Yes I’m going there. It’s always so much easier to nit-pick as opposed to praise, and with Red Dead Redemption 2 receiving such unanimous acclaim from every corner of the internet, I feel it’s my moral duty to chime in with my niggles about this beautifully crafted game, with which I have a complex relationship. Oof.
There is no denying the photo-realistic beauty and epic scale of the hot, pulsing world that Rockstar has fashioned; it’s so detailed, in fact, that you can almost gallop past a perching bird and have it kuckaww knowingly at you. As a work of art, I think it’s a masterpiece. As a piece of technical engineering, it’s the best of the best. As a video game, it’s loaded with enough activities to keep you achievement-hunting for centuries, and it’s superb value for money.
But as a story… Hmmm. I’m not sure if it’s working for me.
Most people know that a narrative undertaking of Red Dead Redemption 2 is akin to tackling War and Peace in novel form, or even the Sanskrit epic The Mahabharata, which is about three times the length of the Bible. With a ‘mere’ 40-50 hours of story to blast your way through, Red Dead does not skimp on plot. As such, if you were that person who sat through the extended Lord of the Rings trilogy and thought, “Dammit, if only this were three times longer!” then you’re in the luck – Arthur Morgan has you covered.
The thing is, I have never met that person. Oh I’ve no doubt they exist, somewhere, and I look forward to meeting them and telling them that I think they’re lovely but crazy. It’s just that there’s definitely such a thing as being Too Long. Like, I adore the movie Titanic (judge me) but I wouldn’t want 50 hours of Kate Winslet’s Irish jig. No tankoo.
I know, I know, video games aren’t the same as films, but they are insofar as they often have a narrative pulling you through, and this is certainly the case with Red Dead Redemption 2. And Rockstar has chosen to unfurl this gun-totin’ tale over the course of two solid days without sleep, as opposed to, say, the 12-15 hours of the much more ‘conservative’ Shadow of the Tomb Raider.
Seriously, give me a pair of scissors and I will find acres’ worth of script for the cutting room floor.
For example, many of Red Dead‘s missions play out like this. “Hey Arthur, I happen to know of this miiighty fine stagecoach we can go rob ourselves – it’s only thirty-eight miiiiiles to the west. Giddyup partner!” You then spend a looooong time riding to the mission point across open country, whilst occasionally conversing with your fellow outlaw about mostly insignificant character stuff, or else just admiring the scenery. That’s if you don’t encounter any pesky side-mission NPCs leaping into your path with their arms madly flailing. Goodness knows what would happen if you actually said “yes” to all of these side-quests, but suffice to say you’d probably go bald and grow an impressive beard long before hitting the end of Chapter Six. And that’s just the women.
As such, I feel that Red Dead Redemption 2 is asking too much of me – a bit like an over-demanding partner who’s content with nothing less than round-the-clock messaging, and sulks if they can’t come everywhere with you including the toilet. You can still love them and admire them and, heck, you may even marry them, but not without having A Chat first. And that’s where I’m at with Red Dead. I’m about 20 hours in and still haven’t reached the end of Chapter Three, and it’s starting to feel like a chore. Like, I’m at the point where I’m making myself play the game and put some solid hours in out of a sense of duty.
Perhaps this is because it’s not the game for me? I do prefer my story-driven titles, and Red Dead is arguably more ‘open-world’ than, say, the carefully-guided experience that is Shadow of the Tomb Raider. But I do like the story and I’m keen to find out where it’s going and how it’s all going to play out; I’m just not sure if I want to invest 50 hours of my life into the bargain. Know what I mean? I can’t help but think that Red Dead is trying too hard by throwing Everything in the Universe Ever at me.
Anyway, I’ll continue for now. It’s a stunningly beautiful world that I (mostly) enjoy coming back to, and I am convinced that there is still much, much more to see and experience. But please, noble steed – pick up the pace! Yee-haww.
How do you feel about Red Dead Redemption 2? Do you wish it was shorter? Do you wish it was longer?? Are you indifferent about the length and are just happy to dip in and out? Let me know in the comments below.