Divisiveness in Rage 2

What little promotional material there was for Rage 2 interested me. The idea of a nitro-fueled FPS surrounding an open world and a heavy power fantasy. I wasn’t expecting an enthralling story with deep and rich characters that would stitch me into the fabric of the world created. I was expecting a rip-roaring hail of bullets in the shape of a gun the likes of which I would ride across the map destroying everything that did so much as exhale in my presence. In short, that is what I got but it’s quite mixed. The “boots on the ground” combat, and I use that term lightly, is smooth as hell and lets you the player take on the various mobs and gangs of the wasteland in the way you want. The vehicular combat is more sparse and anecdotal in the sense that they are typically randomly occurring events as opposed to the convoy routes. The world itself is big but not Horizon Zero Dawn or Assassin’s Creed Odyssey “oh my god how did they even fit all this on one disc” big, it’s more than manageable. The biomes are varied and impressive in detail despite some being more vacant than I’d like.  All in all, it’s at the very least better than the bland world of Rage 1, and at best it’s a gorgeous backdrop for the best FPS action since Doom 2016.

Anger Surrounds

There isn’t a lot in the way of introduction and it’s cause the game and it’s creators understand what you’re here for: shooty bang. You literally pick a gender and are handed a gun. After the first big firefight, the world is literally open to you. This exploration is encouraged because you don’t gain abilities or weapons unless you find Arks which are silos scattered around the map. Normally I’d be mad about another icon cluttering the map but it’s at least a way of getting stronger while discovering the hovels and holes your enemies hide in, grabbing some cash and feltrite (upgrade currency) along the way. It’s essentially the best version of the Far Cry towers ever.

The world is very pretty both graphically and from an art direction aspect. Boggy swamps, desert, rocky canyons, and even suburbia is sprinkled into the colorful and sometimes striking scenery of the world around you. Some structures are established like roadblocks, resource stations, or mutant nests, some are just dressing to fill out the world, but the best is the elaborate gang camps that go from close quarters combat to open courtyards that have you working with cover and elevation. Most main and side mission areas appear to be carefully designed to be engaging set pieces that vary from open lots littered with obstacles to break up the battlefield and enhance the functionality of some abilities. If the map itself doesn’t grab you, the way the world is designed to make combat as fun as possible definitely will.

Walker Wasteland Ranger tonight at 9 

Rage 1 very much gave you the feeling of having your back against the wall. In Rage 2 if you ever find yourself in that situation you push off that wall and crush whatever is in your way into misy and gristle. You are the baddest thing breathing and everything in this game is about making you feel that. I can’t tell if the progression is deep or cleverly padded and that might be fine by me, I haven’t decided yet. When you first see how many currencies there are in the game it makes anyone that knows what AAA games have been doing lately sweat profusely. Fortunately, Rage 2 gives you plenty of opportunities to load up on the kind of cash you spend in stores, the kind on upgrades, weapon skins and mods, it’s all here for you to take when you want it you just have to kill a bunch of baddies to get it. Thankfully there isn’t a single gun that doesn’t feel incredible and unique. From the way the rifle spits a volley or the kick from the shotgun; all of them are a dream and when used in tandem with the abilities it makes for very enticing gameplay. The abilities span all aspects of combat and their refresh time doesn’t allow them to be spammed but lets a player that bounces from skill to skill always have one refresh by the time the effect of the current one wears off. They really found a way for the guns to play into abilities and vice-versa which only makes spicing up combat easier. In Destiny when you throw a grenade, that’s it. Did you use your melee? Oh that’s cool but, that’s also it. In Rage 2 I can mix up abilities to create different means of destruction and death in a much more satisfying way. Even the more nuanced abilities like the Rush and Focus are used to bolster the minimal downtime firefights give you.

