Red Redemption 2
- Arthur: One of the brightest and best-built characters of recent times
- The sense of group. An endearing family that is wonderful to be part of
- The world and everything it contains. A fascinating universe to discover
- Visually it is an irreproachable and exemplary video game. A new standard for PS4 and XOne
- A.I may be more alive in reactions on some occasions
We have waited eight long years for Red Dead Redemption 2, but I can guarantee that the last eight long minutes of its installation are almost eternal. It is when you can only suspect that Rockstar has given the best of itself once again, and it is only to wait passively and helplessly in front of your console to confirm it. Why do I say it? As soon as the studio logo is presented and the adventure starts, you have the control, you already have control over what is going to happen. And is that, as I told you in some of the advances we made about him, RDR 2 is the closest thing to being a cowboy that we have ever seen. It is the life of a cowboy, it is the life of an Arthur Morgan who is going to gain a place in our little heart even though the bar was very high.
And it was in every way. The original Red Dead Redemption of 2010 is a video game tremendously loved by many, and a demonstration of how to do things right in terms of open worlds. The second part, actually third and prequel to the adventures of John Marston at the same time, is supported by all that and takes it one step further. It is not a way of speaking, it does. He does it with respect to any previous work of Rockstar, and he does it also as far as almost any other representative of the open worlds. If Zelda: Breath of the Wild has opened our eyes to the degree of freedom and the marvelously achieved sense of adventure, RDR2 raises the bar for the genre in terms of realism in the detail and sense of belonging of its world. They did not lie the Houser brothers, the main responsible for the study, when they promised that we would feel part of their universe. You really see yourself inside your dangerous, dusty and also beautiful Wild West in an admirable way while, at the same time, you get something really hard: Getting that many times we forget that we are in a video game.
The Dutch Gang
We are accustomed to see that the sandboxes often have a single protagonist who performs messenger tasks for some and others in frames centered around his figure. The thing changed precisely with GTA V not only because it ended with the concept of walking back and forth doing favors to staff, not in vain was the player who took the initiative of the action and the narrative with their actions, but also because had three protagonists who divided the weight of the campaign between them in equal parts: Michael, Trevor and Franklin. Many thought that their new game could bet for it, but quickly Rockstar wanted to make clear that Red Dead Redemption 2 will have a single protagonist, and explained their reasons. Of course, Arthur is not alone, and in fact the group he is part of is one of the best points in favor of the title.
Morgan is a member of Van der Linde’s gang, a dangerous group of criminals who lead a nomadic life fleeing the authorities. When the campaign starts they have already carried out numerous misdeeds, which has forced them to have an itinerant modus vivendi: they assemble improvised camps from where they organize their next blows, and they all live together as a great family that, of course, has its moments goods and bads. Your joys and tensions. The best achievement of the work is to make us feel part of this collective as I have rarely seen in a videogame.
In fact, the good thing is that Rockstar does not use the Wild West only as a backdrop to bet to make its launch unique and is that there are very few proposals set in this kind of contexts and most have not been precisely to remember. Red Dead Redemption 2 is a twilight western in the broadest sense of the term, a story full of nostalgia that familiarizes us with feelings we have experienced in other games but rarely as here. The camaraderie that we have seen in cinematographic works of the genre such as Sam Peckimpah’s Wild Group is here unbeatable translated into a playable formula in which everything is perfectly integrated to make it work. The title is an open-world shooter, yes, but if you let yourself get soaked by everything he tells you, it also transmits an authentic torrent of feelings and sensations. The secondary characters of Red Dead Redemption 2 are frankly well written, all of them, and each one has its little story behind, with its well-laid personality and its motivations. My favourites? Sadie Adler and Dutch himself, for reasons that I will let you discover, although whose legacy and overwhelming temperaments will be burned into my memory.
