Resident Evil 2 (2019) Review – The Nightmare You’ve Always Dreamed Of

The long-running Resident Evil series has become one of gaming’s most iconic IPs over its 20-plus year history, with titles first appearing on the original Sony PlayStation in 1996. For decades, Capcom’s zombie-filled survival horror franchise has continued to iterate and change the formula continuously to adapt to the current climate and trends in modern games. While they have found success in their newest mainline entry, 2017’s Resident Evil 7, fans continuously have shown interest in bring the classic style of survival horror found in its earlier entries back to the series, and luckily their voices were heard. Resident Evil 2, one of the series’ most popular entries, received the full remake treatment and the results couldn’t have been better (well, baring a few personal complaints). The inclusion of modern controls and perspective, along with the intense immersion level from the combination of the RE Engine and superb visuals, make this re-imagining of Resident Evil 2 one that has set the bar high for the process of remaking games.

Building Resident Evil 2 within the modern RE Engine may be one of the biggest payoffs that Capcom hit during the development of the game. Focusing on shadows and “wetness”, the RE Engine helps realize the immersion levels that Capcom wanted to hit. Many horror games rely heavily on atmospheric elements to help build suspense within their title, but no one has seem to truly do it better than Capcom’s teams working on the current crop of Resident Evil games. Specifically in Resident Evil 2, the reliance on the survival aspects of the game are monumental. Items and ammunition are limited, and many times players will find themselves facing a flight or fight situation that sometimes leads to avoiding the conflict to be the best approach.

Outside of the gorgeous visuals, the updated control and camera mechanics are the biggest improvement when comparing the original 1998 release and the 2019 release.  For clarification, Capcom’s newest Resident Evil release is not a remaster, but more of a re-imagining. Gone are archaic tank controls found in the original entries, along with the dated fixed camera, and replaced with a modern third-person, over the shoulder perspective found in many modern series in the same vein. While those original mechanics added to the immersion and fear-factor of the original release, modern visuals and presentation offer the ability to add that same level of helplessness and fear while offering fluid control over Leon or Claire. Another great inclusion and modern touch is the inventory system and map management. Keeping many traits similar to Resident Evil 7, the item management between your Hip Pockets and Item Box found throughout the dozens of Safe Rooms makes transferring and storing items a breeze. In terms of map management, players will easily be able to plan their routes throughout the multiple areas of Resident Evil 2‘s environment by seeing what areas are cleared (marked in blue) and what areas still contain a puzzle, secret, item, etc that hasn’t been completed or found (marked in red). Backtracking will still be an aspect that’s encountered throughout your time will the game, but having a modernized map system such as this one helps streamline your experience and combats many pacing issues that could stem from the backtracking.

Players are spoiled by how well immersion is handled in the overall experience of Resident Evil 2. The way enemies stagger towards and that sinking feeling when you miss that close range pistol shot, the deranged Lickers that scourer the Police Department; everything things makes you feel so helpless but in the best way possible. But the most nerve racking aspect in the game, hands down, is Mr. X (or the Tyrant). You can’t kill him. You can’t necessarily hurt him (outside of staggering him with a Magnum shot if you’re lucky). You can only run from him, and outside of the Safe Rooms littered throughout the game’s map, he will not stop chasing you. When you hear his heavy, boulder like steps marching towards you, your stomach will drop. One of my biggest fears is being chased (no idea why, but that horror element has always freaked me out), so hearing the unsettling score pick up to the rhythm of his deafening pace, calling it unsettling would be putting it lightly. He may not be as visually terrifying as the Bakers from Resident Evil 7, but man, does he make up for it the tension he produces.

While some of the original’s puzzles tropes make their way into the newest iteration, many of them were new enough that I never found myself annoyed by the back tracking throughout the labyrinthine Raccoon City Police Department. That’s not to say that some of the puzzles aren’t formulaic. In classic Resident Evil fashion, themed keys make their return, and only some can be accessed by the certain player you play, providing more of a reason to relieve the horror of that fateful night in Raccoon City. At the same time though, the elemental puzzles that are found feel unique and interesting.

