Like basically every other gamer on the planet, I started playing “Red Dead Redemption II” on Friday.
I’ve had only a few days to play but have already poured a decent amount of time into the game. Still, I’m learning new things about the game every hour, and I can tell I’ve only scratched the surface of what “Red Dead” has to offer.
Here are my first impressions of the game as I work my way toward a full review.
“Red Dead Redemption II” is an enormous game—so big, in fact, that it comes on two discs: one to install the game and the other to actually play it.
I got a digital copy, and it’s nearly 90 gigabytes. It took hours to download.
Once I started playing, it became immediately apparent as to why it’s so huge.
The first several missions take hours to go through and don’t allow you to really get into the open world. But after the introductory missions, the world becomes your playground. I’ve played around 10 hours and have seen what feels like only a tiny fraction of the full map.
There’s no convenient fast-travel option, so I’ve been forced to ride my horse everywhere. Honestly, it’s been kind of nice—so far, anyway. It’s simple to set a point on the map and turn on the cinematic camera to watch player character Arthur Morgan automatically ride across the West.
“Red Dead II” is Rockstar’s biggest game to date containing about a half a million lines of dialog, which is more than twice that of Rockstar’s previous game, “Grand Theft Auto V.” There are more than 1,000 actors and more than 1,000 things to see and do. It’s going to be a treat experiencing them all over the next several weeks.
“Red Dead Redemption II” is ridiculously and meticulously detailed and realistic—almost to a fault.
In the first couple of hours, I was introduced to several mechanics and systems that make “Red Dead” feel more intricate and immersive than most role-playing games I’ve played.
Arthur has to eat, drink, sleep, bathe and shave to maintain his stats and influence on the world. He has to brush, feed and pet his horse--which can permanently die--to maintain his bond with it, and he has to clean his guns to make sure they function properly. Most importantly, how he chooses to interact with the world can have long-term ramifications.
In one early mission, I was tasked with searching through a house. This was a meticulous task, considering I had to walk up to each drawer and cupboard, manually open them, and then search them. “Red Dead II” cuts no corners when it comes to immersing players in a sense of realism.
I imagine there are several more mechanics I haven’t even seen yet that will only pull me deeper into “Red Dead’s” world.
Most open-world games I’ve played recently don’t really achieve a realistic art style. Colors are accented and light is bloomed to make the game prettier. “Horizon Zero Dawn” comes to mind, for instance.
“Red Dead II,” however, has a stunningly beautiful world that looks and feels nearly as real as the actual Wild West. Everything down to individual blades of grass feel as if they were uniquely crafted and purposefully placed to achieve the perfect realistic feel.
I’m stunned when Arthur falls down and dirties his clothes and face. Mud splashes and squishes subtlety as he walks through towns. When he treks through snow, he leaves a path. These features might not be unique to “Red Dead II,” but I’ve never seen a game do them better.
“Red Dead Redemption II” is almost overwhelming in what systems and options it offers to players, but considering the story is 40 to 50 hours long, I’ll have plenty of time to figure them all out. Stay tuned for my full review in the coming weeks.