Parents need to know that “Red Dead Redemption 2” is an open world western adventure for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The game has lots of bloody gunfights, some very strong language, and mature narrative themes. Missions typically end in shootouts involving revolvers, rifles, shotguns, and other period weaponry. Slow motion effects highlight head shots and critical wounds, with sprays of blood hovering in the air. Scenes of carnage and torture, including hanged and eviscerated people, can be stumbled upon in your journeys. The player’s character, Arthur, is an antihero. He does terrible things, including murder and theft, but he feels a powerful sense of guilt over them. These deeds are counterbalanced, to a degree, by his clear and innate understanding of right and wrong. This often leads him to help random strangers, including coming to the defense of victims of racism and sexual assault, which helps Arthur become more honorable in the eyes of those he meets. The game strives to accurately depict its setting and era, which means plenty of drinking and drunken behavior, as well as characters that regularly use tobacco and chew cocaine gum. Strong language — including “f -- k,” “s --,” and the “N” word — frequently appears in dialogue. Characters discuss sex frankly, and prostitutes can be found in towns. One mission involves Arthur attempting to extract a prostitute her from her perilous profession. Parents should also know that this game will eventually feature an online component (set to launch at a later date) that will likely permit transactions involving real money paid for virtual goods.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Set in 1899, a little over a decade prior to the events of the original, “Red Dead Redemption 2,” puts players in the spurs of Arthur Morgan, one of the main members of the van der Linde gang, at a time when the existence of outlaw gangs in the west is speedily coming to an end. Arthur is the crew’s main muscle, a grizzled, conflicted man who bought into the gang leader’s philosophy of stealing only from those who can afford it, helping those in need, and searching for a place where they can be truly free. But as the law closes in on them, the posse becomes desperate, forced to resort to riskier and more ruthless jobs that leave Arthur wracked with guilt and seem likely to lead them all to tragedy. This epic story plays out over the course of a lengthy campaign that takes place on a massive map of several fictional U.S. states and functions as a detailed simulation of western life. Many side missions explore key issues of the era, including the plight of Native Americans deprived of their land, lingering racism in the south, and women marching for the right to vote. Expect to spend upwards of 80 hours working through the campaign and side missions, and more if you intend to play online (once the multiplayer mode is launched).
IS IT ANY GOOD?
If you’re looking for an enthralling interactive story, it doesn’t get much better than this. “Red Dead Redemption 2” feels like half a dozen seasons worth of the best sort of adult-oriented TV western you can think of rolled into one immensely ambitious game. The tale of Arthur Morgan and the van der Linde gang is gripping from its first moments. One of the things that this game gets right in a way few other open world adventures can match is the sense of purpose invested in everything players do. Each mission has its own context and dialogue and feels like a unique event, meaning repetition is essentially non-existent. Nothing exists simply to pad out the game; it all combines to create an astonishingly cinematic and memorable western yarn.
Lending a hand in creating an impeccable sense of time and place is incredible attention to detail that includes exquisitely recreated costumes, architecture, and objects from the era, random conversations about jobs and weather overheard from the people you pass on the street, and a gorgeously rendered landscape that conveys the ruggedness of the wilds and the sophistication of emerging cities. “Red Dead Redemption 2” captures the wild west in all its multifaceted and conflicted glory, and in doing so stands as one of the most captivating games yet made for older players.
RATING AND CONTENT
Recommended for ages 18 and older
Quality: 5 out of 5
Positive messages: 3 out of 5
Positive role models: 2 out of 5
Ease of play: 3 out of 5
Violence: 5 out of 5
Sex: 3 out of 5
Language: 5 out of 5
Drinking, drugs, and smoking: 5 out of 5
Consumerism: 3 out of 5
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Developer: Rockstar Games
Release date: October 26, 2018
ESRB rating: M for intense violence, use of drugs and alcohol, strong language, sexual content, blood and gore, nudity