Red Dead Redemption 2

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Red Dead Redemption 2
Red Dead Redemption II.jpg
Developer(s) Rockstar Studios
Publisher(s) Rockstar Games
Producer(s) Rob Nelson
Designer(s) Imran Sarwar
Programmer(s) Phil Hooker
Artist(s) Aaron Garbut
Writer(s)
Composer(s) Woody Jackson
Series Red Dead
Engine RAGE
Platform(s)
Release
  • PlayStation 4, Xbox One
  • October 26, 2018
  • Windows
  • November 5, 2019
  • Stadia
  • November 19, 2019
Genre(s) Action-adventure
Mode(s) Single-player, multiplayer

Red Dead Redemption 2 [lower-alpha 1] is a 2018 action-adventure game developed and published by Rockstar Games. The game is the third entry in the Red Dead series and a prequel to the 2010 game Red Dead Redemption . The story is set in 1899 and follows the exploits of outlaw Arthur Morgan, a member of the Van der Linde gang, in a fictionalized representation of the Western, Midwestern, and Southern United States. Arthur must deal with the decline of the Wild West whilst attempting to survive against government forces, rival gangs, and other adversaries. The game's epilogue follows fellow gang member John Marston, the protagonist of Red Dead Redemption.

Contents

The game is presented through both first and third-person perspectives, and the player may freely roam in its interactive open world. Gameplay elements include shootouts, robberies, hunting, horseback riding, interacting with non-player characters, and maintaining the character's honor rating through moral choices and deeds. A bounty system similar to the "wanted" system from the Grand Theft Auto franchise governs the response of law enforcement and bounty hunters to crimes committed by the player. Red Dead Online , the game's online multiplayer mode, lets up to 32 players engage in a variety of cooperative and competitive game modes.

The game's development lasted over eight years, beginning soon after Red Dead Redemption's release, and it became one of the most expensive video games ever made. Rockstar co-opted all of its studios into one large team to facilitate development. They drew influence from real locations as opposed to film or art, focused on creating an accurate reflection of the time with the game's characters and world. The game was Rockstar's first built specifically for eighth generation consoles, having tested their technical capabilities while porting Grand Theft Auto V to the platforms. The game's soundtrack features an original score composed by Woody Jackson and several vocal tracks produced by Daniel Lanois. Development included a crunch schedule of 100-hour weeks, leading to reports of mandatory and unpaid overtime.

Red Dead Redemption 2 was released for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in October 2018, and for Windows and Stadia in November 2019. It broke several records and had the second-biggest launch in the history of entertainment, generating US$725 million in sales from its opening weekend and exceeding the lifetime sales of Red Dead Redemption in two weeks. The game received critical acclaim, with praise directed at its story, characters, open world, graphics, music, and level of detail; some criticism was directed at its control scheme and emphasis on realism over player freedom. It won year-end accolades including Game of the Year awards from several gaming publications, and is considered an example of video games as an art form as well as one of the greatest video games ever made. It is also among the best-selling video games with over 46 million copies shipped.

Gameplay

The player may choose to respond positively or negatively to non-player characters throughout the game world, which affects their reputation within the game. Red Dead Redemption 2 gameplay.jpg
The player may choose to respond positively or negatively to non-player characters throughout the game world, which affects their reputation within the game.

Red Dead Redemption 2 is a Western-themed action-adventure game. Played from a first or third-person perspective, the game is set in an open-world environment featuring a fictionalized version of the Western, Midwestern, and Southern United States in 1899, during the latter half of the Wild West era and the turn of the twentieth century. [1] The game features both single-player and online multiplayer components, the latter released under Red Dead Online . [2] For most of the game, the player controls outlaw Arthur Morgan, a member of the Van der Linde gang, as he completes numerous missions—linear scenarios with set objectives—to progress through the story; from the game's epilogue, the player controls John Marston, the playable protagonist of the game's predecessor, Red Dead Redemption . [3] Outside of missions, the player may freely roam the game's interactive world. [4] The player may engage in combat with enemies using melee attacks, firearms, throwables, or explosives. Combat has been refined from the game's predecessor, and notable new mechanics consist of dual-wielding and the ability to use a bow. [5] [6] The player is granted the ability to swim as Arthur, but not as John—a reference to the previous game, where swimming led to instant death. [7]

Red Dead Redemption 2's unexploited land makes up the largest portion of the game world and features diverse landscapes with occasional travelers, bandits, and wildlife. There are urban settlements in the game, ranging from farmhouses to towns and cities. [8] [9] Horses are the main forms of transportation, of which there are various breeds, each with different attributes. The player can steal horses, and must either train or tame a wild horse to use it; to own a horse, the player must saddle or stable it. Increased use of a horse will begin a bonding process, which can be increased by leading, petting, cleaning, and feeding it, and the player will acquire advantages as they ride their horse. [10] Stagecoaches and trains can also be used to travel. The player can hijack an incoming train or stagecoach by threatening the driver or passengers and then rob its contents or the passengers. [11] [12]

The player may also witness or take part in random events encountered from exploring the game world. These include ambushes, crimes committed by other people, pleas for assistance, ride-by shootings, public executions, and animal attacks. For example, as the player explores the Wild West, they can find specific people in distress. If the player decides to help them, they will be thankful and may reward the player if they cross them again. [10] [13] The player may also take part in side-activities, which include small tasks with companions and strangers, dueling, bounty hunting, searching for treasure or other collectibles around the map such as rock carvings, and playing poker, blackjack, dominoes, and five finger filet. [14] Hunting animals also plays a major role in the game, providing food, income, and materials for crafting items. When hunting, the player needs to take into account several factors, including the choice of weapon and shot placement, which affect the quality of the meat and pelt and subsequently the price traders are willing to pay. The player can either skin the animal immediately or carry the carcass, which will rot over time and decrease its value and attract predators. [15] [16]

