[Possible Story Discussion] Red Dead Redemption 2 First Impressions


#1

This is a thread for discussing our first impressions of the game.

That said, I encourage and invite people to discuss the labor and human cost that went into the development of this game within context of what we’ve played. That is important to the overall discussion of RDR2 and should never leave our thoughts when we’re ingesting this piece of media. That said, Red Dead Redemption 2 is one of the biggest releases of the year, and I’d like to hear impressions of those who played it.

I think Rockstar games are interesting to look at critically, because they present themselves as this sort of prestige release on par with high quality films. I feel like they invite discussion upon themselves.

Also, if you do not want to play it because of these practices, I understand and respect your choice.

With that out of the way…

I’ve played about 4 hours of the game so far.

One of the first things that has stuck out to me is how much needless ‘interactions’ the game forces you to deal with on a constant basis. I don’t need Arthur to pick up and look at EVERY SINGLE ITEM he interacts with in the world. I cleared an enemy camp before bed last night, and it just felt like a slog… The sneaking up and shooting was fine, but once I got to picking up the loot, I had to walk Arthur from point to point, activating my dead eye to see what individual items I could pick up. (Mind you, this is incredibly hard to see. No arrows point out loot containers, just glossy highlights.) Clearing a camp of loot takes 1-2 minutes in Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, and I’m pretty sure I was looking through this camp for 10 minutes. It is exhaustingly indicative of the overall pace of this game. And this is when I finally got into the open world! After two hours or so of being stuck in a tutorial stage.

I took Arthur into a general store, looked that you can pick up every item in the store, and then immediately went to the catalogue. It feels like the Houser’s wanted the player to pick up every item from the store individually, and then realized during testing, “Holy shit. This takes so fucking long. We should add a catalogue up front with period accurate attention to detail that allows the player to skip all the attention to detail the people working on the store gave.” It’s like… You can see the grind and exhaustion in the dev’s eyes as Houser illustrates his plan for the catalogue, how it negates months and maybe years of work in focusing in on items, when video games have solved this issue of collecting loot YEARS ago and Houser is just stacking a system that completely invalidates another.

Story wise, I haven’t got far, but it’s pretty engaging. Dutch comes off like a southern mom, thinking that the way to solve problems is to feed the people in your circle food. He’s very much a performer to the group, trying to appear sympathetic. I think his writing has the problem a lot of other Houser games do, so far, is that it’s already established at the beginning that Morgan and other factions within the gang have issues with the way Dutch operates. There’s no transition from trust to distrust, Arthur already is fractured with his leader. It reminded me a lot of the dynamic between Johnny and his boss in The Lost & The Damned in GTA IV. So, it makes it hard to believe Arthur has a real connection with the man when he’s constantly saying stuff like, “Sigh, here goes Dutch again!”

One thing this story has going for it better than any other Rockstar game is that it is played completely straight. There is no satire or cynical character writing so far. It all feels very honest, thank God.

-A little discussion on the racism and social issues in the game below, some problematic language-

One of the things I think that interests us is how the games deals with social issues. I’ve covered it with spoiler tags too.

Well… They establish that the character of Micah is bad by having his first line of dialogue when he joins the group being, “I don’t want to sleep with the Darkies.” Sooo… Yeah, a big loving family this group is. Micah is very clearly the Ben Foster character from 3:10, only that character built up to how sinister and unflinchingly loyal he was, while Micah is front loaded with ‘I’M BAD!’ dialogue because… Dan Houser’s writing the game…

They’ve also established the presence of Native Americans in a few scenes. One that felt right out of a 50s western film with three natives on horse back looking down at our protagonists. I work on a TV station that plays exclusively western films, so I see all the structure here. This is a famous shot we see in lots of western media, the natives looking down suspiciously at our white heroes as the sun comes in from behind them.

One of the main characters waves up at them, and it looks kind of like he’s doing the ‘how’ sign from problematic western films. That could just be illustrating the character’s own ignorance, but he’s the only one within the group that’s aware of native displacement problems within the country. They also play flute instrumentals when the natives are on screen so that we, as the audience, know we’re looking at native Americans. Yeah, I don’t know where the fuck this is going, but it leads into a discussion within the caravan how the U.S. fucked over the native people in this territory.

