Archive for Red Dead Redemption

One Week with Red Dead Redemption 2’s Great World and Flawed Gameplay

Posted in Hands On with tags , , , , , on November 3, 2018 by Rabidgames

We’ve been waiting a mighty long time for Red Dead Redemption 2, haven’t we? And sure enough, the wait was worth it. The world is breathtakingly amazing, supported by easily the most impressive graphics and lightning you can see on consoles. Many corners of the world hold sometimes dark, sometimes pretty bizarre secrets, and being in camp with the gang is pure magic. Play poker or joke around, get drunk and listen to obscene songs, get to know the quirks of each member and find the Reverend’s rather special bible, it’s those scenes together with the amazing voice overs that make Red Dead Redemption 2 stand out from the rest of the gaming world by miles. Many characters are fleshed out and feel almost properly human, everyone probably finds their favourite, and upgrading the camp makes folks happier (and contributing more to it) … and then you think “fuck, those are the guys I’ve killed in Red Dead Redemption” all those years ago …

And the world … fuck, the world is incredibly huge and diverse. From deep snow to arid deserts, from the wilderness to a big town heralding the end of the wilderness and the Wild West (though it is in the Eastern section of the map), Red Dead Redemption 2 is a master class in world building. You can go hunting wildlife all day if you feel like it, or just ride around the rolling hills of New Hanover and feel the virtual wind in your hair. Who knows what we’ll find – maybe even Bigfoot?

The greatest strength of Red Dead Redemption 2 is the underappreciated art of deceleration though. When relaxing in the camp or on horseback under the stars, it’s fine to just trot around slowly, or maybe to sit down and have a beer at the camp fire. There’s no rush to do the next mission, no immediate need to go anywhere in a hurry, it’s fine to just sit there for some minutes. Just like Life is Strange did so superbly, Red Dead Redemption 2 invites you to just waste time. Take in your surroundings, relax. Just ride into the sunset before making camp, because why on earth would an outlaw feel the need to be dictated by the fucking clock like modern men?

We’ve certainly heard all the praises in the last week. And it’s true, it’s all true. Well, most of it is. Because you see, Red Dead Redemption 2 is not perfect. In fact, when it comes to gameplay, there are quite some flaws. And no, we’re not talking about Arthur’s slow movement, that’s a design choice you may like or you may not like, but the game is suppsoed to be slower. But there are problems. The issues Red Dead Redemption 2 has are twofold: First, some mechanics are simply broken; some gang members, among them a certain John Marston and his family, will never(?) show up in your camp. At least you won’t see them for a mighty long time. that’s just wrong, but well, shit happens. A game of that scale is bound to have some technical hiccups.

But way worse, you can get wanted (and hunted) for some dumb idiot bumping into your horse. That’s called assault for whatever reason and you get shot to pieces if you’re unlucky. At other times, you have a bounty on your head but you talk to the sheriff who doesn’t care at all. It doesn’t even make sense. How on earth this fucking massive glitch could make it past QA is incredible. You see, the thing is not just that you’re hunted, the thing is you have to pay your fucking bounty at some point, and in the early stages of the game, even a rather meagre amount like $200 can break the bank easily.

And then, there are too many cumbersome and at times weirdly gameplay mechanics and systems that let Red Dead Redemption 2 down a bit; if you want to craft nice outfits, inventory upgrades or talismans, you need perfect pelts. Which means you need to find a certain animal and kill it with a headshot – with the appropriate weapon nonetheless. Problem is, if you’re in bad luck , a 3-star rated perfect animal simply won’t spawn. Tough luck, cowboy, keep on waiting.

Another problem of Rockstar in pretty much all of their game has been the mission design: And as you might expect by now, Red Dead Redemption 2 has too many linear and tightly scripted missions, which is simply bad for an open world game. Remember that stupid subway bike chase mission in GTA IV with the invincible enemy? You have to follow one path, there is one way to do the mission, no options, no choices, that’s it. Now, if you disguise this type of missions cleverly, no problem. But … Red Dead Redemption 2 isn’t even trying to sugar coat it; when you have some dude riding EXACTLY as fast as you are and you have to follow him on EXACTLY the same path for exactly 4 minutes (or about 4 minutes) with scripted events happening during the chase until yet another scripted scene happens – that’s just bad design. And lazy as fuck and boring as hell. And not fun at all.