Being a re-imagining of the original, I expected many of the eccentric narrative elements that the series is known for to be present, but to my surprise this feels like the most overall grounded take on a Resident Evil story yet. Yes, it’s still a zombie infested town with outlandish monster and mutants at times, but the way these creatures are designed and presented offer the feeling of “what if?”; the feeling of “if a zombie apocalypse truly took place, I could see it going this way”. 2017’s Resident Evil 7 helped lay the ground work for this approach with its first half of its story focusing on a southern cult, showing fans what the series could look like based in more realism. While it’s latter half fell a bit short and relied on more wacky elements, it still helped ease fans minds on the direction the series could be going with its favorable reception. At the end of the day, it’s still Resident Evil. You’re going to get zany mutants and dozens of undead beings chasing after you, but think of it as the Marvel Studios approach to horror; you know what’s going on isn’t possible, but if it was, realistically it could look like this.

At the same time, the biggest issue the game has can be found within its narrative, as the two story lines of Leon and Claire just don’t differ as much as I hoped they would. One of the best parts about the original was its dual plot lines going on between the two protagonists. While both still have enjoyable narratives, for as much re-imagining was put into the overall game, I expected a bit more difference between the two. Considering you explore the same area during the same time when doing the Second Run version, having certain elements such as doors unlocked by Leon during your first playthrough still be unlocked for Claire would only amplified the immersion that is already so greatly implemented throughout the game. On a side-bar related to the Second Run mode, the word is a bit confusing when trying to activate the mode and not a completely new game from scratch. Just make sure you are attentive after the credits have rolled and the game will emphasis using the ‘Second Run’ option listed on the main menu.

Capcom’s re-imagining of Resident Evil 2 should be considered the new standard-bearer for gaming remakes moving forward. Almost all aspects of the game feel fresh and new, while also scratching that nostalgic itch for the original. Outside of the small complaints with the similarities between Leon and Claire’s narratives, this the Resident Evil experience I’ve been waiting for. Classic survival horror is not dead ladies and gentleman (and neither is an inflected being in Raccoon City after a full clip of ammo…I know, not the best attempt at humor). Resident Evil as a series is in such an interesting spot after this. My hope is for the series to go the same route that Nintendo has taken our favorite plumber, by having multiple styles of games coexisting. One thing is for sure, Capcom has found the secret formula to success again with this franchise, and I can’t wait to see where it goes after how much I enjoyed Resident Evil 2. It’s only January, and we may be looking at one of the front runners for 2019’s Game of the Year.

First Impressions – Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu/Eevee!

In 1998, one of the best selling entertainment franchises, Pokémon hit landfall in the United States with their initial two entries Pokémon Red and Blue, and overtook the gaming industry overnight. Fast forward 20 years later, and the long running franchise is still going strong, with a new main-line entry set to hit the Nintendo Switch next year. Until then, Game Freak and the Pokémon Company have given us a nice little treat to hold our hunger over the next year, by releasing Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu and Let’s Go, Eevee, which released on November 16th, 2018! This new project is one that is two fold; serving as a stepping stone of sorts to bridge the gap between Pokémon titles moving from the Nintendo 3DS to the Nintendo Switch, and also bringing in more casual users to the series through the incorporation of Pokémon Go mechanics and integration.

In the five or so hours I played of Pokémon: Let’s Go Pikachu! (both versions are basically identical), I was pleasantly surprised at how at home a lot of the new additions and mechanics felt in the game. At first, like many, I was hesitant on the emphasis put on Pokémon Go mechanics in the game. There are wild Pokémon encounters, but they aren’t battles. You simply catch the Pokémon you find in the wild, the same way you do in Go. You gain experience for your Pokémon in the same way in regards to wild encounters. But I’ll be honest, it doesn’t feel cumbersome or an immersion breaking experience from the original Pokémon feel. You still fight trainers in the traditional, turn based fashion, there are still gym leaders, everything you remember from the original entries of the series is in these games, outside of random wild encounters and how you interact in those situations. In terms of random encounters, when walking in grass, swimming, etc. you will see the actual wild Pokémon and have the ability to miss them. You no longer are forced to trigger a battle between a wild Pokémon if you don’t want to.