The game focuses heavily on player choice for the story and missions. Certain moments in the story will give the player the option to accept or decline additional missions and lightly shape the plot around their choices. [17] The player can communicate with any non-player character (NPC) in dynamic ways new to the series. The player can choose different dialogue trees with NPCs, such as having a friendly chat or insulting them. If the player chooses to kill an NPC, they can loot their corpse. [18] Red Dead Redemption 2 brings back the Honor system from its predecessor by measuring how the player's actions are perceived in terms of morality. Morally positive choices and deeds like helping strangers, abiding the law, and sparing opponents in a duel will add up to the player's Honor. However, negative deeds such as theft and harming innocents will subtract from the player's Honor. The story is influenced by Honor, as the dialogue and outcomes for the player often differ based on their Honor level. Hitting milestones for the player's Honor level will grant unique benefits, such as rewarding the player with special outfits and large discounts in stores. A low Honor level is also beneficial, as the player will receive a greater number of items from looted corpses. [19]

Red Dead Redemption 2's Dead Eye targeting system allows the player to slow down time and mark targets. Once the targeting sequence ends, the player fires to every marked location in a very short space of time. Red Dead Redemption 2 Dead Eye gameplay.gif
Red Dead Redemption 2's Dead Eye targeting system allows the player to slow down time and mark targets. Once the targeting sequence ends, the player fires to every marked location in a very short space of time.

Maintaining Arthur and John is important, as they can undergo conditions that affect their health and stamina attributes. In addition to a health and stamina bar, the player also has cores, which affect the rate at which their health and stamina regenerate. For example, wearing warmer clothes will mean they avoid freezing in a cold environment, but wearing them in a hot environment will result in perspiration. Freezing or overheating will rapidly drain cores. The player can also gain or lose weight depending on how much he eats; an underweight character will have less health but at an increase of stamina, while an overweight character will be able to better absorb damage but will have less stamina. The player can eat and sleep to replenish their cores. The player can bathe to remain clean, and can visit a barber to change hairstyles; hair also grows realistically over time. The game features weapon degradation, with weapons requiring cleaning to maintain their performance. When the player uses a certain type of gun for a long period of time, they become more experienced with it, which improves weapon handling, reduces recoil, and increases the rate of reloading. [20] [21] [22]

Gunfights are an essential mechanic in the game. The player can take cover, free aim, and target a person or animal. Individual body parts can also be targeted to take targets down without killing them. When the player shoots an enemy, the game's AI reactions and movements depend on where they were hit. Weapons consist of pistols, revolvers, repeaters, rifles, shotguns, bows, explosives, lassos, mounted Gatling guns, and melee weapons such as knives and tomahawks. Red Dead Redemption 2 brings back the trademark mechanic in the franchise: Dead Eye, a targeting system that allows the player to slow down time and mark targets. Once the targeting sequence ends, the player fires to every marked location in a very short space of time. The Dead Eye system upgrades as the player progresses in the game and grants the player more abilities, such as being able to spot the fatal points of their enemies. [23] [24]

The bounty system also returns from Red Dead Redemption, a crime-governing mechanic inspired by Grand Theft Auto 's wanted system. When a player commits a crime, witnesses run to the nearest police station to get the law to intervene, and the player needs to stop the witness to avoid repercussions. Once the law is alerted, law enforcers appear and will start investigating. When the player is caught, the Wanted meter appears with a bounty sent on their head. The bounty grows higher as the player commits more crimes, and more lawmen will be sent to hunt them. If the player has committed serious crimes and then manages to escape the law, bounty hunters will be hired to track them down in the wilderness. After committing enough crime, the U.S. Marshals will be sent to the player's location. To escape law enforcement, the player must evade a red circular zone in the map and the wanted meter will slowly deplete. They can alternatively hide from the pursuers or kill them. [25] Whether the player escapes or gets captured, the bounty will remain on their head, lawmen and civilians will be more vigilant, and regions where the crimes have been committed will be on lockdown. When caught by lawmen, the player has the opportunity to surrender if they are unarmed and on foot, though bounty hunters will not accept surrender if the player is known to slip out of apprehension attempts. The player can remove their bounty by paying it off at a post office or by surrendering to law enforcement and spending time in jail. [26]

Synopsis

Setting

The world of Red Dead Redemption 2 spans five fictitious U.S. states. The states of New Hanover, Ambarino, and Lemoyne are new to the series, and are located to the immediate north and east of Red Dead Redemption's world, whilst the states of New Austin and West Elizabeth return from Red Dead Redemption. [lower-alpha 2] The states are centered on the San Luis and Lannahechee Rivers and the shores of Flat Iron Lake. [27] [28] Ambarino is a mountain wilderness, with the largest settlement being the Wapiti Native American reservation; [29] New Hanover encompasses a sweeping valley and woody foothills that feature the cattle town of Valentine, the riverside Van Horn Trading Post, and the coal town of Annesburg; [30] [31] and Lemoyne is composed of bayous and plantations resembling the southeastern United States, [27] and is home to the Southern town of Rhodes, the village of Lagras, [31] and the former French colony of Saint Denis, analogous to New Orleans. [27]

West Elizabeth consists of wide plains, dense forests, and the prosperous port town of Blackwater. [9] This region has been expanded from the original Red Dead Redemption with a vast northern portion containing the mountain resort town of Strawberry. [31] [32] New Austin is an arid desert region on the border with Mexico and centered on the frontier towns of Armadillo and Tumbleweed, also featured in the original game. [33] Parts of New Austin and West Elizabeth have been redesigned to reflect the earlier time; for example, Blackwater is still under development, [34] while Armadillo is a ghost town as a result of a cholera outbreak. [35]