And then we have fast travel. Yes, you can take a stage coach or a train in Red Dead Redemption 2, but that will leave your horse behind – and with that most of your weapons. So, you can do it for sightseeing, but gameplay-wise, meh. There is some fast travel hidden behind two pretty expensive camp updates, but this fast travel sucks big time, too. Why? Because you can only travel FROM your camp, but not back TO it. It’s beyond stupid. Sure, you can ride to a waypoint with the cinematic camera, which means you just watch, but come on!

And then there are the things that clash with Rockstar’s self-proclaimed sense of realism in the game (stuff like food, cleanliness, appropriate clothing and the like). Why the hell does Arthur have a Witcher/Assassin/Batman sense to highlight things around him or to follow tracks? No clue. Why does every vendor in Red Dead Redemption 2 sell you exactly the same stuff, no matter where? Not exactly realistic today, even less so for a game set in 1899. And worst of all, why the fuck do enemies spawn out of nowhere next to us? Come on, Rockstar, it’s 2018!

Now, that sure is a lot of complaints, ain’t it? Don’t get Rabidgames wrong though, Red Dead Redemption 2 is definitely an amazing game that nails some things like no other game out there does or ever has, but it’s not a perfect specimen. In fact, it is quite a problem when the major issues are basic gameplay mechanics or mundane things. Maybe it’s because of all the hype surrounding the game that we expected a perfect game, a master piece, gaming’s Citizen Kane, a step into the next generation. Anything less, just a good game, won’t cut it. We might be victims of our own expectations at times, true. Maybe the hype that makes reviewers hype certain games straight into the stratosphere is the thing that makes them overlook flaws and give virtually perfect scores to games like Red Dead Redemption 2, Skyrim (game-breaking bugs on the PS3, flat combat) or Breath of the Wild (glass weapons, empty world, no noteworthy narrative). Remember the amazingly good scores GTA IV got, a game that got ridiculed as bowling simulator for all the fucking times you had to meet your fucking cousin? Hype has the tendency to make us expect the best shit ever.

But when it comes to Red Dead Redemption 2, here’s the thing: Looking at the narrative, the characters, the world and all the interactions, Red Dead Redemption 2 might very well REALLY be gaming’s Citizen Kane, they might really be the best shit ever. The gameplay flaws might not even matter that much in the great scheme of things – when we talk about art, we talk about the vision after all. But that doesn’t mean we should fail to see the flaws in the execution. That doesn’t mean that Red Dead Redemption 2 should be seen as horrible or bad, but we should acknowledge that it can be great in some aspects and still lacking in others.

All of that being said, Red Dead Redemption 2 is still enjoyable, sure. But it is rather enjoyable when you minimise the gameplay experiences – if you just roam through the morning fog, if you sit down in camp, or if you’re exploring and find something, or someone very strange. The missions themselves are often rather a means to and end (progression) and ticking the boxes than something that feels as hand-crafted and detailed as the backdrop. It is still fun, but you always wonder what Red Dead Redemption 2 could have been with slicker gameplay and more creative missions.

Rabidgames appeases: Now hold on with the lynching, let’s make one thing clear: Red Dead Redemption 2 is an amazing game. It definitely is. There is a certain magic to many things in the game, including the organic way you receive quests and especially all the sick shit you find when just roaming and exploring the vast, beautiful world. If only the missions felt as organic …

Yes, Rockstar should be praised for the amazing effort to create a world that feels incredibly alive. But Rockstar also needs to be reminded that it’s one thing to nail the art aspect, but it still can make for an unsatisfying experience if the basic craftsmanship is lacking.

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Dear Rockstar: A Friendly Intervention

Posted in Gaming these days ... with tags , , , , , , , , on June 7, 2018 by Rabidgames

We have been good friends for a long time, haven’t we?

Remember how our good times started? Remember the fun we had with the original Grand Theft Auto, GTA London, GTA 2 … Oh yes, we’ve had good times on the PS1. Although back then, it was still well-behaved and tame, wasn’t it?

But then we became best buddies, man. And times got wilder. You know how GTA III happened? Boom, that open 3-D world, us getting lost there, getting drunk, crashing cars? Man, we loved that shit back then! But you gave us even more with Vice City and the awesome 80s feeling, and EVEN MORE with the massive world of San Andreas. Holy crap, it felt like re-inventing the rules! But we share more fond PS2 memories, don’t we? The Warriors, Red Dead Revolver, Max motherfucking Payne, and of course the very awesome yet underrated memory of the amazing Bully (man, what a nice small world!). Sure, you were a bit weird with manhunt but still, good times, buddy, good times.

