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.

God Of War (2018) Spoiler free Review

It’s rare I do a game review, but when a game came along and went so far above my already lofty expectations I had to write about it. God Of War is a franchise I’ve never been big on, the hack and slash nature never appealed to me but the buzz around this year’s sequel was too high to ignore.

It follows the series’ protagonist Kratos, who previously has just been an angry fighter and not much more beyond that, and his journey with his son Atreus to scatter the ashes of his late wife. That is the core of the story. No saving the world or taking down the gods or contrived plot device so many games use to push stories along. Even games as excellent as the Uncharted series tend to have that treasure you’re looking for to push you along.

God of War features 10 characters, including peripheral ones, in a 20-30 hour story. There are hints at other players in the background but we never see them, and that gives the game’s story some real power as by the mid to late game you’re very invested in every character that pops up. I’ve heard it compared to a grand theatre show, or an indie movie with big action set pieces, and they’re both very apt comparisons. The whole game, if played without turning off the console, is all on one long camera shot. There are no cuts, there are no loading screens, it’s one long story told as if there is a camera man behind Kratos on his journey.

The relationship between Kratos and his son is so well done. Kratos, the flawed character he is, is not very good at being a dad and has left a lot of Atreus’ upbringing to his mother. Experiencing the characters struggle to adapt and be a good father is compelling and it’s often the moments between cut scenes and action sequences that the best moments in the game can be found. The two of them talking and learning about each other feels so natural and intriguing I often found myself waiting in the boat or outside an objective just to make sure I got to the end of the conversation they were having. I honestly can’t say any game has made me do that before.

In with all of the excellent and compelling story telling is some of the most satisfying and rewarding combat I’ve played in any game. The leviathan axe is yours to use immediately, and the intuitive controls make combat so much fun. The variation in styles you can adopt means you’re never bored, and the ability to call your axe back to you exactly like Thor in the MCU calling back his hammer never fails to feel awesome. So satisfying I would often launch my axe past enemies just to call it back through the enemies before going for the kill.

I know there are lots of lapsed gamers, not having the time to sink hours into games in between their busy lives. If you are one of those, and only have time for one game played out over a year, this should be it. God of War is possibly the best game since “The Last of Us” and it may even be better than that masterpiece.

Good: Everything. Seriously it’s incredible.

Bad: It’s PS4 exclusive,but that is just another reason to grab Sony’s machine.

10/10 – wow.