‘Red Dead Redemption 2’ brings old west to life

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In game screenshot of "Read Dead Redemption 2", courtesy of Rockstar Games

Rockstar Games’ latest project, “Red Dead Redemption 2,” has released to critical acclaim and has proved itself to be a market juggernaut, making $750 million in the first weekend of its release. The question is, can the game’s deliberately slow pacing appeal to the more mainstream audience coming off of Rockstar’s last title, “Grand Theft Auto 5” and does the game successfully introduce players to it’s much more intricate gameplay systems?

The opening act lasts anywhere from 45 minutes to a few hours depending, on how long you meander and serves as a tutorial, as well as an introduction to the world and the main cast of characters.

Although the writing and voice work is outstanding, the long, drawn-out horse rides can start to feel frustrating when you just want to play the game.

This issue seems to persist throughout the game, with many missions requiring that you ride with other characters to various destinations, forcing the player to go at the pace the developers intended.

The game has an incredible attention to detail, but this fixation on detail often causes issues with pacing as well.

Activities such as skinning hunted animals and looting bodies and containers have lengthy animations, some of which can take up to 15 seconds.

The animations really add to the immersion of the game, however they can get annoying when looting a large camp, buildings or groups of deceased bandits. Crafting also has fairly long animations.

Things like ammo being crafted one at a time, sitting around the campfire, holding a button down to craft hundreds of rounds of ammo and other goodies will be eating up a significant portion of the player’s time with animations.

The game’s controls have not changed much from “GTA5,” or other past Rockstar titles for that matter, so they still feel a little clunky and out of date. There’s also some inconsistencies with context sensitive actions.

For example, the button to loot is different depending on whether its a body or just a loose item, leading to the player accidentally throwing bodies over their shoulder, wasting even more time. Alternately, swap object focus and taking cover are on the same button, leading the player to accidently take cover when they were just trying to pick their hat off the ground.

Some quality of life changes are available in the options, but at its core, “RDR2” is not a top-notch shooter experience, especially in first-person mode. The combat is serviceable, but when many players are coming hot off the release of this year’s “Call of Duty,” it certainly leaves a lot to be desired.

In addition to clunky controls, many of the integral gameplay systems such as crafting upgrades, character stats and inventory and the new dueling system are poorly explained to the player. I found myself diving into the game’s help menu fairly often. Sometimes even having to look up a tutorial on YouTube.

With all of that being said, “Read Dead Redemption 2” is hands down the most immersive game I have ever played and is really at it’s best while exploring the Wild West and roughin’ it as a lone gunslinger, particularly in first-person mode where the player can appreciate the animations even more.

Players looking for a superbly written and acted narrative or incredibly immersive cowboy role-playing game will find a world of value in “RDR2” and with the online portion of the game still on the horizon, there’s room for that value to grow. However, players with a lower attention span and need for quicker-paced games may want to look elsewhere this holiday season.