Characters

The player takes on the role of Arthur Morgan (Roger Clark), a lieutenant and veteran member of the Van der Linde gang. The gang is led by Dutch van der Linde (Benjamin Byron Davis), a charismatic man who extols personal freedom and decries the encroaching march of modern civilization. The gang also includes Dutch's best friend and co-leader Hosea Matthews (Curzon Dobell), Red Dead Redemption protagonist John Marston (Rob Wiethoff), his partner Abigail Roberts (Cali Elizabeth Moore) and son Jack Marston (Marissa Buccianti and Ted Sutherland), the lazy Uncle (John O'Creagh and James McBride), gunslingers Bill Williamson (Steve J. Palmer), Javier Escuella (Gabriel Sloyer), and Micah Bell (Peter Blomquist), Black Indian hunter Charles Smith (Noshir Dalal), and housewife-turned-gunslinger Sadie Adler (Alex McKenna). [36]

The gang members' criminal acts bring them into conflict with various opposing forces including the wealthy oil magnate Leviticus Cornwall (John Rue), whose assets become a gang target. In response, he recruits a team of agents from the Pinkerton Detective Agency, led by Andrew Milton (John Hickok) and his subordinate Edgar Ross (Jim Bentley), to hunt down the gang. The gang also encounters the Saint Denis-based Italian crime lord Angelo Bronte (Jim Pirri), the controversial Guarman ruler Colonel Alberto Fussar (Alfredo Narciso), and Dutch's nemesis Colm O'Driscoll (Andrew Berg), leader of the rival O'Driscoll gang. Along its travels, the gang becomes entangled with the Gray and Braithwaite families, two warring families who are rumored to be hoarding Civil War gold; the gang's affiliation with the families primarily take place through Leigh Gray (Tim McGeever), the sheriff of Rhodes, and Catherine Braithwaite (Ellen Harvey), the matriarch of the Braithwaite family. Later in the game, Arthur helps Rains Fall (Graham Greene) and his son Eagle Flies (Jeremiah Bitsui), both members of the Native American Wapiti tribe whose land is being targeted by the Army. [37]

Plot

After a botched ferry heist in 1899, the Van der Linde gang are forced to leave their substantial money stash and flee Blackwater. Realizing the progress of civilization is ending the time of outlaws, they decide to gain enough money to escape the law and retire. They rob a train owned by Cornwall, who hires Pinkertons to apprehend them. The gang perform jobs to earn money, as Dutch continually promises the next heist will be their last. Following a shootout with Cornwall's men in Valentine, the gang relocate to Lemoyne, where they work simultaneously for the Grays and Braithwaites in an attempt to turn them against each other. However, the families double-cross them: the Grays kill a gang member during an ambush, while the Braithwaites kidnap and sell Jack to Bronte. The gang retaliate and destroy both families before retrieving Jack from Bronte, who offers them leads on work, but eventually double-crosses them. Dutch kidnaps and feeds him to an alligator as revenge, which disturbs Arthur.

The gang rob a bank in Saint Denis, but the Pinkertons intervene, killing Hosea and arresting John. Dutch, Arthur, Bill, Javier, and Micah escape the city via a ship heading to Cuba. A torrential storm sinks the ship, and the men wash ashore on the island of Guarma, where they become embroiled in a war between tyrannical sugar plantation owner Fussar and the enslaved local population. After helping the revolutionaries kill Fussar, the group secure transport back to the United States and reunite with the rest of the gang.

Dutch obsesses over one last heist and doubts Arthur's loyalty after he disobeys him by liberating John earlier than planned, naming Micah his top lieutenant in Arthur's place. Arthur becomes concerned that Dutch is no longer the man he knew, as he is becoming insular, abandons their ideals, and murders Cornwall. He is faced with his mortality when he is diagnosed with tuberculosis. Arthur reflects on his actions and how to protect the gang following his death, telling John to run away with Abigail and Jack and openly defying Dutch by aiding the local Native American people. When the Pinkertons assault the camp, Dutch becomes paranoid that a gang member is working as an informant. Several gang members become disenchanted and leave, while Dutch and Micah arrange one final heist of an Army payroll train.

Arthur's faith in Dutch is shattered when he abandons Arthur to the Army, leaves John for dead, and refuses to rescue Abigail when she is taken. Arthur and Sadie rescue Abigail from Milton, who names Micah as the Pinkertons' informer before Abigail kills him. Arthur returns to camp and openly accuses Micah of betrayal. Dutch, Bill, Javier, and Micah turn on Arthur and a newly returned John, but the standoff is broken when Pinkertons attack. The player can choose to have Arthur aid John's escape by delaying the Pinkertons or return to the camp to recover the gang's money. Micah ambushes Arthur, and Dutch intervenes in their fight. Arthur convinces Dutch to abandon Micah and leave. If the player has high honor, Arthur succumbs to his injuries and disease and dies while watching the sunrise; if the player has low honor, Micah executes him.

Eight years later, in 1907, John and his family are trying to lead honest lives. They find work at a ranch where John fights back against outlaws threatening his employer. Believing John is unwilling to give up his old ways, Abigail leaves with Jack. John takes a loan from the bank to purchase a ranch. He works with Uncle, Sadie, and Charles to build a new home, and proposes to Abigail on her return. Afterwards, learning Micah is still alive and formed his own gang, John, Sadie, and Charles assault his camp and find a recently arrived Dutch, who shoots Micah after a tense standoff and leaves in silence, allowing John to kill Micah and claim the gang's Blackwater stash to pay his debt. John then marries Abigail and they start a new life on their ranch alongside Jack and Uncle, as Sadie and Charles leave for other pursuits.

The final scene shows Edgar Ross observing John's ranch, foreshadowing the events of Red Dead Redemption.

Development

Red Dead Redemption 2 bus advertisement - Brisbane, Queensland.png
Brisbane, Queensland
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SoHo, Manhattan
The game was extensively promoted throughout the world.

