'Red Dead Redemption 2' Is a Game of Big Mistakes and Little Victories


This is the third letter in our series about Red Dead Redemption 2. You can read Austin's first letter here, and Patrick's second here.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/9k45va/red-dead-redemption-2-is-a-game-of-big-mistakes-and-little-victories


I haven’t had a terrific amount of control problems with the game, but one constant irritation is how, because the interaction animations are very particular, Arthur has to position himself in just the right spot to start the animation, with some really terrible pathfinding. All the work that goes into making those animations seem weighty and real goes right out the window when Arthur is straight-up moonwalking into the right spot.

The Housers are bad writers and this game is no different. Michael, Trevor, and Franklin are entirely broad strokes to act as mouthpieces for specific ideas. Arthur and Dutch are just the same. They talk at each other, conversations don’t have a progression so much as a central point that’s being repeated, nothing feels gained or lost as a result of a conversation.

It is buck wild when compared against a comparatively dinky game like Deltarune that doesn’t have professional voice actors, top-tier animation talent, and hundreds of man-hours spent on creating the environments. I genuinely still care about those characters after spending 3 hours with them. I don’t care about any of Red Dead 2’s character as I’m actually playing the game, even after some 20-30 hours.

You can dump billions of dollars into making the scene look as nice as possible, but it won’t make up for a writer who fundamentally doesn’t know or care about other people.


This is a great sentence, that describes more AAA open world games than just this one (I’m reminded of the earlier Assassin’s Creed games, in particular).

You are given the run of a remarkable, vast theme park, but the catch is that you can only explore it from inside of a slightly broken bumper car.

I wonder if games have reached a point where the aesthetics of some games so exceed the interaction possible (Imagine a graph, with steady line reaching upward that reads visual fidelity, and a flat line below reading interaction fidelity) with a mere few digits on a controller, that our minds can’t help but cry out at the gap. It’s a particular neighbourhood of the uncanny valley that we have been in before (remember FMV games?). It took a lot of progress in terms of rendering technology and pure capacity for computation to get us to the games FMV games made us realize we wanted. Maybe part of the appeal of VR is that there’s a dream of VR that increases that interaction fidelity where the dissonance between what you can see and what you can do is returned to a more acceptable level. I also think the appeal of retrogames has some underpinnings here, because we understand the language of the 2d pixel universe and more readily accept its limitations.


I’ve liked all of these letters so far but, god, Rob killed this. Good piece of writing


It really really really sucks to hear about those audio issues.

I play games (and watch movies, and TV, and consume all media) with earbuds. Something about having the sound piped directly into my ears makes it easier for me to lose myself in the experience, and as far as audio is concerned, Red Dead Redemption 2 is a hell of a game to get lost in. Javier plucking his guitar at night. The cicadas in the southern areas outside the city. The approaching pitter patter of a rabbit right before it runs into my galloping horse and abruptly dies.

It might be a small issue for some. But for me at least, it’s enough to distract me from more of the poor gameplay elements than I care to admit, and it’s because of this that my heart breaks a little for Patrick and Rob. Particularly in this of all games, a game where everything about it seems so deliberate, so incredibly thought out that it can border on annoying or psychopathic, where you’d assume that someone would want to make sure that the game fires on all cylinders in surround sound. But sadly that doesn’t seem to be the case.


It sounds like Rockstar might have exacerbated the issue with this game by wanting to have a unique combination of button presses for each action. I’ve not played it but I wonder if a more focused set of contextual controls might have served it better in terms of keeping things more manageable.

There is also the disconnect between controller actions and gameplay actions. I get that spinning a thumb-stick round is sorta like reeling in a fishing line. But it isn’t really and again I guess that contributes to the uncanny valley nature you mention. Mashing X to open a man-trap? I guess … (and woe betide anyone with mobility issues who might want to play this game).

I wonder if it is also a product of game development in general. For bigger games you have distinct teams doing visuals, environment, mechanics, and level design, and then they all get smushed together. For an indie, with one or two people doing all of that they have a better over-view and might start off with the idea of spinning a thumb-stick, but then realise that breaks the actual immersion in the game by forcing you to do an abnormal controller movement, even if its “realistic” for fishing


Rob mentioned in one of the podcasts that it’s a problem of a game that wants to give its player too many potential verbs for any given situation, so they have to rely on things like contextual prompts and button modifiers (e.g. holding down a trigger to change the functionality of the face buttons).

Trying to aim a weapon on horseback is a really dire example of this going wrong. Sometimes it’ll work just as long as your weapon is out and you’re holding the left trigger. Sometimes, for no apparent reason, you also have to hold the right trigger to aim your weapon. It’s incredibly confusing, especially because the distinctions aren’t made clear.

Another example of the context-sensitive actions going wrong is (what’s likely to be) the first time you do a quick-draw minigame when you’re chasing after Arthur’s ex’s brother, and trying to stop him from shooting himself. A tutorial pop-up with about three sentences appears for about one second and you’re thrown right into this extremely tense situation with next-to no clue what you’re supposed to be doing, and will likely fail out at least once as a result of it.

The latter example is something that happens a ton in Rockstar games, since they have such a bad habit of breaking their established rules of play or throwing an entirely new system at you with little-to-no explanation, but it’s exacerbated to a really noticeable degree in Red Dead 2.


Yesterday I came across an alligator snapping turtle. Later Arthur had drawn a sketch of it in his notebook.

I swear, give me an open world game in which you observe and document animals (maybe dinosaurs) for science and I’ll be happy for ever.


Waframe’s new update/open world zone has you learning animals calls, tracking them and then capturing them for a conservationists who gives you plushie versions of them to decorate your base with


Warframe seems cool. And only gets cooler with time…