There’s a character names Charles who seems alright so far. Of course, he’s amazing at tracking and hunting, but I like that he seems conflicted about his place within the group and the greater U.S. I really hope they do something interesting with this character. He’s curious about the natives I’ve detailed above. Arthur asks him at one point what tribe he’s from, and he says he doesn’t even know. I think that’s line of, "I don’t know.’ Says a whole lot more about native displacement and cultural annihilation by colonialism better than anything else this game has shown so far. I really like the scenes with Charles, and there feels like some nuance to his character. I’m worried how it’s going to play out with him.

One of the big things this game does right is the emergent stories told within your actions. One of Dutch’s rival gangs is this group of green-wearing banditos that you have an early gun fight with. There was a moment I really enjoyed where I’m riding my horse through town and I see three of them talking amongst themselves in front of a store. I have Arthur talk shit about them, and them come down to beat my ass. I get off my horse to scrap, and have a brawl. I really like the melee in this game. It’s hard, sloppy, and you always feel like you are just one punch away from being knocked out. I think it’s neat. I manage to beat all three up, and leave them in the mud. I pick up my hat and then loot one of the gang members. Apparently, a dude on a carriage thought that was way too far, and decided to head off towards the sheriff. I lock onto him as he’s riding away, and have Arthur try to explain himself. It was really funny to see Arthur call out to him, saying, “Hey wait! Let me talk to you!”

It just felt very real. I grabbed my horse and rode out of the town. I think this is where the game is going to shine most, clumsy systems slapping against each other.

So yeah, how do you guys feel about the game so far?


Hey so uh anyone want to talk about Red Dead Redemption 2?
#2

Only played until it opens up a little. Didn’t enjoy the first hours because all you did was ride slowly next to some guy who talked about something for way too long. Actually just sat there and held down X while looking at twitter.

Things that are good is that it looks very nice and you can drop your hat.
Things that are bad is that it’s very dark, and for the love of good let me turn off vignetting.


#3

Yeah this game is too dark, I turned my TV’s brightness up a touch and it helped pretty immensely, actually.

I (so far) really like the slow and deliberate pace to literally everything - picking shit up, searching houses, looting, all of it. I like it, but I get it for those who don’t.


#4

God, speaking of format stuff, I HATE when the game transitions from black bars to normal with aspect ratio changes. They do that aspect ratio change in Kong: Skull Island and it is so distracting. And that was cited explicitly in Schreier’s article. WHY!? Why did you need black bars in cutscenes that take me OUT of the experience? Was it worth all this work for something that’s just going to annoy people?

And are you speaking on the black smudginess on the bottom of the frame?


#5

I wonder if without black bars it’s too fucking hard to tell if you’re in control of Morgan or not. The game does a lot of new God of War style “I went through this door and now a cutscene is happening” or similar. Not always, but it’s definitely a device being used.


#6

I like that stuff, I just wish it was mechanically smoother. There are some points where Arthur opens up a cabinet, and you have to take a number of items. Instead of grabbing all of them in one button prompt, you have to pick up. each. one. individually.

That’s just my early thoughts though. It might feel better when you’re robbing a house and it’s a lot more tense.


#7

I’m gonna copy-paste stuff from my post:
Controls are a little funny, if only because there’s so many actions tied to your triggers. I’ve shot my gun by accident 3 or 4 times already, and I can’t really tell if the “put away gun” button literally puts the gun away, or if it only does it in certain contexts, or what.

I like how subdued it is, I’m hoping that the story actually shapes up to be good, though, and not just “paced differently from every other AAA story.” I like Dutch’s characterization so far, which isn’t terribly far, granted. I like his concern and his empathy(?), and I’m curious to see how this gets twisted or used to manipulate people.


#8

I haven’t played it yet, but I’m very interested in hearing from you all about one aspect: attention to detail.

Many of the reviews have marveled at how meticulously detailed the world is, and how that contributes to immersion. My question is: to what end?

Is the detail necessary in order to tell the story? Does it tip over into excessive territory?