To me, that’s a huge plus. Even when I was playing the game when I was younger, random encounters always irritated me to no end. Anytime I would need to get from one area to another and didn’t want to train or deal with battles, you’d be forced to do so. Even when you needed to grind levels for some of your Pokémon in previous entires, you would enter some large grass and just circle areas until you trigger the battle animation. Either one of those just aren’t enjoyable, period. Gamers play games because they’re fun, entertaining and enjoyable; that isn’t fun. To be honest, that’s my favorite quality of life change with these reimagining. It makes me want to go out of my way to now catch Pokémon when I know I’m not forced to do so. Getting to avoid battles and see which Pokémon are available to “battle” is so welcomed, and doesn’t waste the player’s time just to do so.

The two player co-op integration is actually really seamless as well. I roped my fiancée into testing it out with me last night, and while she actually hasn’t played a mainline Pokémon game before (only the Stadium series on Nintendo 64), she seemed to enjoy the simplicity of the catching mechanic and even the two-player battle system. Bringing in a second player was really simple, too. Just pop off the second Joy-Con and by just hitting one of the buttons it will auto-sync with the console and the secondary character pops in. Catching wild Pokémon does seem to scale in difficulty when you are playing two players, which is nice in a way. Many creatures I were catching with simplicity earlier on my own, now were becoming a little tougher to keep in the thrown ball. Another nice touch, is doubling your Pokéballs in co-op as well. Considering Pokéballs are more abundant in this entry comparative to previous ones, due to the way wild Pokémon are handled, it is nice to know that if your second player is new to the mechanic of catching (like my fiancée was), you don’t have to worry as much about your inventory of balls.

While this entry in the series does a lot things that make me truly enjoy my experience with the game, I do have a few gripes with it. Like many, one of the big draws of this game is that it’s touted as the first true Pokémon title designed for a home console (the Stadium series, Coliseum, Gale of Darkness XD, Pokken Tournament, etc. don’t fit the mold of a traditional Pokémon experience), and while it does achieve what it has set out to do, it does come with some hinderances; the biggest being no Pro Controller support. Look, I get it, the Pokémon Company wants you to buy the Pokéball Plus peripheral (I have not purchased it at the time of this writing, but plan on testing it before I write my review on the game). They want you to use the motion controls for the game, and while I have tested the motion controls, and while they are surprisingly tight and responsive, being a somewhat traditional Pokémon experience lends me to want to play in a traditional control scheme. It’s awesome seeing the vibrant colors pop on my Sony Bravia X900E television, but I found myself wanting to play more in handheld for that traditional experience. Considering the official Pro Controller has gyro-aiming functionality built in and is exceptional playing games like Splatoon that utilize it, I just find it odd not including the support for it.

So far, I’m really enjoying my time with the game, and while I want to say I’m surprised that I am, I can’t necessarily say that. The Pokémon Company has all of the resources and financial backing behind it to make this experiment project work. Game Freak and the Pokémon Company have both already stated that next year we will be receiving the next true, main-line, core RPG traditional entry, and with that Generation 8 of Pokémon, but for being a “stop-gap” release, it really shines in a multitude of way. A lot of care and polish has been throw into it, and while nostalgic goggles come on at times when the depth isn’t necessarily there, it’s a title I am enjoying the ride on. Keep an eye out for the full review of the game within the next week or so!

For more updates on all things Pokémon, including the newly release Let’s Go series, be sure to follow us on Twitter at @BonusAccessory, and keep it locked in on Bonus Accessory.

Poverty and Dread in Paratopic

As an experiment in shaking up the walking simulator formula, I found Paratopic extremely successful.

A little late for Halloween, I played a memorable indie horror game with friends this weekend. Released by a three-person team called Arbitrary Metric in March 2018, Paratopic got under my skin with its gritty, low-res aesthetic and jarring narrative pacing. It’s a beautifully focused game, tightly delivering a specific experience. I found it refreshing, in this era of miles-wide, millimeter-deep open world titles. In fact, Paratopic to me represents a thesis in independent game design. It is very clearly the product of few resources and an abundance of care. Every byte of graphics and sound is bent towards eliciting ambiguity. The narrative presentation invites the player to replay and interpret. It inspired some spirited discussion about what it all meant among the group I played it with.

I highly recommend playing Paratopic on Steam or Itch before proceeding. Spoilers from here on out. You’ve been warned, friendo.

If this border guard is right about The Smuggler having an enemy, who could it be?
Spoilers. Spoilers are the enemy.

