(Review) Red Dead Redemption 2 is a bad game

Heresy!

I know, hang in there and keep an open mind. It’s not a good game and is, in many ways, a bad game. And I promise I’m not branching out to other game genres. I just had to get this off of my chest.

I’ve bought a PS4 twice now with the explicit purpose of playing RDR2 and have been unsatisfied with the controller in what is, essentially, a shooter, and have sold it. I’m a PC gamer and thus when that version came out I bought it and have been playing it for several weeks now. 

 RDR2 has an excellent open world, full of people and an environment and subsystems that can really bring the world alive, from hunting, to cleaning your guns, to brushing your horse, just to name a couple. The sheer number of different activities you can engage in is mind-boggling.

The voice acting for the main character is excellent, as is much of the voice work, character animations, the script, and for the most part the story. The camp you are a part of, the people and how they interact and what they do, is top notch. Really some of the best I’ve ever seen.

And yet I think it’s a bad game. This comes from two core components: the gameplay and the mechanics. Mechanics first.

The game is slow and tedious. Doing anything seems to require substantial travel time between areas. Even after unlocking fast travel it’s slow to return to your fast travel base, because of choices made. Travel by stage and train requires long load times with useless animations. Further, your character and horse feel sluggish. “Real world physics!”, I can hear the shouts ever from here deep inside the volcano lair. Maybe, but tedium in sacrifice of fun is not a good choice on the designers part. It’s their job to solve those problems. Looting bodies takes forever as you watch a slow animation scene. There are parts of the map where you can’t run forcing you to suffer through long slow tedious walks  and mini-animation scenes. 

Even a month on the game crashes at least twice a day for me, and I don’t play a substantial amount. I’ve got a decent rig, why do I suffer with slowdows, crashes and stutters? I bought the game through Epic and couldn’t get it to work, requiring me to return it and repurchase through Rockstar proper. Even then I need to run a third party CPU app to keep it from pausing because it can’t manage its CPU itself. And I STILL suffer from pauses and stutters, but at least its playable now.

Moving on, all of those mini-games? Pointless. Hunting is tedious and the upgrades it provides are unneeded. Poker, dominoes, mumblepeg, photography, and a seemingly nonstop amount of other activities from collecting flowers to collecting dinosaur bones … all of that is useless. It doesn’t actually get you anything meaningful in the game. They are just tacked on little items, useless. 

The core story missions and the side missions suffer from a lack of depth. The side missions, popping up from time to time in the world, are some of the more interesting parts of the game, from a variety standpoint. Dozens of interesting little vignettes. That generally are just “go collect X things” or “give me something” or “go talk to someone.” They feel formulaic and shallow in the extreme. Interest setups that have no depth and whose formulaic approach to them shine though almost immediately, taking the luster off of them. Go watch a youtube video of all of the setups/intros for them and you’ll have a better experience … without the tedious travel they require. 

The core story missions, while having some interesting depth behind them, if the pointlessness of mans existence (Dutch)  is depth (and I think it is, from an existential standpoint) are problematic. They are rail shooters. Watch a slow cutscene. Engage in slow travel. Engage in slow button-press activities. Then engage in what is a rail shooter. And, in many cases, have your weapons taken away, or be forced to use only your handguns. 

For you see you no choice. You WILL engage with just your handgun, in spite of having a shotgun on your horse. Weapons WILL be locked in the stores until you get further along in the story. And, if you dare engage with the mission in any way other than the railroad your forced on to, well, the game will fail you. The best example is when the house you are hold up in is attacked by a rival gang. You are outside shooting the other gang. The game tells you to return to the house. If you stay outside to shoot some more the game fails you, telling you that you didn’t return to the house.

All of that choice, that big open world, everything in it .. .it’s just an illusion. This is a rail shooter. A sluggish rail shooter. 

I’m reminded of a Deus Ex game. The big selling point was you could go through the game without killing people. Well, except for one boss. You see, that boss fight was farmed out to a sub in development. It was the typical boss fight stuff, figuring out how to kill them, etc. And that’s what this game feels like. It feels like the big open world was developed and then mini-games were farmed out. And the story action scenes were farmed out. And because of this none of it is integrated well. 

The game is not satisfying. It is frustrating for what it COULD have been. Yet another example of a railroad story told by a DM. The emergent story is always better.