I love detail in service of a specific goal. For example, the detail in Breath of the Wild was crafted in order to engender a sense of exploration, and it was very successful in my opinion. But some games overdo it for no clear reason.


#9

Yes, I can’t remember if it’s only on the bottom but it’s very bad there. Just thinking about it makes me mad. So many games use it and it’s always bad!!!


#10

I got into why I think the detail is overbearing in both a gameplay sense and in how it affects the workers who had to do all that detail. There are mechanics embedded within the game that negate the tireless work put into them.

It’s incredibly frustrating.


#11

From what I’ve done so far, I think it contributes to the game’s slowness. They’re obviously doing a lot of “ooh immersion” type stuff but I think some of that detail and that dedication to animating stuff and not just “I press a button and get da loot” is contributing to that slowness and that deliberateness.

We’ll see how it pans out, I already know not everyone will want to deal with it, but that’s my perhaps optimistic look at it.


#12

Yea I saw that, thanks.

Do you see/foresee any positive aspects of it? Does it allow you to get ‘lost’ in the world? If so, is that good?


#13

(mod note: this & the below two posts came from another thread and have been shuffled into this one.)

I got to play about an hour and a half last night. The thing that is immediately clear is it’s a much more subdued game - part of me wonders if its more sanguine tone is what makes a lot of reviewers fall over for it - it probably is better than a lot of AAA game stories, but I’m not deep enough in to see if it’s actually good. I’m definitely interested in the characters so far. I will say it took 45 minutes for a character to make a racist comment, using the word darkies.

Controls are a little funny, if only because there’s so many actions tied to your triggers. I’ve shot my gun by accident 3 or 4 times already, and I can’t really tell if the “put away gun” button literally puts the gun away, or if it only does it in certain contexts, or what.

Interested to hear what other folks’ experiences are. I’m really looking forward to being able to play more.

I’m definitely thinking about the harm done to people through this game’s development, and I’m also trying to keep in mind that these are very real people, like Jay Patel, a QA person at Lincoln, UK, mentioned in Kirk Hamilton’s review, who found mission breaking bugs according to his Twitter: https://twitter.com/jayp2468/status/1055435187012669441


#14

Ah, there it is.

By the time I’m done with Odyssey I’ll be able to buy it second-hand, which is what I plan on doing, assuming that happens before the Spyro remake.

I will say I like that there are lots of clothing options from what I’ve watched. Outside of Watch Dogs 2, which really went all in, there aren’t many games that offer a lot of clothing customization for male characters. I like to play dress up with everyone, but guy options are usually just three shirts and two pants of varying colors. but the clips i’ve seen have tons of people in different outifts, so that’ll be cool.


#15

I’m extremely excited to play dress up, I don’t think I’ve gotten to that point in the game yet, still in the tutorial/intro stuff.


#16

It feels like there are moments where it totally works.

When I finally got to the open world, I spent a lot a lot of time just roleplaying. I think the goto reaction in a Rockstar open world is to cause havoc, but I just slowly waltzed into town, talked to people, watching what people were up to, that sort of thing. It rewards that kind of patience with the game. You do get a sort of immersion that I think they were trying to immolate with GTA IV, but it’s a lot stronger here.

I am honestly floored at how good this game looks. Towns are packed in with so much astonishing detail, and the forests are just beautiful, and I’m running this on a PS4 slim. Interiors are nice too, but it just gets so claustrophobic because of the muddy controls. I may try to train myself to do only first person in interiors.

But the feeling of just walking through town on your horse, watching people go about their business, your duster skipping from a wind picking up is just insane. If for anything, rent it and play through the first 5ish hours or so. I think seeing the work put into the environments is totally a landmark achievement. The actual game design and story, well… That remains to be seen.


#17

Arthur’s trunk comes with a bunch of outfits already packed in you can mix and match, and the general store has a healthy amount of clothing options.


#18

Rockstar’s fetishized seamless cutscene transitions for a while, i think starting with Max Payne 3, but they never had to do the black bar thing. I dunno, maybe they figured they’d been vastly outdone with the technique in recent years (Evil Within 2 springs to mind, esp. the ending sequence) so they could trick gamerfans into thinking they’re pushing the boundaries of cinematic storytelling or whatever with black bars, lmao.

