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?