In the lead-up to Red Dead 2; I was hyped up to levels that modern science is yet to even quantify. I can still vividly remember waiting for the game to unlock at midnight, and then proceeding to play through the first five hours that very night. The night was up there with Diaz VS McGregor 2 in terms of overall euphoria.
Though once I had put another solid 10 hours into the game, something peculiar about the mechanics and design struck me like a fully thrusted Jon Jones eye-poke. After noticing the flaws, it kinda spoiled the rest of the game for me, as I kept noticing the same flaw over and over again. Before getting into the criticism, I feel it’s best to confess that I believe that Red Dead 2 is one of the greatest games that we as a human race have ever created, but there’s still a ton of gristle that I feel goes unnoticed by literally everyone that’s played it. So for the betterment of the video game industry, let’s establish what this gristle is, and how we can avoid it in future games.
So, what was it that put me off? Well, the first thing that struck me when playing RDR2 was how linear the gameplay and level design was, it felt like I was constantly being led and forced down a particular path. Every mission in the game goes as so: you’re standing at point A, now get to point B whilst murdering people and hearing dialogue from other characters which will enhance your emotional attachment to them. This is a fantastic way of creating a game and conveying a story; if we’re in the year 2008. In modern times these mechanics of story-telling are hugely dated, this idea of getting from A to B whilst using the available tools has been replaced by more creative endeavours, take a look at a few of my favourites like Watch Dogs 2, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain & Sniper Elite 4. (Usually) In these game the player isn’t forced down a set pre-programmed path, they are given the end-objective of B and told to complete the objective using the current available tools like talking, hacking, stealth or just straight up old-fashioned murder. This new ethos towards game design has allowed for players to get their own unique story and experience, no two playthrough’s are the same in the aptly mentioned games. They say variety is the spice of life, and in video games this seems true too, yet in Red Dead 2 there’s a distinct lack of variety in how you can complete levels, you’re always forced to shoot your way to victory whilst converging down a straight programmed path.
Now this isn’t necessarily the worst thing to do when making a game, in huge AAA games like Red Dead 2 and the Uncharted series (It does it incredibly well), developers can use their immense resources to make sure that your journey from A to B is as pretty and polished as it possibly can be. Instead of these developers badly designing 10 different ways to complete a mission, the developers can hone in all their resources to make one perfect path. This is why with Red Dead 2, the dev team could sprinkle in all the special features that fans orgasm over like hair growing in a real-time and all the fancy A.I with the horses. They had more time and were able add on the layers of polish.
It all comes down to the age-old argument that has plagued video game creation, what’s more important? Gameplay or graphics. Is it best to immerse the player into a near believable simulation of 1800’s America, or is it best to make a huge sandbox and leave the player to run wild and forge their own fun, unique stories?
With Rockstar having such an immense pool of talent and resources. I was anticipating a game that would perfect the fine-balance of immersion and gameplay, I was expecting an innovative marvel served up to me by the king of game development, but instead I simply got a game that used decade old story-telling techniques and added extra sprinkles on top.
What do you think, am I a video game development genius, or just a straight-up salty hater who hates fun? Let me know, I’d love to hear your opinion on the pressing matters at hand. I also a mountain of other criticisms that I would love to go through, but I’d be here all day rhyming them off, though depending on how loved/hated this article does; we may make a part 2…