(this was a silly and insecure choice when it was done in MGS3, too, it’s even funnier seeing it in a 2018 game)

Holy crow does this sound like an uncanny amount like an early 2010’s Ubisoft game. I guess we’re supposed to be impressed and immersed because it’s the same slow pace-breaking animations but each model is detailed differently because bloat is defos fun for devs already crunching hard? Like, glossy highlights on generic loot containers that take too long to loot, fancy repetitive loot animations, neat bare systems that clash with each other in fun ways between long stretches of dry spells. Are all the missions going to be largely linear setpieces with awful level design that doesn’t enable any of the fun systems in the ways you find cool early on/in the open world?

Am I being taken back to the past, to play the shitty games that suck ass?


#19

I found this video really helpful on alleviating some of the clunky QoL stuff.

Plus, I had no idea the white labeled missions were time sensitive. THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN VERY HELPFUL TO KNOW ROCKSTAR.


#20

I’m about 6 hours in now, and wow this game is… strange. I’m definitely enjoying it, but I’m actually far more surprised at what this thing is than I thought I’d be. Some general thoughts:

I’m finding the writing to be surprisingly good. So far it is leaps and bounds better and more consistent than the usual Rockstar fare. They’re not concerned with unleashing a constant stream of cynical, bitter jokes at every turn, and the I’ve already had some really great interactions with characters (The hunting trip mission with Charles early on was a great one, really captured the awkwardness of two very different people meeting and chatting for the first time). A lot of the conversations you can eavesdrop on around camp are totally worth listening to as well. The performances are solid across the board and really do sell these characters as people you should actually care about. Arthur initially didn’t strike me as interesting at first, but the more I heard from him the more I liked him. He’s painfully naive and means well (probably be his downfall), which I think makes for an interesting dynamic between him and authority figures. So far so good there in the writing department.

Control-wise: wow, kind of a mess. This is the surprising part. The shooting somehow feels more sluggish and finnicky than it usually does in rockstars game’s. Part of this is clearly intentional, but I’m finding gunfights to be a bit of a chaotic mess of me accidentally popping out of cover and firing by accident. The auto-aim is generous and locks onto dudes really easily, but as soon as you lose one in your sights it is painfully slow to turn your gun back on one of them, even with the sensitivity up. I’m not finding it particularly fun so far, but maybe I just need better guns, skills, or just to get the hang of it.

Also, the interaction system is super neat but maybe not perfectly executed. For example: here’s what you have to do if you want to greet/antangonize a stranger while passing by on horseback: left stick to control the horse, Press X to accelerate the horse, turn the camera toward said person with right stick, hold left trigger Then quickly press square or circle to do the interaction. It requires some weird contortion and can get tiresome, especially since I want to do it constantly since every once in a while there will be meaningful interactions with people who look like totally random npc’s.

Arthur’s natural walking speed is quite a slow saunter, which I’m a huge fan of. They know they’ve built a world worth looking in every nook and cranny, and they don’t want you just sprinting constantly past all of it. Here’s the main thing that I think will decide if you like the game or not: The animations. This game is chock full of the most elaborate and detailed little animations I have ever seen in any game anywhere, by far. Looting, skinning, eating, drinking, shopping, you name it, they’ve got a shockingly good animation for it. This will absolutely rub people the wrong way. I’m a complete sucker for this shit (Jesus the way the horses move and shake off snow and get pissed of is just unbelievable to watch) and have been drinking it up, but I can see how it would kill the momentum for a player who’s used to just sprinting around in games, knocking back consumables and running over corpses to loot them automatically.

Overall, as I said, I’m really enjoying it, but it’s a bizarre game they’ve made here. Its mechanics often feel like they are very much not intended to be in a game marketed towards such an enormous audience, which I find really fascinating. They’ve managed to build and market a sort of simulation game to a somewhat unsuspecting public. I think the response will end up being a bit more polarizing than it was for titles like GTAIV or RDR1. But you can clearly tell they had very different ideas for what this game should be than just another GTA reskin.