Rockstar Studios became a household name after developing and publishing the Grand Theft Auto (GTA) series – the latest installment of which, Grand Theft Auto V, has shipped over 90 million copies worldwide. Rockstar’s passion to develop open world environment games with precise attention-to-detail has been instrumental in the development of another franchise – the Red Dead. Unlike the more commercially successful GTA series, Red Dead has received overwhelmingly positive reviews. The second installment of the franchise – Red Dead Redemption – was met with high critical acclaim and won several “Game of the Year” awards upon its release in 2010. Eight years later, Rockstar has now released the next game in the series.
Red Dead Redemption 2 (RDR2), like all the previous games in the series, is a Western Themed action-adventure video game set in an open world environment. The game follows the adventure of an outlaw gunslinger called Arthur Morgan, a member of the Van der Linde gang, in the year 1899. He and several of his gang members are forced to flee the fictional town of Blackwater after an attempted robbery goes wrong. The gameplay involves stealing and robbing in an attempt to survive, all the while evading the authorities and bounty hunters, across the vast American wild landscape. The protagonist and antagonist from the previous game, John Marston and Dutch Van der Linde, respectively, are among the characters returning to reprise their role.
One of the salient features of the previous game was the use of the Honor system, which R2D2 will also continue to use. Honor system works on the premise that a player, playing as Arthur, must build up his reputation by appropriately interacting with non-playable characters (NPCs). The player has the option of responding positively or aggressively – a choice that will build Arthur’s reputation and affect how settlements, towns, and other groups react towards him. Honor system will also play a critical role in determining the outcome of the game, as Arthur frequently has to make a choice to abide by his principles and loyalty as internal conflicts threaten to tear his gang apart.
The anticipation for RDR2 was, however, marred by controversy surrounding crunch. A video game crunch occurs when developers work significantly more than 40 hours a week to complete a project on time. When asked about the creation of RDR2, Rockstar Games co-founder Dan Houser was quoted as saying: “We were working 100-hour weeks”. The quote backfired as anti-crunch organizations rallied up to investigate into the matter. According to one such organization, Take This, crunch negatively affects productivity, brain functions and mental health of employees and their families, increasing burnout and turnover.
Nonetheless, the game has been universally acclaimed by critics, who praised the storyline, the open world setting, and the impressive level of detail. It releases on 26th October, 2018 for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, along with a companion app available for Android and iOS that connects to a user’s game and updates in real-time. The app features the map which allows a player to pan around and set waypoints to visit later in the game, along with keeping track of the character’s info and stats. RDR2 has been dubbed as one of the best video games of all time, and has brought proverbial redemption for Rockstar amidst the crunch related controversy.