All this is very good, however … and Arthur himself? Some questioned, without even knowing it, if he would be able to overcome in terms of charisma and affection on the part of the community that John Marston has: the protagonist of the first Redemption. Here everyone will have their own perception, of course. But for me it not only equals it, it surpasses it. Without wishing to detract from the protagonist of the 2010 game, one of my favorite releases in history, I think Morgan is clearly more interesting. His background is more three-dimensional and profound, in addition, he is a human being who is wrong and who changes his mind many times. It is not too frequent to see in video games that its protagonist has a credible personal evolution, it only happens sometimes and it is not always consistent, but the case of the ruddy cowboy is exemplary. I would love to expand myself to justify everything I am telling, although the usual spoiler-free policy of analysis prevents me from doing so. I can only tell you, without fear of “gutting” anything, that your clear adventure begins without a clear goal in life and having turned away from many opportunities. But, the moment he finds his goal and sees clearly what his purpose is, he will not stop until he gets it … And we with him.
Of course, he is not the only character that evolves in the adventure; in fact, everyone does it because a certain time passes from the beginning of the campaign to the end of the campaign. And it is a joy to discover it. How is the story told? Everything related to main and even secondary missions is narrated with elegant cinematics. So far, Rockstar’s works have been characterized by advancing the narrative with endless conversations and, of course, in Red Dead Redemption 2 there is much of that. But I also like to see an evolution in the art of storytelling by the studio. Many silent videos accompanied only by beautiful music, or cuts where Arthur “talks” writing to his diary … Very well executed points that broaden the range of narrative resources of the company.
However, what I like most is the most organic part of the narrative. What do I mean by this statement so bombastic? Many times the best stories we are told come from conversations we hear casually or from people who come to us during the adventure to tell us something. Without kinematics or anything at all … On the fly. For example, I loved sitting on the fire with the band to hear stories and anecdotes that have made me feel closer to the more veteran. I also liked to go from here to doing tasks in the camp and that one of the girls approached me to ask for help for something that has happened to her, or to tell me that she has seen something in the city that might interest me. No cuts, no transitions. Conversations you have while you walk or do your things. Not to mention going out to hunt with this or that character and tell me something along the way or go fishing with two of them and laugh with their jokes or feel nostalgic with their songs. A marvel, just like that.
Actions and Reactions
The band is one of the best tricks of the game, and you can feel so much sympathy for them that it has come to me in a very natural way to contribute with money and with hunting and fishing for the sustenance of the collective. Something very similar happens with the beings of the world that surrounds you, both humans and animals. Many aspects contribute to this, for example, with the men and women of their world, a degree of interaction is achieved that is so high that it is sometimes difficult not to see them as living beings. Pulling the left trigger and looking at whoever it is we can start a conversation with any of them: with anyone literally. Each person you meet has its own personality and voice, in a truly impressive media deployment exercise. In the end the options with the majority are reduced to greeting them cordially or to be challenging with them, but that first interaction opens many ways from there based on how they react.
Imagine that you catch someone doing something they should not, for example a couple of robbers who have stopped a family and are stealing them in one of the many random events that we can run into. If we are friendly, they may “only” invite us impolitely to leave and get involved in our affairs, but if we are unpleasant, they may be intimidated and stop what they are doing. If tempers get too hot, we can try to calm the situation or continue to tighten the rope to see what happens. The same, I repeat, with any other person in your world. A tramp who asks for alms in a corner is probably kind to us, whatever we say because he hopes that we will give him a penny, while a woman will not react the same if we use the “provoke” button when watching her walk down the street of her husband, or if she goes alone there.
Everything responds to a tremendous logic, a system that is overwhelmingly obvious and that, surely, if it has not been applied previously in open-world games is because it requires tremendous resources at the level of development, work of dubbing and testing later that not all can be allowed. These are details that we had seen in a much more basic way in some of the previous installments of the Grand Theft Auto saga, but here they reach an incredible new level.