Preliminary work on Red Dead Redemption 2 began shortly following the release of the original game, Red Dead Redemption (2010). [38] [39] Rockstar San Diego, the studio behind the original game, had a rough outline of the game by mid-2011, and by late 2012, rough scripts of the game had been completed. [40] When Rockstar Games realized that a group of distinct studios would not necessarily work, it co-opted all of its studios into one large team, [39] dubbed Rockstar Studios, [41] [42] to facilitate development between 1,600 people; a total of around 2,000 people worked on the game. [39] Analyst estimations place the game's combined development and marketing budget between US$370 million and US$540 million, which would make it one of the most expensive video games to develop. [43]

While the main theme of the original game was to protect family at all costs, Red Dead Redemption 2 tells the story of the breakdown of a family in the form of the Van der Linde gang. The team was interested in exploring the story of why the gang fell apart, as frequently mentioned in the first game. [39] Rockstar's Vice President of Creativity Dan Houser was inspired by film and literature when writing the game, though he avoided contemporary works to avoid being accused of stealing ideas. [40] The team was not specifically inspired by film or art but rather real locations. [44] The team was focused on creating an accurate reflection of the time, with people and locations. The citizens in the game feature a contrast between rich and poor, while the locales contrast between the civilization and the wilderness. [36]

Red Dead Redemption 2's recording sessions began in 2013. [40] Rockstar wanted a diverse cast of characters within the Van der Linde gang. The writers put particular focus on the individual stories behind each character, exploring their life before the gang and their reasons for remaining with the group. [39] Several characters were cut from the game during development as their personalities failed to add to the narrative. [39] The actors sometimes improvized some additional lines, but mostly remained faithful to the script. [45] The team decided that the player would control one character in Red Dead Redemption 2, as opposed to the three protagonists in Rockstar's previous title Grand Theft Auto V (2013), to follow the character more personally and understand how the events impact him. [39] They felt that a single character is more appropriate for the narrative structure of a Western. [36]

Red Dead Redemption 2 is the first game from Rockstar built specifically for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. [46] Rockstar had tested these consoles' technical capabilities when porting Grand Theft Auto V, initially released on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, to them. Once the team had defined what limitations were sustainable, they found the areas that required the most focus. [47] One of Rockstar's goals with Red Dead Redemption 2's gameplay was to make the player feel as though they are living in a world, instead of playing missions and watching cutscenes. A method used to achieve this was through the gang's moving camp, where the player can interact with other characters. The team ensured that the characters maintained the same personality and mood from cutscene to gameplay to make the world feel more alive and realistic. [39]

Woody Jackson, who worked with Rockstar on the original game and Grand Theft Auto V, returned to compose Red Dead Redemption 2's original score. [40] Red Dead Redemption 2 has three different types of score: narrative, which is heard during the missions in the game's story; interactive, when the player is roaming the open world or in multiplayer; and environmental, which includes campfire singing songs or a character playing music in the world. The game's music regularly reacts according to the player's decisions in the world. [48] Jackson purchased several instruments from the Wrecking Crew that were featured on classic cowboy films. [48] In total, over 110 musicians worked on the music for the game. [49] Daniel Lanois produced the original vocal tracks for the game, collaborating with artists such as D'Angelo, Willie Nelson, Rhiannon Giddens, and Josh Homme. [48] Director of music and audio Ivan Pavlovich also engaged saxophone player Colin Stetson, experimental band Senyawa, and musician Arca to work on the score. [49]

Rockstar Games first teased Red Dead Redemption 2 on October 16–17, 2016, [50] [51] before the official announcement on October 18, 2016. [52] Originally due for release in the second half of 2017, the game was delayed twice: first to Q1/Q2 2018, [53] and later to October 26, 2018. [54] According to Rockstar, the game required extra development time for "polish". [54] To spur pre-order sales, Rockstar collaborated with several retail outlets to provide special edition versions of the game. [55] A companion app, released alongside the game for Android and iOS devices, acts as a second screen wherein the player can view in-game items such as catalogs, journals, and a real-time mini-map. [56] The game was released for Windows on November 5, 2019, [lower-alpha 3] and was a launch title for Stadia when the service launched on November 19, 2019. [58] [59] The Windows version has visual and technical improvements. [57]

Reception

Critical response

Red Dead Redemption 2 received "universal acclaim" from critics, according to review aggregator Metacritic. [60] [61] The game is the highest-rated PlayStation 4 and Xbox One game on Metacritic alongside Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto V, [67] [68] and is the fifth-highest rated game overall, tied with several others. [69] [lower-alpha 4] Reviewers praised the story, characters, open world, graphics, music, and level of detail. Matt Bertz of Game Informer described the game as "the biggest and most cohesive adventure Rockstar Games has ever created", [4] and GamesRadar 's David Meikleham felt that it "represents the current pinnacle of video game design". [13] Keza MacDonald of The Guardian declared it "a landmark game" and "a new high water-mark for lifelike video game worlds"; [70] IGN 's Luke Reilly named it "one of the greatest games of the modern age". [66] Peter Suderman, writing for The New York Times , considered Red Dead Redemption 2 as an example of video games as a work of art, comparing the game's abilities to "[tell] individual stories against the backdrop of national and cultural identity, deconstructing their genres while advancing the form" to the current state of film and television with similar works like The Godfather and The Sopranos . [71]

Meikleham of GamesRadar wrote that, "story-wise, this is perhaps the boldest triple-A game ever made", praising the unpredictability of the narrative and comparing the game's "high caliber" epilogue to the narrative of The Last of Us (2013). [13] The Guardian's MacDonald also praised the twists within the story, applauding the writers' ability to feed the smaller stories into the overall narrative. [70] Nick Plessas of Electronic Gaming Monthly noted that the game's best stories "are to be found in the margins", discovered and written by the player. [10] Game Informer's Bertz felt that the game's narrative rarely suffered from repetition, an impressive feat considering the game's scope. [4] Conversely, GameSpot 's Kallie Plagge was frustrated by the predictability later in the narrative, though admitted that such repetition was a "crucial" part of Arthur's story. [64] Alex Navarro of Giant Bomb felt that the narrative suffered in its clichéd Native American portrayal and "blandly obnoxious" side missions. [65] Some reviewers also commented on the game's slow opening hours [25] [72] and its lengthy epilogue. [73] [74]

