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Red Dead Redemption 2 is an action-adventure game developed and published by Rockstar Games. It was released for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in October 2018, and for Microsoft Windows in November 2019. The game is the third entry in the Red Dead series and is a prequel to the 2010 game Red Dead Redemption. The story is set in 1899 in a fictionalized representation of the Western, Midwestern and Southern United States and follows outlaws Arthur Morgan and John Marston, two members of the Van der Linde gang. Arthur and John must deal with the decline of the Wild West whilst attempting to survive against government forces, rival gangs, and other adversaries.

Red Dead Redemption II
Red dead redemption 2 b.jpg
Name: Red Dead Redemption II
Developer(s): Rockstar San Diego
Publisher(s): Rockstar Games
Release date: October 26, 2018
Platform(s): Playstation 4, Xbox One and Microsoft Windows
Engine: RAGE
Series: Red Dead
Protagonist: Arthur Morgan (1899)
John Marston (1907)
Mode(s): Singleplayer
Multiplayer
Date takes place: 1899-1907
Location: New Austin, West Elizabeth, New Hanover, Lemoyne, and Ambarino

the response of law enforcement and bounty hunters to crimes committed by the player. Red Dead Online, the online multiplayer mode of the game, was released as a beta version in November 2018 before a full release in May 2019.

The game's development began soon after Red Dead Redemption's release and was shared between all of Rockstar's studios worldwide. The development team drew influence from real locations as opposed to film or art, focused on creating an accurate reflection of the time with the game's characters and world. The game was Rockstar's first built specifically for the consoles, having tested their technical capabilities while porting Grand Theft Auto V to the platforms. The game's soundtrack features an original score composed by Woody Jackson and several vocal tracks produced by Daniel Lanois.

Broadly anticipated and marketed before release, Red Dead Redemption 2 broke several records and had the second-biggest launch in the history of entertainment, generating $725 million in sales from its opening weekend and exceeding the lifetime sales of Red Dead Redemption in two weeks. It received universal acclaim, with praise directed at its story, characters, emotional depth, open world, graphics, and considerable level of detail. Considered by many as an example of video games as an art form, and as one of the greatest video games ever made, it won year-end accolades including Game of the Year awards from several gaming publications. It is among the best-selling video games of all time with over 26.5 million copies shipped.

Gameplay[edit | edit source]

Red Dead Redemption 2 is a Western-themed action-adventure game. Played from a first or third-person perspective, the game is set in an open-world environment featuring a fictionalized version of the Western, Midwestern and Southern United States. The game features both single-player and online multiplayer components, the latter released under Red Dead Online. For most of the game, the player controls outlaw Arthur Morgan, a member of the Van der Linde gang, as he completes numerous missions—linear scenarios with set objectives—to progress through the story; from the game's epilogue, the player controls John Marston. Outside of missions, the player may freely roam its interactive world. The player may engage in combat with enemies using melee attacks, firearms, throwables, or explosives. Combat has been refined from the game's predecessor, and notable new mechanics consist of dual-wielding and the ability to use a bow. Unlike the previous game, the player is granted the ability to swim.

Red Dead Redemption 2's unexploited land makes up the largest portion of the game world and features diverse landscapes with occasional travelers, bandits, and wildlife. There are urban settlements in the game, ranging from farmhouses to towns and cities. Horses are the main forms of transportation, of which there are various breeds, each with different attributes. The player must either train or tame a wild horse to use it, except for stolen horses; however, they must saddle a horse to acquire ownership over it. Increased use of a horse will begin a bonding process, which can be increased by cleaning and feeding it, and the player will acquire advantages as they ride their horse. Stagecoaches and trains can also be used to travel. The player can hijack an incoming train or stagecoach by threatening the driver or passengers and then rob its contents or the passengers.

The player may also witness or take part in random events encountered from exploring the game world. These include ambushes, crimes committed by other people, pleas for assistance, ride-by shootings, public executions, and animal attacks. For example, as the player explores the Wild West, they can find specific people in distress. If the player decides to help them, they will be thankful and may reward the player if they cross them again. The player may also take part in side-activities, which include small tasks with companions and strangers, dueling, bounty hunting, searching for treasure or other collectibles around the map such as rock carvings, and playing poker, blackjack, dominoes, and Five Finger Filet. Hunting animals also plays a major role in the game, providing food, income, and materials for crafting items. When hunting, the player needs to take into account several factors, including the choice of weapon and shot placement, which affect the quality of the meat and pelt and subsequently the price traders are willing to pay. The player can either skin the animal immediately or carry the carcass, which will rot over time and decrease its value and attract predators.

