We’re inching ever closer to the podcast review of Red Dead Redemption 2. Which, in my opinion is a fantastic game. But in the lead up to that discussion, I wanted to weigh a bit of the pro’s and con’s of Red Dead 2’s online multiplayer. It contains some cool moments, but mostly those moments are overshadowed by boring missions and, a lot of jank.
Let’s start off with the pro’s. First, once you get a group of friends together and get them past the initial training missions, there is a bit of fun to be had. The funny thing is, for me, this breaks down to maybe some of the stupidest moments. Rockstar built this massive, teeming world, filled with animals and people to meet and interact with. But when it came down to just me and my friends online, riding horses in a posse and then pointing our guns in air and yelling “Yee-haw!”, it’s dumb to say that is all I needed. Mix in the ability to randomly get hog-tied or dragged down a dirt road by another online player and ultimately, the game feels like random chaos. And there in lies the problem with Red Dead Online: it suffers all of the mistakes of it’s predecessor, Grand Theft Auto Online.
Now, while I will break into the con’s here shortly, I do fully understand that these games, particularly online games, take time to build. I’m also aware that while Rockstar built GTA Online into the massive product it is today, you can’t infer that everything they built with one game would somehow make the next easier to build. Coming from a bit of a background in game design myself, just because you have one great version of something doesn’t mean you can retrofit it completely to an entirely new game. So just know that like GTA Online, a lot of this stuff will get ironed out.
But even with that being the case, I still have to wonder why it is that Rockstar couldn’t get this online world right, at least for now. To give an example, when I was recently playing with Eric and Kevin, we stopped by San Denis to pick up a mission. Of course, because this area is populated by most of the other players in the world, utter insanity is around every corner. I went to the nearest mission marker and proceeded to speak to the mission giver, who was in a stagecoach building. The speech ended, no mission was started, and then a player from outside the building shot me in the head. This is what I would call, a typical player interaction.
In more than a few instances, I’ve run into a broken mission giver. Items are very expensive, and the missions you’ll play feel redundant. Other players constantly want to kill you, and you’ll die a lot. Rockstar even gave out 15 gold bars after players complained of items being too expensive. I still think they’re too expensive. Also how do I get more gold? I must have missed something.
I’ve actually had a better time just messing around with friends in this world and avoiding the missions. Recently, Eric and I booted the game up, and before the game ultimately kicked Eric, we ran around hunting alligators in a swamp. The real fun I have in this game is when we are making it up as we go. I swear we talked about robbing a train in our first game, but I have yet to even see one pass by. It just feels like Rockstar built this hyper detailed world and then wrote a quick introduction story in a week for the online side of things.
It’s also weird for me to say this but in this multiplayer game, the game tends to function better for me when I’m by myself. It seems like every time I try to start a mission while grouped up that the game refuses to work. Either way, the example below is me actually getting it working. It’s a simple stage-coach robbery, right?
Even still, there are likely big things to come and maybe, Rockstar will release some Undead Nightmare content come October next year. I mean, that would make perfect sense right? I do have to remind myself that heists were not available in GTA Online right away and that game suffered many of the same problems as Red Dead Online does now. But in the age of video game companies making billions from online micro-transactions and only needing to release a new game every eight years, I think they should hammer these things out a bit more before release.
What I’m getting at is that I’m rather tired of developers testing out their “finished products” on consumers when they clearly aren’t. The single player game in Red Dead 2 is to me, a masterpiece of storytelling. It has it’s flaws but those pale in comparison to the issues plaguing Red Dead Online. So ultimately, I have to tell folks to avoid the online side of things for right now. Play the single player game, buy the game just for that and that alone and you won’t be disappointed. But when it comes to Red Dead Online, we’re need to put this one back in the oven for a little bit, I don’t think it’s ready.