Electronic Gaming Monthly's Plessas found the journey of redemption for Arthur Morgan to be "far more redeeming" than John Marston's in Red Dead Redemption, noting that his sins heightened his sympathy for the character. [10] Conversely, Eurogamer 's Martin Robinson considered Arthur to be less compelling than Marston, leading to a confusing narrative as a result. [75] GameSpot's Plagge wrote that the new characters in the game contribute significantly to the quality of the story. [64] Mike Williams of USgamer felt that the secondary characters "feel like actual people" due to their varied personalities, and the player feels a closer connection when events occur in the game. [25] IGN's Reilly praised the cultural variety within the cast of characters and the game's avoidance of caricatures. [66] Giant Bomb's Navarro echoed this sentiment, noting that the characters possess humanity often lacking in other Rockstar games, particularly in the thoughtful portrayal of Arthur's internal conflicts. [65] MacDonald of The Guardian felt that the characters felt more believable due to the "excellent performances with unexpected range". [70] Polygon 's Chris Plante found the game's portrayal of Native American characters, inspired by a "mashing together of real-world people, locations, and groups into single entities", to be insensitive and confusing, but that the game's political commentary shone when focusing on the entitlement and power of the Braithwaite and Gray families. [72]

Game Informer's Bertz felt that the game has "unequivocally the most well-crafted and fully realized open world in video games". [4] Many other critics echoed this sentiment: Giant Bomb's Navarro considered the open-world population to be the game's best aspect, [65] and Electronic Gaming Monthly's Plessas noted that the game's map "pushes industry boundaries in both size and detail". [10] Robinson of Eurogamer considered the world to be Rockstar's largest since Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (2004). [75] The Guardian's MacDonald described the open world as "close to miraculous", praising its imitation of real American landscapes. [70] Reilly of IGN considered the game's world to be "broader, more beautiful, and more varied" than its predecessor's, due in part to how each environment feels alive. [66] GameSpot's Plagge felt compelled to explore the open world due to its variety, reactivity, and surprises. [64]

Red Dead Redemption 2's open world, a fictionalized representation of the Western, Midwestern and Southern United States, was praised as one of the greatest in video games. Red Dead Redemption 2 open world.jpg
Red Dead Redemption 2's open world, a fictionalized representation of the Western, Midwestern and Southern United States, was praised as one of the greatest in video games.

GamesRadar's Meikleham declared Red Dead Redemption 2 as "the best looking video game of all time" with some of the most impressive lighting and weather systems. [13] IGN's Reilly described the game as "undeniably pretty" due to the lighting engine, facial animation, and level of granular detail present in the world. [66] Game Informer's Bertz praised the attention to detail of the historical period, writing that the "wide expanses of wilderness feel alive thanks to an unrivaled dynamic weather system, ambient sound effects, and the most ambitious ecology of flora and fauna ever seen in games". [4] Plessas of Electronic Gaming Monthly felt that the game's artistic and graphical design was impressive in its physicality and reactivity, as well as visuals. [10] USgamer's Williams found the game to be one of the best-looking on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. [25]

Woody Jackson's musical score was called "top notch" by IGN's Reilly, who described it as "an evocative mix of jangling Ennio Morricone-esque guitar and more soulful pieces". [66] GamesRadar's Meikleham wrote that the score is "both electrifying and eclectic". [13] Dean Takahashi of VentureBeat felt that the soundtrack contributed significantly to the game's immersion, [76] while Bertz of Game Informer noted that the soundtrack added authenticity to the game world by using elements of American folk music. [4] VG247 's Kirk McKeand praised the blending of music during exploration and its intensity in combat, and lauded the sparing use of vocal tracks to highlight important narrative moments. [77] Graham Banas of Push Square retrospectively named it among the best soundtracks of the 2010s, writing that it "raised the bar on what a soundtrack could accomplish". [78]

Red Dead Redemption 2's gameplay received praise from Giant Bomb's Navarro, who noted that, "from the biggest missions right down to the smallest interactions, all of this stuff feels like it was constructed individually". [65] GamesRadar's Meikleham similarly lauded the amount of detail and worth in the game's secondary mechanics. [13] Plessas of Electronic Gaming Monthly wrote that the game's subtle details are "vital for immersion", noting that they remove any divide between the player and the overall experience. [10] Game Informer's Bertz appreciated the game's missions that avoided violence, wanting more "quiet moments sprinkled throughout the story". [4] IGN's Reilly felt that, despite feeling "heavier" than the protagonists of Grand Theft Auto V, Arthur's movement throughout the world did not feel cumbersome. [66] Polygon's Plante considered the game's conversation options limited, but still an improvement over the violence of other action games. [72] Eurogamer's Robinson voiced frustration at the game's lack of freedom in some story missions. [75]

IGN's Reilly felt that, while the game's combat borrowed from the formula of Grand Theft Auto games, the closer battles with more primitive firearms led to more intimate and "exciting" encounters. [66] Chris Carter of Destructoid described the gunplay as "fantastic" and praised the game's Dead Eye mechanic for allowing the "further beautification of some of the more hectic confrontations". [62] Electronic Gaming Monthly's Plessas wrote that "few games attempt to reinvent the point-gun-pull-trigger quintessence of shooters, but Red Dead 2 achieves it with confidence and grace". [10] Sam White of GQ found that the guns are "slower, more meaningful tools", making them feel deadlier in combat. [79] USgamer's Williams felt that the game is better than its predecessor, but is "not the best third-person combat system". [25]

Film Crit Hulk, writing for Polygon, criticized the game's control system, summarizing the feeling of it as "not one of difficulty and accomplishment, but constant monotony or frustration". [73] Kotaku 's Kirk Hamilton disparaged that interacting with the world became "frustrating and inconsistent" as a result of the game's "sludgy kinesthetics, jumbled control scheme, and unclear user interface"; they described gameplay as akin to giving directions to an actor due to both "arduous, heavy, and inelegant" navigation and slow or unsatisfying button inputs. [80] Robert Ramsey of Push Square called the controls "serviceable" but at their worst "infuriating", and that the button layouts for various actions were too convoluted. [81]

