Tag Archives: Rockstar Games

GTA V Again, And Again, And Again: What’s Happened To Rockstar Games?

I’ve been a fan of Rockstar Games since the beginning, since before the Rockstar name existed in fact. Back when a quartet of young Scottish game enthusiasts set up Acme Software, to be renamed DMA Design. From their first ever proper game, Menace in 1988, through some of the best games released on 16-bit computers with the likes of Lemmings. And then they made Grand Theft Auto in which would go on to redefine the gaming industry with the ground breaking Grand Theft Auto III from 2001, the game that was a figurative and literal game changer. Right up to today with their latest release, Red Dead Redemption II. Rockstar Games are responsible for some of the greatest games ever made in the last thirty odd years.

It’s been an amazing journey… but things seem very wrong at Rockstar Games from my perspective. Once, they were a powerhouse of game development and publishing, behind some of the finest titles ever to be released. But now? Now they have become lazy and complacent. Swapping that amazing legacy and reputation for money and more money. The next generation of consoles in on the horizon and this is the opportune time for studios to showcase what they have got planned for a whole new world of gaming. Sony recently revealed their latest monster, the PlayStation 5 and so to did several software houses show their wares, Including Rockstar Games. Bearing in mind that fans have been crying out for some new Rockstar titles for years now. Yes I know that RDR II is not exactly old, but it is coming up to it’s second birthday in a few months time. In those two years, Rockstar have revealed nothing. Other studios have been showing what games they have planned, some big name studios even managing to knock out multiple titles just a handful of years apart. So of course, Rockstar revealing their games for the the next generation of gaming was always going to be big news.

So what exactly did Rockstar Games reveal… the long awaited GTA VI, maybe the much fan-requested Bully II, perhaps the return of Max Payne, a sequel to L.A. Noire or possibly a return top the Manhunt series… or even an all new and exciting IPs? No, Rockstar reveled that they would be re-re-releasing GTA V on the PlayStation 5 and Xbox One Series X.

For those that want a count on this. GTA V was first released in September of 2013. That’s (almost) seven years ago now. The game was originally released on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. It sold and sold very well, so Rockstar re-released the title on the then/now current generation of consoles, the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, as well as a PC port… and it sold well again. Now, Rockstar are re-re-releasing GTA V yet again for the up and coming new generation of consoles. Seriously? That’s three generational releases of the same game in what will be over seven years by then. GTA V has sold in the region of 120 million copies and made around $6 billion along the way. Rockstar have made their money on this game already, and then some. Do they really need to keep milking this cash cow so damn much?

GTA V MILK

Seriously, what has happened to Rockstar Games? Let me just take a quick look at their most recent history in terms of games.

2008 – 2013

GTA IV.
Bully: Scholarship Edition.
Midnight Club: L.A.
GTA IV: The Lost and the Damned.
GTA: Chinatown Wars.
GTA IV: The Ballard of Gay Tony.
RDR.
RDR: Undead Nightmare.
L.A. Noire (published, not developed).
May Payne 3.
GTA V.

That’s an impressive list of games and really great DLCs. There’s not one bad game in that list, some better then others sure, but not an out and out terrible game at all. That’s a five year period of several top quality titles and DLCs, proving you can have both quality and quantity. Now, let’s look the the following seven years.

2013 – 2020

RDR II.

Okay, so I’ll also count the GTA V re-release too… the first one. But just look at the drop off in production. Yes I know games get bigger and more expensive to develop, but Rockstar are not one small studio. They are worldwide with multiple studios all over the globe. They now have more people working for them today then they did between 2008 – 2013 when they knocked out several high quality titles. So now, with a bigger staff and more money to spend, all they can do is release one game and re-re-release the same title again and again? What’s happened man?

Look, I’m not saying that I want yearly GTA titles, but how about more than one new game every septenary for starters? I’m going to bring up Ubisoft here, often cited as one of those kind of studios that just churns out the same game over and over but with a few slight changes. Let’s look at their Assassin’s Creed series for this example. This is one of their franchises that people say is tired and that Ubisoft just keep rehashing the same gameplay mechanics over and over (just like Rockstar and their games). Yeah, I can agree with that. But in 2017, they released Assassin’s Creed Origins to high critical praise. A game that was nominated for and won a few industry awards. A game that is very well liked among the gaming community as a whole. An epic sized game with a gargantuan open world map full of things to see and do. A game that changed the formula of the franchise. Then they followed that up with Assassin’s Creed Odyssey in 2018. Again, much like the previous game, a title that was very well received among gamers and critics alike. Another huge open world map with plenty to see and do. Oh, it’s also worth noting that Ubisoft also released plenty of single player DLC for these two games too, including giving away two remasters of older Assassin’s Creed games. Then of course, they also have Assassin’s Creed Valhalla coming out this year too, which is looking just as epic as the last couple of titles.

AC Origins

So that’s three AAA titles in the same franchise all released between 2017 – 2020. Three games with massive open world maps, with tonnes of gameplay, with single player DLC to add even more gameplay. Oh and that is just one franchise within the Ubisoft empire, they have more including The Settlers, Tom Clancy, Far Cry, The Crew, Watchdogs to name a few. All with new titles either already released over the last few years since Rockstar first released GTA V, or up and coming new titles over the next few years. Now just look at Rockstar Games again with their RDR II and re-re-release if GTA V. How have they gone from multiple quality games and great DLCs released between 2008 – 2013 (and even before then) to one game and the re-re-release of the same game (and no great DLCs) between 2013 – 2020?

