I played around six hours of this over 60 hour game. No Spoilers will be included.

Obtained from Flickr.com, labelled for reuse.

“Red Dead Redemption 2”, Rockstar’s first new game since “GTA V” in 2013, has finally arrived. After a year delay, reports of 80 hour or more work weeks and an 8 year gap between the original and this prequel, this game is amongst the most anticipated of the year, if not the console generation.

After garnering much critical success (currently sitting at a 97 on Metacritic), I was waiting eagerly for my time with Red Dead 2.

I feel like I should state that I have never played a Rockstar game before. I have never experienced their giant, sprawling open worlds. After diving into their version of the Wild West, I am left with mixed feelings.

The Wild West they have created is gorgeous. From snowy, glistening mountains to the beautiful sight of the Milky Way Galaxy at night, this game is breathtaking. It is one of the most visually impressive games I have played, and it looks amazing, despite it running on my launch PS4 from 2013.

However, the visuals would be irrelevant if they were placed in a world not worth exploring. Luckily, Rockstar created a world that makes you feel like it was there before you. Cities breathe with life in every corner. Unlike most video games, the NPCs exist to live their own lives, and not to serve a direct purpose for Arthur Morgan, the game’s main character.

It is not just the world that you are thrown into, but the story as well. The Van Der Linde gang, of which Morgan is a part of, has receded to the mountains after a botched ferry heist. The game begins here, with the gang hidden in the mountains away from law enforcement.

The story and the pace of the game itself is slow. Many missions begin with a five minute horse ride to the destination (which is saved by the impressive voice work and intriguing characters and narrative). The story benefits from this deliberately slow approach, as characters feel more developed and each member of the large ensemble cast gets their chance to shine. Unfortunately, the game play suffers.

The long horse rides become a slog, especially when the destination does not interest me either. I am six hours in and still learning new mechanics. This makes some missions feel more like tutorials rather than pressing, important tasks. Six hours into a video game, this feeling should not exist.

The gun play is good. I write that with a negative connotation, since video games have progressed a lot this generation. Games like “Horizon: Zero Dawn” and “Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End” created a standard for third person action that “Red Dead Redemption 2” unfortunately can not match. The feeling of fluid run-and-gun play is not there, and it plays more like a great PS3 game.

Overall, missions and gun play are still enjoyable. Despite imperfect mechanics, Rockstar still creates missions with thrilling set pieces and nothing can beat the excitement of a train robbery. I actually appreciate the change in mission structure. The extremely linear mission style is refreshing and easy to comprehend compared to most open world game’s choose-your-own path approach.

Rockstar nailed the aspects most developers ignore, but messed up some other details that make the game less fun to play. These include a poor user interface, uncomfortable controls and a menu system I find obstructive and unappealing.

The realism they worked so hard to achieve helps and hinders the experience. In a tense firefight, I shot at an enemy and slightly missed, knocking their hat off. This level of detail made my jaw drop, and I smiled with glee. Later, I punched my horse due to bad controls and he ran off, leaving me stranded. I yelled and was left frustrated.

Rockstar has created the greatest cowboy simulator to ever exist. It is breathtaking to look at and usually enjoyable to experience. The world they created leaves me eagerly waiting to return, though once I’m in, I am left wondering what this game could have been if they fixed its issues.

Overall, I am having fun, and that is all I ask for video games to be. I look forward to 60 more hours in the Wild West, and hopefully with more time and experience, some of the menu and control issues will subside. Now, back to robbing general stores!

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