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My Love and Hate Letter to Rockstar’s Finest Piece

Red Dead Redemption 2 has my heart. But it also suffers from the wrath of my curses.

By Rupam TalukdarPublished 16 days ago 7 min read
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A stroll through Emerald Ranch at first sight of dawn. | Image by the author.

My Love and Hate Letter to Red Dead Redemption 2

Released before the fall of 2018 on PlayStation and Xbox and almost a year later for Windows, the latest iteration from the famed game-development company broke many consecutive records. The game took a step further and cemented its presence as the second-biggest launch of all time within the gaming industry.

Development took a course for eight years after the launch of its successful predecessor - Red Dead Redemption 1.

It reportedly cost a staggering payment of 170 million dollars in production, and Rockstar Games had to accumulate workers from several of its layered studios to build one core development team for the game.

The protagonist rests by the fire. | Image by the author.

The Grand Success of the Game

The game has gathered quite a sense of accomplishment for itself as it collected 25 awards and 72 nominations and sold over 46 million copies worldwide. My exposure to this magnificent piece of art came around late 2020, a long time past its release date.

Much of my life went through work, and the pandemic ushered by COVID-19 arrived like a dirty blessing after confining me to work from home. I booted up the game in my free time and lost myself inside its vast world for endless hours, absorbed in a strange, newfound sense of addiction I never thought I harbored in the first place.

However, after ending my first play-through and the credits came to a dramatic roll over the screen, a sense of warmth and a pint of frustration clouded my thoughts in equal measure.

To address the collective concern, I have never been able to enjoy another game with the same level of dedication after playing this piece. Yet, multiple issues plaguing the former did not escape the scrutiny of my criticism either.

You Can Further Read on to Know...

• Why I Love the Game

• Why I Criticize It Too.

A still from Red Dead Redemption 2. | Image by the author.

Here Are Five Reasons Why I Love the Game

01. The Graphical Achievements Are a Delicious Treat

People have wasted thousands of hours on YouTube discussing the visual breakthroughs delivered in the final product. When it launched, the game introduced itself to a string of unstable bugs and crashes, an inevitable issue prevalent with current releases. Users suffered inconsistent frame drops in the gameplay, and the two different APIs (DirectX 12 and Vulkan) provided contrasting results for every second person.

Evening under the dark clouds. | Image by the author.

Over one year, Rockstar provided the game with continuous patches to stabilize its performance, leading to a hefty portion of the gaming society finally having a stable experience with the product.

Every object in the vicinity is a work of extreme detail, from the lush variations of high-quality foliage moving with the wind to waking up under the blinding god rays of the sun. Different towns in different parts of the world are lively and vivid to incomparable excellence.

The aerial view from Horseshoe Overlook. | Image by the author.

No single point of interest looks like a replica of another location on the map. The development team orchestrated the world design with insane hard work and dedication rather than sticking to a copy-paste formula.

02. The Protagonist Is a Charming Devil

Ah, Arthur Morgan.

"Should I have killed you, Jimmy Brooks?" | Image by the author.

Public opinion bred two different camps when the new protagonist of the Red Dead franchise appeared for the first time in the teaser trailers.

Divided views of Arthur were legit and understandable from a perspective.

A large section of the game's fan base nurtured a strong sense of affection and respect for the previous protagonist - the tragic hero of the West, John Marston.

John takes a backseat in the successive game, and Arthur introduces his persona to the limelight. The game rolls on through the latter's interactions, and when his story reaches its decisive end, the public suffers the ignominy of his redemption arc.

"You want to step outside or deal with matters here?" | Image by the author.

It is safe to assume now that Arthur Morgan cements his position as one of the most endearing video game protagonists in the history of the gaming industry.

03. The Player Is Responsible for His Actions

The game compels one to evaluate his beliefs. Shooting an innocent in the middle of the street, believing there will be no consequences since it is a game at the end of the day, one could not be more wrong. Passers-by will promptly report vindictive actions to the nearest police station. Stealing is not an offense only if the player avoids the public eye or ends up facing the inevitable vigilance of the law.

Everything shines in glorious detail, from the costumes to the blood splatters. | Image by the author.

