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Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption 2 is one of the most anticipated video games ever made. It’s the latest game from the makers of Grand Theft Auto V, it’s a sequel to a much-loved classic, and it’s a game that thousands of people have dedicated years of work (and then some) to make happen. But is it any good? Here’s what the reviews say.

The latest open world blockbuster from Rockstar Games has been met with near universal acclaim. A positive response was expected, but recent stories regarding the game’s production have given many critics and fans pause for thought. It’s a discussion that will surely continue, but ultimately the end product is another success for Rockstar.

Reviews across the board praise the game’s characters, story, attention to detail, its interplay of systems, and its stunning recreation of 1899 America.

Keza MacDonald’s review for The Guardian finds much to admire in the hand-crafted world created by Rockstar:

“Were it not so astonishing to look at, the amount of time that Red Dead Redemption 2 expects you to spend enjoying the scenery might be intolerably boring. But the Old West that Rockstar has conjured here is close to miraculous. Its world is a collage of capsule versions of real American landscapes: the crisp cold of the mountains; mesa-studded plains that offer views for miles; foggy, humid mornings in the bayou in the fictional Southern state of Lemoyne.”

IGN‘s Luke Reilly also appreciates how Red Dead Redemption 2 feels alive, and populated by characters with small but real concerns.

“While the largely rural world of Red Dead Redemption 2 is far less dense than the likes of Grand Theft Auto V, it’s absolutely brimming with wildlife to discover, people to interact with (and potentially help), and places to scrutinise. The best kind of open worlds are those that seem almost indifferent to your presence in them; like life goes on whether you stick your nose into proceedings or not. I’ve sat and watched lumberjacks felling trees at a bustling logging camp and curiously tailed a perturbed Englishman wandering around town looking for his mate “Gav.” None of this is crucial to the progression of Arthur’s story; it just helps build a world around him that made me feel like a visitor rather than the centre of the universe”

Several reviews note of the lack of a fast-travel system. Although some consider the design choice to be a negative, Mike Williams at US Gamer finds pleasure in the slower pace.

“Red Dead Redemption 2 is a game where sometimes it feels good just to space out and ride. Not doing any missions or robbing anybody… just riding. It feels like that’s what Rockstar wants you to do, and it’s why the studio throws in the back and forth riding. Because goddamn is the world beautiful. At points, it almost feels like Red Dead Redemption 2 is a simulation, not a game.”

With John Marston taking a back seat for this prequel, the player wears the hat of Arthur Morgan, a member of the Van der Linde gang. Martin Robinson, in his Eurogamer review, finds the character lacking in focus:

“Morgan is a less fleshed-out creation than John Marston, though that’s possibly by design – those small choices you’re afforded enable you to build your own reading of him. Whether you push him towards sainthood or villainy, he’s never quite as compelling, either, and as a result it’s hard to get a grasp on what exactly Red Dead Redemption 2 is about.”

The game’s story is well-received on the whole, as is the way its geographic canvas opens up once the main narrative thread concludes. There are a some common points of criticism, however. Chris Plante, writing for Polygon, says:

“At its best, the story breaks away from the Western genre and plays like a cross between a heist movie, a domestic drama and a political thriller. At its worst, it’s a buddy action comedy. Mercifully, it manages to be more of the former than the latter.”

Gamespot‘s Kallie Plagge also appreciates how Rockstar has tackled some of the era’s social ills.

“Generally, Red Dead 2 tackles pertinent issues of the era with care. Rather than defining any of its characters by the bigotry they may experience, it allows them the room to be well-rounded individuals while still not ignoring that things like racism and sexism exist. One arc focuses squarely on a very serious issue, and here, the lack of real choice in the story’s direction–and your resulting involvement in what transpires–will likely make you uncomfortable in a powerful way.”

We’ll leave the last words to Kotaku, a publication that has done much to shine a light on how this ambitious project was created. In his review, Kirk Hamilton explores the game within the context of its development, saying:

“It is a stirring tribute to our world’s natural beauty, and a grim acknowledgment of our own starring role in its destruction. It tells a worthy and affecting story that weaves dozens of character-driven narrative threads into an epic tapestry across many miles and almost as many months. When the sun sets and the tale has been told, it leaves players with a virtual wild-west playground so convincingly rendered and filled with surprises that it seems boundless.”

Red Dead Redemption 2 is released for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on October 26, 2018.

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