Paratopic’s aesthetic is wonderfully uncomfortable. Chunky textures and low-poly models hearken back to a time where such approximate renderings were a necessity. But the game isn’t content to simply emulate retro graphics for indie cred. They are a tool with a purpose. Part of graphical and level design under these conditions is in using color, light, and shadow to effectively guide the player’s eye — a technique I find many modern games seem to ignore, to their detriment. Every scene in Paratopic allows the player some wiggle room, but the critical path is organically marked such that you never have to wonder where to go next. You can change lanes in the driving scenes, but never stop or turn around. You can walk freely around the forest snapping bird pics, but you’re contained and guided from landmark to landmark. This feels technically good, but it also might achieve a thematic goal as well.

The Birdwatcher can optionally photograph six crows, which is possibly a reference to Blendo Games' Gravity Bone.
Fans of Gravity Bone will love this segment, I think.

See, in an interview on USGamer, co-developer Doc Burford talked about how poverty became a central theme in the game:

“The more I wrote it, the more it became a game that dealt with poverty. One of the player characters lives in a single closet-sized room with a lamp, some boxes, and a mattress, and he’s suffering from crippling debt. Another character talks about the failing economy, and we see signs of that abandoned infrastructure hidden away in the woods. It’s a game that reflects my hometown’s slow death and the existential dread of people like me who were supposed to enter the job market right when the economy crashed.”

Like Burford says, The Smuggler's apartment is little more than a closet with a mattress.
Home, bitter home.

To say that economic depression is a weighty topic these days is a joke. It’s downright tectonic. You, dear reader, likely have your own icky feelings about the economy, your job, and the security of your future. Keep those in mind while we run down some of Paratopic’s choices in level design:

  • Annoyingly long elevator waits.
  • One sided confrontations with pushy employers and shifty neighbors.
  • Anxious car rides down vast stretches of empty highway with no turns or exits.
  • Uneasy hikes in the woods to abandoned facilities and industrial accident sites, railroaded by stream beds and literal train tracks.
  • Getting arrested by seemingly corrupt authorities for doing a job you could not refuse.
  • Awkward small talk with gas station attendants, stalling for time because someone is following you.

One might say that Paratopic is a game about having full control but virtually no options. You can’t just turn the car around and go home. You can’t avoid trespassing your way to an untimely demise. There are systems and forces in place preventing you from escaping utter ruin, and the feeling of smoldering distress and dread the game builds over its brief playtime perfectly captures how it feels to be forced down a track with nothing good at the end.

The car scenes feature long, empty stretches of highway and surreptitiously disappearing/reappearing cargo in the passenger's seat.
Keep an eye on your cargo.

There is little time for comfort in Paratopic. Whether in person, over the phone, on the radio, or one other odd case, every non-player character in the game speaks in garbled, jumbled mumbles where words are sometimes just barely discernible. Story threads that on the surface seem the most peaceful ultimately end the most horrifically. There are segments where I felt there was too little to do, nothing to look at, nowhere to go… and I think that’s exactly what was intended.

The narrative is presented out of order, from three different characters’ perspectives, and it is almost entirely left to the player to piece together the story. Who you are in a given scene is down to context clues, and sometimes you are fed seemingly conflicting information. It takes some patience and additional playthroughs to get every detail, but surprisingly, I think the game answers more questions than not.

The Smuggler's employer's face constantly shifts its UV mapping offset and resolution.
Not every Paratopic NPC has a case of The Warpface. Just old Warpface here.

It’s not all grime and anxiety in Paratopic, though. There are a few moments of peace, even levity. There’s a faint glimmer of Blendo-style quirkiness that’s visible in some of the mechanics and worldbuilding. The gas station scenes are a true rest stop. Catch your breath. Stretch your legs. Enjoy some witty dialog, like the clerk’s conspiracy theorizing, or the game’s insistence that anyone who prefers pancakes to waffles is a filthy liar.

The gas station attendant offers you some locally sourced deer jerky, but all you can think about is waffles. Definitely not pancakes.
“(filthy lie) I’d rather eat pancakes, honestly.”

