Red Dead Redemption 2 is a action-adventure game developed and published by Rockstar Games. The game is a prequel to the 2010 game Red Dead Redemption, and the third entry in the Western-themed Red Dead series. Set in 1899, it follows the story of outlaw Arthur Morgan, a member of the Van der Linde gang, the fall of Dutch Van der Linde, and also details the time of a young John Marston in the same gang.
Red Dead Redemption 2 was released for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on October 26, 2018. It was universally acclaimed by critics, who praised the story, characters, open world, and considerable level of detail. The game generated $725 million in sales from its opening weekend, shipping over 17 million copies in 12 days.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is a Western-themed action-adventure game set in an open world environment. It is played from either a third or first-person perspective and the player controls Arthur Morgan, an outlaw and a member of the Van der Linde gang. The game features both single-player and online multiplayer components.The game brings back and deeply refines mechanics from the previous game, such as the combat, gunplay, honor system and more. It also has many new features, including dual-wielding and swimming.The game focuses heavily on player choice for the story and missions. Certain moments in the story will give players the option to accept or decline additional missions and lightly shape the plot around their choices. During IGN's first look preview on the topic of how player choices can affect interactions and missions, Rob Nelson, Co-Studio Head at Rockstar North, said: "We try to give you options within a lot of these missions to choose how you approach it, whether you'll send your buddies in first or whether you'll go in first."Players can communicate with any non-player characters (NPC) in dynamic ways new to the series. Arthur can choose different dialogue trees with NPCs as having a simple friendly chat with an individual, or threaten them for the player's own personal interest, or they can kill them and loot the corpse.Red Dead Redemption 2 features item degradation, with equipment such as weapons requiring cleaning and oiling. The player can visit a
barber to change hairstyles; however, styles are only available to players depending on how much hair their character has, with hair growing realistically throughout the title over time. Morgan can also gain or lose weight depending on how much he eats, a feature absent from previous Rockstar games since Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Characters have different sets of clothes for different weather conditions and also have to regularly eat and bathe. Some actions that were once more automatic have been greatly expanded upon in detail, including skinning a kill and examining objects.Red Dead Redemption 2 features both hunting and fishing, which provide food, income and materials for crafting items. When hunting an animal, players will need to move slowly and carefully and watch the wind direction to avoid alerting their prey. Choice of weapon and shot placement are also important and will affect the quality of the meat and pelt, which in turn affects the price that traders will pay for them. If prey are injured, they will try to escape.
After a successful hunt, players can either skin and butcher the animal on the spot or take it with them whole. Animal skins and carcasses will rot over time if not properly tended to, and this both decreases their value while making them stink, and makes the character a target for wild animals when out of town. Skins, parts, meat, and entire carcasses can all be loaded onto horses to be sold to the butchers or the general store in town, taken back to camp for the stew pot, or crafted into clothing or other items. Trappers can craft more exotic goods for players.
Setting and characters
The world of Red Dead Redemption 2 spans five fictitious states of the United States. The states of New Hanover, Ambarino and Lemoyne are new to the series, and are located to the immediate north and east of Red Dead Redemption's world. The states of New Austin and West Elizabeth return from Red Dead Redemption. West Elizabeth has also been expanded to include new regions. The states are centered on the San Luis and Lannahechee Rivers and the shores of Flat Iron Lake. Ambarino is a mountain wilderness, with the largest settlement being an Indian reservation; New Hanover is a wide valley that has become a hub of industry; and Lemoyne is made up of bayous and plantations resembling Louisiana and east Texas and is home to the former French colony of Saint Denis. West Elizabeth consists of wide plains, dense forests, and the modern town of Blackwater. This region has been expanded from the original Red Dead Redemption to include a vast northern portion containing the small town of Strawberry. New Austin is an arid region centered on the frontier town of Armadillo and the MacFarlane Ranch, also featured in the original Red Dead Redemption.
The player takes on the role of Arthur Morgan (Roger Clark), a lieutenant in the Van der Linde gang. Among the returning characters from Red Dead Redemption are John Marston (Rob Wiethoff), protagonist from the previous game; antagonists Dutch van der Linde, Bill Williamson and Javier Escuella, who, along with Marston, are Arthur's allies; Abigail, Marston's partner; Jack, Marston and Abigail's son; Uncle, an elderly member of the gang; and federal agent Edgar Ross.