If Ubisoft and other worldwide studios can make multiple well received games within their respective franchises, then why can’t Rockstar Games do this anymore, like they used to? I actually already know the answer to this. It’s the staggering success that is GTA: Online. They are making  so damn much money from microtransactions tied to GTA: Online that Rockstar just don’t really need to make games any more. They can sit back and just watch the money roll in without having to spend cash on expensive game production. They can re-re-release GTA V… again, because they know idiots will still go out and buy it… again.

Of course, the leaving of one of the best gaming programmers/producers, Leslie Benzies has been a massive blow to Rockstar… much more than they are willing to publicly admit. Then when Dan Houser left earlier this year, they lost another huge and equally important slice of what made Rockstar Games the studio the once were. Rockstar have a total of nine separate studios/divisions all over the world and thousands of employees. So with all that experience, all that talent, all that technology at their fingertips… they can only produce one game in seven years? They can’t have multiple studios working on more than one game at a time? One new game in seven years from a worldwide, multi studio developer/publisher is atrocious. And if you follow the pattern and drop of in production, you’ll not see a new Rockstar Games title in ten years, then it’ll be fifteen years and so on.

I honestly believe that Rockstar Games have sold out. They’ve sacrificed their staggering reputation for money.  They have become microtransaction whores, it’s not about making great games anymore, it’s abut making money and more money. And you know what, there’s got to be a point when they creative minds at Rockstar just get bored and leave, like Dan Houser?

Wasted

I loved Rockstar, yes, that does read ‘loved’. But now, it’s quite clear they are no longer the same company they used to be. I guess you could put the blame on their parent company, Take-Two. But then again, if the big-wigs at Rockstar Games were unhappy about the lack of creativity, the lack of output, the lack of games… then why have they stayed with Take-Two for so long? For me, Rockstar have proven that they are dead. Not financially, not even close. They got plenty of money in the bank from all the idiots buying Shark Cards for GTA: Online. But creatively? They’re long gone. All the GTA VI rumors, I just couldn’t give a fuck now. GTA VI should’ve come out four years ago, we should be on RDR III (and RDR II six years ago) by now, we should have Bully II, we could be playing all new IPs from them. But instead, we got GTA V, GTA V, GTA V and more GTA V.

I think I’m done with Rockstar Games now. For me, they’ve been on the rocks for a while, but this whole GTA V re-release again has really cemented their laziness and greed. I’ll just wait and see what Leslie Benzies and Dan Houser get up to instead.

Dan Leslie

 

The Beginning Of The End For Rockstar Games?

I am, what you may call, an older gamer. I’ve been around a few years and seen my fair share of games and gaming studios over the years.

Back in 1988, I played a rather simple but pretty good arcade style shooter on the Amiga called Menace. Okay, it never blew me away but it was pretty decent none the less. The follow up, Blood Money was, and in my opinion, still is a fine shooter well worth playing today. It was around this time in 1989 when I really began to follow the team behind these 2 games. They were called DMA Design and I fast became a fan. Other top quality games followed like the impressively violent shooter, Walker. The sued by Pixar, Unirally and of course, they were the same team behind the greatest puzzle game ever made… Lemmings.

Lemmings Art

DMA Design were amazing in that late 80s – mid 90s period. But it was certain game they created in 1997 that literally changed the world of gaming forever. Grand Theft Auto. I don’t really need to go into detail over how DMA Design became Rockstar North and kickstarted the whole Rockstar Games empire… I already did that in my book, MICROBRITS, buy a copy now! But needless to say, Rockstar Games became one of the biggest and most popular gaming studios in the world and I’ve been a fan for decades, going right back to that game Menace from 88.

As a fan, as someone who has followed this company and loved their games for so long, it pains me to see what they have become in recent years. The staggering success of Grand Theft Auto V has been both a blessing and a curse for them. From my point of view, I think the cash cow that is GTA V had made the company lazy and complacent. Now before I get all the hate, hear me out. Let’s just look at their gaming output over a 5 year period…

Between 2008 – 2013:

Grand Theft Auto IV
Bully: Scholarship Edition
Midnight Club: Los Angeles
Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Damned
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars
Grand Theft Auto: The Ballad of Gay Tony
Red Dead Redemption
Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare
L.A. Noire
Max Payne 3
Grand Theft Auto V

I think you’ll agree that’s an impressive list of games and DLCs right there. In fact, I’d like to go on record as saying that the DLCs made for GTA IV and RDR are the finest pieces of DLC I have ever played and was more than happy to have paid for them, and I detest DLC in games. And that list doesn’t include ports and remasters, with the exception of Bully. And yes, they only published L.A. Noire and didn’t develop it, though some work was done by Rockstar given the troubles the developer, Team Bondi were having at the time.

Anyway, the point is that there isn’t a bad game in that list up there. Some arguably better than others sure, but an all outright bad game? Nope. Proof that even with a multi-game production run, Rockstar can do quality and quantity in equal measure. Even before those years, Rockstar continually made/published high quality games and released them frequently too.

Rockstar Titles

Now let’s look at the following 5 years…

Between 2013 – 2018:

Red Dead Redemption II

Okay so to be fair, they also re-released GTA V with a few new bells and whistles for the current generation. But just look at that drop off in production there. No impressive DLCs for GTA V (despite voice actors and Rockstar themselves claiming DLC was coming) and only 1 game?

