If you offer Dennis to play Red Dead Redemption 2 all day long, the Wonderspons will of course not turn it down. Armed with a Colt .45, a Stetson hat and a bottle of whiskey (none of which), he nervously galloped towards Amsterdam. After playing for an hour before, the question naturally arises: is that game still so awesome for quite a few hours?


Start the game

It sounds very trivial, but starting a new game is always one thing, especially if you’ve been waiting eight years for the sequel to one of the most epic western games ever. And because Rockstar (not exactly a small developer) also states that RDR2 is their biggest and most ambitious title ever, you can safely say that I had goosebumps when I was told “here you have the controller, have fun”. In a previous version I was allowed to go off for an hour and I got a mountain of information poured over me that you say to, but now I can do everything at my own pace. And yes, I play RDR2 all the way from scratch, just like you will be doing later.

That goosebumps don’t go away when the RDR2 logo appears and the atmospheric music starts. I immediately got the feeling that I had ended up in a western film by directors like Sergio Leone or Clint Eastwood. In a beautiful, cinematic intro, the situation of Arthur Morgan and the Van der Linde gang is explained. In 1899 they flee into the Grizzly Mountains after a failed raid in the town of Blackwater (known from part one). It is very cold and they have to get off that mountain as soon as possible. That’s where the first chapter, Colter, begins for me. So I have to provide food so that the men are strong enough to raid a train, and get enough money to get down that cursed mountain.

Freek Vonk

One of the first things you notice in Red Dead Redemption 2 is the insanely beautiful nature. Not only does everything look almost absurdly realistic, but everything is really alive. Animals attack each other, eat each other. Scavengers soar above carcasses and if you have an eye for such details, you can sometimes see an eagle diving to the ground to catch a snake or rabbit. Never before has an ecosystem on this scale been put into a game. And I notice that I am constantly distracted to hang out with my binoculars the Freek Vonk of the Wild West. That is also a way to learn a lot from your environment, because everything I observe (and therefore learn from) is useful for later.

Rockstar has previously stated that there are over 200 animals in the game and that you can hunt them if you wish. One of the first things you have to do (this time) in the game is to arrange food for the group. So I go out with a buddy to shoot a few deer, where you immediately get the basics of hunting explained. I had already popped a few birds with Dead Eye out of the sky in a play session, but apparently this can be more subtle (and much cooler).

Armed with a bow (those guns make way too much noise) I sneak through the woods with that guy and get explained that you can follow the tracks of the walking game, but that’s damn spicy. But thanks to a special feature, you’ll temporarily see some kind of glowing scent trail from the beasts instead, so you can sneak up on them. And speaking of smells: you don’t have to stink for an hour in the wind for those animals to realize that you are coming. In fact, the game teaches you to have the wind against you so they don’t spot you. And that those animal noses are good is also shown by the fact that if you leave skinned game in the sun for too long, it will rot and you will get predators after you.

Anyway, Bambi has to die, but that doesn’t work in one go. The poor little creature groans and tries to get up. By turning its neck I put the animal out of its misery and I bring it back to the camp, where the cook Pearson makes a stew of it (very handy if the camp is moving, because you can bring food once a day) . Later in the game you can also take the shot animals to a butcher, and you will get kills for it.

By the way, I was asked in advance by people if that doesn’t feel like grinding, but that is not the case for me at all. Hunting is also a choice, by the way: if you don’t like it, you just can’t. If you do want money, you might as well rob anything that is loose and stuck. Shops, carriages, benches, and random unhappy passers-by. But then you will get the police after your .

Brutal murder after great loss

All sorts of things have been said about the horses and I cannot emphasize enough how great it is that you really bond with that beast. And now again: that is not necessary, but in that case your horse just listens worse and if the beast is startled (each of the nineteen horse species has its own things that they do not pull), that tuber will knock you off its back.

That’s what Mr. So not Ed (yup, that’s what I called him), because we’re big butt. With pats and reassuring words, and the occasional brush over his thunder, we quickly become best friends. Those pats (just press your left stick every now and then) will ensure that you uplevel your bond with the horse. Rockstar took this well from Nintendo, which had a similar mechnic in Breath of the Wild to strengthen your bond with your tuber. By the way, you can also have the cleaning that I just talked about done by a stable.

Best friends for life, and that after only a few hours, until I fall off a cliff with my stupid resines with tuber and all (bye Mr. Ed, you are still being missed). And I had completely pimped the animal: nice saddle, nice straps, nice color mane and tail, fat saddle bag… completely groomed as I wanted. And then it is suddenly dead. And it will never come back.

But worse (sorry Ed): I immediately find out that when your horse dies, you have to carry your saddle bag yourself. And someone (who is in the damn middle of nowhere) doesn’t feel like it. Great idea to rob someone and steal his horse and after a five minute walk I come across a farm where a great four-legged friend is waiting for a new owner. To do this, I first beat up the original owner and strangle him, which makes stealing his horse a bit easier. Silly thing is that I get caught red-handed and therefore have the law after my for quite some time, and still have my saddlebag lying around somewhere (to be found on your map). Nice . But thank God you can have your saddlebag picked up for a few knots when you come across a stable.

In other words, you can solve your problems in your own way in Red Dead Redemption 2. I could have bought a new horse or stole a tuber without violence. In the game it is even possible to catch and tame a wild horse yourself (seems to be quite spicy by the way). The game lets you do the biggest things but (if you want) also many small things and especially the latter was also very impressive.