From McQueen to Mater

The sixteen vehicles are divisive stars of Rage 2 and it really shows, alongside the facelifted combat, that Id and Avalanche tried to not lose sight of what the original game was focussed around. This rendition’s vehicular combat is much better with weighty pit maneuvers and pretty smart auto tracking from turrets. Alongside this, the vehicles simply must be redone Mad Max vehicles Avalanche never got to use or something cause they just work in a way Bethesda hasn’t been able to claim in a long time. The Phoenix, your signature ride, is the best of both worlds with it being quick and tanky with a litany of additions you can make to it. You’ll see vehicles that have no weapons (why would you even), some speedsters that drop nuke mines behind them, a tank that is slower than frozen shit but also practically indestructible and armed to the teeth. There is fast travel but there is also the Icarus which is a hoverbike and though it can handle like a shopping cart with one wing (more on that later). When it does work its nice to get to where you’re going quicker meanwhile not missing out on any points of interest along the way to where you’re going. Vehicular combat is serviceable and engaging once you get the controls under your fingers.

rAGED

I don’t have too many issues with this game, some are typical nitpicks but others are definitely more egregious. The world though colorful and varied is very “basic open world game” format, I was kind of hoping for some kind of expansion on a version of game we are wildly overly saturated with. The mini games like MobTV and races (which make a comeback from the original) are great but the typical icon littered map is a little draining at times. Which brings me to the endgame because with consideration of just how last gen this game seems to be design wise, I fear they didn’t think about something as “modern” as having an endgame model outside of the season pass and totally unnecessary “live service” content drops. I feel like they missed their own mark and could’ve really populated the world with quite a few more enemies but instead, there are a lot of times where it’s actually quite isolated even in some intriguing areas.

Oh, and every situation that yields dialogue in the open world is wildly repetitive like the writers could not be fucked to give the character anything more than the one decent line you get to hear when approaching a mutant nest, gas station, or bandit hideout or the mobile trader oh my god it’s absolutely torturous especially when you don’t feel like returning to a town and they typically come around fairly consistently.

Back to the Icarus flying bike thing. Mother Fuck that thing can be absolutely unbearable. You see the right trigger merely starts the engines with minor altitude control, the left trigger lowers yourself. The vehicle is supposed to identify altitude and the height of oncoming structures and mountain faces on its own and adjust automatically. But it doesn’t and you’re often sitting there like a fucking idiot ramming into every mountain and building you come across. Why didn’t they map an ascend and descend control to the face buttons? How did no one catch how lopsided that thing controls?

Let’s continue to discuss vehicles, shall we? I talked about the good of the actual combat and the weapons it comes with. What I didn’t talk about was how the controls for said vehicles go from tight and responsive to sludgey and “too fast for the game”. It’s like the vehicle is going too fast for your controller. So many times I’ve gone sailing over the cliffside curve or undercutting and completely killing my momentum. The margin for error is really thin.

The progression system for weapons is…suspect. On the surface, it’s deep, you unlock tiers of upgrades with feltrite and then use upgrade/mod tokens to select the actual mod itself. It seems really unnecessary to have to purchase the ability to spend your tokens to upgrade your weapon. Just typing that made my brain fuzzy, it’s too many steps. At least with the skills each tier in itself comes with a boost to that specific skill but with weapons, you’re literally just adding steps for now real reason. Thankfully there’s no connection to monetization or anything like that. What it does have though is a premium currency for weapon skins which….whoopie…but thankfully that really is the extent of it. Not that it’s okay at all.

Conclusion

People are gonna compare this game to Far Cry New Dawn and I don’t believe many should give too much thought to that comparison. Outside of the bright post-apocalyptic setting (an aesthetic Rage 2 established first for the record), I feel like Rage 2 is more consistent in what it sets out to deliver. Not to mention the combat is just head and shoulders better in Rage 2 and if you go in knowing you won’t leave with a story that changed your life or even really impact you at all but instead expect a white knuckle shooter designed to keep you on your toes and keep the kill count increasing. This game is fun and once this goes on sale there will literally be no excuse.

tl;dr I give Rage 2 an 7 but I can’t stress this enough this is one of the best First Person Shooters I’ve ever played from a mechanics standpoint. The game appears to be this good despite the rest of the game design and execution.

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Five Days until Rage 2

Anxious trepidation comes to mind when I see the flashy and almost painfully in your face aesthetic of Rage 2. This game could not be further from the original look and feel, all that and the gameplay seems to has gotten a facelift as well. All this is so enticing, almost too enticing.

Rage one was a little cumbersome in more ways than one, everything was weighty and had a sense of force behind it. Its cumbersome-ness wasn’t a detriment, though it was overlooked when it was released, there were a lot of things Rage did well. It had strong gunplay, it wasn’t the best but it wasn’t poor by any means but it was strangely distinct in that Id Software way. The world was interesting despite the sea of post-apocalyptic settings in pop culture and gaming back then let alone how many there are today, somehow they’ve managed to revamp that unique feel and style without it being too foreign or unfamiliar.

