Gamers, get ready to saddle up for the ride of your life.
The reviews for Rockstar's latest open-world opus, Red Dead Redemption 2, are in and if you thought the masterminds behind 2013's Grand Theft Auto V couldn't top themselves, well then, we've got a bullet with your name on it.
Exhaustingly beautiful is how some critics are describing RDR2, actually a prequel to 2010's exhilarating virtual western epic, Red Dead Redemption. By all accounts, the game sports stunningly immersive visuals of a lost frontier America stretching all the way from the deserts of the southwest and the Rockies, through the Great Plains on down to the Deep South.
But earning equal amount of kudos is its meticulously crafted characters and the realism of its multitude of storylines that makes gameplay an emotionally engaging experience for most and worthy of the hundred or so hours it will take to finish it.
Set in the last days of the Old West, Red Dead Redemption 2 finds players assuming the role of gunslinger Arthur Morgan, a member of the Van der Linde Gang, and making their way through dozens of character-driven story arcs that, as with most Rockstar games, take their sweet time (which is ironic, given the heat the gaming company's taken over "crunch," that is, the hundred-hour weeks employees put in to complete it).
Throughout the 300,000 or so unique animations, the designers' attention to detail is impressive — whether watching Morgan's hair grow throughout his adventures requiring a trip to the barber, or seeing a horse casually take a dump during a robbery. Of course, there's plenty of violence this mythic landscape is known for, from shoot-outs and hangings to stabbings and decapitations.
There's also storylines that deal with America's original sins of slavery and genocide as the people of color in the Van der Linde Gang educate Arthur about the bigotry and lynchings committed by the KKK and plantation owners and the crimes committed against Native Americans who've been forced onto reservations.
All of the above adds up to what is already being hailed as the game of the year when Red Dead Redemption 2 hits stores on Oct. 26.
Anyway, pardner, don't take our word for it. Here's what the critics are saying:
- "Red Dead Redemption 2 is an excellent prequel, but it's also an emotional, thought-provoking story in its own right, and it's a world that is hard to leave when it's done," wrote Game Spot in a glowing assessment.
- "The near-obsessive attention to detail, along with a new gameplay structure that centers around a family-like group of outlaws, makes Red Dead Redemption 2 the most convincing open-world game I’ve ever played," opined The Verge, though not before taking Rockstar to task over its treatment of women. "While there are plenty of female characters in the group… they’re mostly relegated to side roles, like mothers, lovers, and caregivers. Even when the game seems like it might have something interesting to say about women’s rights, particularly in such an oppressive time, it stumbles over itself."
- "From tip to tail, Red Dead Redemption 2 is a profound, glorious downer. It is the rare blockbuster video game that seeks to move players not through empowering gameplay and jubilant heroics, but by relentlessly forcing them to confront decay and despair," raved Kotaku. "It is both an exhilarating glimpse into the future of entertainment and a stubborn torch bearer for an old-fashioned kind of video game design. It is a remarkable work of game development and, possibly, a turning point in how we remark upon the work of game development."
- "Even after finishing the lengthy story I can’t wait to go back and play more," praised IGN in a big thumbs-up. "This is a game of rare quality; a meticulously polished open world ode to the outlaw era. Looking for one of this generation’s very best single-player action experiences? Here’s your huckleberry."
- On the other hand, Polygon said: "Ultimately, the story is too sentimental, and the game too loyal to the video game story trajectory, in which missions become bigger and more explosive, rather than more critical and introspective. The final acts’ required missions vacillate between various styles of genre fiction, zipping from Uncharted-like action set-pieces to a horror showdown with inbred families."
- "Rockstar makes an incredible first impression with Red Dead Redemption 2 in terms of ambition and execution. It is one of the most visually stunning environments ever executed in a video game, and that’s not a statement spoken with hyperbole," offered Variety.