The soundtrack by Chris I Brown, aka BeauChaotica (you can find it on BandCamp) does loads of heavy lifting for this game’s feeling. The Menu Theme creeps in with a sparse bass riff and ambient noise, giving way to more intense distortions and an alien-sounding synth, perfectly reflecting the game’s steady pace of descent into the weird. The choir of Open All Hours evokes a place of sanctuary, a brief respite from the oppressive atmosphere everywhere else. The Assassin’s Theme sounds like a combat track straight out of the original Deus Ex, with high-tempo bass, percussion and sweeping synths, perfect for the game’s fevered climax. I’m no music expert, but I could write a whole article about this soundtrack alone. Listening to it after the fact elevated my appreciation for the range of emotions Paratopic evokes. There’s way more in here than just a monotone of anxiety. There are highs and lows, crescendos and rests.

A windmill looms over a fork in The Birdwatcher's path, but one is a dead end.
Multiple paths, but only one way forward.

Catharsis from playing Paratopic, for me at least, came from replaying the game and trying to stitch the whole picture together with my friends. There is just enough information there that you can assemble a plausible timeline of events. And writing this article, I suppose, has also helped me bring my experience with this game to a satisfactory resolution.

As an experiment in shaking up the walking simulator formula, I found Paratopic extremely successful. If you haven’t already, please go play it on Steam or Itch.

Thanks for reading my first article here on Bonus Accessory. Catch me on Twitter at @AC_Marshy for more gaming discussion. Until then…

Red Dead Redemption 2 Review: Surviving the Beauty in Evolution

The sun begins to rise on a new day. A vibrant pink pastel brush stroke covers the edge of the sky, as the stars begin to fall asleep, and that bright orange ball of light starts to peak over the mountain range. You can make out the snow covered caps of the picturesque formation, with bits of vegetation beginning to spring from the base as your eyes descend. It begins to reveal the beauty that is found throughout the land; rolling plains of luscious green grass, with a small ranch nestled within in. A heard of deer take in the serenity, while drinking from a near by pond, all the while a hunter slowly eyes them as prey from the hillside. There is a small village in the distance, with all manner of folk coming and going, on horse, wagon and carriage, while a local tribe of Native American begin their ascension further and further from the land that was once theirs. It’s breath-taking; it’s awe-inspiring; it’s barren, but at the same time so lush and lively, with energy pouring out from it. This is what Red Dead Redemption 2 provides the player, from the moment the player confirms they want to embark on this tragic tale of beauty at the main menu. In a world as living and vibrant as the one within Rockstar’s tragic tale of the dying wild West, it provides you with one of the most personal (dare I say, even loneliest) experiences in gaming to date, and it is done in such a beautiful way.

Red Dead Redemption 2, the sequel to the critically acclaimed Red Dead Redemption on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, aimed to not only improve what made its predecessor so successful, but to elevate the level of what a single player, narrative-drive game can be viewed as. In most regards, Rockstar’s newest entry succeeds in its endeavors of achieving that goal (and then some); but that’s not to say it didn’t do so without its flaws.

Much of the complaints that fans had with this installment, were the same issues the first suffered from; the most glaring of which is the controls. With the level of depth and beauty that Rockstar Games has crafted in this game, it still feels as though you’re playing a previous console generation game. Many a time while playing through the game on my PlayStation 4 Pro have I found myself going to interact with an NPC (non-playable character) by pulling my L2 trigger, only to not be completely locked onto said NPC and in turn, accidentally pull my weapon and aim down the sights of it. Many interactive functions are mapped to to the same buttons as the combative commands, and when the inverse function occurs, you either end up in a police chase for threatening someone, or you get killed by an enemy. On the same thread, the mechanics and physics behind horseback riding feel quite dated. Very often will the player find themselves locked into a full-bore gallop, only to have the horse catch the corner of a rock that wasn’t necessarily polished to have an appropriate hit box. Traversal and movement as a whole has tendencies that left me feeling frustrated at times. While at my campsite many a time I’d find myself rotating in a circle by my cot, trying to find the sweet spot in the environment that would prompt my button entry to sleep. By no means are these issues that make the game unplayable by any means, it just feels as though some small corners have more rust than polish at times.

But you know what the crazy thing about all of those issues are? None of them make me lose the connection and immersion the game has on me. For all of the dated issues the game seems to have, it is completely obliterated by the overwhelming positives this game provides.