The ramifications, in fact, are so spectacular that the way in which people behave with us is not only limited to what is inside a hypothetical conversation but reminds us. This is something that we had also seen in previous releases, I remember that the Fable series, among others, had already implemented a system by which “your fame preceded you” and people reacted accordingly, but again this is another level. If you go back to a town, Valentine to put the case, after having caused some scandal or have gotten into a fight in the Saloon, those around you will be more cautious talking to you and will not hesitate to remind you: “Are you the type that Beat Big Joe? ” That will come into play your sincerity, or even your cockiness with the possibility of opting for a little reliable: “no, I do not know what you’re talking about”, or a laconic: “Yes, what’s wrong?”.
The third branch that affects your relationship with others is, directly, that of your honor. Whenever you press the cross of the pad down, information about your environment will appear on the screen with the time or temperature (things to be taken into account and that I will explain later), but also the honor bar, which is a graphic representation of your acts The more good actions more to the right, the more questionable acts the more to the left. If you help people in distress in the meetings that are happening randomly, to give a single example, your legend will grow positively and your fame will spread: people will greet you on the street, will be more predisposed to help you and will even make you some discount in stores. If you kill innocents, you steal or dock outside the main thread, your name will have a halo of black legend around and it will cost you more to interact with everyone, with important disadvantages. So, yes, you are a criminal and that does not change; although you can decide how much you have of rogue other than that. Of course it’s not something new, we’ve seen it in other games, especially RPGs, but it’s fascinating to see how it translates here into an experience that reaches a new level and establishes deep ties of empathy with everyone around us.
The same goes for the horse, which also has a very special bond with you … or not. Again, it is another thing that remains in your hand, as your relationship with the camp. Rockstar does not want to force you to do anything you do not want, so in the same way that your affinity with band members improves if you help with tasks or contribute money, food or valuables, it’s exactly the same with the horse in RDR 2. Treat him well, show signs of affection from time to time, and have him brushed and properly fed and improve your bond with him to increase his performances and unlock special maneuvers. But I warn you, you get to take a lot of love to the different mounts that you have (you can have several) so take care to get close to shootings or fall down with him. Losing it can be a real drama.
From north to south
It seems that something inherent in a Rockstar game is that people ask you to have a huge map. Something that earned him many criticisms, in my unfair opinion, a Grand Theft Auto IV that opted for a much more characterized approach by density than by size. Red Dead Redemption 2 is a mid-point. It is monstrous, the largest map by far that has made the study to date but, at the same time, full of things to do as random events, side quests, game preserves, hidden treasures, commissioners of rewards and many distractions and activities in the form of mini-games.
Arthur Morgan and his adventure do not reinvent the wheel, so it is the main missions that advance the narrative. A great selection of stories to let us know more details about the group that we are part of, yes, but also to introduce ourselves to the usual selection of villains that make the wheels of the plot turn more strongly. It is always good to have a nemesis that helps focus the narrative, and there are several in the game, and they also work great. Everything in the campaign is well orchestrated to take us from one place to another, and thus achieve an interesting variety of environments. From snowy areas to others much more spring. From rural areas to urban centers as big as Saint Dennis.
It also helps in this regard the selection of missions, a careful deck of more than a hundred objectives that somehow manages to be also quite diverse. Do not forget that Red Dead Redemption 2 is, first of all, a shooter, so most of the time they conclude in formidable gunfights to demonstrate the ability to Arthur’s weapons, either on foot, on horseback or aboard vehicles. However, Rockstar manages to incorporate elements throughout the adventure in order to introduce other formulas such as drops of stealth here and there, some sequence characterized by the use of costumes, an escort mission, another hunting with some member of the band, more than a beautiful fishing outing with part of the group … And, of course, robberies. The narrative and playable high point of the different blocks that make up the videogame.
Being as they had been one of the greatest attractions of Rockstar’s latest work, it was expected to return in an environment that lent itself to it as well as that of the Far West. Although, yes, their presence is less characterized by planning than in the previous title. If in that one we had to carry out tasks of study of the objective, of information and means collection, and even of election of the members of the group that would conform to the thieves; this time everything is much simpler and is pushed purely by the narrative. That yes, that is simpler in appearance does not mean that they are not the most fun and worked moments of the game, with fantastic action scenes in trains or banks, and with a really spectacular escape.