Some things that Rage 2 seems to improve upon is the overall sandbox. Earlier I stated the world was interesting, and it is, but the visuals of that world are bland as all hell. Everything looked the same and was so drab from the first disc to the last. Everything I’ve seen thus far of the open world seems not only vast but varied as well. Swampy bogs, expansive deserts, city ruins, rocky canyons, and probably some more we haven’t been shown. On the optimization side there better only be one disc in that damn case, that triple disc nonsense is just that. It’s definitely more of a minor grievance but I did want to speak on it.

Rage 1 had a pretty baller cast voice acting wise, I was kind of floored by it upon revisiting the game more recently. It was nice but to me, it doesn’t really add all that much to the overall experience, I feel like such a stellar cast can’t be cheap and that money could go to other real voice actors and other avenues in the game’s development but that’s just me.

There are some preorder shenanigans going on with a slew of items and cosmetics that are up for grabs should the buyer upgrade to the more pricey editions. Armor skins, weapons (one of them being the famous BFG), missions and other items are all available for twenty more dollars. I’m avoiding that but honestly, I don’t blame anyone that goes for it, there is a lot of content for the money asked. Whether or not that content should even be for sale is a whole other conversation.

This looks like the kind of single-player power fantasy that I haven’t really gotten to experience in a FPS since Doom, Shadow Warrior or Wolfenstein. I understand those are all recent but dammit they don’t happen often enough and though they are coming back into style one title at a time, I want al my high octane shooty bang bases covered and I’ve got my eye on Rage 2. Hopefully, Bethesda doesn’t fuck this one up and lets the studios do their thing.

Video game movies

With the release of the new Sonic trailer and how many awful things are going on in it, I got to thinking: why the fuck is this even a thing? How is it that time and time again movie executives come to the conclusion that these worthless movies need to be made?

Obviously, it’s money, I have no doubt in my mind that the movie industry is looking over at the money video games are making and they want a piece of that so badly they’re willing to throw anything out there to get it.

How do I know it’s out of touch executives? By looking at the dates that these movies come out. The OGs probably remember Mortal Kombat (1995 ‘97), Super Mario Bros (1993), and Street Fighter (1994). These movies suffered from the old way things were done: capitalize on what’s hot. Take whatever is popular and make a movie about it, throw a bunch of stars in and call it a day.

What the problem is in more modern times is now everything is late as hell and undercooked as far as the content of the movie is concerned. Look at Prince of Persia in 2010. Forgotten Sands came out in 2010 and no one played that game, the title before that is the remake in 2008 another poorly received game. The height of PoP hype was five to seven years previous depending on the game and that is too little too late even for Jake Gyllenhaal’s talented ass.

“Chayton that’s just one movie that isn’t indicative of a trend-”

Assassin’s Creed came out in 2016, do you know what game came out that year? Syndicate, and the one before that? Unity, the one before that? Fucking Rogue. You literally could not have made your Assassin’s Creed movie at a worse time, that movie was due in 2010 at the latest.

Want another? They practically all apply

World of Warcraft is one of those games that is constantly being played and has been for over a decade now. That said, don’t you think it’s heyday and hype have long since passed/died down. Another franchise they failed to capitalize on in any sort of timely manner.

Need for Speed…? Yeah maybe if this was 2006 when Carbon came out and people actually played that game but in 2014? Who was that movie for??

Max Payne in 2008? Without Bruce Willis are you fucking kidding me? Even 4 years before Max Payne 3 and I still would’ve thrown a wig on that mf and made it work better than the strange take on the hard-boiled action noir featuring Marky Markinson. Not to mention it’s five whole years after Max Payne 2 when no one had even thought about Max and his struggle in at least that amount of time.

I’m not saying these movies need to follow a successful title but what I am saying is that they need to do what the old movies did and capitalize on what is going well when it’s going well. At the very least they can approach the established properties with respect and some kind of creative vision. It can adopt a specific game’s narrative or tell its own story but it has to do better than what the status quo has given us thus far.