Gaming journalist Jim Sterling felt that the sheer amount of realism in the game limited capabilities and caused scenarios or animations to be prolonged, such as hunting animals for their pelts. [82] [83] Film Crit Hulk, writing for Polygon, felt that the ability to interact with numerous items resulted in meaningless interactions, and that striving for realism in a video game did not work in practice. [73] Jeff Grubb of VentureBeat wrote that, in spite of presenting a range of options for the player, the gameplay was still restrictive by preventing other opportunities. [84] USgamer's Williams felt that the wanted system was unfairly punishing to the player for committing crimes that were difficult to avoid, such as accidentally killing NPCs in collisions. [25] Wired 's Matt Reynolds was mixed on gameplay elements relating to the well-being of the player character and the required dedication, noting that the game "exchanges immersion for observation" and that "at times, the constant character maintenance feels like a chore". [85]

Red Dead Redemption 2's Windows release also received "universal acclaim", according to Metacritic; [86] it is one of the highest-rated PC games. [92] Sam White of PCGamesN thought the graphics improvements made the open world "[look] the best it ever has". [90] Destructoid's Carter praised the addition of the Photo Mode. [87] Sam Machkovech of Ars Technica felt that the game's animations during cutscenes do not scale well to higher frame rates, but considered the gameplay to be far superior to the console versions. [93] Matthew Castle of Rock, Paper, Shotgun lauded the adapted controls, particularly when painting targets in Dead Eye, though felt they took time to familiarize oneself with. [94] PC Gamer 's James Davenport found the first-person perspective to be superior on the Windows version due to the responsiveness of the mouse, [95] but noted that the game crashed several times; [89] Jean-Kléber Lauret of Jeuxvideo.com echoed similar criticisms, observing that the graphical and technical enhancements meant that advanced hardware was required. [88] Polygon's Samit Sarkar criticized the port's technical issues, writing that "the freezing issue is bad enough that I simply can't play the game until Rockstar fixes it". [96] Tony Polanco of PCMag wrote that, one week after release, the technical issues had been mostly solved. [91]

Accolades

Red Dead Redemption 2 received multiple nominations and awards from gaming publications. Before release, it was nominated for Most Anticipated Game at The Game Awards in 2016 and 2017, [97] [98] and for Most Wanted Game at the Golden Joystick Awards. [99] At The Game Awards 2018, the game received eight nominations and went on to win four awards: Best Audio Design, Best Narrative, Best Score/Music, and Best Performance for Roger Clark as Arthur Morgan. [100] At IGN's Best of 2018, the game garnered seven nominations, [101] winning two awards [102] [103] and named runner-up in four (behind God of War ). [104] [105] [106] [107] The game earned eight nominations at the 22nd Annual D.I.C.E. Awards, including Game of the Year. [108] At the 6th SXSW Gaming Awards, Red Dead Redemption 2 was named the Trending Game of the Year and won for Excellence in SFX and Technical Achievement. [109] The game received seven nominations at the 19th Game Developers Choice Awards, [110] and six at the 15th British Academy Games Awards. [111]

On Metacritic, Red Dead Redemption 2 was the highest-rated game of 2018. [112] The game also appeared on several year-end lists of the best games of 2018, receiving Game of the Year wins at the Australian Games Awards, [113] Brazil Game Awards, [114] Fun & Serious Game Festival, [115] Global Game Awards, [116] IGN Australia Select Awards, [117] and Italian Video Game Awards, [118] and from outlets such as 4Players , [119] AusGamers , [120] Complex , [121] Digital Trends , [122] Edge , [123] Electronic Gaming Monthly, [124] Gamereactor , [125] GameSpot, [126] The Guardian, [127] Hot Press , [128] news.com.au , [129] The Telegraph , [130] USgamer, [131] and Vulture ; [40] it was named runner-up by several other publications. [132] [133] [104] The game was named among the best games of the 2010s by Entertainment.ie , [134] The Hollywood Reporter, [135] Metacritic, [136] National Post , [137] NME , [138] Stuff , [139] Thrillist , [140] VG247, [141] and Wired UK . [142]

Sales

Since the previous installment in the series was among the highest-reviewed and best-selling games of the seventh generation of video game consoles, many analysts believed that Red Dead Redemption 2 would be one of the highest-selling games of 2018 and would have a great effect on other game sales during the fourth quarter. [143] After the game's announcement in October 2016, analyst Ben Schacter of Macquarie Research estimated that it would sell 12 million copies in its first quarter, [144] while analysts at Cowen and Company gave a "conservative" estimate of 15 million sales. [143] In July 2018, industry analyst Mat Piscatella predicted that Red Dead Redemption 2 would be the best-selling game of 2018, outselling other blockbuster titles such as Battlefield V , Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 , and Fallout 76 ; [145] some industry commentators noted that frequent franchises like Assassin's Creed and Call of Duty were launching their 2018 entries— Odyssey and Black Ops 4, respectively—earlier than usual, predicting an avoidance of competition with Red Dead Redemption 2. [146] Shortly before the game's release in October 2018, Schacter estimated that the game would sell 15 million copies in its first quarter, though noted that investor expectations were at 20 million copies; Michael Pachter of Wedbush Securities predicted 25 million. [43] Michael Olson of Piper Jaffray projected revenue between US$400 and US$500 million in the first three days, while Doug Creutz of Cowen Inc. estimated between US$550 and US$600 million. [147]