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14 Responses to (Review) Red Dead Redemption 2 is a bad game

  1. Love this review! Refreshing. Now, what is the game that has stood out in the last year (or so) that you give high marks for, or would recommend, that has either an open world or RPG foundation? Would love to know… I haven’t picked up a controller for so long and am looking for something good.

  2. Orcus did nothing wrong. says:

    Ahh, finally the review for WotC’s Baldurs Gate: Descent into Avernus…

  3. Slick says:

    I feel the same way about all of Rockstar’s games, especially GTAV. Everyone I know mostly plays them for the sandbox debauchery anyway, why not focus development on that and skim off some of the story? Cutscenes are at least skippable, but those “cinematic” half-cutscenes where you’re led by the nose from A to B to C aren’t (and they become more and more frustrating after being forced to sit through them for the fourth time because you didn’t stand exactly where the game wanted to during the escort mission)

  4. Anonymous says:

    For ppl who probably watch youtube videos , The game would get boring with no more videos made. You find your own way in the game , mini games pointless I agree but its much more to indulge into. Its alot of issues need addressed on consoles and pc versions but bashing a game because you dont own a ps4 pro deserves you being Fired for wasting company time on a fabricated lie you made up. Ive owned the game since day 1 and keep finding things to do daily.

  5. Daniel Kelley says:

    It never crashes on my PS4. I only lose connection with the server and at Rockstar’s fault. Pc’s crash. Period.

  6. OSR Fundamentalist says:

    What did he mean by this?

  7. Davy Bones says:

    That Deus Ex comparison feels like a reach. I also find the reviewer complaining about not having decent enough rig to run the game properly a bit distasteful. That said, when I began the game I shared some of the same thoughts, but then discovered the beauty of the game (for me) is in finding your own adventure and playing with others online is a big part of that. I found some new friends online and together formed a posse that has not only breathed new life into the game, but shown me many new ways to approach the game.

    • Bryce Lynch says:

      The reviewers is not complaining about an under-powered rig. The game has a bug which causes massive pauses & stutters on a PC.

    • Si Sharpy says:

      I mean this in the politest way possible but your rebuttal is a crock of shit.

      1. I have a GTX 1080 Ti and a CPU with a go faster stripe and I am still suffering from performance issues. The most likely culprit is Rockstar’s bargain basement port team. If I have hardware which exceeds the recommended requirements I should not be having performance issues. 95% of other games developers manage to do this.

      Bryce – If you have an Nvidia card try downloading the latest hotfix driver released last week it deals with a lot of issues and reduces the frequency of crashes. Although I’m sure you have tried this.

      2. If your response to criticisms of a $60 game which markets itself as a single player Open World adventure game is to play it online and ignore the story this does not excuse the failings of the single player game.

      I strongly agree with you Bryce RDR2 is all fur overcoat no knickers. Every time the game forces me to slow down so I can listen to generic NPC no.9 repeat the same piece of exposition for the nth time my soul dies a little inside. It delights in taking control away from the player to show you how clever it thinks it is. There is one section when the game removes the HUD, washes the color out the screen forcing you to ride slowly while a song plays over the top. You imagine the designer thinks this is cool but its just boring, tedious and unearned.

      I think Bryce is being generous the story is the worst part full of pseudo intellectual nonsense. And after the 80th time of hearing variations of Arthur’s “Well I think this is a bad idea but lets do it I guess” I cease to be able to suspend disbelief.

      The only part I enjoyed was the ending because I knew I no longer had to play this game. And before anyone chimes you must have enjoyed it if you completed it I pushed on just hoping it would get better and determined to get my

  8. gg no re says:

    Hey Bryce, we talk about your review on our latest episode: https://ggnorecast.com/182.

  9. Edgewise says:

    This whole genre of games has become tiresome. After you’ve played enough of them, it’s basically about following glowing dots on your minimap to complete “quests,” which generally involve set piece battles. The rest of the game is dressing. The “open world” really only means that you can visit the glowing dots in any order you like.

    It’s understandable. You’ll never have an AI GM until you have true AI. Otherwise the game designers can add more canned features, and those may entertain, but they lack depth and eventually grow stale through repetition. Video games simply fail when they try too hard to be “immersive.” The only true sandbox game I’ve played on a PC was Minecraft.

  10. NateT says:

    Rock Star got real railroady in recent years
    Relevant video: https://youtu.be/MvJPKOLDSos

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