Tag Archives: Rockstar

Red Dead Redemption II: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

So Red Dead Redemption II is a game I have waited eight years for. I adored the first RDR (Redemption not Revolver) and was more than happy to declare it my favourite Rockstar Games title… closely followed by Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. In short RDR was a masterpiece of game design, the graphics, the story, the characters and the most important bit – the gameplay were all top notch stuff. It was a perfect coming together high quality ingredients to make a hearty meal.

Red Dead Redemption John

This sequel had a lot to live up to and the 26th of October 2018 couldn’t come quick enough. I had my copy on release day, installed the game on my Xbox as soon as I was able and when all was done with the game was ready to play, just seeing the title screen put a big ole’ smile on my face. I did a quick first impressions article a while back where I played the opening few hours of the game. But that was just a taster, a quick glimpse at a small section of this gargantuan game.

Now, things are a little different. I sit here in front of my laptop having just completed the game. So now I have a bit more gameplay under my belt and even seen the story out until its climax. But was it ultimately worth eight years of waiting? I suppose a quick synopsis of the game in in order.

So you play as Arthur Morgan, a member of the Van der Linde gang. A rag-tag gathering of murderers, thieves and con-men (and women). The gang is lead by Dutch van der Linde and after a particularly messy bank job that goes badly wrong in Blackwater, New Austin (from the previous game), the gang find themselves wanted dead or alive and on the run from the law. Hiding out in the snowy mountains of New Hanover during a vicious snow storm, the gang find rudimentary shelter as they hide away. They eventually make their way to a more habitable environment as they move out of the mountains and set up camp. You then embark on a series of missions to gain money so the gang can leave the country crossing paths with all new characters as well as some familiar faces from the previous game all while still being hunted by the police and bounty hunters.

Red Dead Redemption II Arthur

Okay so I’ll include my usual SPOILER warning here as I’m about to cover elements the whole game from start to end. However, I’ll keep story spoilers to a minimum and while the ending will be mentioned, I’m not going into details. It’s time to look at the good, the bad and the ugly of Red Dead Redemption II.

The Good

The game features stunningly beautiful graphics, animations and an amazing attention to detail. Quite honestly, this is the best looking game I’ve seen to date. There are times while playing when I’m not actually doing anything to further the story and just find myself admiring the scenery instead. I’ll hop on my horse and just go out for a ride for no reason other than to take in the vistas. From snowy mountains to lush green forests and arid deserts – there’s a lot to take in and enjoy before you even get to any gameplay.

Speaking of the gameplay, Rockstar have crammed a hell of a lot into this game. outside of the already sizeable story there are so many side-missions and distractions that you can spend hour up on hour just enjoying all the game has to offer without touching the story at all. Fancy a spot of hunting? Well this game has you covered and it’s a pretty in-depth hunting mechanic too. It’s not just a case of simply pointing a weapon at an animal and killing it, now you have to track the animals and learn about each species. Plus depending on how you kill an animal (pepper it with a shotgun blast, multiple rifle rounds or a single arrow) affects how much damage you do to the meat and pelt, which in turn will alter how much you can sell the items for. The hunting distraction in this is better than most full priced hunting games. And the hunting is just one example of many, many distractions you can lose yourself in outside of the main story. You can go play some poker or dominoes. Take a break from the action with a spot of fishing. Hang out in a saloon and knock back a few drinks, get drunk and start a mass bar brawl. You can even go out robbing folk. From just holding up a random NPC walking around to taking on a train. You can rob your way across the Old West in numerous ways.

The level of customization is also impressive. Arthur can grow his hair and beard or you can maintain him by visiting a barber for a trim or even a whole new look and style. I let my Arthur’s hair grow and he began looking like a member of ZZ Top in my game…

Red Dead Redemption II Arthur Beard

Your clothes can be customized too. From pre-set outfits to you designing your own unique look, change belts and even gun holsters. Hell you can even add little modifications like rolled up sleeves, open shirts, etc. Clothes along with Arthur will get dirty and you can change your duds or even take a bath… or you can stay dirty and smelly through the game if you like which will have NPCs making all sorts of comments about your hygiene. Honestly, there’s a lot to cover in terms of customization and details – I’d have to write a separate article to cover most of it. In short RDR II is a hell of a detailed game. But there is much more to cover.

