There's no other studio quite like Rockstar Games. Few teams have the same level of creative freedom coupled with the gigantic production budgets. They've been in the spotlight for almost twenty years, and their most recent release was the universally celebrated Red Dead Redemption 2.
The ambitious tale followed 2013's Grand Theft Auto V. The two titles strive for different vibes, but the more recent game does build on the foundation of the latest GTA entry in some ways. Some still prefer GTA V, but almost everyone agrees that they are both classics. Taking as objective a glance as possible, here are five things Red Dead Redemption 2 does better than GTA V, and five things it does worse.
10 Better: Immersion
RDR2 strives to simulate an approximation of the Wild West experience. To this effect, the world tries to feel as alive as possible. Arthur Morgan can interact and speak to anyone in the environment and towns feel lived in.
Destruction and chaos is the name of the game, and crimes have fewer consequences. In addition, the weapons in Red Dead feel heavier and have more of an impact when firing. Some of them even require a button press to load in another bullet before shooting again.
9 Worse: Fast Travel
Both games implement a logical fast travel mechanic based on the rules of their respective environments. RDR2 gets a mark against it for removing a fast travel feature present in the first game. The original allows players to fast travel from any campfire, while the prequel only allows expedited movement by train and stage coaches. There is fast travel, but it's a little clunky and limited.
GTA V lets players take cabs and skip the ride entirely. One can order a taxi by phone from almost anywhere, but driving feels so good it is a joy just to be behind the wheel and get there your way.
8 Better: Characters
Rockstar's flagship series has memorable characters, but none of them feel like real people. Instead, they are representations of certain personality types. Red Dead Redemption 2's cast eschews any cartoon sensibilities in favor of more nuanced, complex personalities.
Maybe this was a conscious choice, or Dan Houser is becoming a better writer with each game and has finally perfected the art of creating characters. If the upward trend continues, we can't wait to see what types of personalities the team's next project will present.
7 Worse: Comedy
Not everyone likes GTA V's humor, but it at least gives fans who 'get' it a good time when playing. RDR2 does not elicit the same joyous reactions. Arthur Morgan's tale is dark, tragic, and unfair. Moments of levity exist throughout, but they are few and far between.
Los Santos' airwaves are also filled with comedic radio broadcasts to brighten up the long drives. RDR2 leaves the player with silence as they travel, with nothing else to do but contemplate the game's events.
6 Better: Graphics
This should come as a no-brainer, considering the six-year gap between the two titles. If the 2018 western epic didn't look much better, Rockstar would have disappointed its fans.
GTA V is still no slouch either, thanks to its re-release on modern consoles, but the lighting, character models, and animation of RDR2 are miles ahead of GTA V's, making one wonder just how far the developer can push their Rage engine. Open world games used to look quaint, but had the excuse of presenting large environments. RDR2 is one of the best looking games yet made, period.
5 Worse: Multiplayer
Multiplayer modes take time to find a stride, so it makes sense that Grand Theft Auto Online is more cohesive and enjoyable than Red Dead Online. Thankfully, Red Dead is sticking to a faithful recreation of its setting, as opposed to GTA Online's wacky spectacle.
Given time, Red Dead's multiplayer will catch up, but as of now, GTA Online is more comfortable to play. It's doubtful that Red Dead will ever reach the same popularity, however.
4 Better: The Player's Impact On The World
Except for the ending, GTA V's story plays out largely the same every time. Players choose how to tackle certain missions, but character moments and story beats don't change. In Red Dead, players have an honor meter which fluctuates depending on their actions. Where their honor is determines how the members of the gang treat them.
With the staggering amount of optional dialog, this goes a long way towards making the player's choices matter. Unfortunately, most of the sadder moments cannot change, not matter how virtuously one plays.
3 Worse: Convenience
A big debate about RDR2 stems from its attempts at realism versus entertainment. Should immersion come at the sacrifice of player comfort and convenience? Some appreciated the game's dedication to its setting, while others wished it remembered that it was a video game a little more often.
Regardless of one's feelings on the matter, it's undeniable that GTA V is more user-friendly. It lacks this goal of realism in both narrative and game play. This is a good thing too; Trevor's actions taken at face value are horrific and grotesque. In a realistic world, it would be too much to handle.
2 Better: Emotional Impact
Red Dead Redemption 2 tells one of the best, most complete stories in gaming. It often draws comparisons to great television shows with its depth. Whenever a member of the cast bites the dust, it is a grueling moment. Afterwards, their absence is felt throughout the rest of the game.
On top of that, the final moments before the epilogue are a real gut-punch. While GTA V tells a great story with its own message, the emotional impact doesn't come anywhere close to what the 2018 western accomplishes.
1 Worse: Set Pieces
As a more grounded game, many of Red Dead Dead Redemption 2's missions are on a smaller scale than GTA V's. It also has dozens more than its predecessor, so bigger action moments are fewer and far between.
Meanwhile, the 2013 open world title is more dense. Each one of the 70+ missions tries something unique, and the large-scale set pieces are some of the most ambitious any open world game has tried. If you want a dark action-comedy, then play GTA V. Go with RDR2 for a hard-hitting drama with amazing character development.