Just very quickly want to bring up this bit of news that is still on the official Rockstar Games site

Coming in 2014
Expect big things in both Grand Theft Auto Online and Grand Theft Auto V next year including:
GTA Online Heists. We know many of you in the GTA Online community are super excited for the debut of co-operative Heists. Heists are currently in development and we are working very hard to get them as polished and as fun as they can be. Stay tuned for much more detail in the New Year.
GTAV Story Mode Updates. For those ready to jump back into the story of Grand Theft Auto V, we have big plans for substantial additions in 2014 continuing Michael, Franklin and Trevor’s action, mayhem and unexpected adventures in Southern San Andreas.

Something is not right here. Yes I know games get more advanced and take longer to develop and produce, so I guess some kind of drop off is to be expected. But just look at those 2 lists again. That’s not “some drop off”, that’s a complete lack of production.

Then look at Rockstar Games themselves. It’s not 1 studio making games, they have studios all over the world. Rockstar India, Rockstar Leeds, Rockstar Lincoln, Rockstar London, Rockstar New England, Rockstar North, Rockstar San Diego, Rockstar Toronto. That’s the list of current Rockstar game studios working today. That doesn’t include Rockstar International, their main publishing HQ or Rockstar Games HQ itself in New York.

Rockstar Games Logos

Now to be fair some of those studios listed up there are not dedicated development studios. Some work on localisations for the games, some work on ports, etc. But still, they have a lot of studios under the Rockstar Games umbrella. So with all of those resources, all of those talented staff… how do they go from 10+ games and DLCs between 2008 – 2013 to just 1 game and no DLCs between 2013 – 2018?

One such reason for the drop off in game production is the blessing and a curse that is GTA V that I previously touched upon. The fact that GTA V sold a staggering amount, the fact it went on to become the best selling piece of entertainment ever (making 1 billion dollars in it’s first three days alone), the fact that as of December 2019 GTA V has sold 120 million copies worldwide and still sells today… almost 7 years since it’s original release in 2013. The fact it continues to make a hell of a lot of money for Rockstar Games and their parent company Take-Two, both via sales and shark cards for the online portion of the game. Just the fact that 1 game has made so much money means they have rested on their laurels, it means they don’t have to make games to keep the company alive. All they have to do is keep updating GTA: Online with an overly expensive in-game new cars, a new hat every few months and idiots will continue to pay for shark cards and put money into Rockstar and Take-Two’s bank accounts as they have been for the last 7 years. Why would they spend money on expensive game production when they can just release a new update with a handful of new items and let the fans fork-out real world cash for in-game currency to buy said items making millions in profit each year from very little output?

Shark Cards

Then of course, I have to address the whole Leslie Benzies incident. I’ll not go into detail here, you can look it up for yourself, but suffice it to say that Leslie “leaving” Rockstar Games in 2016 has had an impact. For those who do not know, Leslie Benzies (for me) was the rock in Rockstar. He started out as a programmer in 1995 working on the DMA Design game Space Station Silicon Valley. In 1998, he was the one who put together the team that would create Grand Theft Auto III… to then go on to change the world of gaming from that point onward and help transform DMA Design into Rockstar North and then expand into Rockstar Games. Leslie became producer/development director/game designer for pretty much every Rockstar Games hit from that point on. He eventually became executive producer for the company. Then go read about all the troubles in developing Red Dead Redemption and how it was Leslie, as executive producer and lead designer who got the project under control and finished. For me RDR is the best game Rockstar have ever made, even it’s sequel (prequel) could not match it. My main problems with RDR II was that it was over produced and over bloated with a lot of filler… it was missing Leslie Benzies’ touch, his direction.

I don’t care what anyone else says, a Leslie Benzies-less Rockstar Games is a major downturn and has had an impact on their games and the company on the whole.

Leslie and Dan

Which brings me bang up to date with the very soon departure of Dan Houser, who is set to leave Rockstar Games in March this year. Again, just a brief history on who Dan is/was. Along with his brother Sam, Dan Houser co-founded Rockstar Games. Dan has written/co-written pretty much every GTA game from GTA 2 onward as well as penning other games like Smuggler’s Run 2: Hostile Territory, Bully, Midnight Club: Los Angeles, Red Dead Redemption and it’s sequel (prequel). Dan has also been executive producer on many Rockstar titles. In short, Dan is/was a major player in Rockstar Games, the company and many of it’s games wouldn’t have existed without him. Even Take-Two’s share price dropped after the announcement that Dan was leaving. So with Dan’s soon approaching exit in a few weeks on top of Leslie’s departure, 2 of the main 3 at Rockstar are no more, leaving Sam Houser as the only original (main) member left… I wonder how long before he leaves too?

Now Take-Two have very recently put out a statement saying that Rockstar Games are stronger and better then ever (one of the founders and main writers is leaving… and things are better than ever? That’s unbelievably arrogant and disrespectful ) and that Sam has no intention of leaving. But let’s be honest, Take-Two are hardly going to put out a statement that Rockstar Games are in trouble and slowly sinking, of course they’re going to put on a brave face even if whatever is going in behind the scenes is seriously hitting the fan.

Shit Fan

And that’s just the big boys at Rockstar who’ve left, what about the lower level staff, the ones in the front line doing all the work? We know several employees left with Leslie and setup a new studioHow many more have left since Leslie’s departure that we don’t know about and how many will leave when Dan finally goes? 

