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.