Crafting a narrative to follow up one of the genre defining games of last generation was truly the Goliath to overcome when developing Red Dead Redemption 2. Sure, the creative heads at Rockstar could’ve taken the safe path, and continued where the epilogue of the first title left off, having Jack Marston take over the mantel of main protagonist; but Rockstar Games has never been one to play safe. From hot water to “hot coffee”, the company has always flirted with different avenues for both gameplay and storytelling for over 20 years, with many examples that parallel with the unconventional. Dan Houser, Michael Unsworth, Rupert Humphries, and the rest of the writing staff saw the deep connection fans had with the character of John Marston, and knew that there was more to tell on it. How did he get his famous scars? What caused his eventual disintegration from the Sons of Dutch? How did he become the man we eventually meet, getting off the ferry in Blackwater? But how do you tell the story of a man who’s story has a definitive end without coming off as conventional.

Enter Arthur Morgan; a man torn between the ambitions of a previous life and the ever growing domestication of American society in the late 19th century. Riding with Dutch van der Linde and his gang of misfits since he was a preteen, Arthur feels that he has a moral obligation to them, especially Dutch; the man who taught him to write and read, who taught him a code of morals to live by. Developing in this environment, Arthur has always believed the philosophy laid before him, that the gang may do “bad” things, but they are not “bad” people; a metaphoric Robin Hood in a sense. He has view points different than the people around him, but at the end of the day, quoting the man himself, “All I’ve ever known is loyalty”. While loyalty bonds the group together, it is also what begins to fray over time, as the gang begins to question the decision made by Dutch. Arthur’s character development is one that just like the over arching narrative itself, a slow burn. The outlaw tries to hang onto the ideology laid before him for the majority of his life, but sees what the new world is starting to become; and along with it, what his mentor and father-figure Dutch is becoming as well.

Yet, while the player experiences Arthur’s story from his eyes, you can tell this isn’t building to his own redemption, this is building for those who have something to continue fighting for; to live for. What you’re seeing is the building blocks of how John Marston is modeled into the man his in Blackwater of 1911, through the eyes of Arthur. Though not keen on John when he first returns to the group after taking an unexplained leave from it for almost a year, Arthur begins to see the man John could become; the same one Arthur truly wants to be. He wants John to experience the joys of life; foster the love he has with his beautiful wife Abigail Roberts, to help develop his son Jack Marston into an educated and rightful man, live a long and prosperous life. But Arthur knows that isn’t possible in the environment they’ve known for so long. “We’re more ghosts, than people” Arthur explains to gang member Sadie Adler at one point in the narrative. Wandering from town to town, clinging to the last breath of the dying, untamed West, is a life that only ends one way, and Arthur’s character begins to develop and evolve into that understanding as the plot progresses. Through death and decay, financial highs and lows, Arthur sees the writing on the wall, and uses his development to make sure those who have a chance to live a full life can do so (i.e. John Marston).

With the depth of story comes the caveat of depth within quests. Are they the deepest and most intuitive? Absolutely not. As I mentioned previously, you can feel the age of the engine and formula Rockstar has used for Red Dead Redemption 2. Feeling as though you’ve taken the first game’s mechanics and pieced it to fit in the style that Rockstar’s behemoth title Grand Theft Auto 5 has presented. Quests are quite linear, plain and simple. For all intents and purposes, there is only a limited amount of ways you can attack situations within quests to achieve the result you are looking for. For example, say I am on a quest where Arthur and a few members of the gang are pressing into another campsite to overtake it. I noticed that they are heavily armed on one side of the camp, but not the other, so I audible and decide I want to flank the weak side to catch them off guard. Doing so presents you with a “Failed” screen, in which the player must restart from the checkpoint and try again. While this is typical with Rockstar’s games from the past decade, for a game that does promote (and in my opinion, usually delivers) on this sense of openness and intuitiveness, it comes off archaic comparative to recent sandbox, open world games (i.e. the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Assassin’s Creed: Origins and Odyssey, Marvel’s Spider-Man, and even to an extent, Super Mario Odyssey). To me personally, I enjoy linear experiences (the Uncharted series, the Last of Us, God of War, etc). Sitting down, grabbing a controller and playing my way through a continuous story, that is almost a theatrical experience, is so fulfilling to me; dare I say therapeutic. Saying that though, I can absolutely understand those who do see a structured linearity in a game format such as Red Dead Redemption 2 has as a flaw. It seems almost hypocritical at times. The narrative these quests provide though, is what makes you want to continue the journey.