And more when they rely on those shooter mechanics that have been polishing so much since the studio in recent years. The introduction in Max Payne 3 of an action model from which they have been drinking to a greater or lesser extent all their subsequent works was something revolutionary internally for the team in playable terms back in 2012, and the game is back on the seen at. At the level of action mechanics, it is a mixture of what we remember of the first Redemption and that evolution of which I am speaking and that has been seen launching to launch until reaching spectacular levels of formidable spectacle.
The importance of using coverages in favor of a more direct, standing experience, strongly based on skill and with higher levels of epic, has been strongly reduced. After all during the campaign I used parapets practically to recharge and also only when I was alone and clearly outnumbered in terms of numbers although, as always in these cases, that has been my style and yours can be totally different. Oh, and I do not want to forget about hand-to-hand fighting either. Simple, with just three buttons, but quite effective and more based on the sense of opportunity than in carrying out complex key combinations.
The Dead Eye returns as that slow-motion system that allows us to aim calmly and execute our enemies in a mechanic that, like the abilities of Arthur himself, is improving little by little as we use it. However, there are also debuts, on the one hand the phenomenal slow cameras for the most spectacular deaths that come directly from the Max Payne saga, but which in this environment resemble the cinematographic style of the movie Wild Group. And, on the other, that of an Eagle Eye system that is activated by pressing both sticks and that allows us to highlight in the environment all the details that interest us or with which we can interact. For example, the lockers that we can open to collect objects, the trail of animals if we are hunting and a long etcetera of things.
The game invites totally to the interaction with the world. Not only with people, as I said before, but also with their objects. As it happened in GTA 5, the importance of money is strongly emphasized, so everything you pick up from the bodies of enemies or looting other people’s houses will be good for you. Either food that you can consume yourself, valuables that you can pawn in any economic quantities that will be more or less modest depending on the risk of what you are doing, of course. It is not the same to steal a poor devil who is lost with his horse in the middle of nowhere, who will dock the post office. The biggest booties, logically, will be for the big operations you do with your team.
Those dollars are dumped in a lot of things of Arthur himself, and that is that you can not only dedicate it to the improvements for the band that we have talked about before. For example, you can choose to pay for accommodation or a bathroom in a hotel, since it is important to be rested and clean for Arthur’s statistics, or to personalize the appearance of the protagonist. Change clothes in stores with a generous range of clothes, pay the barber for a haircut or a shave (although you can also shave in your own home) or customize the weapons with the infinite possibilities for each component of your arsenal.
There are also different elements that you can increase in terms of your equipment, of course, although those are more complex. You can increase the performance of everything you carry, from the ammunition you can carry with you or the number of inventory items you can carry. In this sense there are also legendary animals, which are much more complex to hunt but which have much better value. In the end everything is important, because the realistic approach that the game makes on aspects such as the team prevents us from carrying an infinite number of weapons or objects with us, and the whole formula joins a fabulous planning concept: simple, but effective. How does it work? I explain myself briefly.
Arthur cannot do as in a Grand Theft Auto and carry all the weapons with him, so he can only equip a limited number based on what fits in the holsters and what he can carry in his hand. With the maximized hero you will be able to carry two short weapons in the covers of the sides, and a long weapon in the back. The fourth, for example a rifle or a bow, you will have to carry it in your hand, which limits your movements. That, as I say, makes you think. What should I equip for this mission? Do I want a sniper rifle for distance or better a cut for a much closer and visceral combat? Do I want a stealthy approach with bow and machete or casualties quickly with a repeating rifle and both revolvers? Choosing what the shootings are going to be like is in your hand and is simply wonderful.