Yeah I know, due to GTA V that Rockstar and Take-Two have made shit-loads of money and they have more than enough to keep afloat, but money isn’t everything. Just how much of a toll, from a creativity point of view, has milking GTA: Online (and now RDR: Online) had on the staff who crave to make new games? There’s got to be a point where staff members have had enough and want to do more than update a game over and over for 7 years, the morale and drive must be low. They must want to do what they want to do… make games, be creative again like they used to be pre-GTA V. Fans have been crying out for new Rockstar games for years now. As good (but flawed) as RDR II was… it’s still only 1 game and as covered, a huge drop off in production from before. If the talented staff at Rockstar Games hadn’t spent all that time and resources at continually making updates, adding new vehicles, clothing and game modes to GTA: Online, could they instead have made amazing DLCs like before and even new games like Bully II, GTA VI and even new IPs already?

Bully II

Rockstar Games are slowly dying, maybe not profit making wise, but creativity wise, most definitely so. The downturn of the company can be traced back to the success of GTA V and the absence of Leslie Benzies. Dan leaving soon is a far bigger blow than Take-Two are willing to admit (publicly anyway). Staff must be getting bored of not making games and readying themselves to leave if they haven’t already. We’ve seen this many, many times in the past too. A small game studio makes it big to the point where they become over inflated and burst. It’s happened a lot in the past and it will happen again.

I honestly think that Rockstar Games is slowly rotting away from the inside out. I truly believe this is the beginning of the end for the company. I’m not saying you’ll wake up tomorrow with the news that Take-Two have closed Rockstar down, this will be a gradual process as the company slowly dissolves away. Everyone waiting for GTA VI or Bully II had better not hold their breath.

RDR Grave

 

 

Red Dead Redemption II, A Year Later…

It’s been a year since the release of Red Dead Redemption II and what a fine game it was. But now the dust has settled and it has had more time to resonate with me, I thought I’d take a look at just how great it was and ask if it still is? Now, there will be quite a few comparisons to the original RDR in this one… and just for the record, when I refer to ‘the original RDR‘ or ‘first’ I do mean Redemption not Revolver. Just thought I’d throw that in there to appease all those pedantic people.

So for me, the big question I aim to answer is how RDR II has held up? But before I got to that, I need to paint a picture of just how excited I was for the release of Red Dead Redemption II. Quick pre-warning, there will be SPOILERS ahead if you’ve not finished the game.

Back in 2010, Rockstar Games (when they were releasing top quality titles consistently instead of milking online modes and microtransactions and then releasing one game every ten years) released the first Red Dead Redemption. This was a coming together of a few of my favourite things. It was Rockstar Games when they were at the top of their game, mixed with a Wild West setting. RDR was heavily inspired by classic Western cinema, especially the Spaghetti Western sub-genre. If Sergio Leone had ever gotten in to making games, he would’ve made Red Dead Redemption.

RDR Title.jpg

For me, RDR was/is one of the most perfect games ever created. It had a great story, fantastic characters and of course, tip-top gameplay. Since it’s original release up to today, I’ve lost count of how many times I have played and finished RDR. I remember first finishing the game and then as soon as the credits finished rolling, I started a new game. I know I must have completed the game at least five times in the first twelve months of it’s release. I’ve also played through it a few more times over the years since then too. When it was made backward compatible for the Xbox One a couple of years back, I played through RDR again. Then it was given a 4K update… and yes, I played though it once more before the release of RDR II. And you know what? I played though it again fairly recently just a handful of months back. All told, I’ve lost count of how many times I played and finished RDR over the last nine years, but I’ve got to be in double figures easily. RDR is like an all time classic movie that you just never get bored of watching, it’s the gaming equivalent of Die Hard, The Terminator, The Blues Brothers, Goodfellas, The Breakfast Club, Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2

For me, Red Dead Redemption is the greatest game I’ve ever played to date. So when the sequel (prequel) was announced, of course I was excited. Us RDR fans had been waiting almost a decade since the first game was released. The year long delay from it’s original reveal to it’s release was like waiting a lifetime and as soon as a concrete release date for Red Dead Redemption II was announced, I booked two weeks off work. It took me less than three minutes from when the release date was announced for me to reel off an email to work putting in a holiday request, an email I had already pre-written and just needed to put in the dates. The girlfriend suggested we go away somewhere nice and warm, get some sun. Me? Nah, I’m playing Red Dead Redemption II.

That day my pre-ordered copy came though my letter box at 9:17 am on the 26th of October, 2018, I tore through the package like an excited 6 year old on Christmas Day. The two greatest days of my life up to that point were the birth of our daughter and RDR II release day. The cellophane was cleaved and mutilated from box which was quickly opened and the disc removed to be installed within seconds, as my Xbox One X waited for it’s food. Two discs, two Blurays? This was going to be gargantuan. The install time felt longer than that one year delay of the game as I sat there watching that instillation bar slowly fill. And then, it was ready to play, finally after eight years… RDR II was here. I got the cervezas ready, sat back and began to play. Seriously…

RDR II Me And Beer

I played thorough Red Dead Redemption II and had a lot of praise for it. But that was a year ago and the way I measure a great game is if it’s still great after a decent period of time. As I’ve already covered, I’ve played through the first RDR many times since it’s release in 2010 (at least five times in it’s first year) and you know what? I’m sure I’ll play though it again too. But how does RDR II stand after twelve months? In short, it doesn’t, at least not for me personally.

I’m not saying that RDR II is not a great game, it is, it’s amazing. But looking at it now as apposed to my initial reaction last year. It’s problems and issues are much clearer to me. I think most of RDR II‘s problems come from one simple fact, the game was overproduced. The lack of Leslie Benzies and his direction is painfully apparent in the game. If you look back on previous Rockstar games overseen by Leslie, including the first RDR, they are sleeker, tidier, much more refined. The main problem I have with RDR II is that it contains a lot of unnecessary filler. No one at Rockstar was there to stop and think ‘do we really need this?’. So everything was thrown in even when it was not needed. Case in point… the hunting.