In contrast, it is possible to greet people doing their daily morning chores or help a random citizen get home whose horse fell dead outside of town. All intended actions contribute to the honor system, which plays a big part in deciding how the story ends.

04. The Slow Pacing of the Game Is Relaxing

Sometimes, away from all the high-paced action, the bullets flying over the head, and the dynamite exploding under the ears, the game offers unparalleled satisfaction in sightseeing at a lenient pace. There are no hard-coded rules to adopt a ritual of moving through a play-through at an alarming rate.

Arthur takes a peek at the book of records. | Image by the author.

I spend most of my time in the game hunting, snooping at distant locations and strangers through binoculars, and enjoying the authentic aura emanating from the environment.

05. The Stellar Acting Is a Bonus.

When the characters engage in conversation, I find their personalities reflect real-life people. Well, that is because they are real-life people, considering the characters comprise an enormous team of performers and professional artists who collaborated for years to deliver the final piece of art.

Arthur engages in deep conversation with Javier, one of his friends. | Image by the author.

Every individual is a treat to the eye, and the voices are music to the ears. Their emotions rally with that of actual people, and their problems parade as a testament to original trials and situations.

Now for the Other Part ...

With the positives dusted out of the way, the game is not a steady ship on smooth, sailing waters. It may be a marvel in thought, execution, and visuals, but certain technical limitations divert the game from scoring a perfect number on my chart.

01. The Honor System Does Not Feel Real

Good and evil are like the two sides of the same coin. However, in real-life scenarios, it is impossible to murder a whole town and apply ointment to the crime by greeting every person the perpetrator notices on the street. Genocidal actions will lead to catastrophic consequences. Understandably, the narrative is about a game here, and Rockstar wanted to provide more freedom to its base of players in navigating through their campaign the way they desire.

Realistic guns and their firing mechanisms are a beautiful addition. | Image by the author.

02. The Law Is Broken

If Arthur tackles an NPC in town by accident, there is a witness, and the police arrive in seconds to initiate an arrest. But when an NPC punches the player to death in front of the police station, the local sheriff does not move a muscle to arrest the offender.

The campfires are often vibrant and lit with conversation. | Image by the author.

It portrays a common trend in Rockstar Games and their portfolio of titles. The central code implemented by the developers is to work against the player rather than maintain a neutral balance with the NPCs.

03. The Controls Are Clunky for PC Players

The previous reason further escalates when the player attempts to run through the middle of a busy town, only to end up plummeting a nearby person into the mud. An indefinite number of key binds exist for keyboard players that can come across as clunky and overburdened while on the learning curve.

04. The Pacing Is Inconsistent

This is a personal point of view, but I needed to rant.

Guarma is a sight to behold but an unnecessary point in the overall development of the story. The remote island caught amid a civil war between two factions looks aesthetic, yet it does not resonate with what the tale attempts to personify.

There are sequences in the gameplay as well when one mission overlaps over the other without an ounce of an interval between the two. Rockstar wanted to progress time throughout the virtual world, and this execution must have been their primary method of preference.

05. The Climax Before the Epilogue

The protagonist parallels iconic, tragic heroes found in various forms of folklore. His story ascends to an emotional climax and makes the watcher harbor illusions of watching a nerve-wracking movie ending rather than playing a game.

Beneath all the pretensions of family and friends, there is a pint of loneliness. | Image by the author.

His younger brother, albeit not in name and blood, John Marston, manages to pay the former's debt to a proper farewell by holding the people accountable for all the mishaps responsible in their lives. However, how the story folds into a bitter ending strikes inconsolable pain in the admirer's heart.

My Final Thoughts ...

I have not attempted a second play-through of Rockstar's magnificent piece of art. I do not have the strength to bear the sadness all over again. Someday, in the distant future, I will reboot the game and enjoy it for its cinematic brilliance. But I will already know how the story ends.

action adventure
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About the Creator

Rupam Talukdar

Hey!

I'm new to Vocal and remain oblivious to the website's machinations at the moment. What I do know is that it allows me to express my opinions through the art of writing, so I'm all up for it!

Oh yes, I'm here to learn from you guys too!

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