Red Dead Redemption 2, set in the closing years of the Wild West. While the myths surrounding this time period have become exaggerated and romanticised via Hollywood and other mediums, it wasn't so long ago that all historical records of life in those times has been erased. Red Dead Redemption 2's story takes place through a lens of realism-meets-romanticism, with a side order of good gameplay over historical accuracy.

That said, there's a growing chorus across commentators that Red Dead Redemption 2's gameplay errs too close on the side of realism, to the point where you can even complete chores in your gang's campsite to make people view you more favourably. I've read lamentations that the gunplay is too slow or "clunky," and even that Red Dead Redemption 2 is too big, even.

Of course, everyone is entitled to their opinion, but big entertainment releases (the world's biggest, ever, reportedly) often come with a chorus of contrarianism that seem forced and overthought. In any case, I want to express my sincere gratitude to Rockstar for taking the time to build a game world that delivers something increasingly rare in games today, that of immersion.

Immersive games are OK

One of the biggest issues facing open world games today, for me, is diffusion. Like the heat death of the universe, open world games seem to be getting bigger and bigger, expanding exponentially, while actual good gameplay content, you know, the meat in the sandwich, simply gets spread thin. Red Dead Redemption 2 is one of the only games this generation that deliver an open world that feels truly alive, where side activities don't feel like busy work — they feel like they're part of your character's life. Other games have come close, but things like cartoony character writing hold them back from reaching the top spot. When side activities boil down to checking a tick box in a text-based menu, they feel like busy work, whereas in the case of Red Dead Redemption 2, they feel necessary and, therefore, rewarding.

Even something as mundane as ammo crafting feels like it's intrinsic to the narrative experience.

In Red Dead Redemption 2, resources are split into two meters. One regenerates over time, as normal, while another depletes more permanently. The "cores" need to be maintained with items, such as food, booze, and even cigarettes, in order for your character to perform properly. If your Dead Eye core is empty, your aiming sway will be increased, and the targeting reticle will remain dispersed for longer.

If your stamina core is low, you won't be able to sprint, and if your health core is low, you won't be able to regenerate.

There was a trend in games, for a time, where managing and maintaining your character fell by the wayside in favour of making everyone feel like super heroes. Take a bullet to the face? Just hide in a corner for five seconds, you'll be fine.

There's certainly a place for these sorts of experiences, don't get me wrong, but it seems the trend has swung back in the other direction in recent years for the sake of interactivity. Even Call of Duty now has active health replenishment, doubtless following the success of games like PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, where tense, mid-fight bandaging only adds to the experience. Red Dead Redemption 2 pushes interaction to the extremes, to the point where something as mundane as ammo crafting feels like it's intrinsic to the narrative experience, adding custom split points to your bullets to inflict added pain.

In other games with crafting systems, you don't actually, feel the crafting. The crafting takes place in some text-based menu, and the things you create are simply entries in a database. In Red Dead Redemption 2, they come with 3D models, animations, and intersect with other side activities like hunting and fishing, which are also represented by 3D objects with complex systems and behaviors behind them. Every aspect of the game has a purpose, and is complemented by their interactions with other systems within the game.

When you're studying animals with your binoculars, sometimes you might see deers interlocking antlers in a fight. Other times, you might see a pack of coyotes on the hunt. Examining them reveals information on how best to hunt them, to keep their hides in tact for the best selling price or for crafting purposes. Additionally, though, the game's main character, Arthur, might sketch them into his journal, which is an on-going hand-written record of the decisions and story you build up for yourself as you play. He'll also hand-sketch locations of animals onto your map, and cross off the noteworthy hunts once they've been completed.

For detractors, these features are exactly that, just features. Perhaps extraneous and unnecessary, getting in the way of "real gameplay," therein being shooting and being Clint Eastwood. Red Dead Redemption 2 just isn't that kind of game. These features interact deliberately, because they want to immerse you, they want you to lose yourself in this meticulously constructed world Rockstar has put together. They want you to think about how clean your weapons are, they want you to take care of your character's health, because they want you to care about the character. Ultimately, the story is more powerful as a result.

