Tuesday, October 30, 2018

It could drive a man to drink

I have been looking forward to Red Dead Redemption 2 for well over a year. The name was all I needed - no screen shots, no videos, no promises, just the name was enough to excite me. It's out now, I have played it for a few days, and I would like to condense my entire reaction down to three letters. There will be an explanation. This explanation will also be succinct as my blogging time is almost nonexistent. Here we go. Are you ready? I don't think you are ready. This is the sequel to the only open world game I have ever played that held my interest after the game was over. Prepare yourself.





There are a few companies that get an unwarranted pass on issues that would bring companies of lesser renown to their knees. Nintendo gets away with putting out first party titles at a snail's pace because their first party titles are the quintessential 'Nintendo' games that the loyal crave more than air or food. They even get a review bonus of at least 10% for just being Nintendo. Blizzard gets away with selling loot boxes because 'they are just cosmetic' and because playing pretty princess dress up is just as important as defending the point. And Rockstar continues to get away with being Rockstar: making incredibly deep, detailed experiences that play like absolute shit.

Remember Grand Theft Auto 5? Think back to how the driving felt, the driving in a game with 'auto' in the title. It wasn't good. It was honestly pretty bad. So was the shooting. So were a lot of things related to how the player actually interacted with the virtual world. Yet GTAV is the highest grossing piece of media of any kind because it is Grand Theft Auto. And because it is Rockstar.

Red Dead Redemption 2 is rife with dizzying detail. I am not even talking about shrinking horse balls, I am talking about a living, breathing world full of totally pointless activities. Hunting, fishing, combing your horse, feeding your horse, maintaining your character's weight by eating just enough but not too much, shaving, getting a bath, playing five finger fillet, playing poker, cutting the skin off of animal carcasses, throwing said carcass on the back of your freshly combed, thoughtfully named horse and schlepping it back to camp, and a ton of other things that have nothing to do with what I am looking for in a game.

I wanted a cowboy game. A western game. I got a cowboy simulator. This is not the same thing.

And when the cowboy stuff actually happens? When the shooting breaks out? The game feels old. It feels inadequate. The controls are an unintuitive mess, the shooting outside of dead eye mode has been done better by a hundred other titles. Third person over the shoulder action is not new. It has been almost perfected by Gears of War and Uncharted. But here? It's clumsy. It barely functions. It's Rockstar.

And when the combat is done I need to clean my gun. If it is damaged I can take it to a gunsmith to get it repaired, to buy parts for it, to spend in game money on frivolous things like engraved handles. I can make that gun my very own, an extension of my hand that is unlike anyone else's. And then when I go to shoot a guy with it I will draw the bow for no reason and die.

I cannot overlook simple problems like fiddly controls just because the sunsets are gorgeous and the snow deforms realistically when a horse jumps into it. Good writing does not automatically forgive having to walk back and forth in front of my tent to get the correct button prompt to trigger so I can go to sleep.

Red Dead Redemption 2 is a gorgeous mess of a world. It is accurate to the finest detail when you are looking at it but as soon as you touch it the illusion vanishes. It is probably the most 'Rockstar' Rockstar game ever. I paid cash money for this game so I am going to play it. And then I will play something else and the memory of Red Dead Redemption 2 will be overwritten in my head by good controls, intuitive combat and the striking absence of horse genitalia.

1 comment:

  1. Do you honestly feel that GTAV moved the amount of copies it did just because of the Rockstar name? Didn't have anything to do with the profoundly rich world and staggering production values?

    I agree that the review scores are a bit inflated, here, but GTAV and RDR2 are also offering something that others sitting at the open-world table simply can't. No, it's not perfect, and no, there's nothing else quite like RDR2. Period.

    It's definitely flawed, but it's also offering something very unique. You can't get this anywhere else.