The Rockstar Show
It has not always been like that, but in recent times Rockstar has been known for turning its videogames into graphic referents. Grand Theft Auto 5 was launched in the final stretch of PS3 and X360 and proved to many that there was still juice to be taken from those platforms. Red Dead Redemption 2 does not arrive so late compared to the current cycle, but it again gives reasons to those who think about whether it is too early to talk about the end of current video consoles and the arrival of new ones within a couple of years.
He achieves it on the one hand because his great artistic direction is an aesthetic point to embellish the formula. With an extraordinary portrait of the cities, yes, but without forgetting the beautiful natural landscapes that surround them and where we will spend more time. The areas are more steep than in John Marston’s adventure, so it is easier to generate beautiful prints that, accompanied by the lighting of which the game shows, end up round a tremendous plasticity for the whole.
But the main course is the technological one. Everything we have talked about before about the total interaction with the human beings we cross (and also with animals such as dogs or cats) is only possible in powerful machines like the current ones, and with the disposition of an immeasurable budget and some generous terms. Not coincidentally, Rockstar does not launch an original product since 2013. As I have already made clear, it is not an excessively original idea. However, nobody has had the means to get it … Nor arrests, of course.
Those means also allow to do it with the enormous beauty and the ambitious dimensions with which Red Dead Redemption 2 manages to do it even in the absence of Red Dead Online. Modeling fabulous characters, a range of animations as generous as I’ve never seen in a videogame and careful constructions are the main elements that draw attention in the first instance. However, observed in detail one realizes that the overwhelming drawn distance and the usual system of physical Euphoria go hand in hand with the umpteenth revision of the RAGE graphic engine to compose the most impressive open world I have seen to date. It is also a tremendously versatile tool, since following the line of the remastering of GTA 5 that we saw on PS4, Xbox one and PC, returns to bet on a camera in first person that we can use from the beginning to the end of the adventure if it is what we want, and what is frankly good: especially for the shootings. In addition to three perspectives in the third person depending on how close or far we want to be from Morgan.
And then there are the details, of course. How carefully Arthur removes the skin of a hunted animal, the differences in lighting to create environments with natural light and those with artificial light, the difficulties with which horses walk through the snow and leaving furrows or elegance with which they do it on surfaces such as grass or a mud on which their helmets are marked. How spooky are the storms with rays that really fall on the surface of the map and can even get sparks if they come in contact with a tree … Lots of examples that could be listing for hours, but I prefer you discover them because part the charm of the game is to do it by yourself.
The sound is a section that Rockstar has pampered since the beginning of his life as a studio and translates here into probably their roundest videogame in this sense that they have released to date. It was very spectacular during the promotional phase to say that the title soundtrack has 192 themes: it is a very large and bulky number, but for practical purposes this means more than words or figures. In an open-world “standard release” there are usually a handful of songs for the action scenes, another group for the persecutions, and many others for the exploration sequences … For many that add up they end up repeating themselves throughout a story mode. That does not happen here because each mission has its own themes that we will not hear again. And, except for four or five variations of some similar ones when there are thematic links between the objectives, they all sound totally different.
The same ambition exists in the dubbing in the original version. A huge number of voices with a high level of quality for a release that comes back translated only in its subtitles. In size they are similar to those of previous works of the study, that is rather small, however they are on a black background that helps their readability. The only downside, apart from the fact that the game is not located in voices to our language (lost battle with Rockstar), is that some very specific environment conversations of almost residual importance do not have subtitles. For the rest, along with the overwhelming audio effects, make up a sound section of honors.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is an absolutely amazing video game in every way. There are few reproaches to make an adventure that leaves us a hero to remember, Arthur Morgan, and one of the best written and most exciting groups to discover: the Dutch van der Linde band. Rockstar once again sets a high bar for the open worlds, and not only in the playable facet, but also in the narrative and in the sound and visual. In short, an outstanding in any section imaginable. And that’s not all, of course, Red Dead Online arrives in November … can you ask for more?