the mistakes that you made.
Even other features that we have always relegated as being fantastical in games are presented with real, actionable interactability. Like, take your inventory for example. While most of the times you’ll have a weapon wheel similar to the GTA games, a lot of your inventory can be found in the saddle on your horse. Which means if you want to use your shotgun that was stored with your horse, you’ll have to call your horse, access its saddle, swap out the shotgun for something else on your inventory, and then use it. While it may seem very intrusive to the gameplay experience at first, the slower pace of Red Dead
It is this incredible attention to detail that is garnering praise from critics (& fans) all over the world. One of the great joys of gaming is when the game recognizes and respects your actions, & with that Rockstar has delivered one of their absolute finest games in Red Dead Redemption 2, and I can’t wait to go back to the wild west.