My Problem with Red Dead

Red Dead Redemption 2 is a game that should have me completely hooked. It’s a vast open world, beautifully detailed and made by a studio who I rank among the top 2 or 3 in the world of Game Development. So after 5 hours in the game, have shocked myself because I am not interested in going back to the game.

It’s a technical marvel, unrivalled in realism and the attention to detail in every aspect of the world is incredible. Interactions with characters is attached to the left trigger, and every character in the game, all the gang and every member of public or lawmakers everywhere are there to be spoken to. You can live in this world as protagonist Arthur Morgan for as long as you want.

It does the job of immersing you very well, everything in the world reacts exactly how it would in the real world. Gallop too close to a tree on horseback? Your horse will hit it and fall, and Arthur will be sent flying, any hat he was wearing going flying. He then has to find his hat to put it back on, and hope his horse survived the fall. Want a long beautiful beard? You best be playing for a number of hours, as it grows over time, and can only be shaved to a shorter length.

These little details are everywhere and it’s a truly brilliant acheivement in realism. There has been so much praise for all of this in RDR2, and I haven’t been able to argue against the majority of it, it’s a genuinely brilliant example of what video games can do. There’s one issue I have, which has been something every one of my favourite games I’ve played this year has nailed perfectly.

Based on my 5 hours playtime so far, Red Dead Redemption 2 is not fun to play. It’s a slow starting game, opening like a Tarantino western, and the crawling opening feels like a demo area before you get to play in the real open world. Once there, you’re left to it, and that’s not much less instruction than you’re given in the game.

The design choice rockstar have made to make everything organic in the game, forgoing many of the traditional video game-isms we are use to by now is certainly brave. It’s a move that a lot of people are really enjoying, judging from the reviews. For me though, Rockstar have not given me the tools I want to have fun in this world.

‘Fun’ is a simple word, but very hard to define when it comes to video games. Swinging around New York in Spiderman is fun. Kicking guards off a mountain and then swan diving after them on Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is fun. Throwing the Leviathan Axe and recalling it to Kratos’ hand on God Of War is fun.

The only fun I’ve had in Red Dead has come from the cut scenes occasionally making me laugh. Besides that, it’s been hard to find pure enjoyment in this game. I am playing it because I have to, because I feel like I should love this game. I turned it on tonight, got to a bridge where a rival gang decided to straight up murder me. I could easily have reloaded the game, and taken them out straight away, but I didn’t. I turned off Red Dead and went onto Assassin’s Creed to kick people off mountains. Less realistic I know, but bundles more fun.

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