By Brian Wells
When Red Dead Redemption 2 was released in October 2018, it was greeted with multiple 5-star and 10/10 scores on websites such as Games Radar and IGN. At the time I’m writing this, it holds a 7/10 on Steam.
Right now, it’s April 2020. The game has been out for a year and a half. It’s seen quite a few updates and online play was added. I’ve spent the last six or seven months diving deep into the game on my PS4 to try and find out if now, 18 months after it was released, does it live up to the hype?
In short — and in my opinion — no, it doesn’t.
Everything I’d heard before I jumped into Red Dead Redemption 2 led me to believe that it was going to be an absolutely life-changing experience. And while yes, it has been a solid game and an enjoyable experience, it definitely isn’t without its flaws.
My biggest complaint is the almost-overwhelming amount of micromanaging. There are so many different systems in the game that feel like they should contribute to the greater story, but in the end, the game could’ve been stripped down and made somewhat simpler and I don’t think it would lose any value.
For instance, I’d be curious to know how many players actually cared enough to craft better satchels and charms, and of the players that actually did, how many of them actually found any value in it? Plus, so many different satchels required perfect-rated pelts, and in the entire time I played the game, I found maybe 10, and none of them were the animals I actually needed.
Also, what’s the actual point in upgrading your camp? There’s no trophy, and it didn’t seem like much changed in the way of the other gang members’ attitudes, and it didn’t feel like I ever needed to cash in on the items available from the vendors there.
The other massive gripe I have about the game is the amount of time spent riding your horse across the universe to get to the next mission. It felt like the majority of the time I spent playing was spent traveling in some capacity. And while there are systems in the game to help cut down on the time, I didn’t ever feel like they were introduced in a way that helps players realize they’re available. Every time I’d want to use the cinematic camera to keep my horse going, I’d get attacked by a gang or a cougar or a snake and I’d die.
Or, more often than not, my horse will run me head-first into the side of a stopped train.
On that point, I should admit that I never tried the stagecoach or train. To be honest, it seemed like they were always locked, and when they finally did unlock, the introduction was so subtle that I never thought about them. I think it was around that point that I finally upgraded Arthur’s trailer to unlock the fast travel ability, which was literally a game-changer.
Beyond that, the Red Dead Redemption 2 felt buggy, the controls clunky and the missions were starting to feel pretty repetitive by the end, but I’ll let others make their own judgements on those.
But, I did find a few redeeming qualities in the game. The graphics were pretty incredible, both the environments and the character models. It’s one of the few games I’ve seen in recent years that didn’t make the characters look super cartoony or something. I also can’t think of any point in the game where the voice acting left something to be desired.
Let’s use this as a time to bring up one final, super-hyped idea: The fact that a certain part of a male horse’s anatomy shrinks when it gets cold.
I can, in fact, confirm that this does happen. For the most part, I actually really enjoyed the horses in the game. I loved seeing an emotional cutscene, and in the background, there’s my majestic Arabian stallion dropping a giant pile of turds, much like a real horse. It almost made up for all of the times my horse would run me into the side of a stopped train or a tree while using the cinematic camera.
So this brings us to the question, should you buy it?
Obviously I can’t tell you what to do with your money, nor do I want to. I purchased the game used for $35 at GameStop because I’m an old soul and I still like to have the physical copy of a game, and I would say I’ve gotten my money’s worth out of it. Do I regret not buying it at full price on release day?
Nah, not even a little.