Warning: This post contains spoilers for all six chapters of Red Dead Redemption 2.
It could very well be argued that Red Dead Redemption 2 is the greatest gaming achievement of all time. It is a game so sweeping in its scope that very few people who play it are even having the same experiences. Some see the "tiny church" in the swamp. Some don't. Some see the UFOs. Some don't. And the thing that is so remarkable is, we know we still have tons of Easter eggs and secrets to discover about this game over the next year. We have barely scratched the surface of this western opus, as it is a little over a month old. But to say it raised the bar for gaming is putting it mildly.
Red Dead Redemption 2 forever changed the gaming landscape, and those changes will be long-reaching and will reverberate in this industry for years. So what is it that makes Red Dead 2 so exceptional? Is it the scope? Is it the characters? Is it the graphics? Is it the truly engrossing tale of a wild west posse on a scary downward spiral? Yes to all those things. It is a perfect storm of gaming, where every element that factors in helps make it even more powerful. With that being said, it is safe to say RDR2 has forever changed gaming, and here are ten things that prove that to be true.
10. The Character Arcs
While we could focus on just Arthur's story here, as it is one of the finest ever told in this medium, all of the characters in Red Dead Redemption 2 have pretty stunning character arcs.
Dutch, a man with a vision who becomes a lunatic with no moral compass. Sadie, who starts the game as a sort of victim and proves by the end to be the most dedicated and strongest member of the group. We even get more insight into John Marston (even Arthur makes fun of the fact that he can't swim, which is meta and genius). To have non-lead characters with arcs more interesting than most games leads really says so much about this game.
9. The Mythos of the World it Creates
We all know of the wild west through pop culture, but no classic Western can beat just how in-depth this game is about this time period and the grim realities of it. From characters getting ill from diseases of the time, to having to put an injured horse down with a single shot to the skull, RDR2 gives us stunning insight into how hellish that time was for the people who lived through it.
That said, it is a world that feels truly alive and fully realized, much more than any other game world up to this point.
8. The Little Details/ Simulation Theory Proved
No, we aren't talking about the shrinking horse testicles (though that is kind of remarkable). We are talking about the thousands of small details bursting from the seams in this game.
Put a dead body into a pig pen, the pigs will eat it. Watch a guy mining gold, he will call you out and tell you to be nice (which you probably won't be once he finds some). If you use Deadeye while in a field, you can track the wind direction by watching where the pollen is blowing.
You can track NPCs and see they have actual, fully realized lives. If nothing else, Red Dead Redemption 2 finally proves what Elon Musk has been saying for years about simulation theory. We could be living in a simulation right now (and probably are) and we wouldn't even know it. The gunsmith you followed home and watched have dinner through his window doesn't know he is an NPC. Gets you thinking.
7. The (Not Main Gang) NPCs
While we have already touched on how amazing it is to see Arthur and the gang evolve and devolve, in this case, I literally mean NPCs. Never in gaming have NPCs been this, for lack of a better term, real.
Watching a grieving widow sobbing uncontrollably over the corpse of her husband can leave you breathless. You can get into a flame war with just about anybody by saying the wrong thing at the right time, and some of the reactions are uncanny. Or what about people who played the whole game and never once experienced the unrelenting terror of an attempted murder at the hands of the "night folk"? That was one of the best "hidden" aspects of this game, and people who didn't venture into Roanoke at night missed some truly scary moments.
6. The Size of the World
No gaming world has ever felt as real as the world in Red Dead Redemption 2 does. There are literally hundreds of open world games out there, and almost no open world has ever been this fully realized or fun to play around in. Even the bigger games have nothing new to do after the first ten hours. But not Red Dead.
There were things I was discovering in the epilogue I never experienced in the game itself. The fishing and hunting is so deep and varied, it could be its own game and one that would warrant a full price purchase. So the fact that those tasks are optional here tells you just how perfect and realized the old west is in this game.
5. The Micromanaging
At first, shaving and changing outfits and needing sleep and food seemed like an annoyance. It really did. But once you got into a rhythm with Arthur, somehow that insane level of micromanaging actually became enjoyable. No idea how, really, but it did.
There was a gratifying feeling to doing chores at camp and hearing everyone thank you, then being able to upgrade. It is all stuff that has been implemented in games before, but never as well as it is here.
4. The Graphics
If you are anything like us, your PS4 screenshot folder is now about 2,563 or so pictures from your RDR2 playthrough. From the double rainbows you would sometimes see over camp, to the insane detail when the fog would roll in on a moonlit night, Red Dead 2's graphics, weather system, and lighting are staggering to behold.
Just those opening couple hours in the snow made you grab a blanket off the back of the couch to wrap yourself in, feeling like the cold was biting while you played it. Add to that the frankly stunning weather effects and particle effects and you have what just might be the prettiest looking game ever made.
3. Best Side Quests Ever
While it can be understood some gamers dedicated themselves to the main story missions, desperate to find out how this story played out and led into the events in Red Dead Redemption, they truly missed out on some of the best experiences the game has to offer.
The two brothers who allow themselves to be physically abused to win the affection of a woman they both love is a perfect example, especially in how the last mission in their story plays out. Perfection. Or what about the people who missed the vampire in Saint Denis?
Those are just a few of the hundreds of examples of best side quests ever in this game. All games are now sweating their lesser side quests because Rockstar just raised the bar again.
2. That Gut Punch Of An Ending
We knew this game was gonna mess us up because RDR's ending messed us up. Arthur Morgan does not come out of this game alive, sadly. So when you get to that final ride and the music cues in and Arthur starts remembering his life and the people he affected, you would legit have to be dead inside to not feel tears welling in your eyes.
Arthur knows what's coming, and so do we, and it makes that final ride an utterly devastating moment.
And though that ending was a kick to the soul, it was meant to be, and needed to be. Arthur's death is fully symbolic of the death of that time in the world, the death of the west. He was old-school, and as you know, his world was no country for old men.
1. The Antagonize Button
The antagonize button led to some of the greatest NPC interactions of all time! There was something immensely gratifying about being able to tell a character that they smell like a warthog. Or driving that one, sheepish NPC to run out into the road and get hit by a horse because you won't stop telling them that they need to stop hiding under their mother's skirt.
It also showed the true scope of the game, as you could harass anyone in the game and get a reaction. In game worlds normally full of dead, blank, lifeless NPCs and canned interactions, that is the one aspect that truly showed how huge in scale RDR2 truly is. And outside of showing the impressive scale of the game, it was just incredibly funny. Here's hoping every single game that comes out henceforth has an antagonize button.