While the quests may be shorter and linear, due to its slow burn approach, the narrative isn’t meant to be a “pick up and down” play style. In a world where binging your favorite show is apart of entertainment’s normality, Red Dead Redemption 2 fits like a glove. It’s written and designed to play in four to six hour chunks. Many a nights did I find myself passing on playing the game, not because I wasn’t enjoy it, but because I wouldn’t be getting the appropriate or intended experience from it by only playing for an hour or so. Imagine it as a limited run HBO series; you’re being told a specific story, and it is meant to be viewed in a certain format.

Before putting a bow on this review, I do want to take a small aside to give credit to one area of the game that I feel isn’t being mentioned. While it isn’t instrumental to the success or failure of the game, one thing I did want to point out that I thought was an appropriate touch was how the credits played out. Usually in most titles (including movies), the credits will roll, and if the team decides to do so, a post-credit scene will play after the credits are through. Marvel Studios has all but perfected this with their cinematic universe, and it provides an incentive for fans to hang around and see who took part in making their favorite heroes come to life on the big screen. In gaming, it’s a bit different. Most games allow you to speed through the credits, or even skip them entirely; an option that moviegoers don’t have in theaters. So while it gives players the satisfaction to get that juicy tidbit of what’s to come next, or any other teases to the future of the game series they’re playing, they miss out on seeing the people who were able to bring them the hours of enjoyment. Now I get it, it’s credits; how much of a difference can Rockstar Games have made with a pretty straightforward formula?; and you’d be right, nothing major, but it is a nod that is welcomed.

After finishing the two part epilogue, there is still a decent amount of time between the events of the epilogues and the beginning of the first entry in the series. Normally, players are presented with the extensive list of credits, displaying who had a hand in helping one of the largest games of this generation come to life, then straight into the post credits scene; but Rockstar Games switched it up. They implemented portions of cinematics between slides of credits, that eventually connected the two periods in time. While it isn’t groundbreaking, it was something I noticed right off the bat as being different, and it made me put a name to an element in the experience I felt an attachment to. I now know Paul MacPherson and James Nicholson helped create the detailed world I wanted to roam on horseback; I now know Amy Gallan, Kelly Grimes and Nicole Friffee-Zuniga developed the camp system and design that helped me properly plan my adventures and make quality of life improvement for the gang; I now know Michael Kane, Joshua Bass, and Pete Armstrong headed a team that helped craft and mold the characters I grew such an affinity to. Game development isn’t a glamorous job. Normally, it’s a job that receives little individual praise, long hours, and criticism from fans as a whole. I find it important to give thanks to the unsung heroes of the gaming world. In a quote by Kinda Funny co-creator, Greg Miller, that truly solidified my aspirations on entering the gaming industry, he expressed thanks to those who make games and their importance to our industry. While accepting the Trending Gamer Award at the 2015 Game Awards, Miller state “I’m sure it comes down every day.. somebody says, ‘Is it worth it?’ And I want you to know that, on behalf of the millions of lives you’ve changed, it is worth it. Thank you for making games. I would not be the person – we would not be the people we are today – if it wasn’t for video games”; and he is truly right. I know this is necessarily applicative to the score or rating of the review, but with everything that has surrounded “crunch” in gaming, I think it is critically important we recognize those who bring so much joy and passion to this medium we love. With a game of this length, no matter if it would’ve succeed or sank, I want everyone who is apart of the development process in games to know that you are important to providing this art form to so many people. It probably means more than you will ever know.


Red Dead Redemption 2 is a game that has so many living and breathing elements that it relates to human life pretty well; it is by no means perfect, but the sum of its unique parts come together to make something special. From its spellbinding narrative, to the picturesque and vibrant world, to the deep and intriguing cast of characters, Rockstar Games has truly created one of the benchmark experiences this generation. While the mechanics and controls feel dated at times, the experience you are given from the narrative and exploration in the world outweighs those issues tenfold.