Bell from the administration. Why we get an invoice from Simon for 18 bottles of whiskey, four packs of chewing tobacco, two pee bottles and a pair of cowboy boots. It was immediately clear who had run off with that copy of Red Dead Redemption 2 …

Red Dead Redemption 2 has become that absolute next-level game that you still had bad dreams about in your wildest dreams. Undisputed GOTY, which with two shooting irons and a sawed-off shotgun blasts shame on the jaws of the competition and apparently also has enough black magic to turn your PlayStation 4 and Xbox One into a PlayStation 5 and Xbox Two. All true. But Red Dead Redemption is also a game that is certainly not intended for everyone.

Look at the balls twice

It seems strange to start with a statement that you actually want to end with. But from the first hour of playing, that thought has been in my head. Dozens of hours, 324 shaves, 38 train robberies, and just two turns of the camera to study my horse’s balls further, and the thought is still there. The most important thing I can say in this review is that this is not a game for everyone. Because the rest of my rattle (except for a handful of flaws) is the pure, unadulterated, deafening trumpet we’ve all hoped for.

About that handful: a less consistent theme than the original is among them, for example, as well as a slightly weaker main character (despite the fact that I still thought Arthur Morgan was a thousand times more brutal than I had expected). Sometimes the lighting is weird or I wish my interface was a bit smoother. The many game systems, how they are intertwined and the impact they (not all) have, also belong in this list. Perfection is just too big a word for this game. Although I can easily drop that word when we have to talk about how everything looks on your screen.


That way I can write two books about how beautiful this game is. But I can also keep it short and just say: by far the most beautiful game ever. And by distance I mean roughly from Den Bosch South to Southern California.

I can tell a hundred stories, like when I galloped along the track in the middle of the night, the light of the full moon on my neck, my face just a shadow under the brim of my hat. About the train rumbling next to me, about the travelers who at that moment still have no idea of ​​the horrible and merciless carnage they find themselves in minutes later. About only doing it for the kick, a few cans of beans and a fistful of dollars. But there is also the danger. If you let me go to tell about the stories I have experienced in this game, I will not be short of pages but PUs.

So I leave my stories for what they are. And also the story that Rockstar tells himself – about Dutch van der Linde and the loss of his children, of his gang – I like to leave to the developer himself. Not only are they much better at that, it is also allowed you all to experience for yourself what happened in those illustrious years prior to the original Red Dead Redemption.

What I do want to tell you is the story of a game that is a world instead of a game. And how daring, counterintuitive design choices bring one of the toughest games ever to life. The result is something that couldn’t be further removed from ‘that other showpiece’: this is no GTA with a cowboy skin. It doesn’t even come close.

Sorry, Benja

Much more than brutal action, fast set pieces and over the top pistol violence, this is a slow pull that doesn’t feel like a game, but like living in a virtual world. Every other studio would have chosen to put decent fast-travel in it. But not Rockstar. This developer wants you to cover all those kilometers, to spend more time driving towards an objective than actually having to do something there. It consciously chooses that every time you fell prey, you have to watch Arthur cut the skin loose, that healing yourself is not a push of a button, but actually taking a bottle that you drink.

It wants your horribly expensive horse to break its leg after which you have to shoot it permanently because you did not know there was such a thing as a ‘revive horse potion’ (Rest In Peace faithful Benja, it was 2045 fantastic kilometers, sorry yet). Rockstar doesn’t want you to sit and cuddle and play a game in this world. It wants you to live in a virtual landscape that I feel (I did not calculate it) is actually bigger than the real North America. And you as a player should just want to.

Beautiful, poetic slowness

I’m the first to admit that I’ve sometimes had my reservations when the game didn’t let me do ‘something easy’. Couldn’t this have been more convenient? Are all these systems necessary? Why am I brushing my horse? Why do I walk so slowly every time I get to my camp? But it works. All these ‘limitations’, based on realism, add a weight and relevance that is lacking in all other games released today. If you want every step to count, you have to let the player take every step. No shortcuts, no easy entertainment.

Red Dead Redemption 2 makes short work of games that boast of ‘choices and consequences’. Get lost. Start another script because I chose a different dialog for a chapter? That is not a real consequence. A real consequence is stupidly forgetting your revive horse potion, so you have to shoot Benja. I can feel that. All the more so because I can’t reload a save, or fast-travel to the stables for a new horse with the push of a button. I feel it because I have to walk that whole end back to civilization, with my saddle in my hand and a lot of grief under my belt.

It was one of the most frustrating things I’ve ever had to do in a game, but it was real and unforgettable and only possible because everything I did took so much investment that everything I got became worth something. I’d trade in all of the Call of Duty’s and Assassin’s Creed’s in the world for it. And I get it. That is not for everyone. But you couldn’t have made me happier.



97 Anyone who dares to invest in this game will get by far the largest pay day of the past year. Rockstar deserves the utmost respect for taking so many risks that they had no right to turn out as well as they ultimately do. Again, Rockstar Games is not kicking the bar up, but in 1000 pieces. Anyone who dares to invest in this game will get by far the largest pay day of the past year. Rockstar deserves the utmost respect for taking so many risks that they had no right to turn out as well as they ultimately do. Again, Rockstar Games is not kicking the bar up, but in 1000 pieces.