Sure, GTA IV was a bit of a drag because of the annoying relatives and the return to only a single city, and oh, Max Payne 3, well, we all mistakes, so you’re forgiven. But hey, we had fun with simply the best Western game ever, Red Dead Redemption, with the detective novel L.A. Noire and with the sprawling world and of course Trevor’s erratic behaviours in GTA V.

And man, we’ve loooved your stories. Your caricatures, your satire, your humour, you have made these things work on quite some levels. From the Wild West to urban centres, from small towns to Brazilian favelas, storytelling was your damn strength, dude! You’ve mixed fiction and the real world like no other, and you managed to simply piss everyone off! Like South Park, just more interactive.

But then, something happened … Let’s be honest here, okay? Let’s talk straight! You lost sight of our goals, buddy. In recent years, you’ve lost it, bud. Was it the money? The fame? The temptation of another quick fix? Whatever it was, how to put this, but man, you need to get a grip. We really miss your stories! Recently, you went AWOL on us to spend time in that modern online world. But dude, we’re still here. We’ve thought you’d care more about us than the fucking jocks from EA and Activision, you know. But lately, and please, don’t get this the wrong way, but lately you’ve behaved just like those dorks!

See, let me give you some examples here. We’re not dissing you, we’re telling you. You know, making GTA Online a grind, luring us in there with free money (come on, half a million is fuck nothing in your overpriced economy and you know it), ditching all plans for any campaign story add-ons after making promises … man, that one has hurt the most! Have you really forgotten your roots, man? Your roots, and the good times we’ve shared?

And now, man, we want to play Red Dead Redemption 2, we really, really, really want to buy the game. And we want to like it and look forward to it. Really, really! But DUDE! What the fuck are you doing? Why does it have to be shitloads of different editions? Even with “exclusive” missions? Fuck that shit, man! Why should we pre-order to get some fucking online cash for another fucking game? Come on man, stop partying with the frat boys from EA!!! Stop believing the sweet yet treacherous words from that Activision dude!

But let’s calm down for now, okay? After all, we’ve been friends for a long, long time. Shit, you could say decades! So see, because it’s you, we want to give you a last chance. Please, please prove you still care. Please show us you still can tell great stories, and you still have it in you to tell a long, meaningful story. But hey, look away from your phone! No exclusive crap! No more DLC shit! No fucking micro-transactions! Can you try to do that for us pretty please? Can you?

And make no mistake, Rockstar. This is your last chance. If you disappoint us again and you feel like treating the story just as a tutorial for your oh-so-beloved new online hobby, we’re done. Because frankly, right now, we don’t believe you and your talks anymore. It’s time for action. So comes October, we’ll see. So please, old friend, please don’t disappoint us! Or it’s farewell. Forever.

Why the Success of GTA Online is Actually Bad News

Posted in Gaming these days ..., The Latest with tags , , , , on July 26, 2017 by Rabidgames

First of all, this is the perspective of a disgruntled long-term Rockstar fanboy. GTA Online is fun for many, sure. It can be fun, and that’s all fair and square if it’s your cup of tea. But unfortunately, it’s also a giant money machine. Which is also the biggest problem if you don’t give a flying fuck about it. Because post-launch, GTA Online is all there is while once the campaign is completed, there is nothing but a few consolation outfits, weapons or vehicles.

For GTA Online however, we have heists, stunt tracks (to be fair, these are really cool), businesses to make you some money, property to buy, and so on. For some inexplicable reason though, everything is that absurdly overpriced so you have to grind for a decade to be able to afford the good shit … or you just give Rockstar some cash and you’re set. Great, eh?