Many encounters

It is no longer a secret that Red Dead Redemption 2 is great. So as far as the main story is concerned, it will take you really long anyway (Rockstar doesn’t tell you how long). But besides that there also appear to be numerous side missions (see previous preview), and many chance encounters. The latter in particular can give you advantages later in the game. After a while I hear a woman calling. She turns out to be lying under her fallen and dead horse and cannot get the beast off her. I give her a hand and also offer to take her back to Valentine, which is nearby. There she thanks me and indicates that she will tell everyone that I helped. And even with a big bounty on my head of $ 30 for the strangulation, I’m pretty much left alone there.

Also, in the beginning of the game (as part of the story) I get into a stick with the O’Driscolls gang. That in itself is not so surprising, but the cool thing is that you can see in your Conpendium (a kind of logbook) exactly how many of that gang I have killed and how many gangs the game contains in total. So you can make it a sport to kill everything and everyone and eliminate all competition. Unfortunately, that’s not going to be in my six hours. But it should be clear that there are countless encounters with as many different people who want to send you out or need help. You can try to get through the game, but I suspect a lot of you, like me, are going to have a lot of conversations or help people.

Great steering

Maybe you also read my previous preview in which I just admitted that I couldn’t handle the controls very smoothly. For example, I shot the butcher for his fag and I started a stealth training mission with a shot gun blast. Handy, not, but I also had to learn everything in one go in a short time and there were two equally enthusiastic Rockstar gentlemen on either side of me who bombarded me with information.

We keep that failure hare on multitask stress, because this time I had plenty of time to get used to everything. One of the first things I tried was switching between third and first person. You can easily switch by pressing the touchpad. I myself chose a third person view. There are two of them, one quite close to Arthur, and one a bit further away from him. Especially with the horse riding and the shootouts, I quickly preferred the latter.

And those shootouts are fantastic. You can set how much auto lock you want, so if you want to test your skills, you can turn that off completely. Still, some assistance is nice if you want to shoot from the hip. In addition, you only have to bang on the right trigger to fire a quick burst. But the best way to kill a group of opponents is and remains Dead Eye, which also contained Red Dead Revolver and Red Dead Redemption. You fill a meter and press R3 when it is full, after which you lock your opponents and Arthur kills them all very quickly. I found myself even blowing on my controller once, like a cowboy on his smoking barrel.

Getting to your inventory is also a breeze. You press L1 to do this, after which you will see a wheel with your weapons and you can switch to a wheel with your other items, which you choose with the right stick. Release L1 and you have the object in use. It all follows very logically and intuitively and it is also great that you can choose from more weapons and items when you stand with your horse with saddle bag. This is just nice and realistic.

You also have a handy overview of your own health and that of your horse in the form of cores. They consist of a ring that indicates your stamina and a heart in the center for your general health. You can replenish Arthur’s heart through, among other things, food, drinks and potions. And the horse must also be fed, but must also be brushed clean if he or she is dirty. That affects his or her stamina. I was happy to do that myself (they are also great moments of rest if you have already driven a lot and want to take a break), but you can also have this done in stables that cross your path.

And as for that long drive: the game is big, so I drive a lot. Purely because I think it’s cool to watch. It’s just a matter of throwing in the Cinema View, as it is in GTA V and enjoying the ride. After that, you don’t have to do anything else. Riding is a breeze and a matter of pressing X to trot and pressing X several times to gallop (basically the same goes for Arthur in terms of running). Before I had the game session, people I spoke to were afraid that it would become a horse riding simulator. In my case it was a bit like that, but purely because I wanted to discover areas where I actually had nothing to look for yet. In other words, I didn’t play the game well.

Sightseeing

Since I get to play two chapters of the game, I use my time carefully. Of course I don’t want to rush through the small part of the story right away. That’s why I decide to explore as much of the map as possible (and probably hardly seen even after six hours). Since I’ve already seen Valentine in the first demo, I decide to travel to Saint-Denis, one of the bigger cities in Red Dead Redemption 2. Because it’s a long way on horseback (and I had already ridden quite a bit), So I take the train, which is actually a form of fast travel (which you will really enjoy, since the map is gigantic). Incidentally, I also get from Rockstar that there is another form of fast travel in the game, but that you unlock it later.

Nice with a steel steed towards the big city so to hang out as a tourist. And believe me when I say there is plenty to see. Upon arrival, the scale of everything turns out to be astonishing. Men work hard at the construction site at the train station and the streets are populated with diligent workers, beautiful ladies and police officers. Bars and shops light the street with their neon lights and to really explore the place well, I just take a tour with the working tram.

Saint-Denis appears to be at least as detailed as the rest of the game. The industrial city is a stark contrast to the elongated meadows of the Heartlands and is really bustling. It is even possible to, for example, go to a cinema and watch a picture show. I notice that that kind of detail goes very far in the game and I stay seated for more than five minutes to be told a story about the wind, a bear and his friends in the forest (I won’t tell anything!). I didn’t think a game would get me that way even with this kind of freak.

In the end I decide to go back to the camp, but this time on horseback. Turning on the Cinematic Cam automatically drives me back to Horseshoe Overlook. Plenty of time to enjoy the bizarre world around me again. And yes, the ride now takes a very long time, but do it to enjoy everything that passes me before I start playing the real adventure the right way in three weeks.

So Red Dead Redemption 2 may not be a rollercoaster ride, but that’s the charm. You can play it however you want; as a gunslinger who destroys everything, or an RPG enthusiast who mainly wants to invest time in the small things such as crafts, hunting and tweaking Arthur, your horse, weapons and tools.

So it’s hard to imagine people (myself included) going to be disappointed and not going to enjoy one of the biggest adventures of the year in three weeks.

Red Dead Redemption 2 hands-on Preview – Zin in whiskey!