I’ll be honest, I think the hunting mechanics in RDR II are amazing. You have to track the animals, you can use binoculars, or a scoped weapon to spot them from a distance. Then there are the different quality pelts. You can have low quality, one star skins or much higher quality three star ones. And adding to that, the weapon you use to kill the animals can damage the pelts, so if you want to maintain the quality, you need to use the right weapon and even ammo. Different quality skins can will fetch different prices when you sell them, plus the quality is also important for upgrades, etc. To know which weapon to use, you have to study the animals, maybe even kill a few to better understand them. Then there is the fact you give of an odour the animals can smell, so best to hunt downwind.

RDR II Hunting

Seriously, the hunting in the game has so much crammed into it, you can’t help but adore the attention to detail. Some dedicated hunting games don’t have this level of detail and mechanics in them… which is the problem. I’m not playing a dedicated hunting game, I’m playing RDR II. In order to upgrade your camp in the game, you have to hunt and most of the time, you need pristine skins. Now because of the random nature of the spawning of the animals, there is no guarantee you’ll get a perfect pelt to use. Adding on the that, some animals are rare and only spawn in one or two spots on the map… if they spawn at all that is. There’s an upgrade that requires two perfect cougar pelts. Now cougars only spawn in two places on the map. To get this upgrade I had to hunt cougars and only cougars for five days to get perfect pelts. Often the cougars that would spawn had lesser skins, often they just didn’t appear at all. Five bloody days and I wasn’t doing other things then a bit of hunting on the side, I was just hinting cougars… five days, real world days too not in-game days.

Remember the hunting in the first RDR? See the animal, kill it, skin it, get pelt… job done. No studying animals, no worrying about using the right weapon and ammo. It worked and worked well, so why add all this added guff? I’m not saying the hunting didn’t need to be improved or that it shouldn’t have been, but more a case of it doesn’t need all the crap thrown in that it now has. It’s too much. Again, I think the hunting mechanics in RDR II are great, if I was paying a hunting game.

RDR II Fast Travel

Now let’s look at fast travel… which you need to hunt to get an upgrade for your camp to do in the first place. With a big, open world game like RDR, you need fast travel. Even if you don’t use it, it’s just a nice thing to have just in case. So let’s assume you’ve gone though the tedium of hunting to get the fast travel upgrade in RDR II. Now it’s time to use it. So you can only fast travel from your camp and only to the towns on the map, which is massively restrictive as you have to go back to your camp each time you want to fast travel elsewhere and then, your options are very limited. Now, you can get trains to go from train station to train station, you can also get stage coaches to go from town to town. The options are there, but still restrictive. The boundaries forced into the fast travel make it pointless most of the time. Look at the fast travel in RDR. Set up a camp anywhere (as long as it wasn’t too close to a town) and fast travel anywhere on the map, to any town, even your own placed way-points. That’s it and you could get to any part of the map with ease. Bearing in mind the the map is RDR was smaller that the map in RDR II, meaning fast travel is far more important in the sequel… so why make it far more restrictive? That’s not an advancement, it’s several steps backwards. Just like the hunting, it’s adding obstacles that simply don’t need to be there.

Carrying weapons. In RDR you could hold and carry any of the weapons you find and chose from any of them whenever you wanted. You can’t do that in RDR II. Once more, it restricts you to one main weapon and one pistol. Your horse now holds all your weapons, so if you ever want to change things up, you have to get to your horse and go through the pain of fiddling around with the awkward weapon wheel (more on this next) to change a gun. So you’re in the middle of a gunfight and the shotgun you have just does not have the range to take out the bad guys, need to swap to a rifle? Tough. You now have to find your horse or call it into the middle of a gun fight to change your guns. This was never a problem in the first game. You just swapped the weapon whenever you wanted cos you could hold whatever you wanted.

These few examples are a big issue for me, the restrictions the game put on you or the over complications of things like hunting. It slows the game down it makes things a lot more awkward then they needed to be.

Now for that awkward weapon wheel thing I mentioned. Just as with the hunting, it’s overloaded with options and, if I recall, there are actually three inventory wheel things to navigate. You have one for your weapons, one for your inventory and then another for your horse items. Again, look at the first game, it’s just so much more streamlined and easy to use. But with RDR II, everything is overtly complicated just to do something so simple.

Red Dead Redemption 2_20181031134628

So you have the weapon wheel where you keep your weapons (surprise!). Using it seems pretty natural to be honest, but it’s not without it’s issues. I’ve already covered the whole carrying weapons thing and that is the main issue with it. But then there are the other wheels added into the mix and using them requires so many button presses and varying combos, it just gets awkward. There are so many multiple button presses within other button presses that you end up playing a mini game of Twister with your fingers and game controller. Look at using the fishing rod as an instance. After you awkwardly select it, you have to use the same button to bait the thing as you do to put it away. One you do by just pressing the button and the other by holding it. Of course, you’ll often forget which us which so end up putting the rod away when you mean to bait it and visa versa.

This is an issue with pretty much everything in the game, because there are so many options and variables, there are just not enough buttons on the controller. So many buttons end up doing double or even triple duty while you have to hold or press another button, making the controls a lot more finicky then they need to be. Just doing something as simple as talking to an NPC can prove tricky as you first have to lock onto the person to bring up yet another set of new button presses and if you do that while forgetting you have your gun out… well you’re in trouble. The amount of gun fights I have gotten into when I didn’t mean to is ridiculous. I think one of my biggest gripes with RDR II is the overall controls, everything is just too convoluted and counter-intuitive. Don’t even get me started on the crafting in the game with it’s numerous menus, items, button presses and so on. Everything is so damn slow.

