The Esquire Review: Red Dead Redemption II
We strolled into Red Dead Redemption II thinking we could be nice cowboys. We were wrong.
Following on from some lighter summer escapism in the form of Triple-A titles such as Spider-Man for the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo's Breath of the Wild, Red Dead Redemption II has finally arrived. It promises the same big open-world as the last Western-themed sandbox game, along with the usual morally-questionable actions that Rockstar Games - the studio behind the Grand Theft Auto franchise - is best known for.
As such, the game is unfathomably big and ridiculously complex (both in a good way), with a deep storyline and more side-missions than you can shake a six-shooter at.
Critically, this game was always going to do well (it's currently sat on a Metacritic score of 97), but beneath its old-world Western charm and blockbuster development team, one question remains: is it any fun?
Red Dead Redemption II – what’s new?
The new Red Dead is bigger and better in every way. Technically, it's a prequel to the original, which means some of your favourite character's return. But otherwise, it's an entirely new game.
You play the role of Arthur, part of a gang of dangerous - but well-meaning - outlaws, on the lam from a job gone wrong. It’s your job to keep everyone happy and healthy, be it through regular upgrades to your bandit camp or by helping your fellow gang member’s complete tasks. You do this in a variety of ways, and progressing through the main storyline will see you rob trains, blow up bridges and generally partake in the type of outlaw activities that got you in this trouble in the first place.
There’s also seemingly hundreds of side quests and tasks. From random stranger encounters as you go about your way through the world, to hunting and fishing legendary animals, to herding sheep.
Red Dead Redemption II - is it any good?
Let’s get one thing out the way; you’re going to do a lot of horse riding in this game.
One of the consequences of having such an open-world game, as well as one that strives for realism, is that getting from A to B takes time. And you’ll spend a majority of that time on your horse. Yes, there’s a half-baked fast travel system in place, but it doesn’t help matters much.
This all helps make Red Dead Redemption II more of a cowboy simulator than Grand Theft Horses game, so those looking for GTA’s more carefree attitude to gameplay be warned.
What this game is, however, is one of the most well-thought-out single player experiences in gaming. And for those willing to put in the time (realistically, this is going to take you 100+ hours to play through) there’s a lot of fun to be had.