Perfection and imperfection
RDR2 is collection of great elements and few major parts that bring the whole thing down to a level where it should not be. Polish of the game is heavily directed towards the visual aspects of the game, while everything related to game play feels like rusted relics of the past. There are just too many weird decision about the game play that I cant list them all.
There is much more to be said about the controls and most of it is not good. Like for example fist fighting might as well be canned animations because so little it seems to matter what you do with the controller. Everything is animation prioritized and feels clunky. Biggest culprits here are looting and horse hitching animations. I think when I had finished the games 2nd and final epilogue, I had spent at least 30 minutes of the game time just spinning the horse in order for the hitching animation to start.
Unpolished game play really starts to hurt the immersion and ambiance of the game in the long run. This is not helped by the fact that later missions become what seems to be endless waves of dudes that you have to shoot in the face. So your are left with no choice but use clunky aiming mechanics, combined with heavy aim bloom, to shoot bad guys by the wagon load. I think Rockstar purposely left GTA style statistics from this game because accounted few thousand kills do not fit the redemption arc of the story that well.
However side activities seem to be much better fit for the game play than shooting that you do in most of the story missions. Fishing and hunting are two biggest highlights as both are enjoyable game play wise and fit the whole western thing very well. Other things like poker, black jack and dominoes are fine but suffer from slowness as everything has to be animated to the tiniest detail.
Main mission start to feel really repetitive in the end. Ride-follow-shoot-maybe ride. There is no kind of freedom how you approach these mission, except in few cases, but at these points I didn’t even consider that as option and just did what previous missions had thought me. This formulaic repetition also creeps in to the “random” stranger missions that lose that dynamic feel as the game goes on.
The story offers a great ride up to the point and has a good, poignant end in it’s sight. However it misses that and goes for drawn out 2 part epilogue that just lacks everything good that that the main story has. Also the game really hammers the ending home from early on and with a heavy hand.
[Spoilers:] For players it is pretty clear from early on that your main character Arthur will die. Players that know anything about RDR1 also will guess correctly that at some point of the game you take control of some other character. Since John Marston is in the game and the flip side of the map that comes with the game has the territory of RDR1, it is not hard to figure out who that someone is. Choosing Marston feels like an uninspired choice. First of all, everybody saw that coming and second, he was just not as interesting character as Arthur, Sadie or Charles.
If Rockstar had the guts to just give the main story a proper ending and leave it at that, I feel like whole story would have been way more impactful.
So, it seem like there is a lot of bad things to say about RDR2 and that is the truth. However it does lot right and in such a perfect way that it is hard to describe. So, if masterful western ambiance is your thing, RDR2 offers you a gigantic load of it - maybe even too much. If proper game play is your thing, you might feel this to be somewhat over rated game.