Somehow however, Rockstar forgot its roots. The company forgot about the GTA V singleplayer part of the game, the part that used to be the meat and the reason to play Grand Theft Auto. What happened to it? Blinded by the easy cash of GTA Online? Too lazy to come up with a story and/or characters for a DLC campaign? To be fair, the GTA V campaign has its moments, but it has been missing something, as if the developers decided to start there and then focussed on something else rather than flesh it out completely with … you know, aliens or post-story heists. Something else meaning a certain online component …

Whatever the reasons for the decay of the campaign, it is bad news for us old-school single-player Grand Theft Auto fans. And not just that – can you imagine the focus will now NOT be on the multiplayer of Red Dead Redemption 2? Sure, Rockstar has made a shitload of money with GTA Online, but who gives a fuck? Apart from JRPGs and the glory of The Witcher, where are the big open worlds with compelling stories and satire (we can always go back to Just Cause, Saints Row (after 2) or Wildlands, but well, their stories are not their strong suits)? Where is the stuff that once made Rockstar great, where has their DNA been in recent years? Has Rockstar smelled easy money and lost its ways? Well, Red Dead Redemption 2 will soon tell us if Rockstar still follows their legacy or if they sell out for quick cash. Fingers crossed!

Rabidgames sighs: Let’s hope Rockstar won’t be remembered as yet another company that shits on their past and instead delivers soulless chunks of game that might look pretty but is devoid of substance. Looking at you, Dragon Age 2 and Destiny …

 

 

Read Dead Redemption 2 Could be Great – Or Just Good …

Posted in Gaming these days ..., News with tags , , , , on October 20, 2016 by Rabidgames

So today, some company announced some details for something like a rehashed PS4/Vita remote play thingy … It was a nice little distraction while we were all waiting for the first trailer for the potential game of this generation – Red Dead Redemption 2!

Let’s just start with watching this one minute long Western orgasm:

It’s looking great! Sadly, that’s all we know about Red Dead Redemption 2 at the moment – it’s looking great, there are oil fields and trains, and there’s a gang of seven potentially magnificent cowboys riding through gorgeous plains.

But that’s enough to get hyped surely, and knowing Rockstar, we’ll probably stay hyped. And yet, there is one growing shadow of doubt when it comes to how great Red Dead Redemption 2 could turn out to be – and Red Dead Redemption Online!

How comes? Well, look at GTA V. It’s a great game, true, but or rather BUT, post-release, pretty much nothing got invested into the single player, Rockstar threw everything at GTA Online, which is a perennial cash cow now. Now, imagine Rockstar focussing on Red Dead Redemption Online now, neglecting the campaign – is that unthinkable? Especially after the first announced feature was PS4 exclusive online stuff?

`To be fair though, Rockstar put lots of effort into remaking GTA V for the next generation and for PC, it looks better and a few things were added – like getting so high you can fly as a seagull and shit on the world. But surely, the question of who will be Rockstar’s the favourite child, the older single player dude who likes to tell you long stories of violence and crimes with quite a bit of sarcasm, or the younger wild kiddo always asking for fun with his posse … the answer to this question will define if Red Dead Redemption 2 is either a true great one – or just a good game.

Rabidgames wants to be an optimist: Even if we’re looking at it pessimistically, chances are the campaign will turn out to be great, simply because it’s Rockstar. And by the way, waiting so long would be sweeter with a remastered Red Dead Redemption on this generation – a proper remaster, not the PS Now shit please – and why not on the PC, too? Come on, Rockstar!

 

Is Django Unchained a Future Rockstar Title?

Posted in News with tags , , on January 18, 2013 by Rabidgames

Mind you, this is pure speculation. Or telepathy, who knows …

But Tarantino and Rockstar would be a match made in heaven. Both share the satirical over-the-top humour, a soft spot for gore and tongue-in-cheek violence and they can tell great stories. Django Unchained would be perfect (admittedly, Rabidgames hasn’t watched the movie yet but what can go wrong with a Tarantino movie?); not only has Rockstar already told a great Western narrative with Red Dead Redemption, but the story about the revenge of a slave would perfectly suit Rockstar’s satirical socio-critical attitude!

Check out this Django Unchained trailer and see for yourself if this theme wouldn’t suit Rockstar:

Rabidgames hopes: After thousands of rather abysmal movies turned into games, it’s time for another good one. Come on Rockstar, you can pull it off!

In Love with the Dying West

Posted in Blast from the past with tags , , on May 15, 2012 by Rabidgames

Two years ago, Rockstar set new standards with Red Dead Redemption:

The open world game combined a huge, immersive world with a gruel ecosystem, amazing weather effects and amazingly crafted horse riding with a compelling story about the slow demise of the frontier, the old Wild West American way of life, clever and diverse missions – and let’s not forget our tragic protagonist, Mr. John Marston.