Plot[edit | edit source]

After a botched ferry heist in 1899, the Van der Linde gang is forced to leave their substantial money stash and flee Blackwater. The gang realizes that the progress of civilization is ending the time of outlaws, and so decide to gain enough money to escape the law and retire. They rob a train owned by Leviticus Cornwall, who responds by hiring Andrew Milton and the Pinkertons to apprehend them. Arthur and the gang perform numerous jobs and heists in Valentine, and Dutch continually promises that the next heist will be their last. Arthur becomes bothered by recent recruit Micah's recklessness and willingness to resort to violence.

Cornwall retaliates for the train heist, which culminates in a deadly shootout in Valentine and the gang relocates to Lemoyne. They meet the Grays and Braithwaites, two warring families who are rumored to be hoarding Civil War gold. Dutch tries to pit the families against each other but underestimates them. The gang is ambushed by the Grays and Sean is killed; meanwhile, the Braithwaites kidnap John's son Jack. The gang retaliates and destroy both families. They learn that Jack is with Saint Denis crime lord Angelo Bronte, who returns Jack and embraces the gang. He offers them leads on work, but double-crosses them. Dutch kidnaps and feeds him to an alligator as revenge.

The gang remains in Saint Denis, where Hosea and Dutch lead them in a bank robbery. The Pinkertons intervene, arresting John and killing Hosea and Lenny. Dutch, Arthur, Bill, Javier, and Micah escape the city via a ship heading to Cuba. A torrential storm sinks the ship, and the men wash ashore on the island of Guarma, where they become embroiled in a war between the tyrannical sugar plantation owners and the enslaved local population. The group successfully aids the revolution against the plantation owners and secure transport back to the United States.

The group reunites with the rest of the gang, and Dutch obsesses over one last heist. Although he insists that they must wait to liberate John, Arthur and Sadie disobey him and rescue John. Dutch doubts Arthur's loyalty and replaces his role as the lieutenant with Micah. Arthur becomes concerned that Dutch is no longer the man he knew, as he is becoming insular, abandons their ideals, and murders Cornwall. Meanwhile, Arthur is diagnosed with tuberculosis, which he caught while beating a sick farmer who owed money to the gang. Faced with his mortality, Arthur reflects on his actions and how to protect the gang following his death. He persuades John to run away with Abigail and Jack and openly defies Dutch by aiding the local Native American people.

When the Pinkertons assault the camp, Dutch becomes paranoid that a gang member is working as an informant. Several gang members become disenchanted and leave, while Dutch and Micah arrange one final heist of an Army payroll train. Arthur's faith in Dutch is shattered when he abandons Arthur to the Army, leaves John for dead, and refuses to rescue Abigail when she is taken. Arthur and Sadie again disobey Dutch to rescue Abigail from Milton, who names Micah as the Pinkertons' informer before Abigail kills him.

Arthur returns to the camp and openly accuses Micah of betrayal. Dutch, Bill, Javier, and Micah turn on Arthur and the newly returned John, but the standoff is broken when the Pinkertons return and all six flee into the wilderness. Arthur can choose to aid John's escape by delaying the Pinkertons or return to the camp to recover the gang's money. Micah ambushes Arthur, and Dutch intervenes in their fight. Arthur convinces Dutch to abandon Micah and leave. If the player has high honor, Arthur succumbs to his injuries and disease and dies peacefully while watching the sunrise; if the player has low honor, Micah executes him.

Eight years later, in 1907, John and his family are trying to lead an honest life. They find work at a ranch where John fights back against outlaws threatening his employer. Abigail believes John is unwilling to give up his old ways and leaves with Jack. This encourages John to take out a bank loan and purchase a ranch. He works with Uncle, Sadie, and Charles to build a new home and John proposes to Abigail on her return. Against Abigail's wishes, John, Sadie, and Charles pursue Micah. They find that Dutch has also recently arrived at Micah's camp, but Dutch shoots Micah and leaves in silence, allowing John to finish him off. Inside their cabin, John finds the Blackwater stash, with which he pays his debt. John marries Abigail and they start their new life on their ranch alongside Jack and Uncle, as Sadie and Charles leave for other pursuits.

The final scene shows the former Pinkerton agent Edgar Ross—now the director of the Bureau of Investigation—observing John's ranch, foreshadowing the events of Red Dead Redemption.

