So, if you have gotten this far, you are probably annoyed with me for having uttered such a silly phrase. Read Dead Redemption 2 is one of the most critically acclaimed games of the past 10 years! Surely I must just be fishing for “clicks,” and I don’t really think this, right?
No. I genuinely think Red Dead Redemption 2 is bad. I suppose I will die on this hill.
Let me get a few things straight here, before we really dig into this argument.
I think RDR2 is great and quite awesome. I think it is tremendous in its scope, and I recognize that it is awe inspiring in its ambitions and technical execution. In terms of narrative, RDR2 is one of the best-written stories I can remember experiencing, let alone in a video game.
So, what do I mean when I wanly say that game is bad? Well, that deserves its own subheading.
Too big for its own good
Read Dead Redemption 2 is a game that is too big and too grand for its own good. I don’t know how many hours it took me to complete the main story, but I can tell you this: it took way too long.
Through the first two-and-a-half chapters (out of a total of six), I made an effort to try to complete everything. I was hunting legendary animals, looking for legendary fish, upgrading my camp and performing good deeds for random folk out on the road. Somewhere in the middle of chapter three, though, I came to a revelation: I had been playing the game for nearly two weeks and was nowhere near completion.
Given the fact that I am an adult with a fiancee and full-time job, I have been making much quicker progress on this than most of my contemporaries. When I checked in with someone, they were surprised I was so far. I knew that I needed to cut some ties if I wanted to be able to experience the game’s whole main narrative in time for Fallout 76, Pokemon Let’s Go Eevee and (of course) get back to my backlog.
And so I did: I stopped playing side quests and began to work on the main story. A main story that still took tens of hours to complete.
Red Dead Redemption 2 feels “okay” when you are playing it. Most of the time.
Many of Red Dead Redemption 2’s missions end up turning into extended shooting galleries where the gimmick of dead eye is encouraged, and sometimes needed, to make the game manageable. While the gunplay is satisfying for a while, the main mechanic gets stale quickly when compared to the scope of the entire game.
There are for sure some things to break up the gunfight monotony. Poker games, dominoes and five finger filet are all available at different points. But in a way, these fail to help the game’s case. With so much to do, is playing poker or stabbing my fingers really the best use of my time?
In the end, the gameplay is too dissatisfying and there is too much monotony to make the potential stories worth hearing for me, personally. I am sure there are some incredible stories to be told. And quite honestly, if I had unlimited time, I might be happy with the amount of content available. As it stands, though, I get the real sense that Red Dead Redemption 2 is a game that clearly does not value my time.
Don’t think I don’t understand the value of watching Arthur skin an animal 500 times. It adds to immersion and pulls players deeper into the game. However, in a year as packed with quality releases like God of War, Spider-Man and Octopath Traveler, it is tough to recommend getting invested in Red Dead Redemption 2 to anyone but high-schoolers with unlimited free-time.
I walked away from Red Dead Redemption 2 happy that I experienced the story and the interesting character development. I am also happy, however, with my decision to walk away from much of the side content, which is the real problem.
If a game has content for the consumption, and gamers need to pick and choose what they have time to experience within a single game, then the game is just too big. Add in the consideration that gameplay in Red Dead Redemption 2 is plodding and aging, and I cannot say that I think it is a truly excellent game.
A great story? Yes. A technical marvel? Absolutely. An inspiring piece of art from a dedicated team? Assuredly. But a good game? I need to pass.