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Red Dead Redemption 2 Review: Best Open World Game Yet?

Red Dead Redemption 2: if you played this game you really don’t need an introduction. But if you haven’t played it yet, man where do I start? Let’s just say that even after three playthroughs, I still don’t feel exhausted with the content it can bring me.

This won’t be a normal review of Red Dead Redemption 2. There are already tons of those online. Instead, this will be my review of Red Dead Redemption 2 after buying it twice and playing it three times.

We will explore the game’s design, mechanics, and why this game is called the most realistic game yet. As a bonus, we’ll get into how Red Dead Redemption 2 deals with racism in the game!

Red Dead Redemption 2 Story Progression

Rockstar Games is probably the biggest name when it comes to open-world games. It’s the company behind the Grand Theft Auto series, which I’m sure every gamer knows about and has probably played. I personally played a ton of GTA Vice City and San Andreas, and I still play it now and then when I’m in the mood for it. Rockstar Games is also behind other popular titles like LA Noire and Bully which also feature an open-world game design. 

An interesting feature of Rockstar Games titles is the story progression. For some reason, even though you can roam the game’s open world for countless hours, and even though you consume all the extra content in their games, you’ll still get the same endings. What you do in the world won’t really affect the main story in any significant way. 

Red Dead Redemption 2 improved on that somewhat. We all still get the same ending, but that ending is really not the ending at all. You can reach the final ending with the Epilogue missions, or you can push your playtime for 100-200 hours to reach 100% completion. I played the game thrice and I’m nowhere near that even after exploring every corner of the exhaustively huge map. 

Game Mechanics

There are a ton of unique game mechanics in Red Dead Redemption 2 that you might not even notice. For instance, there are three bars that you can always see: health, stamina, and dead eye. To replenish all those three bars, you have to eat food, drink alcohol or tonics, or smoke cigars. Plus you also have to take care of your horse and believe me, it’s extremely frustrating to have your in-game horse die especially if you’re in the middle of nowhere since you’ll now be on foot until you reach the next town or find a new horse. 

game screenshot of cowboy in desert
Photo from Redditor, u/RajonClyde

The weapon mechanics are also one of the most realistic I’ve ever seen in any game. You can only carry a limited amount of weapons without your horse. Ammo is also limited depending on the holsters and accessories you purchase. The guns you use will also degrade over time if you don’t clean them regularly.

screenshot of weapons selection menu

Other than the basic game mechanics, there are a lot of hidden mechanics that you might not discover in your first gameplay. For example, I mentioned that your horse can die, but the game didn’t necessarily explain that. For me, I also finished my first gameplay without knowing that I can craft explosive or poisonous arrows.

And that’s not all. There are cheat codes on newspapers, food going bad, decomposing animal and human carcasses, and more. If you want to find out most of them, you can check this article that listed 36 hidden in-game mechanics that you might not know.  

A Million Ways To Die In The West 

There are a ton of ways to die in RDR2 but here’s a hundred funny ones for now!

Yup, like Seth MacFarlane’s movie, there are a million ways to die in RDR2. You might die from bear attacks, lightning strikes, getting crushed by a tree, workplace accidents, or even vampire and zombie attacks. You name a way to die, it might just be in RDR2.

It’s not just the variety of ways that you can die, either. Around almost every corner of RDR2’s map, you’re also liable to find somebody getting mauled, crushed, or killed in an argument. That brings me to my next favorite feature of RDR2:

The Whole World Feels Alive

You know how open-world games can feel lonely and depressing to play? I certainly felt that with Horizon Zero DawnSubnautica, and Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain, and even on the Last of Us missions where you don’t have Ellie or Joel with you.