The story is very compelling. I wasn’t too sure about it for the first few hours, but after a while the game and story really opens up. It’s around the 55 – 60% mark of the story when Arthur begins to question Dutch and his leadership and things get really interesting as the gang begins to break up. Arthur also learns something about himself (as do we the player) that really elevates him from slightly boring henchman following orders to a genuine and well crafted character you begin to feel something for. Everything comes to a head in the final act of the game as the fractured gang begin to fall out with each other. The ending (no spoilers) is a very satisfying one and brings everything together nicely connecting to the events of the previous game. I’m not sure If I prefer this ending over the one in RDR. See I loved RDR‘s ending, it’s my favourite game ending ever. So this one really had to pull something special off to impress me… and it kind of did. I remember being so pissed off with the finale to the last game that it took a while for me to realise just how genius it was. As I’ve only recently finished RDR II, I need a little more time to take it all in and mull over what I’ve just witnessed. It’s crackling finale no doubt about it and well worth the long slog through the game to get to it too. I’m more than satisfied and it brings Arthur’s story to a wonderful conclusion… and then some. I might leave it a few weeks and let in all sink in then do an article disusing the pros and cons of the ending.

Red Dead Redemption II Arthur Shooting

Which brings me to the man himself, Arthur. I loved playing as John in the previous game. He was a charming and charismatic guy. But right from the opening, he had no secrets, no real surprises. Pretty much his entire story was laid out from the off. John was a man wanting to change his outlaw ways by hunting his ex-gang members. That’s clear from the start of the game up to the end. With Arthur though, things are different. He’s a loyal and honorable gang member at the start. He follows Dutch’s orders without question and to be honest, I found that a little dull. But it’s later in the game when Arthur begins to doubt Dutch and some if his ideas/decisions where he really comes alive as a character. Arthur is a slower burning, deeper character and we really don’t get to know him fully until after the halfway point of the game. I honestly preferred playing as John form the first game more as his charm and personality goes a long way. But I’ll happily argue that Arthur is a better written character that shows some depth and wonderful characterization thanks to some impressive writing.

But it’s not just Arthur who becomes a compelling character. I also have to mention Sadie Adler who you do a handful of missions with and along he way she reveals more about her history which leads to a sensational shootout as a finale. Josiah Trelawny is a flamboyant and charming conman always looking for new ways to earn some money and often gets you tangled up in his schemes. Hosea Matthews who is Dutch’s oldest and closest friend who is loyal to the gang leader until the very end. And then of course there is John Marston from RDR who has some of the best moments in this game from missions to amusing dialogue and even some foreshadowing to events for RDR. Plus there is the relationship between Arthur and John which slowly develops as the game progresses. At first, Arthur does not like John. He feels he is not trustworthy, not dependable, a poor father to his son Jack and an even worse husband to his wife Abigail. There is a divide between the two characters that is all too clear – however as the story flows, the relationship between Arthur and John grows and they eventually become pretty close to the point that… well I’d be getting into some serious spoilers here so I’ll stop now.

Red Dead Redemption II John

There’s a huge amount of variation to the missions and how you choose to complete them. As an example, there’s one mission where you have to break a gang-member out of jail in a small town. How you do this is up to you. Do you use dynamite to blow a hole in the wall, use a (conveniently placed) steam engine with a rope to pull the bars off the window or do you just walk in the front door of the jail with guns blazing for a more direct approach? It’s really up to you as all three options both have positives and negatives. This idea is used for lots of missions, some are linear and give you little room for improvisation while others allow you to experiment and mix things up and try different tac-tics. Some missions will have you going in gung-ho and others will have you using stealth. One mission will have you dressing up in a tuxedo and on your best behaviour to attend a high class party, while another will see you causing (very funny) mischief after getting paralytic drunk in a local saloon with another gang member. Oh and of course there’s shootouts, lots and lots of shootouts.