It's OK to not like this type of game, it's not OK to claim that it's bad design, because the truth is, you're just not into immersive games.

Rare Dead Redemption 2

There has been a wealth of controversy over how hard Rockstar has been pushing its staff, with reports of mandatory overtime, unsympathetic bosses, and other aggressive practices. "Crunch culture," as its known, appears to be rife in the AAA industry, apparently getting progressively worse for staff in-line with the quality of games. Clearly, there's a huge demand for games as detailed as Red Dead Redemption 2, but the human cost, the sheer amount of financial risk involved, may be too great for many publishers to stomach. And that's while ignoring whether or not they should even try, from a moral standpoint.

Ultimately, the dynamism found in Red Dead Redemption 2 is the culmination of an insane amount of work and skill that is clearly in huge demand, given the sales success of the game so far. But is it feasible to expect the industry to move in that direction now? I'd say it's unlikely. It's also probable that Red Dead Redemption 2 is in such high demand simply because of how rare it is to get a game on this level.

When my first horse was killed in Red Dead Redemption 2, I felt more moved by that than I have been for the elaborate plots of many recent "AAA" games. I fed that horse and groomed that horse, named that horse (Andromeda... ahem). The interactive features, that some dismiss, helped me bond with this virtual nag in a way that simply doesn't happen that often in games.

Immersion on this level rarely happens, and when it does, it's something that should be celebrated, because open world games crammed with instantaneous superhero gratification are a dime a dozen.

You can grab Red Dead Redemption 2 for $60 for Xbox One and PS4.

See at Amazon

This post may contain affiliate links. See our disclosure policy for more details.

Latest And Best Prime Day Deals

Be more productive with a year of Office 365 Home and a free $50 Amazon gift card
Office 365 Home 12-month subscription and $50 Amazon gift card
$99.99 $150.00 Save $50

The subscription works with up to six people, but that card can be all yours.

Amazon's Fire TV Cube is down to just $70 thanks to this Prime Day deal
Amazon Fire TV Cube
$69.99 $119.99 Save $50

Grab TCL's 32-inch 720p Roku TV for less than $100 in this Prime Day Lightning deal
TCL 32S325 32-inch 720p Roku TV
$99.99 $130.00 Save $30

Act fast while you can. These Lightning deals tend to sell out quick.

The Ring Alarm security system is reaching new low prices for Prime Day
Ring Alarm home security systems

Various configurations of the Ring Alarm are discounted to their best prices yet exclusively for Prime members at Amazon through Tuesday night to help keep your home secure.

The Sonos Beam Prime Day deal includes a $40 discount and 2 $50 Amazon gift cards
The Sonos Beam Prime Day deal includes a $40 discount and $100 in Amazon gift cards
$359.00 $499.00 Save $140

That's just so much savings in one deal. You'll have to wait for the physical gift cards, but that's basically $100 to spend however you want.

Prime Day dropped this PlayStation 4 console bundle to just $250
PlayStation 4 Slim 1TB console with Marvel's Spider-Man and Horizon Zero Dawn
$249.99 $359.98 Save $110

This deal on the PlayStation 4 Slim console saves you $50 off its regular price while also including Marvel's Spider-Man and Horizon Zero Dawn Complete Edition for free. You'll just need an Amazon Prime membership to snag it.

The newest device in the Echo family, the Show 5, is now down to just $50
Echo Show 5
$49.99 $89.99 Save $40

It's only been on the market since May, but it hasn't escaped the Prime Day price cuts.

Amp up your home security with these huge Prime Day discount on nearly all Ring products
Save on Ring products today only

Whether you need a video doorbell, whole home alarm system, or some lights to brighten a dark area, Amazon has it all marked down today!

More Prime Day Deals