The main reason why those games feel that way, is that you might not have a companion in-game, and the missions and objectives might feel repetitive. That, my friends, combined with a large open world, is a recipe for a depressing game.

game screenshot of man with dog
Yes, you can pet all the dogs you see in RDR2

Fortunately, RDR2 is far from that. Even though you play as Arthur or John without a companion other than your horse, the random encounters with strangers and animals will prevent you from thinking and feeling like everything in the game is repetitive. Every corner and every single place in RDR2 will be filled with people doing stuff ranging from pure and funny acts of stupidity to people telling complex and dramatic stories. 

game screenshot of man at gallows

And there are tons of things to do even after finishing the game’s story. There’s a great hunting and fishing system. You can be a bounty hunter. You can hang people. You can even hunt down other legendary gunslingers in the game. And of course, if you go on and play the game, I beg you to stop cramming missions from time to time and appreciate how good this game looks. 

game screenshot of cowboy riding horse

RDR2’s Hidden Messages and Controversies

Now let’s get to a more serious note. RDR2 is a game that’s set in 1899, a time when the world is a whole lot different compared to the world we have now. RDR2 is set in a time when racism was tolerated and slavery was still fresh in people’s memories. It was a time when women’s rights were nonexistent, and Native Americans, African Americans, poor people, and really, anyone who wasn’t a land-owning white man was subjected to violence and exploitation.

Sure, like with most Rockstar games, RDR2 is a bit exaggerated. But unlike its other games, RDR2 is the most realistic since it brings actual social issues that were relevant in America at that time and, in some cases, are still relevant today.

That realism with regard to those social issues is one of the main reasons why I think RDR2 is the best open-world game yet.

game screenshot of klan burning cross

During my second playthrough, for example, I was traveling in-game when I passed through a forest at night, and what did I find? A Klan initiation! I hid for a while and listened to them blabbering about purity and white supremacy and all that stuff.

It was a group of racist NPCs.

I’d watched this encounter on YouTube before and the gamer threw a stick of dynamite into the group and then shot the surviving NPCs. I tried a similar approach in-game when I had the chance. Surprisingly the game not only didn’t punish my actions, it even gave me an honor boost.

The fact that the game rewarded that action sparked some controversy online. But come on, this is a video game where you’re required to kill a whole family, beat up a sick old man, rob banks, kill innocent people, and of course break hearts. Killing NPCs that promote racism is hardly out of line given the kind of game you’re playing.

The Ku Klux Klan encounter isn’t the only encounter with racism in the game. There are also racist preachers, slavers, and a ton of other NPCs that you can gladly kill. 

It’s a more disturbing fact that gamers are going on Red Dead Online, dressed up as KKK members and killing black characters, ruining the vibe of the game for everyone. Fortunately for other players, there’s this gamer on TikTok who sets out to hunt and kill those KKK dressed characters:

A Spoiler-Free Story Review

The story of Red Dead Redemption 2 revolves around Arthur Morgan and the Dutch Van Der Linde Gang. If you played the first Red Dead Redemption game, this is essentially a prequel to that. It brings a lot of stories and explanations about how things went south in the first game. However, you can easily play RDR2 without playing the first one and you’ll be perfectly fine. 

The story is slow-paced, and I mean it’s really slow, especially if you’re a casual gamer who plays for just an hour or two per day. You’ll get through the main story in around 40-60 hours of playtime.

Aside from the main story, there are a ton of side quests you can do, and there are also a ton of hidden stories and dialogues that you can hear NPCs say randomly. That’s one part I loved because it motivated me to walk around the open world and greet and listen to all these NPCs. Here’s an example of a series of dialogues brought by one of the main characters in the game:

As a Filipino, I loved this series of dialogues about the 1899 war between America and Philippines.

The main characters, along with just about everyone else in RDR2 are all morally gray. They are outlaws, thieves, killers, and liars. But as Dutch said early in the game:

“We shoot fellers as need shooting, save fellers as need saving, and feed ’em as need feeding.”

Conclusion

Red Dead Redemption 2 is one of the best games I’ve ever played. I can safely say that this game is an open-world masterpiece. It has a great story told through 60 hours of playtime, but the best storytelling in the game is found in the hidden stories and dialogues that NPCs bring. 

Would you play Red Dead Redemption 2 even after three years? Let us know. I would definitely play it a fourth time after a year or two!

A Little Bit Human

A Little Bit Human is a multimedia publication that celebrates diversity, relentlessly pushes for social progress, and gives a powerful voice to those that sometimes go unheard.

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