Red Dead Redemption 2 is a 2018 action-adventure game developed and published by Rockstar Games. The game is the third entry in the Red Dead series and is a prequel to the 2010 game Red Dead Redemption. The story is set in 1899 in a fictionalized representation of the Western, Midwestern, and Southern United States and follows outlaw Arthur Morgan, a member of the Van der Linde gang. Arthur must deal with the decline of the Wild West whilst attempting to survive against government forces, rival gangs, and other adversaries. The story also follows fellow gang member John Marston, the protagonist of Red Dead Redemption.
The game is presented through both first and third-person perspectives, and the player may freely roam in its interactive open world. Gameplay elements include shootouts, heists, hunting, horseback riding, interacting with non-player characters, and maintaining the character’s honor rating through moral choices and deeds. A bounty system similar to the “wanted” system from the Grand Theft Auto franchise governs the response of law enforcement and bounty hunters to crimes committed by the player.
The game’s development lasted over eight years, beginning soon after Red Dead Redemption’s release, and it became one of the most expensive video games ever made. Rockstar co-opted all of its studios into one large team to facilitate development. They drew influence from real locations as opposed to film or art, focused on creating an accurate reflection of the time with the game’s characters and world. The game was Rockstar’s first built specifically for eighth generation consoles, having tested their technical capabilities while porting Grand Theft Auto V to the platforms. The game’s soundtrack features an original score composed by Woody Jackson and several vocal tracks produced by Daniel Lanois.
Red Dead Redemption 2 was released for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in October 2018, and for Microsoft Windows and Stadia in November 2019. Red Dead Online, the online multiplayer mode of the game, was released as a beta version in November 2018 before a full release in May 2019. Widely anticipated and marketed before release, Red Dead Redemption 2 broke several records and had the second-biggest launch in the history of entertainment, generating US$725 million in sales from its opening weekend and exceeding the lifetime sales of Red Dead Redemption in two weeks. It received critical acclaim, with praise directed at its story, characters, open world, graphics, music, and level of detail; minor criticism was directed at its control scheme and emphasis on realism over player freedom. Considered as an example of video games as an art form, it won year-end accolades including Game of the Year awards from several gaming publications. It is among the best-selling video games with over 37 million copies shipped.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is a Western-themed action-adventure game. Played from a first or third-person perspective, the game is set in an open-world environment featuring a fictionalized version of the Western, Midwestern, and Southern United States in 1899, during the latter half of the Wild West era and the turn of the twentieth century. The game features both single-player and online multiplayer components, the latter released under Red Dead Online. For most of the game, the player controls outlaw Arthur Morgan, a member of the Van der Linde gang, as he completes numerous missions—linear scenarios with set objectives—to progress through the story; from the game’s epilogue, the player controls John Marston, the playable protagonist of the game’s predecessor, Red Dead Redemption. Outside of missions, the player may freely roam the game’s interactive world. The player may engage in combat with enemies using melee attacks, firearms, throwables, or explosives. Combat has been refined from the game’s predecessor, and notable new mechanics consist of dual-wielding and the ability to use a bow. The player is granted the ability to swim as Arthur, but not as John—a reference to the previous game, where swimming led to instant death.
Red Dead Redemption 2’s unexploited land makes up the largest portion of the game world and features diverse landscapes with occasional travelers, bandits, and wildlife. There are urban settlements in the game, ranging from farmhouses to towns and cities. Horses are the main forms of transportation, of which there are various breeds, each with different attributes. The player can steal horses, and must either train or tame a wild horse to use it; to own a horse, the player must saddle or stable it. Increased use of a horse will begin a bonding process, which can be increased by cleaning and feeding it, and the player will acquire advantages as they ride their horse. Stagecoaches and trains can also be used to travel. The player can hijack an incoming train or stagecoach by threatening the driver or passengers and then rob its contents or the passengers.