The gun-play is pretty impressive with a few new features added from the previous game. You have the basic dot telling you where you are aiming, but then there is a reticle that begins large and gets smaller the longer you aim giving you more accuracy for each shot. So you can’t just spam the shoot button over and over as your shots will fly around with hardly any hitting your target. Plus you have to cock your gun after each shot too. Press shoot once to fire and again to cock your gun ready for the next shot. It makes the shooting a little more methodical and gets you thinking about your next move instead of just being able to reign hell fire down on your target.

The map itself is huge. I thought the one for the previous game was more than enough and it was. Well the old RDR map, New Austin is included within the new one for RDR II. There is so much to see and do that your eyes will be tired from all the movement. Then on top of the fact you really have two maps in the game, New Austin from RDR and RDR II‘s New Hanover which are joined together to form one huge map… there’s yet another “secret” location not included on the in-game map. As during the course of the story you’ll find yourself on a Cuban island with its own unique wildlife, missions and locations. Seriously, this game is huge. And the variety of locales on the map(s) is equally as impressive. From the typical muddy roads, wooden building kind small towns you’d expect that the typical Wild West, dirty cowboy and women of ill repute to populate – to larger, sprawling cities with brick buildings which attracts a more “higher class” of citizen. There’s even a working tram/trolley system in one of the larger cities.

Red Dead Redemption II Saint Denis

There’s just too much that this game offers to cover in detail here. I’ve not even mentioned the home heists, legendary hunts, horse customization and maintenance. The way you build a bond and relationship with your horse. The various interactions with NPCs from just saying hello or antagonizing them, you can try to defuse a disagreement or just call them out for a dual. How the weather can affect your health and stamina from being too hot or cold and how there are different clothing items to suit different weather conditions. The eating mechanic and how being overweight or underweight affects your health. Using gun oil to clean and maintain your weapons. What about the random encounters or stranger missions? I bulldozed my way through the game just so I could complete the story, so I’ve missed out on a lot of what the game offers. The list of things to do in this game goes on and on. I’ve only really lightly touched on a few of it’s features and there is so much more to enjoy.

The Bad

Okay so RDR II is not a perfect game and it has it’s issues. Some of which I’ll cover now. But before I do point out the bad, I just want to say that I don’t necessarily agree with all of these bad points – I’m just highlighting issues some players may have as a warning. Many of the negatives I’m about to bring up, I actually quite enjoy…

So let’s get the big one out of the way. The game is slow. It just has a much more laid-back approach to it’s storytelling and pace. I know some people will most definitely find this game a bit of a grind. Due to the size of the map, it can take a good while to get from one place to another. A journey from the area you find yourself in to where you need to pick up a mission then to the location the mission actually takes place can (sometimes) be a drag and you’ll find yourself traversing the map for 5+ minutes or so from one mission to the next. There is a lot of traveling to do in the game too and as the majority of it is on horseback, some trips can drag on a little. Still, there are various options to speed things up a little. You can put the camera in cinematic mode and let the game do the travelling for you. Maybe you’d prefer to go by train or even stagecoach? There is even a fast travel option that becomes available when you upgrade your gang’s camp. Plus you can break up the longer journeys with a little hunting, maybe find a random encounter and so on. Yes there is a lot of traversing, but I never found any of it dull. Still, I can see some people finding it all a bit tedious.

Red Dead Redemption II Horse.jpg

Some of the animations begin to grate after a while, especially when it comes to the hunting. Having to watch Arthur skin an animal can take 15-30 seconds depending on the size of the animal. Then there’s the crafting and cooking parts where you can set up a campfire and create food, medicines and ammo. Each and every time you have to watch Arthur (when cooking) stick the food on his knife, hold the knife over the fire for a while and then watch Arthur as he eats the food. You see how long it took you to read that? Well it takes even longer to watch it and you have to watch the same animations every single time Arthur cooks food or makes some medicine or ammo or skins an animal and so on. So prepare yourself to watch the same animations over and over and over.