Reception[edit | edit source]

Red Dead Redemption 2 received "universal acclaim" from critics, according to review aggregator Metacritic. The game is the highest-rated PlayStation 4 and Xbox One game on Metacritic alongside Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto V, and is the fifth-highest rated game overall, tied with several others. Reviewers praised the characters, narrative, gameplay and combat, open world design, and music. Matt Bertz of Game Informer described the game as "the biggest and most cohesive adventure Rockstar Games has ever created", and GamesRadar's David Meikleham felt that it "represents the current pinnacle of video game design". Keza MacDonald of The Guardian declared it "a landmark game" and "a new high water-mark for lifelike video game worlds"; IGN's Luke Reilly named it "one of the greatest games of the modern age". Peter Suderman, writing for The New York Times, considered Red Dead Redemption 2 as an example of video games as a work of art, comparing the game's abilities to "[tell] individual stories against the backdrop of national and cultural identity, deconstructing their genres while advancing the form" to the current state of film and television with similar works like The Godfather and The Sopranos.

Meikleham of GamesRadar wrote that, "story-wise, this is perhaps the boldest triple-A game ever made", praising the unpredictability of the narrative and comparing the game's "high caliber" epilogue to the narrative of The Last of Us (2013). The Guardian's MacDonald also praised the twists within the story, applauding the writers' ability to feed the smaller stories into the overall narrative. Nick Plessas of Electronic Gaming Monthly noted that the game's best stories "are to be found in the margins", discovered and written by the player. Game Informer's Bertz felt that the game's narrative rarely suffered from repetition, an impressive feat considering the game's scope. Conversely, GameSpot's Kallie Plagge was frustrated by the predictability later in the narrative, though admitted that such repetition was a "crucial" part of Arthur's story. Alex Navarro of Giant Bomb felt that the narrative suffered in its cliché Native American portrayal and "blandly obnoxious" side missions. Some reviewers also commented on the game's slow opening hours.

Electronic Gaming Monthly's Plessas found the journey of redemption for Arthur Morgan to be "far more redeeming" than John Marston's in Red Dead Redemption, noting that his sins heightened his sympathy for the character. Conversely, Eurogamer's Martin Robinson considered Arthur to be less compelling than Marston, leading to a confusing narrative as a result. GameSpot's Plagge wrote that the new characters in the game contribute significantly to the quality of the story. Williams of USgamer felt that the secondary characters "feel like actual people" due to their varied personalities, and the player feels a closer connection when events occur in the game. IGN's Reilly praised the cultural variety within the cast of characters and the game's avoidance of caricatures. Giant Bomb's Navarro echoed this sentiment, noting that the characters possess humanity often lacking in other Rockstar Games, particularly in the thoughtful portrayal of Arthur's internal conflicts. MacDonald of The Guardian felt that the characters felt more believable due to the "excellent performances with unexpected range". Polygon's Chris Plante found the game's portrayal of Native American characters, inspired by a "mashing together of real-world people, locations, and groups into single entities", to be insensitive and confusing, but that the game's political commentary shined when focusing on the entitlement and power of the Braithwaite and Gray families.

Game Informer's Bertz felt that the game has "unequivocally the most well-crafted and fully realized open world in video games". Many other critics echoed this sentiment: Giant Bomb's Navarro considered the open-world population to be the game's best aspect, and Electronic Gaming Monthly's Plessas noted that the game's map "pushes industry boundaries in both size and detail". Robinson of Eurogamer considered the world to be Rockstar's largest since Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (2004). The Guardian's MacDonald described the open world as "close to miraculous", praising its imitation of real American landscapes. Reilly of IGN considered the game's world to be "broader, more beautiful, and more varied" than its predecessor's, due in part to how each environment feels alive. GameSpot's Plagge felt compelled to explore the open world due to its variety, reactivity, and surprises.

GamesRadar's Meikleham declared Red Dead Redemption 2 as "the best looking video game of all time" with some of the most impressive lighting and weather systems. IGN's Reilly described the game as "undeniably pretty" due to the lighting engine, facial animation, and level of granular detail present in the world. Game Informer's Bertz praised the attention to detail of the historical period, writing that the "wide expanses of wilderness feel alive thanks to an unrivaled dynamic weather system, ambient sound effects, and the most ambitious ecology of flora and fauna ever seen in games". Plessas of Electronic Gaming Monthly felt that the game's artistic and graphical design was impressive in its physicality and reactivity, as well as visuals. USgamer's Williams found the game to be one of the best-looking on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

Red Dead Redemption 2's gameplay received praise from Giant Bomb's Navarro, who noted that, "from the biggest missions right down to the smallest interactions, all of this stuff feels like it was constructed individually". GamesRadar's Meikleham similarly lauded the amount of detail and worth in the game's secondary mechanics. Plessas of Electronic Gaming Monthly wrote that the game's subtle details are "vital for immersion", noting that they remove any divide between the player and the overall experience. Game Informer's Bertz appreciated the game's missions that avoided violence, wanting more "quiet moments sprinkled throughout the story". IGN's Reilly felt that, despite feeling "heavier" than the protagonists of Grand Theft Auto V, Arthur's movement throughout the world did not feel cumbersome. Polygon's Plante considered the game's conversation options limited, but still an improvement over the violence of other action games. Eurogamer's Robinson voiced frustration at the game's lack of freedom in some story missions.