For the record: I love the way Jim Carey looks at the end of the trailer. Why couldn’t Sonic have such a dedicated consistency to the original works the way we now know Eggman is going to eventually have?

Devil May Cry 5 review

This very much follows the guidelines of your typical DMC game which confounds me as to how that manages to be more good than bad. Stagnation is never a positive mark but come to think of it, DMC isn’t the franchise that pumps a title out every year or every other year for that matter. So following the steps that made the IP successful to begin with isn’t exactly something to fault. To go even further, I’d say it’s a little refreshing in the old school approach it takes to gameplay loop and presentation. It reminds me of how the previous generations felt while keeping me locked in the present with the gorgeous graphics and art direction. The gameplay expertly straddling the old and new gaming worlds in an intoxicating concoction of nostalgia and realization of what modern gaming can be.

Combat overall is timing and direction based due to the one button controls. It forces the player to splinter their command concepts, throwing away the convention of light, medium, and heavy attacks. Your variation comes in the direction of the left stick in combination with the spacing between button presses, and even whether or not you’re locked on. Your melee, projectile, and special buttons are spread out in the typical DMC fashion and this alone is very unique to this series. It seems like a lot because the control scheme doesn’t coddle the player and in many ways demands quite a bit from them. Especially when this game is meant to be played at the speed of two hummingbirds fucking. (Also, anyone else’s hands get tired af after a battle? Or am I just old now…)
Nero to Hero
Boy-wonder is all over the place with frenetic and quick movements that take him from enemy to enemy or more interestingly: bringing enemies to him one by one. The grapple arm is great, on the lighter enemies (most of them) it pulls them to Nero, however, the largebois work as anchors and pulls Nero toward them. Each devil-breaker is unique and even when some may seem niche, at least they have a purpose when they were put into the game. There’s a lot of layers when throwing in not just what you like and when you want to whip it out, but which ones you don’t mind burning should the situation arise. The devil-breakers have a main function and an alternative mode with one even having a third ability (Punch Line’s missile-hoverboard feature). My only real problem with Nero’s mechanics is that we can’t rotate through the holster to pick which breaker we want to use next in-game. Other than that, Exceed moves spice up the swordplay and bouncing around the arena never losses it’s feeling of excitement and sense of raw power.

V is for Vanity
Everyone’s combat comes with a level of understanding and familiarity even if you’ve seen nothing but cutscenes and gamers playing. V shakes up the gameplay and the mindset of the player which was jarring at first, but in time I would gain these moments of clarity where I’m this maestro of chaos orchestrating from afar as the battle plays out before me. The demonic bird handles projectiles while an equally demonic Jaguar (…Panther…?) that is your melee attack. With an Ogre like Devil Trigger that lays waste to everything in the arena. It’s clear and understandable why he’s so divisive given these “hands off” aspects but it’s just as over the top as the rest of the series so it doesn’t feel out of place. It’s well designed so much to the point of almost being too easy but again like the specific devil-breakers: V is different from the ground up and it’s done to freshen up the experience. A commendable act especially when it really seems to be an honest go at it and less than an idea they threw in last second. There are issues with commands and some not working exactly as you think but with adjustments to the way you play it becomes smooth and fun in no time again. Back to V being dipped in hyperbolic angst: reading his own poetry refills his meter and it sounds like the angriest high schooler wrote it, but again, it’s how aggressively everything is leaned into that gives it the charm. Also, V definitely has the best “sprint” feature. He hovers on this little nimbus cloud of black thoughts and Pierce the Veil lyrics it’s so cute.

Dante’s Inferno
The top shelf killer, Nero is close with his arsenal, but Dante’s is the most varied and honestly the most fun. I’ve encountered few things more satisfying than Lu Kang combo-ing the shit out of two demons to seamlessly switch to your motorcycle dual ax and eviscerate whatever remains of the crowd. It’s so intoxicating I can honestly name on one hand how many other games gave me this feeling (Spider-man 2, Far Cry 3, God of War, and Halo 2). Four styles of combat change most weapon move sets and this keeps the player at the edge of their seat all while the ride remains smooth as butter. Between guns and other projectile launchers as well as the handful of weapons all very diverse in functionality and performance, there’s almost too much to thoroughly use in a single level playthrough. Of all the levels, I’m constantly throwing myself back into Dante’s to see just how smokin and sexy my style can be.