The are some light RPG elements that will affect Arthur as the game progresses. Your health, stamina and Dead Eye (the slo-mo thing) all have their own depleting bars the more you use them. But on top of the standard ever decreasing bars, each of the three stats have cores. These cores will also deplete and the lower the cores are, the less the bars will refill. So you need to keep topping up the cores and you can do this by sleeping or eating. Then there are similar stats for your horse too and those stats also have cores you’ll have to top up. Yes there is an eating mechanic and I can see some people getting annoyed with it. To be honest with you, I never paid much attention to topping up my cores when I played the game and the only time I really ate was if my health was dangerously low. So while the eating mechanic is there, I personally never found it to be intrusive and you can play through the game without really worrying about it… I did. Then there is the  providing for the camp. Your gang camp has three main supplies that need topping up. There is food, ammo and medicine. This is where the hunting and crafting side of things come into play as anything you hunt, make or even steal can be donated to the camp to keep morale up. Again, I can see this slowing the pace of the game down a little. But again, this is something I never really bothered with during my play-through. I didn’t even donate anything to my camp until I was around 70% of the way through the game and I only did that to get the fast travel upgrade I never used. Like the cores, its just another element of the game that its nice to have there and can be used if you really want to – but it can just as easily be ignored too.

Red Dead Redemption II Camp

The controls can be more than a little finicky. As there is so much to do in the game and so many variables, that means the game needs a lot of button presses. Sometimes, there are too many button presses to do something relatively simple and at times it feels like a console’s controller is not up to the job. Like talking to a random NPC as you’ll need to hold down a button to lock-on to the person you want to talk to, this then brings up another load of button press options that’ll pop up at the bottom right of the screen for you to choose from. As it’s not as simple as just saying hello and depending on the locale, the NPCs themselves and even your situation at the time, what you can say to the NPCs changes so you need to keep an eye on that bottom right corner of the screen to ensure you give the appropriate response. Honestly I’ve turned a peaceful little town into a bloodbath just because I pressed the wrong button in response and accidentally antagonized some random guy when I didn’t mean to. Never mind trying to talk to someone while riding on a horse…

Red Dead Redemption II Weapon Wheel

There are restrictions to what and how many weapons you can carry. In the previous game, John could walk around with a small arsenal of weapons in his pocket. Multiple side arms, rifles, shotguns and others all ready and you were able to change between them as and when needed. This time around you are limited to only carrying one side arm (two when you unlock dual wielding), two larger guns – be it a rifle or a shotgun or a mix of the two, your throwing weapons like knives, dynamite, etc and a melee weapon like a knife. And that’s all Arthur can carry. But your horse can carry any and all weapons you have in the saddlebags. So you now have to think ahead and pre-plan the weapons you want for the mission coming up and decide what to carry before you get into the action. But if you do find you’ve equipped the wrong kind of iron, then you could always go back to your horse and change your load-out. This can be a little annoying if you find yourself in the midst of a gunfight and realise you need a long range rifle when you’ve come with two shotguns instead.

The Ugly

To be fair, this section is a little light on content. For the most part RDR II is a very handsome game in both its look and design. Yet there is still a touch of ugly mainly from minor bugs and glitches I have found while playing.

I was once doing a mission where I had to be stealthy and was accompanied by a gang-member. While I was crouching being as quiet as I could, a bug meant my companion was standing up-right with his arms out in the shape of a cross. There was no animation when he moved and he just slid around the map attracting all sorts of unwanted attention. Another bug saw Arthur’s ears coloured in bright red and that lasted for several cut-scenes. There are a few clipping issues especially if you let Arthur’s beard grow to its full length. Sometimes horses will spawn in unusual places.

Red Dead Redemption II Bugs

One time I went into a post office to pay my bounty and as I walked through the door, the graphics for the back wall hadn’t loaded in and you could see outside through the wall but the wall was still there as I couldn’t walk through it. My horse got stuck in a rock and I couldn’t get it out no matter how many times I whistled or tried to pull it out via holding the reigns. A common bug is certain gang-members not appearing at the camp when you need them.

I have come across a few minor issues that could do with a fix from graphical glitches to a few audio ones too. But nothing game breaking, just a few things that kind of annoyed me. Still, with a huge open-world game like this, you’re always going to get some niggles.