The player may also witness or take part in random events encountered from exploring the game world. These include ambushes, crimes committed by other people, pleas for assistance, ride-by shootings, public executions, and animal attacks. For example, as the player explores the Wild West, they can find specific people in distress. If the player decides to help them, they will be thankful and may reward the player if they cross them again. The player may also take part in side-activities, which include small tasks with companions and strangers, dueling, bounty hunting, searching for treasure or other collectibles around the map such as rock carvings, and playing poker, blackjack, dominoes, and Five Finger Filet. Hunting animals also plays a major role in the game, providing food, income, and materials for crafting items. When hunting, the player needs to take into account several factors, including the choice of weapon and shot placement, which affect the quality of the meat and pelt and subsequently the price traders are willing to pay. The player can either skin the animal immediately or carry the carcass, which will rot over time and decrease its value and attract predators.
The game focuses heavily on player choice for the story and missions. Certain moments in the story will give the player the option to accept or decline additional missions and lightly shape the plot around their choices. The player can communicate with any non-player character (NPC) in dynamic ways new to the series. The player can choose different dialogue trees with NPCs, such as having a friendly chat or insulting them. If the player chooses to kill an NPC, they can loot their corpse. Red Dead Redemption 2 brings back the Honor system from its predecessor by measuring how the player’s actions are perceived in terms of morality. Morally positive choices and deeds like helping strangers, abiding the law, and sparing opponents in a duel will add up to the player’s Honor. However, negative deeds such as theft and harming innocents will subtract from the player’s Honor. The story is influenced by Honor, as the dialogue and outcomes for the player often differ based on their Honor level. Hitting milestones for the player’s Honor level will grant unique benefits, such as rewarding the player with special outfits and large discounts in stores. A low Honor level is also beneficial, as the player will receive a greater number of items from looted corpses.
Maintaining Arthur and John is important, as they can undergo conditions that affect their health and stamina attributes. In addition to a health and stamina bar, the player also has cores, which affect the rate at which their health and stamina regenerate. For example, wearing warmer clothes will mean they avoid freezing in a cold environment, but wearing them in a hot environment will result in perspiration. Freezing or overheating will rapidly drain cores. The player can also gain or lose weight depending on how much he eats; an underweight character will have less health but at an increase of stamina, while an overweight character will be able to better absorb damage but will have less stamina. The player can eat and sleep to replenish their cores. The player can bathe to remain clean, and can visit a barber to change hairstyles; hair also grows realistically over time. The game features weapon degradation, with weapons requiring cleaning to maintain their performance. When the player uses a certain type of gun for a long period of time, they become more experienced with it, which improves weapon handling, reduces recoil, and increases the rate of reloading.
Gunfights are an essential mechanic in the game. The player can take cover, free aim, and target a person or animal. Individual body parts can also be targeted to take targets down without killing them. When the player shoots an enemy, the game’s AI reactions and movements depend on where they were hit. Weapons consist of pistols, revolvers, repeaters, rifles, shotguns, bows, explosives, lassos, mounted Gatling guns, and melee weapons such as knives and tomahawks. Red Dead Redemption 2 brings back the trademark mechanic in the franchise: Dead Eye, a targeting system that allows the player to slow down time and mark targets. Once the targeting sequence ends, the player fires to every marked location in a very short space of time. The Dead Eye system upgrades as the player progresses in the game and grants the player more abilities, such as being able to spot the fatal points of their enemies.
The bounty system also returns from Red Dead Redemption, a crime-governing mechanic inspired by Grand Theft Auto’s wanted system. When a player commits a crime, witnesses run to the nearest police station to get the law to intervene, and the player needs to stop the witness to avoid repercussions. Once the law is alerted, law enforcers appear and will start investigating. When the player is caught, the Wanted meter appears with a bounty sent on their head. The bounty grows higher as the player commits more crimes, and more lawmen will be sent to hunt them. If the player has committed serious crimes and then manages to escape the law, bounty hunters will be hired to track them down in the wilderness. After committing enough crime, the U.S. Marshals will be sent to the player’s location. To escape law enforcement, the player must evade a red circular zone in the map and the wanted meter will slowly deplete. They can alternatively hide from the pursuers or kill them. Whether the player escapes or gets captured, the bounty will remain on their head, lawmen and civilians will be more vigilant, and regions where the crimes have been committed will be on lockdown. When caught by lawmen, the player has the opportunity to surrender if they are unarmed and on foot, though bounty hunters will not accept surrender if the player is known to slip out of apprehension attempts. The player can only remove their bounty by paying it off at a post office.