In 1899, after a botched ferry heist, Dutch van der Linde and his gang, which includes Arthur Morgan and a young John Marston, are forced to flee their hideout in Blackwater and attempt to cross the mountains east to evade law enforcement. To fund their escape, Dutch has the gang rob a train belonging to the wealthy oil magnate Leviticus Cornwall. A furious and vengeful Cornwall then hires the Pinkerton Detective Agency, who send Agents Milton and Ross to apprehend the gang. As a result, the gang is forced to be constantly on the move to stay one step ahead of the law. All the while, Arthur and the rest of the gang continually have to perform numerous jobs and heists to keep the gang funded as Dutch continually promises one last, big heist that will secure their freedom.
After shooting up their initial dwelling near the livestock town of Valentine, New Hanover, the gang moves on to a new area, the small rural town of Rhodes in the southern state of Lemoyne. Within Rhodes, the gang learns of old Yankee gold belonging to one of the two warring families: the Grays and the Braithwaites. Initially working for both sides in an attempt to play them against each other for the gold, the gang's duplicitous actions are discovered, culminating in a battle at Rhodes in which gang member Sean is killed and a battle at the Braithwaite manor where the head matriarch reveals she has kidnapped Jack, Marston's son, and given him to Saint Denis Italian crime lord, Angelo Bronte. The gang is tasked by Bronte to commit several illegal acts on his behalf, causing Dutch to justify an attempt at getting back at Bronte and the wealthy elite of Saint Denis. This leads to a poorly planned bank heist that results in the deaths of both Hosea, a veteran member and best friend to Dutch, and Lenny, a young black member who was eager to prove himself. Marston is captured, and Williamson, Escuela, Bell, Dutch, and Arthur escape via a tanker ship on a voyage to Cuba.
Because of a torrential storm, the tanker sinks, forcing the group to become lost at sea. The gang is stranded on a plantation island named Guarma, in which they get embroiled in the civil war between the owners and the overworked and abused workers forced into life on plantations. Dutch's actions on the island become more extreme and violent, including strangling an unarmed woman to death out of fear she would turn the gang into the local authorities. They succeed in furthering the revolution and eventually return to the mainland.
After their arrival back to America, the group continues to run into trouble and strife, largely due to Dutch's continual descent into violence and risky behavior. Arthur saves John, but begins growing increasingly disillusioned with Dutch's leadership as he becomes more paranoid. Several members of the gang bolster Dutch's decisions into escalating violence, including the ambitious and unscrupulous Micah Bell, who advocates more suspicion of the group. In addition, Arthur contracts tuberculosis, giving him only a short time to live, causing him to reflect on his life and his actions, including his time in Dutch's gang. Several gang members start becoming uncomfortable at the direction Dutch is going and quietly leave the gang. Molly, Dutch's love interest, is killed after admitting she talked to the Pinkertons. Arthur convinces John to leave and start a new life with his family after a train robbery. Arthur's loyalty to Dutch breaks when Dutch murders Cornwall, instigates a war between a local Native American tribe and the US Army, leaves John to die, and refuses to rescue Marston's girlfriend Abigail when she is captured by Agent Milton. Arthur disobeys Dutch's orders and rescues Abigail, killing Agent Milton and learning that Bell has been working as a mole for the Pinkertons.
The group begins to dissolve as Arthur eventually returns to Dutch, openly accusing Micah of being a rat. Dutch, Javier, Bill and Micah turn on Arthur and John when the Pinkertons, led by Agent Ross, arrive with a small army, but they manage to escape into the Ambarino wildneress. Arthur accepts his fate and either buys Marston time to escape by confronting Bell, or parts with Marston to attempt to find treasure that Dutch had buried near the camp site where Bell Ambushes him. Dutch, arriving to the scene of the fight and emotionally distraught by seeing his former gang members at each others' throats, leaves the fight, and Arthur is – depending upon the player's honor level through gameplay – either killed by Bell (low) or left alone, succumbing to tuberculosis in peace under the sunrise (high).