Final thots
After the learning curve is conquered, the flow and style of combat are entirely dictated by you the player. This combat is the shining achievement of this series and this iteration of it may be the best yet. The camera does a good job of managing the angles on its own and with little attention, it lacks almost all jank and assists the experience more than competently. Levels are bog-standard but what they do offer past the intro missions are many alternate routes and passages that lead to item discoveries, secrets, and combat scenarios you will otherwise miss if you barrel along the main path forsaking all others. I really enjoy how brave this game is for being itself in a world where every game needs some crazy intrusive online feature or component that stifles or gets in the way of the core game’s potential. The most of DMC5′s online capabilities begin and end with the cameo system, something that drops other players into your level at specific times to assist you or mainly just to look at and watch them do their thing. It’s not intrusive and is even exciting when the action starts to heat up and you and another player are cutting everything in the room to ribbons. I almost want more of it, and that’s what a well-implemented feature can do.
Concerning red orbs mentioned in my demo post, Capcom went with the confusing decision to load us up with orbs and means of getting them in the main game; only to give us the option to pay for more whenever the need arises. Why Capcom? This game has next to no blemishes but this is one minor one in my book, but I can understand why anyone would look past it. This, however, is my biggest peeve: locking so many of Nero’s alternative busters behind the ultimate edition or whatever, made me sigh disappointingly. Why couldn’t it have at least been the option to unlock those immediately while other players can grind for them like…everything else in the game… To me, it just goes to show that oldboi Capcom is still lurking in the shadows somewhere looking to nickel and dime us at every dark alley it finds us in. At least this $60 dollar product is one I’m still proud to own. This goes in my “GOTY contenders” folder honestly and I have been having an absolute blast with DMC5 and can’t suggest it enough. Even if it’s your first in the series just do it they have a catch-up cinematic you can watch. Seriously. Play it, pull that fucking devil trigger.

tl;dr 8.5/10

Bungie leaves Activision, takes Destiny with it

Article and info here

This is huge, as a gamer and as a gamer that plays Destiny; this is a very big move and potentially the biggest of 2019 and we aren’t even midway through January. In the face of their subsidiary Blizzard paying their employees severance to quit, and now this news of Bungie’s departure does not bode well for the giant. Activision has been pushing so hard for bigger profits while cutting costs and I think these sweeping mandates on top of the actions in the hopes of those goals (Diablo Immortal, microtransactions in general, anti-consumer practices, over-monetization, under-developed games, etc) are the biggest factors in these recent developments. Activision has been isolating themselves with every month that’s passed, two CFOs were let go/left back to back. All these things were clearly red flags for Bungie, to the point where they can’t even take the money and deal with it anymore. This is another huge blow to the publisher to the point where I can’t help but wonder exactly where this leads to given that this probably isn’t the last bit of news to come from the halls of Activision.

As a Destiny player, this is where the chips are really down. Bungie has no fallback, no scapegoat to use for the colossal fuck-ups they’ve had in the past, no DaddyActivision money, and every eye on them now that (in a sense) they’re back at square one. I open with the bad because I genuinely believe it doesn’t outshine the good. Bungie is free. This is complete speculation but imagine Destiny, with the dev response that Halo had. If it’s half the effort they put into that franchise I will be happier as a Destiny player. Bungie has fallen from grace, and instead of going gently into that good night. Instead, they’re fighting for the respect their name once had and trying to resurrect their reputation as FPS frontrunners. The mere fact they did this is a good sign to the point where even my pessimistic ass can’t ignore it.

This news has just dropped today, no one knows what’s going to happen. We don’t know when the separation will occur and what kind of recompense may come of it. All I’ll say is, this is one of the best things Bungie could’ve done from a creative standpoint. Now they just have to capitalize on it. Let’s see what this old dog can do.

Game Awards highlights

Highlights of the awards are as follows: Roger Clark (Arthur Morgan) won best voice actor, God of War stole Game of the Year from RDR2 as well as best game direction. Fear not, Red Dead did take the award for best narrative, score, and audio design. Celeste won best indie. Deadcells snuck away with best action game. Monster Hunter World took best RPG and…I agree but I also think Nino Kuni, Octopath, Pillars of Eternity and Dragon Quest 11 fans are rightfully mad. Dragon Ball FighterZ takes best fighting game. Fortnite took best multiplayer game, shocker.

