Red Dead Redemption 2 test: when Rockstar puts the competition to the west

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Pau Monfort
@paumonfort
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A true video game tidal wave, Red Dead Redemption 2 is not only an exceptional game, it is above all the culmination of the Rockstar formula, often copied, but never equaled.

Presentation


Red Dead Redemption 2 features a fantasy America.


Each culture has its mythology, with its heroes, legends and dramas. That of the United States was forged in the dust of the Wild West with the blood of pioneers. This cruel and merciless period ended at the turn of the 2th century with galloping industrialization, grabbing those who had left everything behind to flee civilization. This is the story told by Rockstar in its new blockbuster Red Dead Redemption XNUMX. With its open-world tinged with Sergio Leone romanticism, the studio depicts a melancholy America less and less wild which has nothing to do with its marginals.


The game no longer draws its inspirations solely from spaghetti westerns.



The player here puts on the muddy boots of Arthur Morgan, gun-bearer of Dutch Van der Linde, leader of a band of outlaws who only seek to live far from the established rules of society. After a robbery that goes wrong, the little gang is forced to flee into the mountains to escape the authorities. This is where we pick up our good Arthur, who will have to find a way to survive in this wild west. Players of the first installment will have noted the dramatic irony of the story. They know full well how it will all end, Red Dead Redemption 1 (RDR1) taking place twelve years after this second installment. But this new episode allows, in addition to discovering the youth of already known characters, to really grasp the challenges of the first Red Dead. It is also necessary to note a certain evolution in the manner of telling the history. If RDR1 fully assumed its Spaghetti Western inspirations, RDR2 keeps these "Leonesque" emanations by also drawing on more recent works, such as Tarantino's westerns (Django Unchained and The Hateful Eight) or True Grit, The Assassination of Jesse James by the loose Robert Ford or The Revenant. New welcome inspirations that avoid repetition with the first part and modernize this second episode.


The cutscenes often offer magnificent moments. 


Red Dead Redemption 2, l'anti Breath of the Wild

It's no surprise, Rockstar knows how to make open worlds as lively as they are gigantic, whether it's the imitation Texas of Red Dead Redemption or the idealized Los Angeles of GTA V. The studio applies its formula here to the letter, if inspiring games released in the meantime. We thus find a lot of Kingdom Come Deliverance and especially The Witcher 3 in the vast plains of New Hanover and it is no coincidence, the San Diego-based studio taking over the best of the market on its own before bringing its so special paw.



The world is as gigantic as it is varied.

It's amusing to note that Red Dead Redemption 2 takes the very inspiring Breath of the Wild the wrong way. While the latter tends to simplify the experience as much as possible in order to let the player experience the open world as he pleases thanks to the elements provided, RDR2 seeks to densify the experience as much as possible, bordering on the absurd. It is for example possible to take a bath in a hotel in order to no longer smell the jackal, and to choose to rub the left leg rather than the right...



The daily life aspect is pushed to the extreme.

An almost obsessive attention to detail that goes in the logic of what Rockstar seeks to offer with this component. More than an action game with cowboys, Red Dead 2 seeks above all to offer an outlaw life simulation. The player must not simply chain the missions, but take care of his desperado, making him sleep, eat, participate in parties at his base camp and even polish his appearance. A certain routine then sets in after a few hours of play. Each day thus begins with a proper shave (the beard and hair growing in real time), the choice of clothes for the day (clothes getting dirty and some being adapted to extreme cold) then the greetings of the adventure companions if you want to maintain good relations and make sure that they don't need anything before setting off at a gallop to steer honest people . A routine assumed by the developers, but which has the effect of enormously increasing the overall pace of the game and which will disconcert more than one. RDR2 is indeed far from the frenzied pace of GTA (or even the first RDR game) where missions can follow one another as quickly as shootouts.



The fights are often messy.

The missions, precisely, also lose rhythm, and logically gain in length. Nevertheless, Rockstar still shows that it masters its subject, distilling the – very numerous – mechanics of the game and deepening the characters over the course of very varied quests if not always exciting. Throughout the story, Arthur and his band will be carried around a gigantic and varied map representing a miniature America, but glaringly realistic. We regret, however, that the scenario is struggling to take off, the stakes taking a long time to emerge.

Impeccable technique

If the atmosphere distilled by Red Dead Redemption 2 is so bewitching, it is of course largely thanks to its countless aesthetic qualities, both sound and visual. The plasticity of the game is perfectly served by a flamboyant technical assessment: thanks in particular to a perfect anti-aliasing treatment and a management of the display distance which manages by who knows what prodigy to make itself almost invisible, no visual artifact comes never spoil the immense and sumptuous vistas that the title offers all the time. In the absence of a PC version, the set shines of course especially on the Xbox One X, the only console capable of displaying a native Ultra HD image with breathtaking precision. The icing on the cake, the HDR rendering of the title on compatible televisions is certainly not the most spectacular there is, but it makes the diffuse lights that bathe the game a little more striking, the very ones that give it its looks so intensely cinematic — in a good way.


Some places benefit from magnificent play of light.

The same heights are reached on the sound rendering side, without question the best that we could hear in an open world game. Rich, the sound design benefits from an incredibly moving and dynamic mix which, from the softness of the nocturnal atmospheres to the sonic violence of the confrontations with firearms, through the music with very skilfully measured accents, makes the experience hearing could not be more immersive. In short, if you're lucky enough to own an excellent 5.1 or 7.1 home cinema system with an HDR TV, your eyes and ears will be delighted.

The west is merciless

Red Dead Redemption 2 may be an exceptional game, but it is not free from flaws. We mentioned above the obsessive attention to detail of the Rockstar teams which often borders on the absurd and could drown the least involved players. Difficult indeed for an occasional player to remember all the details and more or less useful commands during the adventure, especially if his game sessions are spaced out. Another flaw inherent in Rockstar's desire to simulate cowboy life: the clumsy and difficult character to handle in the first hours, and the messy fights that result from this aspect. More than a lack of responsiveness, it is certain aspects of the game that suffer. It is not uncommon, in town, to strangle a passer-by by wanting to get on his horse if you do not place yourself well in front, the two actions being attributed to the same button. Another frequent inconvenience: falling from a horse when hitting a stagecoach passing by, or more infuriatingly, by tripping against a rock inadvertently placed in our path.


Arthur's appearance is customizable at will.

Finally, last disappointing point, a main character as caricatural as smooth, thought to be a blank page for the player. If the intention can be understood, Arthur nevertheless suffers from the comparison with the John Marston of the first part – more discreet here, but also present in RDR2.

Highlights

  • Open-world saisissant.

  • Perfect technique.

  • Controlled atmosphere.

  • Rarely has a game been so deep.

Weak points

  • Slow pace.

  • History that is struggling to take off.

  • A certain heaviness of the gameplay.

Conclusion

Note globale

With Red Dead Redemption 2, Rockstar delivers a copy which, if not perfect, is still excellent. Refined to the extreme (sometimes possibly in defiance of the working conditions of the studio's employees), the title of Rockstar becomes a new standard meter of open world games, mastering both its universe and the activities it offers, failing to keep full control over his narration. More than a repeat of the first game, Red Dead Redemption 2 tries new things, sometimes drawing more from survival game and simulation than from adventure game. An aspect that will surprise more than one, but which has the merit of bringing something fresh to the genre. A great game.

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