Eight years later in 1907, Marston is attempting to lead an honest life and provide a living for Abigail and his son Jack. Finding work at Pronghorn Ranch by Strawberry, Marston attempts to leave his gunslinging life behind but when outlaws threaten the ranch, Marston retaliates on the ranch’s attackers by storming their hideout at Hanging Dog Ranch and decimating the rustlers to prevent further abuse on Pronghorn Ranch’s inhabitants. Abigail is furious with Marstons return to his old ways and departs with Jack. In order to convince Abigail he has changed, Marston asks the ranch’s owner for advice and buys a plot of land with the intention of turning it into a ranch and proposes to Abigail as a show of his loyalty and affection for her and their new life. He reunites with several surviving gang members Uncle, Charles and Sadie, who help Marston build his ranch and provide him with jobs to pay off his bank loans. Eventually, Marston comes across information leading to Micah's location. In revenge for Arthur's death and breaking down the gang, Marston tracks down the remnants of Dutch's gang, killing most of the surviving members, and confronts Micah. During a heated gun battle with Micah, it's revealed that Dutch is with Micah and draws guns on John. Dutch then shoots Bell, allowing Marston to finish him off, and leaves in silence. Marston finds the gang's old money stash and uses it to fully pay off his loan. Afterwards, he formally marries Abigail, and they both look forward to living a new life on their ranch.
The mid-credits scenes show the fate of some of the surviving members of the gang, while Agent Ross and Agent Fordham follow Marston's trail. Eventually, the agents' search leads them straight to Marston's ranch, setting up the events of the original Red Dead Redemption.
Red Dead Redemption 2 was developed by Rockstar Studios, a collaborative effort between all of Rockstar Games' studios functioning as a single team, using the proprietary Rockstar Advanced Game Engine (RAGE). Woody Jackson, who co-composed the score of Red Dead Redemption, reprises his role. The game was announced in October 2016. In the two days prior, the company had used various social media platforms as well as their own website to release two teaser images in the color and theme of Red Dead Redemption. The teaser images led to considerable attention and raised the stock price of its parent company Take-Two Interactive by nearly six percent. On the day of its announcement for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, some fans started petitioning Rockstar Games for the game to be made available on Microsoft Windows as well. Per an exclusivity agreement with Sony Interactive Entertainment, certain online game content will be timed exclusives for the PlayStation 4. Originally due for release in the second half of 2017, the game has been delayed twice: first to Q1/Q2 2018, and later to October 26, 2018.An online multiplayer portion of the game called Red Dead Online is also in the works and is planned to release as a public beta in November 2018. During an IGN Q&A session with various Rockstar developers, when asked why it will not be available simultaneously with the base game, design director Imran Sarwar answered "Red Dead Redemption 2 is an absolutely massive story-based game that we hope people will be lost in for a long time and we want people to experience everything that world has to offer before we build on that with the Online experience" while also stating that "we [at Rockstar] see them essentially as separate products that will grow and evolve independently of each other" and saying that the team has learned after launching online games that there are bound to be a few issues and that they wish to roll out the game as smoothly as possible. It is also mentioned that the game takes many of the favorite elements of Grand Theft Auto Online while also further expanding the original game's ideas.
The game's debut trailer was released on October 20, 2016, depicting the open world environment, and the second and third trailers—released on September 28, 2017, and May 2, 2018, respectively—introduced the game's characters and story. A trailer released on August 9 features the first gameplay footage. It demonstrates the shooting and horse mechanics, and the ability to maintain the player's gang and camps. To spur pre-order sales, Rockstar collaborated with several retail outlets to provide special edition versions of the game. The "Special Edition" includes exclusive single-player content, while the "Ultimate Edition" features additional online content. The "Collector's Box" is a collection of physical merchandise relating to the game.
