Red Dead Redemption 2 Opening Impression

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Note that this piece includes slight spoilers for the opening tutorial and the beginning of Chapter 1 of Red Dead Redemption 2.

Two days ago, the long-awaited Red Dead Redemption 2 was released. Needless to say, I was excited. This game was hyped up for so long – there were even high expectations for it before the sequel was confirmed to be in production – so, quite obviously, my hopes were, and still are, pretty high.

I’m not the most versed with the history of Red Dead and the first game. I know it’s good, that’s for sure, and that’s somewhat of a given due to the fact that it reigns from the ever-so-mighty Rockstar, but I’m not the most experienced with the franchise. Despite this, I still jumped in my seat when I saw a billboard for the game whilst driving home waiting for it to be delivered, so I’m jumping on the bandwagon. I pretty much ripped the package open as soon as I saw that it had arrived, before rushing to get it installed.

My very first impression was just confirming how big the game is said to be. The first thing that hits you is the fact that there are two discs. There’s one specifically to install the game, and then there’s the play disc. If I had any doubts about the size of the game file, they were sure chased by the sight of that. I had initially expected the game to take forever to download – it’s a 90GB file for me (a PS4 player) and I wanted to give it as much time as possible to get sorted before diving into starting it. Thankfully, it took a little over an hour for the entire thing to install.

I then pushed forward and decided that I needed to get an opening look at the game that has been so raved and ranted about by fans. It’s safe to say that, as soon as you start up your file, you’re thrown into the Wild-Western lives of a group of bandits who are going against the government. If that isn’t enough to wake you up, I don’t know what would be.

The game begins with a tutorial-type introduction to the world and the narrative, which I found to be obviously pretty useful to get to grips with the sheer vastness of the gameplay. We meet our guy, Arthur, at the very beginning as the group searches for a place to find shelter during a snowstorm (which is the biggest challenge that I’ve faced just yet.)

What took me back straight away was the detail of the design and the graphics of the game. I knew they would be good – this game is one that’s had a lot of controversy surrounding it’s 100-hour work weeks for its developers – but there’s a difference between expecting greatness and actually seeing it for what it is. It was enjoyable just to watch the first scene play out before the action really got started.

The action doesn’t take long to start rolling, either. Soon enough, you’re with Arthur and Dutch on the look-out before you come across Micah explaining that he’s found a homestead. Those with experience, or the slightest bit of knowledge regarding the concept and premise of the game, will know what this already implies. I knew there would be bloodshed soon, I just didn’t know how I would handle it, given I was still trying to figure out how to speed up the horse.

The game takes no time in introducing players to the bloody action.

Then, before you know it, you’re crouched in a cattle shed while trying to figure out whether Dutch’s life is on the line and – surprise – it is. Enter our first shoot out of the game, about 10 minutes into the opening title. What better way is there to introduce the players to the violent mechanics of the game rather than just throwing them into a bloody battle straight away? I was a bit thrown at first. I admit, I died once, but as I said, the horse riding was the first challenge.

Searching the house and finding supplies after gutting the inhabitants, Arthur is then sent to check out the barn where we come across yet another guy who thinks he has the upper hand on our protagonist. Cue a series of beatings and questioning, and then the player is given the opportunity to either spare the guy or kill him. I took to killing him, for it is Red Dead Redemption after all and Arthur isn’t a very soft guy.

Saying that, though, one of the nicest things about the opening sequence of the game is the fact that we do actually get an insight into the fact that, even though these are bad guys, they still have a soft side. I appreciated seeing the way that they handled Adler (well, not so much Micah) and how they took in her in almost immediately. These guys are bloody, bruised, and they’re sure as hell tough as nails, but they’re not people to turn their backs on an innocent person in need. Already, showing that depth to the characters made them feel more interesting and less ‘macho’ in the sense of the usual expectation that men aren’t allowed to be soft or sensitive. Arthur may not be a good guy, but some part of his heart is good, and I think establishing that so early on in the game is going to influence a lot of player opinions and experiences of the entire game itself.

We go back and end the chapter before going off and find John who’s got himself stuck on a ledge. I’ll let you experience that, but the one thing I’ll say is that, so far, I’ve really enjoyed the dialogue flowing between the characters as they set out to seek, find, or kill their latest objective. Especially during one of the first missions once you’re in the open world of the game – where you go and kill some deer for Pearson to feed the camp – the conversation between Charles and Arthur is one that somewhat struck a chord with me. They’re not ignoring the reality of their situation, and they’re talking openly about their feelings and their progression throughout their own experiences, which is generally just a nice added addition to see to the game. It just makes the characters feel like there’s more to them than being horse-riding, hat-wearing, gun-slinging bandits.

This game is brutal right from the get-go, and that’s something that I believe a lot of fans of the franchise are going to love. Even if you’re not a long-time player of Red Dead, it’s evidently a game that deserves to be experienced in all its blood and guts. The world is outstanding, and there’s no doubt that the file is so big for good reason. I have a long way to go yet in exploring the place, but I already know that the vast wilderness of the open world is going to continuously keep surprising me. Hunting deer was already intimidating enough, so that says quite a bit.

So far, my experiences with Red Dead Redemption 2 have been limited due to the fact that I’m not one who’s going to try and rush through the game. I expect to make a dent in it in the next few days, but I don’t expect to have completed and polished off the story any time soon as that’s just not my play style. Plus, that could be giving my abilities a bit too much credit (as good as Arthur is with his guns, I’m not the best.)

I’ll keep battling through, walking in the snow and trying to get to grips with finding my way around. However, my hopes for the game are higher than before, and I can’t wait to dive in and take my time exploring.