What I wanted to talk about were the announcements and trailers that came between the commercials and cringe-inducing antics of the event. There wasn’t a lot going on but what was announced was very interesting.

Atlas: Pirates and cannons do not excite me, seafaring and swashbuckling just does nothing for me. All that said…wow Atlas really looks impressive. Made by Wildcard and the team consists of many people who put Ark together. This appears to be a full pirate sim mmorpg that plans to hold 40,000 people on one server. Yes. Forty thousand. Is that MAG level hype? Yeah that and then some. This seems to be one of those situations where a game comes out, it flops, and another studio swoops in to capitalize on the disappointment (see Fortnite to PUBG, 2k to Live, FIFA to PES etc). That game I’m referring to is Sea of Thieves and Wildcard appear to be working hard on making the game Sea of Thieves should’ve been. You can watch a trailer here.

MK11: I am so conflicted by this trailer, lemme tell ya. The actual look of the CG trailer was nice, visceral, even cheeky at some points (awful big emphasis on weapons in that trailer). Another obscure and mysterious aspect of this game is time and how that plays into characters and the story potentially. New Scorpion is killed by Evil Raiden, only to be killed by Old Scorpion himself…hmm. Now that makes me think. It was a quintessential Mortal Kombat trailer top to…wait…is that 21 Savage playing in the background?? The song choice did not fit at all, it was like someone at NetherRealms plugged in their phone last minute to compensate for a glitched audio. Literally, anything would’ve been better, Wu-Tang, Freddie Gibbs, Earl Sweatshirt if you had to go the rap route. Yeah, I could be making a big deal out of nothing but I’ve also seen games make unnecessary focus on soundtrack and losing focus on the actual game. All in all, interesting. trailer here

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: Oh boy, oh fucking boy. X-men Legends (stick with me here) was the first of top-down arcade hero brawler type that really got my jimmies jumping. So when Marvel Ultimate Alliance came out it was something of a true actualization of what me and my friends thought up back when Legends came out. Two titles, both of which I owned and played through thoroughly unlocking characters and finding cheats. So imagine my surprise when initially I think this is the Marvel Avengers project by Square Enix. No! Wrong! Bad Chayton! It’s UA3 by…Ninja Theory?! What is going on? We got a little gameplay that unfortunately didn’t look too impressive. I’m still excited and with it being a Switch exclusive…I just have more reason to get one. trailer here. Speaking of reasons to get a Switch…

Joker joins the battle: Hi, huge Persona 5 fan here. Very excited to see our boy join the scuffle. He will be included as a DLC character (meh) but it raises some very interesting questions as to who else could be added. Goku confirmed! really cute trailer here

Far Cry “New Dawn”: This screamed Rage 2 to me. It is a cool idea to play so directly off the last released Far Cry title. I’m sure the games are going to be very different but the trailer seemed to take direct influence down to the shade of pink they used in their cooky-wacky post-apocalyptic looking setting. The game will even have you run into Joseph Seed and this is where I think it will diverge heavily and start to focus more on the Far Cry aspects of the game. Interesting villains as per usual but I’m hesitant. Even if it’s an expansion from FC4. trailer here

Rage 2: Now this is the post-apocalyptic open world I am looking forward to exploring. As I have stated before, Rage was underwhelming but had potential, this new trailer expanded upon what was already explored but didn’t really show off anything new. Regardless of the utter turmoil BGS seems to be in I am still excited to get my hands on this game and rip shit up .trailer here

Psychonauts 2: This is big, many many fans have been dying to see where Rasputin’s adventures take him. The look hasn’t changed much, but the polish of modern tech is doing wonders for the world of Psychonauts. We don’t get much info but just the glimpse is more than enough to get me thinking about the possibilities. trailer here

Dragon Age 4 teaser: this is a teaser trailer for Dragon Age 4… not much more to it. trailer here

The Outer Worlds: This is the big one, Obsidian are coming out the gate hard. In the wake of Fallout76 this was the last thing Bethesda could afford; for another studio to come along and do their games better than them. A space oriented RPG that appears to focus heavily on decision-making and character development. Two staples of Obsidian games that I can’t wait to take part in when this bad boy drops. With Obsidian being acquired by Microsoft I was concerned this would be an exclusive but thankfully they can’t deny the PS4 audience, at least this time. Next gen (or title even) we might not be so lucky. trailer here

Red Dead 2 review

Games like this just don’t come along that often. It’s so rare that a game’s sequel (when following a massive success like RDR) will live up to the previous game’s benchmark let alone blow it clean out of the water. I haven’t felt this immersed in an experience since New Vegas, most recently Persona 5 and God of War, the kind of game that grabs you by the collar and demands you play it. Most importantly, and arguably impressively, it’s one of those games that promises so much and actually delivers on all of it.