Red Dead Redemption 2 received "universal acclaim" from critics, according to review aggregator Metacritic. It is the highest rated PlayStation 4 and Xbox One game on Metacritic along with Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto V.Game Informer awarded the game a perfect score writing: "Rockstar Games has outdone itself again with Red Dead Redemption II. The up-close portrayal of the outlaw Van der Linde gang's unraveling is a compelling companion story that blends seamlessly with the original game, and depth and breadth of the open world is a technical triumph that every gamer should experience." IGN also awarded the game full marks, commenting "Red Dead Redemption 2 stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Grand Theft Auto V as one of the greatest games of the modern age. It's a gorgeous depiction of an ugly period that's patient, polished, and a huge amount of fun to play, and it's combined with Rockstar's best storytelling to date. Even after finishing the lengthy story I can't wait to go back and play more." In another full score review, Electronic Gaming Monthly wrote: "Criticisms often come easier than compliments, but in the case of Red Dead Redemption 2, I am at a loss. This is one of the most gorgeous, seamless, rootinest, tootinest games ever made, and if you voluntarily miss out on it, you're either not a gamer or in a coma." USgamer said, "[i]s Red Dead Redemption 2 better than the first game? Very much so. Is Red Dead Redemption 2 perfect? No. Rockstar Games has crafted this huge, beautiful world with an attention to detail that's astounding..." and summarised by saying "Red Dead Redemption 2 is a fantastic game that should keep players satisfied for another eight years." Alessandro Fillari of GameSpot praised the story, characters and animation and said "Red Dead Redemption 2 is an excellent prequel, but it's also an emotional, thought-provoking story in its own right, and it's a world that is hard to leave when it's done."Some criticism focused on the game's control system, which was described as "clunky" and "outdated". Push Square called the controls "serviceable" but at their worst "infuriating", and that the button layouts for various actions were too convoluted. Forbes criticized the game for having a noticeable input lag and wrote that "things aren't as tight as they need to be". USgamer was disappointed that the game fundamentally used the same control scheme that had been present in Rockstar titles since the release of Grand Theft Auto IV in 2008, and questioned why it had not been sufficiently improved upon in that time.Reviewers also critiqued how the focus on authenticity translated to gameplay and player convenience. 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. Additionally, Forbes and Venture Beat found that despite its focus, the level of realism was concurrently lacking; discrepancies were noted between the game's sense of immersion and the fact it presented mechanics which defied the laws of physics and unrealistic animations, and that in spite of presenting a range of options, the gameplay was still notably restrictive. Wired were also mixed on gameplay elements relating to the well-being of the player character and the required dedication, writing "In its perfection, RDR2 exchanges immersion for observation. At times, the constant character maintenance feels like a chore..." and that it "sometimes gets bogged-down in the RPG-like intricacies of keeping going in the game world."
Since the previous installment in the series was among the best-selling games of the seventh generation of video game consoles, many analysts believed that Red Dead Redemption 2 would be one of the highest-selling games of 2018 and would have a great effect on other game sales during the fourth quarter. When discussing the delay until October 2018, a writer from Forbes said "A huge arrival for [Red Dead Redemption 2] could be a crater that dampens sales of all competitors in that window, so I have to imagine this shockwave is being felt pretty hard right now around the industry." In July 2018, The NPD Group, a market research company, published an article titled "Video Game Industry Predictions for Holiday 2018", where author and industry analyst Mat Piscatella predicted that Red Dead Redemption 2 would be the best-selling game of 2018, outselling other blockbuster titles like Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, Battlefield V, and Fallout 76.Red Dead Redemption 2 is the best-selling retail game in its first week of release and the second-fastest-selling game of 2018 in the UK, behind FIFA 19. The game's opening week UK physical sales were doubled from its predecessor's with 68% of sales being the PS4 version and the remainder on the Xbox One. Red Dead Redemption 2 is also the third-fastest-selling non-FIFA game released this generation, behind Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.Within its first week on sale in Japan, the PlayStation 4 version of Red Dead Redemption 2 sold 132,984 copies, which placed it at number one on the all format video game sales chart.Rockstar Games announced that Red Dead Redemption 2 had the largest opening weekend in the history of entertainment, making over $725 million in revenue in three days, and over 17 million copies in total in two weeks, exceeding the lifetime sales of Red Dead Redemption. Additionally, Red Dead Redemption 2 is also the second highest-grossing entertainment launch (behind Grand Theft Auto V) and set records for largest ever preorders, largest first-day sales and largest sales for the first three days in market on Playstation Network.
"Crunch time" controversy
In an interview with Harold Goldberg of the New York magazine published on October 14, 2018, Dan Houser, Rockstar Games' co-founder and vice-president for creative, and head writer for Red Dead Redemption 2, stated that they had been working 100-hour weeks "several times in 2018". Many sources interpreted this statement as "crunch time" for the entire development staff of the game, comparable to similar accusations made by wives of Rockstar San Diego employees in regards to the development of the game's predecessor, with Rockstar Games receiving strong criticism. In a statement sent by Rockstar to various media outlets the following day, it was clarified that the work duration mentioned by Houser only affected the senior writing staff for Red Dead Redemption 2, which comprised himself, Michael Unsworth, Rupert Humphries and Lazlow Jones, and that the duration had only been the case for three weeks during the entire development. Houser also added that the company would never expect or force any employee to work as long as was stated, and if anyone was staying late at the development studios, it would be due to their passion for the project. However, other Rockstar employees have come out arguing that Houser's statements were broad, and do not give an accurate picture of the "crunch-time culture" at the company that many employees work under.