I emerged as grizzled as Arthur Morgan himself after spending the weekend taming the West. My thoughts about Rockstar’s new Western epic, including my own personal tips.
If you are even remotely interested in this game, you've probably already read and watched all the reviews you need to get a sense of the game. Thus, this will not be a review, but rather, my own personal thoughts and experiences with RDR2 after spending th whole weekend with the game.
I’m no stranger to the Red Dead series or to Rockstar’s games in general. Having played and beat the first Red Dead Redemption, I was completely sold on the sequel (more accurately, the prequel), and I pre-order it months ago. Additionally, I have played almost all of the GTA series dating back to GTA on PS1, so it should be no surprised, this weekend was a bit . . . sacred.
In Another World
I started playing this game at midnight on Thursday (10/25), and my first hour in the game was like stepping off the arrival train in HBO’s Westworld. Being in the game is like existing in an alternate world where the smallest of details are captured and replicated to create the most convincing open world game to date.
From the dust the hangs in the air, to the wood grain in shop floorboards, or the scavengers that feed on rotting carrion out in the wilderness, every facet of a fully realized and living world is painstakingly recreated in RDR2 to such an extent never seen before.
Words really don’t do it justice. It’s not just the details, or how many 3D objects are on screen at any given moment, that make it all so convincing. It is how each individual element combines into the whole, creating something greater than its own individual parts.
Perhaps one of the greatest achievements with RDR2 is the blurring between gameplay and cinematics. As seen in the pictures for this posts. All pictures included are screenshots from my game and are not from cinematics, despite how they appear, but rather from gameplay while using the cinematic camera mode. We’ve seen previous games attempt to blend both the movie experience with gaming, e.g. Heavy Rain, Detroit: Become Human, or Life is Strange. However these games are inactive stories that relay on movie conventions to deliver their narratives. This is not the case with RDR2.
Instead RDR2 merely uses cinematic aesthetics to deliver its engaging gameplay, while not leaning on the former for the latter. Typical games can usually be broken up into 2 separate parts: gameplay (where the player is controlling the game) and cinematics (where the player watches the game). RDR2 tears down this separating and instead presents the live gameplay by using cinematic technique. The game is more fluid, moving between gameplay and cinematic movies without ever breaking the moment.
One major addition to the game that helps facilitate this is the “cinematic camera.” The game boasts several different POVs (3rd person, 1st person, and Cinematic), and the player can jump between all 3 at any given moment. When using the cinematic camera, the controls are minimized, allowing the user to sit back and enjoy the scenery without micromanaging the situation.
Breaking the Mold
Another decision that feeds into the cinematic experience is RDR2’s attempt to move away from standard gaming mechanics. For instance, in typical games that involve a player buying items at a shop, he/she would enter the shop and be presented with a menu to choose items from. However RDR2 keeps the experience more authentic. Instead players enter a shop and have to browse the actual store shelves for items. If you are interested in purchasing something, you will need to find it in the store, look at it, pick it up and buy it.
The same element can be seen in how the game address player conversations. Once again, in most RPG video games, when a player approaches someone in game and speaks to him/her, the player walks up and hits a button to “speak” or "interact". Then the game will usually change cameras and present the player with a conversation. In RDR2, the player can briefly say “hello” or chit-chat with other characters in the game without ever having to stop what they are doing. If you are passing by someone on the road, just look over to them and say a quick “Howdy” and keep on moving. Or maybe you having a few drinks at the saloon and someone walks up next to you. Ask them how they are doing without ever sitting down your drink, capturing more natural interactions.
Desperadoes, Outlaws & Bandits
Oh course the real star of the show is the characters themselves. It is through the eyes of protagonist Arthur Morgan that we see the world. It is his story that we are telling and what a story it is. Although Arthur Morgan seems to be just as interesting as former protagonist John Marston (who also plays a huge role in RDR2), it isn’t just Arthur to who pulls you into the story as you wait baited breath to find out what happens next. He is flanked by an all-star cast of characters.
For the sake of reaming spoiler free, I won’t divulge any vital information, but Arthur’s balancing act he must perform between outlaw antics and interpersonal development lays the groundwork for other characters to weave their stories into his own. Not only do we get the colorful cast of outlaw gang members who stand side-by-side with Arthur, we also get an entire world full of people living out their own lives, with their own stories, and with their own personalities. All these characters are there to interact with, whether you kill them, befriend them or ignore them, the choice is yours.
My Personal Tips
- Hold START/OPTIONS button to directly open your map without having go to the menu first.
- Don’t buy guns. Almost all guns can be obtained for free. Instead spend money on upgrading/customizing your guns.
- What's the fastest way to earn money? Treasure maps. That’s all I’ll say.
- Legendary animal hides must be sold to the trapper. From there, you will be able to craft the game’s best outfits.
- Don’t sell high quality hides. Donate them to camp for crafting.
- The cinematic camera mode can be used to fast travel (kinda). While in the cinematic mode, Arthur will follow any waypoint or mission marker. All you have to do is control his speed. This works for manual map markers as well.
- Help strangers. Whenever a stranger yells for help or waives you down, take a few minutes to help. You never know what they might give you (hint, hint).
- Be careful of strangers. I know what I just said above, but sometimes strangers are lying. When you think you are helping someone out, you may just be getting yourself robbed or hurt. Never trust anyone.
- Don’t rush. The game is meant to unfold slowly and methodically. There’s a reason that Arthur walks so slow. The game wants you to slow down and take it all in. Haste makes waste, and if you rush through the game, you’ll be missing the very things that make it so special.