Story Time

We have been waiting a long time to find out how our boy John Marston got out of the outlaw life. Finally, after all this time we are seeing some characters as their younger selves and meeting others for the first time. We know who lives and runs into John later in life. This is more about the journey and how we got to the point that RDR jumps off at. We finally get to see Dutch in the twilight of his golden age with the law on his tail and his mind spinning out at the constant threat of his long con coming to an end. Arthur Morgan is one of the original members of the Van Der Linde gang and assumes the role as “muscle”. From the snowy mountains to the steamy swamps we ride across New Austin doing everything we can for our makeshift family to just survive shortly after the infamous Blackwater incident. There’s something special about this story and how it’s told. The way it is clearly Arthur’s story, and yet we know its a stream that is going to meander into John’s life in some sense or another somehow, some way. Learning and, more impressively, understanding Arthur is a journey that seems to have benefitted the first game. Arthur is conflicted and that is something that is a constant throughout the entire game. This character trait (or flaw depending on perspective) is one that settles in as the game continues. Initially, he is the reliable right hand that holds the gang up when no one else can. Over time there is a dissonance that begins to rattle Arthur as the stakes get raised higher and higher in the face of insurmountable odds. The characters are deep and fleshed out, the story is long but an odyssey I can’t wait to dive into again. Pacing isn’t perfect but whether or not you have any investment in the Van Der Linde gang, this is something worth seeing out.

Home on the Range

This map is vast, detailed, and eerily alive in its own way. We went from clumsily walking into everyone representing the closest we could get to NPC interaction; to actually being able to “greet” or “antagonize” literally anyone. Don’t like the way that guy is looking at you? Tell him to fuck off! Wanna brighten someone’s day? Tip your hat and say hello. In certain instances, these prompts change allowing you to defuse or escalate a situation. These two very simple additions to the way the game plays completely change it and feeds into that Rockstar style of gameplay. Where systems and engines collide and create a situation that feels unique and genuinely spontaneous. Some of the events are obviously scripted but it’s the presentation of these events that, to me, so wonderfully hide the strings. The level of interactivity is another aspect that bolsters the world even further. See that stagecoach? Rob/ steal it, rob the train, free that prisoner on the way to the gallows, rob a store, rob a store’s under-handed side business, customize your weapons since you’ll be getting familiar with them, hunt animals, hunt rival gang members, search for treasure, rob houses. It’s a near-perfect outlaw simulator in this sense and I cannot stress that enough.

Morgan Kombat

Melee combat in Rockstar games has always been minimal, to say the least, “serviceable” at best if you ask me. Red Dead 2 doesn’t do much more in offering a simple two-button combat system. It’s still a little anemic in my opinion but it at least has turned into a spectacle no matter what your camera perspective is. Random punches are now hardened fist fights and potential brawls that feel heavy, especially in first-person. I had a hard time imagining what Rockstar meant when they said that the guns would be ‘fully functional’ or however they specifically put it. The look on my face was probably pretty amusing when I pull the right trigger twice hoping to let off two quick shots, only to watch Arthur let off a shot and cock the hammer. I really liked how it felt once I got used to it and now 20+ hours in it feels just as good. I wish all the view options were made a bit more clear (I was looking for iron sights for a good while there). That said, once you get there, if you enjoy FPS it’s worth a shot no pun intended. It’s a little clunky but requires patience to line up shots if you turn off the aim assist. I’m bringing up the first-person option a lot and that’s because of its impact on the game and how important it is to get the perspective right. It’s hard to fuck up the trademark third person angle Rockstar has at this point. What was not hard is fucking up the first-person translation of that perspective like they kind of did in GTAV. This is not the case in RDR2, so much so I had to dedicate a whole section to it.

