Well, you read the title. You can guess where this is heading. I know that disliking things just because they’re popular has become a trend in today’s society, but believe me when I say that’s not what led to my disdain for Rockstar’s latest release, Red Dead Redemption 2.
Drowning in Hype
The reason I’m not playing Red Dead, at least not right now, stems from a variety of factors. Firstly, I believe big AAA titles, such as RDR2, tend to release with a bubble of hype surrounding them. This is nothing new for video games as this year God Of War, Spider-Man, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, and Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey all released with a great deal of hype surrounding them.
Opinions aside, all of those games were overall well-received by fans and critics alike. This is typically expected of games from large studios who have a lot of resources and big-budget marketing at their disposal. However, I think this bubble of hype, the building excitement from fans leading up to a game’s release and the weeks that follow, can make it difficult for someone that’s on-the-fence about a game, like myself in the case of RDR2.
It can be difficult to find objective information about a new game, aside from straight-up gameplay, that doesn’t have a bias surrounding it. I understand that there are passionate fans of the Red Dead series. I can remember when I was younger Red Dead Revolver was my favorite game on the PS2 for a stretch of time. However, when Red Dead Redemption 1 came out, I found it less appealing.
The protagonist didn’t feel relatable or interesting, horse-riding felt cumbersome and slow, navigating through various game menus was confusing, and the world just felt really empty most of the time. I found every time I tried to play RDR1, I would quickly feel fatigued by how much investment it demanded from me, and eventually moved on to another game.
Based on the trailers and gameplay for RDR2, along with the joy and excitement I felt from people in YouTube comments and on Twitter, I quickly found myself swept up in the hype. I convinced myself that this game would be different from the first. After all, it had been eight years since the first game’s release.
Since then, so much had changed for Rockstar, for open-world games, hell, for video games in general. Every time I would see footage of RDR2, I was in awe over how beautiful the game looked. I was interested in learning more about the game’s new systems and how diverse the activities were and it got me really excited to play it. I truly believed everything I found wrong with the first game would be streamlined in order to attract new players to the series, similar to what Capcom achieved with Monster Hunter: World. And boy was I wrong.
A Western in Sheep’s Clothing
Now, before you decide to send me hate comments or threaten to rob my family’s saloon, let me say this: it’s okay if you like the game. I’m not here to attack anyone for what game’s they enjoy playing. Games like RDR2 are meant to be divisive. It was created with a specific vision in mind from Rockstar. That vision is very distinct and as a result, will resonate strongly with some people and be rejected by others.
I’m not even going as far as saying I think RDR2 is bad. There are parts of it I think are great such as its shooting mechanics, the carefully-crafted open-world, the small details in how you interact with NPCs. These are aspects I think should be championed because they are what make RDR2 stand out as more than just another open-world game. However, that’s where the journey ends for me, as several of the game’s other components left me unsatisfied.
From the sluggish way Arthur moves, the painfully-long looting and skinning animations, the still janky horse-riding and menu navigation, to the game’s constant bombardment of players with systems that need to be managed in order to make small, barely recognizable progression. While watching my friend stream this game at launch and seeing how frustrated many of RDR2’s elements made him, I quickly realized one thing: I didn’t want to play this game.
While I’ll admit that going against popular opinion isn’t out of the norm for me, after all, I was actively disinterested in The Last Of Us when it was released, which is still regarded as a must-play for many gamers. I mention that only because for many people RDR2 is in the same ballpark when it comes to prestige in the gaming community. However, I don’t think that my distaste for a game should seek to ruin it for anyone who enjoys it.
I do plan on picking up RDR2 at some point, probably during a sale, just to see firsthand what all the fuss is about since I’ll never truly be immune from “hype.” However, as it stands, I have little interest in a game as slow-paced and devoid of conventional fun as Red Dead Redemption 2.
I look to video games as an escape from reality, where things are much simpler and enjoyable. It’s hard enough to manage my own life, I don’t need to worry about some cowboy’s.