RDR II Crafting

I think the controls in recent Rockstar games have begun to feel a little dated, I thought as much back with GTA V and RDR II has not improved anything, it’s gotten worse. I don’t know but it seems to me (and others) that the controls in RDR II want to do their own thing when you want to do something else entirely, it just feels like a continual fight. It all goes against your muscle memory and instead of pressing buttons on an instant that feels natural, you have to check and double check the button prompts that not only are you holding down the correct button to bring up specific options/menu, but that you also press the right button while ensuring you are holding down the correct button… and then check to see you have the right button prompt on screen to press.

There there is the inclusion of RPG/survival elements. The cores to your health, etc. They just didn’t need to be there. I’d love to play a hardcore survival game set in the Wild West era and RDR II incorporated minimal elements of such a game… but it didn’t go far enough with them to make them effective, so they came across as pointless. Instead, you get this kind if limbo game caught between an action/adventure title and a survival game, and it doesn’t quite gel. Overall, Red Dead Redemption II felt very confused to me as if it wasn’t sure exactly what it wanted to be. Is it trying to be a hardcore Wild West sim with strict rules and overtly complicated menus RPG style or is it trying to be an action packed sequel to the first game?

I also need to address the very slow pace of the game. I had no issues with the storytelling, I thoroughly enjoyed it in fact. But man, this game is so damn slow. Things like the fast travel I’ve already covered. But just doing something as simple, as going to the start of a mission can be a chore, especially when it’s over the other side of the big map. The game is gorgeous to look at, especially in 4K and all the very slow horse travelling is great at first because you can take in the beautiful scenery the game offers. But after a while, it all begins to grate and you just want to get to the place you need to be at and crack on. The very limited fast travel does not help (unlike the first game), so you have little choice other than to just sit on your horse and get slowly bored. Occasionally, you might come across a random encounter to make your journey a little less boring, but how may times can you shoot the chains off a fleeing prisoner before you get bored? About three is the answer to that, but it happens dozens and dozens of times. This isn’t like GTA where you are in a car travelling at speed and having to weave in and out of traffic as you make your way to your location, that’s pretty exciting and holds your interest. RDR II is about slowly trotting along on a horse and not doing much of anything. I suppose you could stop off and do some hunting… if it wasn’t so damn tedious.

RDR II Scenery

But speaking of the slow pace, I do need to bring up the epilogue of the game. Man, this was boring. I wrote an article on how the most boring part of RDR was my favourite and explained why too. I still stand by that. I loved the ending where you play as John Marston trying to make a name for himself as a farmer, the slower pace was a welcome change after everything that came before it and the slow building of tension was amazing. A very similar thing happens in RDR II after the main story finishes and Arthur dies… but it’s just horrible. Playing as John again was a nice surprise, but the whole thing is tedious and drags on for way too long. Teaching a ranch owner’s son how to ride a horse, having to go into town to buy materials to build a house… and then having to build said house, having a date with your wife and getting a photo done, etc. It was all utterly pointless. It worked in the first game as there was a sense on unease, foreboding that something was going to go wrong now John was a free man (and it did)… but we already know the story of John as RDR II is a prequel, so we know he’s not in any real danger. There was nothing to fear or be concerned about at all. Just a really long winded and tenuous epilogue leading to the exact point we knew it would.

RDR II Epilogue

As I said at the start, I think Red Dead Redemption II has been over produced. Just because you come up with an idea to include something, doesn’t mean you should include it. The whole game just needed ‘editing’ down a bit and no one was there to do such a thing. I’ve already mentioned how I have played and re-played the first game a lot over the years including at least five times in it’s first year. I played and finished RDR II and yes, I started a new game… but I’ve never really played it much since then. It’s only while writing this just now that I realised that I’ve not bothered to go through the game a second time because everything felt like a chore and I got bored quickly.

RDR II, while more advanced, feels like several steps backward from the original game. It’s over cluttered with filler where it didn’t need to be, it’s slow and gets boring several times . I’ll happily agree that RDR II is better written with a stronger story. I’ll even say that Arthur Morgan was a better realised character than John Marston… but the first game just played much better and John felt like a more fun character to play as too. It didn’t have all the unnecessary filler, it didn’t feel like it needed trimming. But RDR II does.

RDR is a slender and stream-lined athlete, it was the Muhammad Ali of video games, cocky and arrogant but utterly charming and had the talent to back up it’s reputation. But RDR II is Eric ‘Butterbean’ Esch, it’s big, brash, overweight and while it packs a punch to get the job done… you can’t help but think how great it could be if it lost some weight. Watching a Butterbean fight is entertaining, but you really want to be watching the legendary Rumble In The Jungle instead.

RDR II Fist Fight

I liked playing Red Dead Redemption II, it has more than a few moments of greatness. Elements of the game are pure genius, but also felt underwhelmed and disappointed by it at the same time. I feel that that is what the game is, a collection of great moments and not a great game as a whole. I don’t know if I’ll ever go back and finish my second play through of the game, even a year later, but I do know I’ll most definitely be going back to Red Dead Redemption again in the future. It’s just a far better and leaner game.