Red Dead Redemption 2 had the largest opening weekend in the history of entertainment, [148] making over US$725 million in revenue in three days, [149] and over 17 million copies shipped in total in two weeks, exceeding the lifetime sales of Red Dead Redemption. [150] Additionally, Red Dead Redemption 2 was the second-highest-grossing entertainment launch (behind Grand Theft Auto V) and set records for largest-ever pre-orders, largest first-day sales, and largest sales for the first three days in market on PlayStation Network. [149] [148] The share price for Rockstar's parent company, Take-Two Interactive, rose nine percent in the week after release. [151] VentureBeat's Takahashi noted that the game likely broke-even in its first week and, based on analyst estimates, would begin to earn a profit by December 2018. [43] The game shipped 23 million copies in 2018, generating US$1.38 billion in revenue, [152] and sales reached 29 million in 2019, [lower-alpha 5] 36 million in 2020, [lower-alpha 6] and 43 million in 2021; [lower-alpha 7] as of September 2022, it has shipped 46 million units. [165] [lower-alpha 8] By dollar sales, it was the best-selling game of the latter half of the 2010s, [168] and the seventh-best-selling game of the decade overall. [169] It is among the best-selling video games. [170]

In the United States, Red Dead Redemption 2 was the second-best-selling game of October 2018, behind Call of Duty: Black Ops 4. [171] It was the nation's best-selling-game in November, [172] and the third-best-selling in December. [173] Overall, it was the best-selling game of the year. [174] In 2019, it maintained its placement in the nation's top charts, [175] and was the twelfth-best-selling game of the year. [176] It remained in the charts for the first half of 2020. [177] In the United Kingdom, Red Dead Redemption 2 was the best-selling retail game in its first week of release and the second-fastest-selling game of 2018 (behind FIFA 19 ). The game's opening week physical sales were doubled from its predecessor's, with 68% of sales from the PlayStation 4 version. Red Dead Redemption 2 is also the third-fastest-selling non- FIFA game released in its generation, behind Call of Duty: Black Ops III and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare . [178] In the United Kingdom, it was the second-best-selling game of 2018, [179] fifth-best of 2019, [180] eleventh-best of 2020, [181] and sixth-best of 2021. [182]

Within its first week on sale in Japan, the PlayStation 4 version of Red Dead Redemption 2 sold 132,984 copies, which placed it at number one on the all-format video game sales chart. [183] In Australia, it was the best-selling game of 2018, [184] and the fifteenth-best-selling of 2020. [185] Worldwide, the Windows version sold 406,000 copies upon launch in November 2019, doubling to over one million after its release on Steam the following month. [168]

Red Dead Online

The online multiplayer component to Red Dead Redemption 2, titled Red Dead Online, was released as a public beta on November 27, 2018, to players who owned a special edition of the base game, and then progressively opened to all owners. [186] Upon entering the game world, players customize a character and are free to explore the environment alone or in a "posse" group. As players complete activities throughout the game world, they receive experience points to raise their characters in rank and receive bonuses, thereby progressing in the game. [187] Though Red Dead Online and Red Dead Redemption 2 share assets and gameplay, Rockstar views them as separate products with independent trajectories, reflected in its decision to launch the multiplayer title separately. [188] Player progression in the public beta carried over when the beta ended on May 15, 2019. [189] A standalone client for Red Dead Online, which does not require the base game, was released on December 1, 2020, for PlayStation 4, Windows, and Xbox One. [190] Post-release content is added to the game through free title updates. [191] In July 2022, Rockstar announced that Red Dead Online would not be receiving any more major updates, instead focusing on smaller missions and the expansion of existing modes as development resources were withdrawn to focus on the next entry in the Grand Theft Auto series. [192]

Controversies

In February 2018, online technology publication Trusted Reviews published an article leaking several features that were due to be included in Red Dead Redemption 2, including a first-person perspective, and a battle royale mode in Red Dead Online. [193] [194] The information was obtained from a leaked document in August 2017, but the site had hesitated to publish the article as the claims were "unsubstantiated" until promotional material validated its legitimacy; [193] the document was also sent to other sites at the time. [195] In November 2018, Trusted Reviews replaced the article with an apology, noting that the "information was confidential" and should not have been published. [196] In a settlement with Take-Two Interactive, Trusted Reviews agreed to donate £1 million (US$1.3 million) to charities chosen by Take-Two; Rockstar directed that the funds be donated to the American Indian College Fund, the American Prairie Reserve, and the First Nations Development Institute. [196] [197] Neither Trusted Reviews nor Take-Two indicated that any specific laws had been violated. [194] [196] Several journalists recognized the uniqueness of successful legal action against media outlets; [193] [194] [196] Seth Barton of MCV/Develop called the outcome "an incredible development for games industry journalism" and felt that it would result in hesitancy to leak information regarding Rockstar in future. [198] Kotaku's Keza MacDonald similarly described the events as "extraordinary" as it likely meant that Take-Two argued that the information was a trade secret and that Trusted Reviews was unable to use a public interest defense; she added that "it might prove to be influential" and prevent publications from leaking information in the future, even if obtained legally. [195]

Prior to the game's release, Dan Houser stated that the team had been working 100-hour weeks "several times in 2018". [40] Many sources interpreted this statement as "crunch time" for the entire development staff of the game, comparable to similar accusations made by wives of Rockstar San Diego employees in regards to the development of the game's predecessor. [199] The following day, Rockstar clarified in a statement that the work duration mentioned by Houser only affected the senior writing staff for Red Dead Redemption 2, and that the duration had only been the case for three weeks during the entire development. [200] Houser also added that the company would never expect or force any employee to work as long as was stated, and those staying late at the development studios were powered by their passion for the project. [201] [202] However, other Rockstar employees argued that Houser's statements did not give an accurate picture of the "crunch-time culture" at the company that many of its employees worked under, which included "mandatory" overtime and years-long periods of crunch. Due to the salary-based nature of employment contracts, many employees were not compensated for their overtime work and instead depended on year-end bonus payments that hinged on the sales performance of the game. Nonetheless, a sentiment echoed across many employee statements was the observation that working conditions had somewhat improved since development on the original Red Dead Redemption. [203] [204] By April 2020, several employees reported that the company had made significant changes as a result of the publicity surrounding the work culture, and many were cautiously optimistic about Rockstar's future. [205]