And the intriguing gameplay set an incredibly high bar for any games ever trying to follow Red Dead Redemption into the Wild West – while horse riding and gunslinging could have been expected (but were well done nonetheless), who would have ever thought you could implement classic Western themes such as lassoing, breaking in horses and herding cattle into a game?

Red Dead Redemption certainly is Rockstar’s best sandbox game in this generation – which is not really an achievement that great considering L.A. Noire was hardly an open world game and GTA IV failed to offer more than a compelling story in its open world. However, Rabidgames argues Red Dead Redemption outclasses GTA IV in all aspects: The gameplay feels less clunky, the shooting is tighter, the story is more original and makes more sense; and above all, it is the world itself which excels. You can enjoy the concrete jungles in GTA IV, yes, but you simply cannot immerse in Liberty City like this:

Rabidgames can spend hours wandering the plains of New Austin, the deserts of Nuevo Paraiso, or the forests near Blackwater. You can ride cross-country to hunt wild game – or get hunted by those vicious cougars, follow roads, meet friendly and hostile strangers at camp fires … or you just slowly ride into a thunderstorm, watching the virtual displays of nature in awe. And it’s all the small things which add so much, too – a flag, a cable or the grass waving in the wind, dust and tumbleweed, the sounds of animals close to you, flashes of guns, flickering campfires or steady electrical lights at night … While other games have a similar level of diversion (Skyrim comes to mind), they can’t give you the feeling you get when you play Red Dead Redemption, partly because of the untamed wilderness, partly because of the unique setting: mortality.

Rarely has a game stunned Rabidgames the way Red Dead Redemption did – everyone who followed John from his humble beginnings at the McFarlane’s farm to the civil war in Mexico to his own ranch knows what Rabidgames is talking about: The demise of the Wild West, the end of the era of outlaws, the frontier and of a certain kind of freedom (which Red Dead Redemption gladly addressed as ambiguous at best) are perfectly symbolised by one of the most intense moments of gaming ever: The death of an outlaw. The entire game is filled with a forlorn longing for a fragile peace in the wilderness, yet the end of the West is foreshadowed by circumstantial objects like electricity, telegraphs or one automobile in the game … and then there are the clear-cut agents of change such as the government trying to “intervene” on all levels. The city of Blackwater serves as the best example for the cold winds change in Red Dead Redemption: Instead of dusty roads and dirty saloons, we find clean, paved streets and tidy establishments. The biggest buildings in Blackwater are agents of change: A bank and the town hall. When we talk about the question if games are art next time, Red Dead Redemption is the perfect example that games are a form of art indeed.

While Red Dead Redemption is an amazing game, it also comes with some flaws: The balance seems a bit off sometimes: Marston can easily swallow 3 or 4 bullets, but 3 bites from a wolf in his arm kill him. Seriously? The Euphoria engine was still in a adolescent stage back then – Marston moved rather strangely and climbing stairs to enter a house could become a tedious task – especially in heated battles when you were looking for cover (usually finding death instead). On the other hand, it allowed impressive features such as these:

Unfortunately, Red Dead Redemption shares its weakest point with GTA IV; while the protagonists are on rather personal quests, they always seem to find time to help dubious people with dubious agendas – why would anyone do that? It doesn’t even help them on their quest most of the time, yet those missions are mandatory. And don’t get Rabidgames started with those “I’m tired of violence” and “I’m a better man now” antics … we’ve killed thousands of criminals, cops and civilians in both games … please Rockstar, give us protagonists who actually are outlaws and don’t give a fuck about collateral damage!

But honestly, those minor gripes may make you curse Red Dead Redemption once or twice, but that’s about it. At the end of the day, it is the sheer grandeur of this interactive Western that lures you in and won’t let you go, not even after finishing it once. When Rabidgames watched the first gameplay trailer for Assassin’s Creed 3, it all reminded him of Red Dead Redemption – at once. Reason enough to enjoy the vast scenery once more!

Rabidgames dreams: Rockstar definitely succeeded in redeeming itself. After the stale Niko Bellic, the umpteenth version of New York and the lacklustre open world of GTA IV, Red Dead Redemption delivered everything we could have hoped for. And let’s hope Rockstar will once decide to continue the Red Dead series – what about a game set during the civil war?