Now that is out of the way, I can start my Halloween specials for this year…

About That Red Dead Redemption Remake…

So I’ve not written any articles for a while now, been busy writing books. I wrote and published Microbrits: A Tapestry OF The British Gaming Industry in June and my second short story collection just last week. And I’ve already begun work on my third book I aim to publish later this year too. So yeah, I’ve been a bit too busy and not written much for this blog recently. But that is something I’m going to change over the next few months and aim to publish a few more articles this year. A bit of (possible) news got my excitement up and compelled me to write this ere’ article.

Red Dead Redemption is one of the greatest games ever made. Not many games manage to come close to it’s sheer brilliance, not even it’s own sequel (prequel)… which is something I aim to cover for RDR II’s 1 year anniversary in a few months.

Red Dead Redemption II Title.jpg

I have quite honestly lost count of how many times I have played through RDR over the years since it’s release in 2010. And next year marks the game’s 10 year anniversary… and if a recent rumour proves to be true, then we could be playing RDR once more. The epic Wild West game had seen a wonderful 4K update for the Xbox One X and yes, I played through the game… again. But while a nice 4K update is something that was very welcome, us fans really wanted a full on remake. That remake might be happening of you believe certain gaming sites right now.

Now, this all needs to be taken with a huge pinch of salt as nothing had been confirmed. But a rumour is going around that claims a Red Dead Redemption remake is on the cards to mark 10 years since it’s original release. It all began on Reddit where a user claimed they they have a friend who is an environment artist at Rockstar Games and that they have been working on a RDR remake. The remake is said to use the updated RDR II engine and game features:

“All the new features from the new game are going to be imported into RDR 1 plus the map is getting expanded a bit to make it more vast (rdr 2 map is not apart of this because it is not needed in the story, it’s mostly just making the desert bigger.) Rob has came back and recorded new lines of dialogue to help connect the two stories (References to Arthur and events of rdr 2 naturally) it was originally slated for the 10 year anniversary of RDR 1 but bugs have hindered the development a bit so they’ve shifted 2/3 of the Red Dead Online team to the Remake (hence the lack of an update as of yet.) And it’s currently in the timeframe of being released either December 2020- January of 2021.”

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Sounds amazing. Not just a graphical update, but a complete rebuilding of the game to tie in better with the prequel. Of course RDR fans would lap this up. Just type in Red Dead Redemption remake into Google and you’ll find lots of reputable gaming sites spreading the rumour like butter on toast. I just wonder why people are quick to spread rumours without bothering to do any basic research first. See, I’m not fancy ‘journalist’ working for a popular gaming site, I’m just a guy with his own blog who likes to write stuff. But I like to check and double check info before I post anything. I don’t ways get it right… but I at the very least try.

I just do not see how/why this rumour has spread so much and so fast with zero reliable sources. The whole thing starts with the Reddit user saying that they have a ‘friend’ who works at Rockstar Games… and no one bothered to question that? Plus there was the fact that the post they made making the claim was their first ever post from a new user… and no one bothered to question that?

Long story short, the RDR remake rumours are all bullshit. It’s not happening and never was. The very same person who started the rumour has even admitted as much:

“There is no remake of the first game as far as I know.
This was an experiment I have always wanted to do regarding the spreading of rumors in video game culture. I’ve been thinking about this for a while and wondering how I was going to do it, then I saw red dead online was basically being ignored (most likely not, but the fans are in the dust about it, including me) so this was basically a good starting point for me. So first I thought about here there were a lot of alien references in RDR 2’s story mode, so I started my “leak” on that. I made up a somewhat believable story that my “friend from rockstar” told me. (Real original right?) then I put in small details I thought in my head would make sense such as “Still playing as Arthur”. But I stayed real vague just to build up some speculation. Then I thought of what I wanted out of a story dlc. I wanted a remake of the first game with all of the bells and whistles of the recent game. And the rest is pretty much history, so I expected it to be ignored and the next day I open my reddit and I see the biggest notification list I have ever had! I was simply amazed at how my bullshit rumors could blow up, a couple of hours later I went on the google app, and it has tabs with news, and at the very top was this article by comicbook (who report on every rumor from this subreddit almost) https://comicbook.com/gaming/2019/07/20/red-dead-redemption-remake-ps4-ps5-xbox-scarlett-rockstar-games/ And that’s when things got real, so I let people build more speculation for a couple of days. And sure enough, one of the gaming sites I read on reported on it https://www.gamesradar.com/red-dead-redemption-dlc-aliens-leak/ . Then I was curious of the YouTube videos being made, and sure enough there were! https://youtu.be/fF6pCsZNIf4 this was at the very top! And he drank every sip of my tea, and judging by his comment section, they didn’t! I was wondering if there were videos were people didn’t believe me and sure enough there was one by Fizhy! https://youtu.be/kRmVK_9xXsw . Then I realized I was getting to many peoples hopes up, so I decided to write this post. And through this experiment I learned that some people will believe anything that someone says if it sounds believable. And also that mass media is a powerful tool, over 70k people atleast have seen this fake leak that I wrote, and I’m glad that a majority of people saw through it! From now on the original leak will stay up unless the mods say otherwise but I will link this to clarify it was all fake! Thanks for listening!”

So there you go, there is no RDR remake. It’s just a shame that these people who run these gaming sites don’t bother to think before posting their crap.

Bet seriously @RockstarGames, make a RDR remake… and Bully II.

I Need To Talk About The Red Dead Redemption II Ending

Oh this article has been bubbling away inside me for weeks now. See, I bulldozed my way through RDR II‘s story just so I could get to the ending ASAFP as I wanted to do a write-up for this ere’ blog. Since finishing the game, I’ve been mulling the ending over in my head and comparing it to the ending of the previous game. See, I really didn’t much enjoy the ending of RDR when I first experienced it. It’s a cruel and unforgiving ending that torments the player. However, after a while and finishing the game again – the finale to the previous game quickly became my favourite game ending ever.