IGN's Reilly felt that, while the game's combat borrowed from the formula of Grand Theft Auto games, the closer battles with more primitive firearms led to more intimate and "exciting" encounters. Chris Carter of Destructoid described the gunplay as "fantastic" and praised the game's Dead Eye mechanic for allowing the "further beautification of some of the more hectic confrontations". Electronic Gaming Monthly's Plessas wrote that "few games attempt to reinvent the point-gun-pull-trigger quintessence of shooters, but Red Dead 2 achieves it with confidence and grace". Sam White of The Hollywood Reporter found that the guns are "slower, more meaningful tools", making them feel deadlier in combat. USgamer's Mike Williams felt that the game is better than its predecessor, but is "not the best third-person combat system".

Woody Jackson's musical score was described as "top notch" by IGN's Reilly, who described it as "an evocative mix of jangling Ennio Morricone-esque guitar and more soulful pieces". GamesRadar's Meikleham wrote that the score is "both electrifying and eclectic". Bertz of Game Informer noted that the soundtrack "leverages elements from early American folk to bring authenticity to the world". Dave Thier of Forbes described the score as "soaring, grand, and sometimes tender", praising the vocal tracks for having as powerful an impact as in the game's predecessor.

Some reviewers criticized the game's control system, with Film Crit Hulk, writing for Polygon, summarizing the feeling of it as "not one of difficulty and accomplishment, but constant monotony or frustration". Kotaku's Kirk Hamilton disparaged that interacting with the world became "frustrating and inconsistent" as a result of the game's "sludgy kinesthetics, jumbled control scheme, and unclear user interface", describing gameplay as "more like giving directions to an actor" due to "arduous, heavy, and inelegant" navigation and slow or unsatisfying button inputs. Forbes' Thier echoed this by criticizing the game for having a noticeable input lag, while Forbes writer Paul Tassi described the game as "an absolute slog when it comes to the actual controls, mechanics, and UI". Robert Ramsey of Push Square called the controls "serviceable" but at their worst "infuriating", and that the button layouts for various actions were too convoluted.

Reviewers also critiqued how the focus on authenticity translated to gameplay in terms of player convenience and freedom. Gaming journalist Jim Sterling felt that the sheer amount of realism in the game limited capabilities and caused various scenarios or animations to be prolonged. In addition to these complaints, reviewers also found that despite its focus, the level of realism was concurrently lacking, with discrepancies noted between the game's sense of immersion and its presenting of mechanics which defied the laws of physics and animations they considered unrealistic; Film Crit Hulk, writing for Polygon, felt that the ability to interact with numerous items resulted in meaningless interactions, and that striving for realism in a video game did not work in practice. VentureBeat wrote that, in spite of presenting a range of options for the player, the gameplay was still notably restrictive by preventing other opportunities. USgamer's Williams and Forbes' Thier felt that the wanted system was unfairly punishing to the player from committing crimes that were difficult to avoid, such as accidentally knocking into NPCs. Wired's Matt Reynolds was mixed on gameplay elements relating to the well-being of the player character and the required dedication, noting that the game "exchanges immersion for observation" and that "at times, the constant character maintenance feels like a chore".

Red Dead Redemption 2's Microsoft Windows release also received "universal acclaim", according to Metacritic; it is one of the highest-rated PC games. Sam White of PCGamesN thought the graphics improvements made the open world "[look] the best it ever has". Destructoid's Carter praised the addition of the Photo Mode. Sam Machkovech of Ars Technica felt that the game's animations during cutscenes do not scale well to higher frame rates, but considered the gameplay to be far superior to the console versions. Matthew Castle of Rock, Paper, Shotgun lauded the adapted controls, particularly when painting targets in Dead Eye, though felt they took time to familiarize oneself with. PC Gamer's James Davenport found the first-person perspective to be superior on the Windows version due to the responsiveness of the mouse. Jean-Kléber Lauret of Jeuxvideo.com noted that the graphical and technical enhancements meant that advanced hardware was required, citing several crashes. Polygon's Samit Sarkar criticized the port's technical issues, writing that "the freezing issue is bad enough that I simply can't play the game until Rockstar fixes it".

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