Red Dead Redemption II – the good, no bad and no ugly

Throughout Red Dead Redemption II's story, you will be able to upgrade and change your horses, clothes and weaponry. Photo credit: Screencapture by Peter Fitzpatrick

Raking in an astounding $725 million in its opening weekend, Rockstar Games’ ambitious cowboy adventure Red Dead Redemption II had one of the biggest launches in gaming history.

Red Dead Redemption II is groundbreaking. Its gripping story, stunning visuals, stellar gameplay mechanics and immersive open-world will bring out the gunslinger in your little cousin.

Set in a fictitious depiction of Wild West-era America, and 12 years before 2010’s Red Dead Redemption, Rockstar does a great job of recreating the gritty and harsh environment of the American frontier in the late 19th century.

Red Dead II is a prequel to the first Redemption game but it won’t leave you in the dust if you’re new to the series. Fans and newcomers will find enjoyment in the game because it brings back characters fans will be delighted to see, but not in a way that leaves new players lost or confused.

Red Dead Redemption II stars Arthur Morgan, a member of a posse of outlaws known as the Van Der Linde gang, at a time when civilization is on the rise – and outlaws like him are being snuffed out across the West.

The story clocks at around 60 hours long, with many more hours to be spent hunting, claiming bounty heads, and upgrading your gang’s camp (among countless other activities) in the game’s open-world environment. Players can even relax with a drink and a few hands of poker at the closest saloon.

In terms of gameplay mechanics, Rockstar has spared no expense in their attention to detail, giving players a remarkably realistic experience. The player will need to eat, rest and bath throughout their playthrough. Arthur’s hair and beard will even grow and can be trimmed in different styles as the game progresses.

The player’s horse also needs to be fed and groomed in order to keep their stamina and health in top shape. This will level the bond between character and horse, granting access to new horse abilities, such as drifting on horseback. Oh and their testicles shrink in the cold, too. No joke.

Red Dead Redemption II has more than enough rootin’ tootin’ shootin’ to please any fans of the shooter genre, something Rockstar fans are accustomed to with their other popular games including Grand Theft Auto V, L.A. Noire, and Max Payne 3. However, the pace of Red Dead is much slower than Rockstar’s other games.

Beyond that, the game gives the player a plethora of opportunities to make decisions: from approaches to take when attacking a rival gang’s camp to how you answer your gang leader, Dutch, when he talks philosophy with you. You can even choose to greet (Howdy, mister) or be rude to characters you meet on the road (You stink of coward).

The world of Red Dead Redemption II does what many open-world games of today cannot. The world feels truly lived in; from prospectors panning for gold to lily-livered city folk getting lost in the woods, the player encounters a large variety of people in this world.

And the world is huge.

Featuring dry deserts, snowy mountain peaks, muddy swamps and growing frontier towns, all locales can be reached on horseback, which may be a problem for some players who should expect to ride long distances between destinations until unlocking the fast travel ability.

For some players this may add to the immersion and not use fast travel at all, but others may find it tedious.

Red Dead Redemption II is indeed a modern masterpiece and can be enjoyed by anyone, not just fans of Westerns and country music.

More than just a game, this is a visionary single-player experience.

As Arthur rides off into the distance, you'll be more than satisfied with what you spent your fistful of dollars on. Photo credit: Screencapture by Peter Fitzpatrick