From Worst to First (Person)

GTA V took an interesting step when it debuted its first-person mode. It’s funny how far away the camera started in the first games of the series and now we’ve gotten to the point where we’re looking out the eyes of our character. It’s in no way new for video games but it’s definitely different for Rockstar and you could tell. A buddy of mine put it like this and I couldn’t have worded it better myself: “GTAV first person felt like a mod”. It did, it was stiff and janky because the engine and animations for the series have never really lent themselves well to the smooth feeling a first-person experience needs. Boy did they polish the shit out of that because I haven’t played more than half an hour in third-person on RDR2. It’s nice to have this side of the gameplay really be able to shine and not just be passable. I understand some may see my playing this way as heresy but seriously, try it, my immersion levels go through the roof playing this way. On top of all that, the shooting is better and more polished than GTA and feels unique to this game.

Aging Like Wine

Rockstar almost never ceases to impress me, this title decimated my opinion of GTAV when they originally came out (a game I wasn’t too hot on to begin with) but this is very different. Rockstar as a studio is learning with every game they make and it’s showing on most fronts. The point in history we play in is fictional in location but very very real when dealing with the bigger picture of the country as a whole. The industrial age starting and growing quickly,  the age of outlaws slowly dying because of “civilization’s” growth, the last remnants of native life slowly being snuffed out, as well as some other hints that the country this game takes place in is changing. All of this is handled with a maturity that I think Rockstar has withheld from showing simply because it didn’t fit what mold the game they were making at the time. It’s almost hard to believe the same people that write the GTAV radio bits were the same people that really moved me with some of the strongest dialogue in gaming. Yes, there’s plenty of levity and humor but the heavy moments are just that and hit me in ways that other Rockstar titles and games in general struggle to do. If this is any indication it can hopefully prove to be a turning point for the studio from a writing standpoint. Personally, I love the hills and valleys of depressing realism to cartoony comedy, something that this game tries and competently succeeds at time and time again.

Peeves and Problems

Some of my gripes come more so from Rockstar than from Red Dead 2 if that makes sense. Character movement and control is better than previous titles but something about the RAGE engine they use makes conventional movement a chore more often than not. It certainly doesn’t help when one wrong move and you’re bumping into people and suddenly you’re in a shootout with the entire town all because you scuffed some dude’s boots. Speaking of being “Wanted”, the system could use some tweaking. If an NPC starts some shit, and I beat him within an inch of his life, why isn’t it self defense? Dudes knocking each other out in the streets all the time and no one bats an eye, your character doesn’t even need to draw his weapon to have a situation on his hands and that can be a bit bothersome. The formula of missions is repetitive despite how diverse the number of situations there are. Main missions mean something going to go wrong, if you are being stealthy, it’s gonna get real loud real soon. Side missions/ random encounters are where things dance a fine line between the contradictory ideas of painfully formulaic to entirely spontaneous and unique to you. You’ll see the same dude get kicked by his horse/ get bit by a snake twenty times. Only for your friend to tell you of this side mission/encounter you never even found. It’s probably tough to get that sweet spot since RNG is surely a factor in accessing these types of events to begin with. Others are just minor details that were overlooked if you can believe that. Little things like how I can’t choose my loadout when I replay a story mission. Some of these missions are so enthralling and cinematic, I often want to go right back and play it again. The issue is that when I do, I do not have any options in my arsenal depending on the initial encounter in said mission. So I’m going against an army of O’Driscolls complete with repeaters and a damn machine gun while I’m stuck with my two base pistols and maybe a shotgun. What the hell? Pacing is another minor gripe I have at the beginning and especially in the epilogue, this ride, however, is so enjoyable it doesn’t hamper the fun I have more so they just nibble at the grey matter in the back of my mind from time to time.

This game is immersive, detailed, made with love, and an achievement in gaming. It is by no means perfect but is definitely one of the best games I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing. Games like Destiny, Watch Dogs, Fallout 4 No Man’s Sky, The Division, and many more have gotten hype from talking about things that can’t/ won’t be in the game but sound good anyway. Rockstar talked a big game before the release of RDR2 and I really have a hard time thinking of any true bullshit to call them on. So I will join the ovation and applaud the studio for not only meeting my expectations after so long but exceeding them quite handsomely. TL;DR 9/10