What not to expect in Red Dead Redemption 2
Jake takes a look at what he didn’t like in Red Dead Redemption to show us what not to expect in Red Dead Redemption 2.
It might be hard to believe, but there are in fact people out there who didn’t like Red Dead Redemption that much. And yes, I am one of them. It was a good-looking game, and it had some neat mechanics, but all in all, it just felt a little empty to me. Compared to the likes of Grand Theft Auto, The Witcher 3, Saints Row and even Mass Effect, Red Dead Redemption took a good idea but failed to put enough interesting content into the game that maintained my attention.
And now, expected midway through next year, we get to see Red Dead Redemption 2; despite my opinions on the first game, I am extremely excited.
It wouldn’t be fair to judge expectations without first discussing exactly what I felt was wrong with the first game. However, I’ll make it very clear, from the beginning, that I have no problem with the western-cowboy style game. In fact, it’s a very niche genre that needed capitalizing on. It’s how this world was drawn out and presented that bothered me.
Firstly, Red Dead Redemption 2 needs a world that has a little bit more in it. This might sound vague, but one of the biggest issues in open world sandbox games is the difficulty developers have in filling it with content worth seeing and interacting with. A classic example of this is Just Cause 2. It has a huge world and nearly everything is destructible, but it feels so empty as there’s nobody to interact with, and very few activities, fun side areas or quests to do. It just became a tedious scramble to reach the next waypoint, and Red Dead Redemption, whilst not quite as bad, suffered similar issues. After the initial coolness wore off, I found myself unable to stay entertained as I rode through the same part of the desert for the hundredth time on horseback. Skyrim is a great example of how to do it right; it has one of the biggest maps of all time, but there’s so much to see and explore, and you’re never more than a hundred yards from another dungeon, cave or town.
The second biggest issue I had with Red Dead Redemption is the story. Truth be told, I never actually finished it, but I did get a fair way through, and the fact I couldn’t reach the end is rather telling. Simply put, the characters just didn’t interest me. I found a lot of the outlaws and village folk to be dull and hard to differentiate, with a few outliers here and there failing to hold my attention enough. The story did a poor job of pulling me in and maintaining my interest, but I think part of the problem is the issue I just spoke about – by the time I had travelled through the frontier to reach my objective, I’d lost interest in or completely forgotten what I was supposed to be doing. Combine this with the weak characterisation of the main character, John Marston, and it’s no surprise I ditched it for another playthrough of Mass Effect, which has a far more exciting plot, world and characters.
So what can Red Dead Redemption 2 do to solve issues like these? The first problem is very much a matter of space to interaction ratio. In the American Frontier, there will no doubt be times where the player should just be appreciating the surroundings, as there is with any other game. But I’d like to see them do a little bit more to make areas worth going to. Don’t just make roads and paths blank and formulaic; change it up. Random events, collectables, side quests, hidden locations, points of interest – there are a dozen different ways to fill an open world with interesting content. Can you imagine GTA without all the vehicles, collectables, activities and people? No, neither can I, because it would be boring. It’s vital, however, that they don’t make side content necessary, for those that want to focus on the main story alone. Given the rise in successful open world sandbox games recently, I’d be heavily surprised if Red Dead Redemption 2 didn’t approach a few new ways to fill the world.
For the second issue, it really comes down to generating a more creative narrative that is gripping from the start and doesn’t let the pace drop. The frontier should be a dangerously fast-paced, ever-shifting and volatile setting; it shouldn’t have a lazy Sunday feel to it. Go and watch some of the greatest western movies of all time – they have very few dragged out moments for a reason.
Despite the negatives, Red Dead Redemption was clearly still one of the better games of the last fifteen years, so there’s a heavy weight of expectation for the sequel. If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that we all want Red Dead Redemption 2 to be a standout game that blows us all away.
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