John Marston Death

So obviously massive SPOILERS ahead and throughout this whole article. If you’ve not finished RDR II yet, stop reading now and go play the damn game. This is the only SPOILER warning I’m giving and directly after this paragraph is done, I’m going straight into huge SPOILER territory… you have been warned.

The Ending

So Arthur dies in RDR II. When I first started playing the game, I had already convinced myself that Arthur would die in the game. I mean, this is a prequel and seeing as the plot of the last game was John Marston hunting down his old gang members and given the fact that Arthur was not part of the last game… you could pretty much work it out yourself. However, through the course of the story, some gang members do just leave the gang. So a ray of hope was given that maybe, just maybe Arthur leaves the gang at the end and is still alive during the events of RDR. But that wasn’t to be the case. Arthur dies in this game and depending on your moral-meter (being good or bad), the ending slightly changes too. But before I get to the last moments of Arthur Morgan, I need to cover just what it is that kills him…

Arthur Morgan Dies

Arthur is diagnosed with Tuberculosis at around 50% of the story. It wasn’t until my second play-through when I noticed during the mission Money Lending And Other Sins III where you have to collect a debt from a farmer called Thomas Downes that he spits in Arthur’s face. Later his wife reveals that Thomas is ill and even later still during another part of said mission, Thomas dies. It’s that previously mentioned spitting when Arthur contracts Tuberculosis from Thomas. As the game continues, Arthur slowly dies in front of your eyes and even before he is diagnosed. It begins with some subtle coughing that you don’t really notice, the coughing gets slowly worse as the game progresses. Arthur’s skin becomes pale and his eyes bloodshot. Other characters will comment on how ill he looks, etc, and it goes on until the very end. It’s a marvellous piece of storytelling from Rockstar where Arthur’s fate sealed very early in the game, but you the player (and Arthur) are not made aware of it until much later. Playing a second time really brings the clever writing to the forefront.

This is what kills Arthur, not a hail of bullets as with John Marston in the previous game but a disease. It’s a slow death and one that unfolds as you play. Rockstar can be pretty damn cruel sometimes, they make you enjoy and even love a character… then they kill them off. They even kill off your horse in this too and it’s got some emotional gravitas to it. I mean, you spend a lot of time with your horse, you brush it, feed it and bond with it through the game. The horse becomes more than just a means for transportation and as he/she dies, Arthur comforts it and its pretty damn touching too.

Arthur and Horse

There was one thing I was doing whole playing my way through RDR II, I was keeping an eye on the story completed %. As the game slowly built to it’s finale, as Arthur’s time was coming to an end, as I completed the “final” mission… I noticed something. The story was only 70% complete. Arthur was dead but there was still 30% of the story left? That’s when the epilogue began, a fucking huge more than a quarter of the entire story epilogue. John Marston returns and you get to play as him for this final 30%. I was kind of expecting something like this. I thought they would do something similar given the ending of the previous game as after John dies, you control his now grown up son Jack. In RDR, you only play as Jack Marston for a single mission as he tracks down Edgar Ross and kills him for betraying John. In RDR II, you play as John for a huge chunk of the game. It’s got to be around 5-7 hours of the game.

John Marston Callback.png

John’s section of the game is very slow and plodding in an already slow game. Most of John’s story is about him going straight by turning his back on his outlaw days, getting a job on a ranch, making a bad decision and Abigail leaving him. It then continues with John trying to make amends as he buys some land and builds his own ranch, the ranch in RDR. You have to physically go out an buy goods and building materials too then actually build the ranch to entice Abigail back. The whole thing is very slow and very, very reminiscent of the ending to the last game where John works on his ranch, tries to build a relationship with his son Jack and so on. It all leads up to where RDR (almost) begins as Edgar Ross searches for John to get him to work for the government to hunt down his ex-gang members.

Everything ties up nicely indeed… but is it a good ending?

Honestly, I’m still not sure. Yeah I didn’t much like the ending to the last game at first but it grew on me and became my favourite game ending so far. But that’s because it was a shock, a ballsy move by Rockstar to kill off the main character. With RDR II, it just feels like a repeat. Arthur’s death is very, very different – but the point is, it’s still pretty much the same ending. A lot of the same beats are repeated, not necessarily in the same order but they are there. The slow working on the ranch, the death of the main character, the “surprise” epilogue, etc.

I enjoyed playing as John at the end, of course I did as he’s one of my favourite game characters, but I also think it dragged out a bit too long. Did the epilogue really need to be 30% of the game? It’s not just the ranch building and all that, its the fact you have to take Abigail out on a date, get a photograph taken. Before all of that when working on the first ranch you have to teach the rancher’s kid how to ride a horse, milk a cow. etc. It just began to feel like unnecessary fluff to drag out an already very long game. Maybe if the John Marston epilogue had been released as DLC later and not part of the main game. Maybe if the credits rolled when Arthur died and with John escaping with his family leaving me to fill in the blanks, leaving me with a sense of loss as with the previous game, maybe I would’ve enjoyed it more?

John Marston Ranch Building

I don’t know but after spending 50+ ours playing as Arthur Morgan and watching him die… that was enough for me. His demise was brilliantly written and realised. Yes I love John Marston and yes, of course they had to tie everything into RDR. I just think the epilogue as too much and superfluous.