In November 2018, YouTuber Shirrako posted several videos of his player character murdering a female suffragette NPC, including feeding her to an alligator and dropping her down a mineshaft. Critics noted that the majority of comments on the videos were sexist and misogynistic. [206] [207] [208] Shirrako claimed that the actions were apolitical and that he did not support the sexist comments but did not wish to censor them. [208] Matt Leonard of GameRevolution called Shirrako's response "plain bullshit", noting that he continued to post similar videos encouraging the same behavior. [206] In response, YouTube suspended the channel for violation of their community guidelines, citing its graphic nature for shock purposes and for promoting violence. [209] Shirrako protested the decision, claiming it was hypocritical as in-game violence against men did not receive the same response. [210] YouTube restored the channel and designated an age restriction to the suffragette videos, commenting that "the reviewer will be educated on this outcome and on how to avoid repeating this mistake". [211] Some critics questioned if Rockstar was partly to blame for the behavior, as the game does not limit attacks on the suffragette as it does other characters, such as children; [206] [208] scholars Kristine Jørgensen and Torill Elvira Mortensen, writing in Games and Culture , acknowledged this concern, but recognized that the responsibility ultimately lay with the player, and that limiting attacks could be interpeted as both a political statement from Rockstar and a restriction on the player's freedom of expression. [212] Writing for Public History Weekly , Moritz Hoffman noted that the incident reflects a newer issue of open world games: that granting freedom without penalties promotes disinhibition. [213] In The Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era , scholars Hilary Jane Locke and Thomas Mackay wrote that it "points to a sharp contrast between the game's portrayal of Progressive Era politics ... and how some players have responded to its depictions thereof". [214]

Securitas AB, the parent company of the modern-day Pinkerton agency, issued a cease and desist notice to Take-Two Interactive on December 13, 2018, asserting that Red Dead Redemption 2's use of the Pinkerton name and badge imagery was against their trademark and demanded royalties for each copy of the game sold or that they would take legal action. Take-Two filed a complaint against Securitas on January 11, 2019, maintaining that the Pinkerton name was strongly associated with the Wild West, and its use of the term did not infringe on the Pinkerton trademark. [215] Take-Two sought a summary judgment to declare the use of Pinkerton in the game as allowed fair use. [216] Game Informer's Javy Gwaltney agreed with Take-Two's claims, questioning why Securitas had not targeted other works depicting the Pinkerton agency in the past; he felt that "the company likely just wants a cut of [the game's] profits". [217] In response to Take-Two's complaint, Pinkerton president Jack Zahran described the game's portrayal of Pinkertons as "baseless" and "inaccurate", noting that Pinkerton employees would "have to explain to their young game players why Red Dead Redemption 2 encourages people to murder Pinkertons", but hoped that the companies could come to an "amicable solution". [216] By April 2019, Securitas withdrew its claims and Take-Two moved to withdraw its complaint. [218]

Legacy

Critics agreed that Red Dead Redemption 2 was among the best games of the eighth generation of video game consoles. [219] [220] [221] GQ's White described it as "a generation-defining release", [79] and VG247's McKeand named it "a benchmark for other open world games to aspire to". [77] In March 2019, Popular Mechanics ranked it 24th on its list of greatest games. [222] In October, IGN added Red Dead Redemption 2 to its list of top 100 video games, [223] ranked 62nd in 2019 [224] and promoted to 8th in 2021; [225] editor Luke Reilly praised its "uncompromising detail" and wrote that it "stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Grand Theft Auto V as one of gaming's greatest open-world achievements". [224] [225] IGN also ranked the game as the third-best Xbox One game [226] and eleventh-best PC and PlayStation 4 game. [227] [228] In July 2020, Dylan Haas of Mashable considered the game his second favorite of all time, citing its realism, world, characters, and narrative. [229] In November, TechRadar listed it among the greatest games of the eighth generation; [230] editor Gerald Lynch felt that it set the bar for believable open world games. [231] In December, GamesRadar+ ranked it the fifth best game of the generation, noting that it had already begun to influence the open-world and role-playing genres; [232] in November 2021, GamesRadar+ ranked it 28th on its list of top 50 games, describing it as "one of the best sandbox games ever made". [233] In April 2022, GamingBolt's Ravi Sinha ranked Red Dead Redemption 2 the second-best game of all time, citing its characters, narrative, attention to detail, and visual fidelity, and naming it Rockstar's "finest work". [234] In September, USA Today ranked it 21st on its list of best games, praising Arthur as "one of the most likable protagonists in games" and describing the game world as "the real star of the show". [235]

Footage from Red Dead Redemption 2 was used in the first music video for the song "Old Town Road" by Lil Nas X in March 2019. [236] In July 2021, a study published by the University of Exeter and Truro and Penwith College found that Red Dead Redemption 2 players had an increased understanding of ecology and animal behavior; players were able to identify three more animals on average than other gamers. [237] [238] In April 2022, Joe Meizies won Virtual Photographer of the Year at the London Games Festival for his virtual photography in Red Dead Redemption 2. [239]

Notes

  1. Stylized as Red Dead Redemption II
  2. The Mexican state of Nuevo Paraíso, which featured in Red Dead Redemption, is not a part of the new game world. [27]
  3. The game launched for Windows through the Rockstar Games Launcher and select other storefronts in November, and launched on Steam in December. [57]
  4. Red Dead Redemption 2 shares its status as the fifth-highest rated game on Metacritic with twelve others. The four games rated higher are The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time , Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 , Grand Theft Auto IV , and Soulcalibur . [69]
  5. In 2019, the game had shipped 24 million copies by March, [153] 25 million by June, [154] 26.5 million by September, [155] and 29 million by December. [156]
  6. In 2020, the game had shipped 31 million copies by March, [157] 32 million by June, [158] 34 million by September, [159] and 36 million by December. [160]
  7. In 2021, the game had shipped 37 million copies by March, [161] 38 million by June, [162] 39 million by September, [163] and 43 million by December. [164]
  8. In 2022, the game had shipped 44 million copies by March, [166] and 45 million by June. [167]

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