Overall

I guess the most obvious comparison for RDR II would be GTA V, makes sense given the fact they are both Rockstar games and a lot of the same people worked on both titles. However, I think RDR II is more like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. They both have similar problems with the slower pace, the finicky controls and the amount of traversing (especially on horseback), etc.

Witcher 3

I really didn’t think much of The Witcher 3 when I first played it for the very reasons I just stated. But the more I spent with the game, the more I fell in love with it until it finally won me over. RDR II is just like that too. The opening was good and I enjoyed it… but it still felt a little stale. Yet the more I played RDR II, the more I enjoyed it and by the time I got to the 50% mark in the story – I was hooked. It’s a slow burner for sure but well worth sticking it out.

In short, RDR II is a masterpiece just like its predecessor only much more refined and a lot more to do. I can see some of the slower elements not working with other people. The traversing can be tiresome, but I always found something to see and do along the way. The scenery of the game always kept me entertained as I galloped through forests and open land just in awe of what I was looking at. The light RPG elements can be ignored just as much as they can be embraced, just like the gang camp management. Spend time building your camp and trying to keep everyone happy if you wish – yet you don’t actually need to do any of it. I think this is something RDR II does very well.  There are parts of the game that can be embraced and played around with, but you don’t necessarily have to and you can ignore many of the distractions to just plough through the story… I did.

Red Dead Redemption II Horse Ride

I loved my time with the game even though I missed out on a lot of what it has to offer by blistering my way through it. There’s some impressive and engrossing writing from a character point of view as I went from not thinking much of Arthur to really enjoying playing as him as the story progressed. He’s no John Marston, but he’s close. The story itself is one I enjoyed and seeing how the Van der Linde gang go from a twenty two strong posse at the start of this game to the broken and disillusioned handful of people they are when the previous game kicks off was fantastic. It all builds to a very satisfying climax that ties everything up nicely and still offers a great little something to get your teeth into even after Arthur’s story is done.

I’ve been thinking of a way to quickly sum this game up and I think I have it. There have been some great games released this generation. However, none of them have truly blown me away and they’ve always felt like last gen games with improved graphics. RDR II looks and feels like an evolution in gaming, a genuine “next gen” game. I just feel sorry for all games that will be released after RDR II. Yes this was well worth the eight year gap between games and Its has left me wanting more RDR games in the future. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to start a new game. Only this time instead of speeding my way through the story, I’ll be going a much slower pace and taking in all the game has to offer. Play around with the distractions, do the side missions, etc. It’s time to head into the Wild West once more.

Horse

And I just got through an in-depth look at RDR II without talking about horse balls.

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Another Red Dead Redemption II Delay!!!

Well is this really any kind of surprise? Originally announced in 2016 with this teaser trailer…

The game was given a tentative “Fall 2017” release…which never came about. Red Dead Redemption II was delayed until “Spring 2018” instead as the next trailer showed.

Then, as us fans were patiently awaiting for Spring to well…spring, Rockstar announced yet another delay with a much firmer release date of 26th October 2018. Everything seemed fine until today when Rockstar announced yet another delay (the third for those counting) and we are now not going to be getting our mitts on Red Dead Redemption II until the first quarter of 2019. Unlike the previous delay, no specific date has been set – I guess Rockstar have learned from the last time not to make promises they can’t keep hence the vague 2019 date?

We are sorry to announce that Red Dead Redemption II will be delayed until the first quarter of 2019.

We ‘re utterly focused on delivering a game that will meet the high expectations of the fans. We know its been a long wait so far but it will definitely be worth it in the long run as we aim to deliver an exceptional entertainment experience.

Thank you for your patience,

Rockstar Games

I’m not sure how I feel about all of this. I mean, on one hand I want the game to be as perfect as it can be, so if that means delays then so be it. But on the other, all of these delays can’t be a good thing can they – isn’t this how Duke Nukem Forever started?

I guess all we can do is take solace in this slideshow of images, some of them are new as an apology from Rockstar…

 

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Are Micro-Transactions And DLC, Killing Gaming?

There has been a bit of a gaming backlash recently in regards to games being released and then offering things like micro-transactions and DLC. So much so that there has even been a petition started to regulate micro-transactions specifically to have them fall under the same laws as gambling.

Now, there is a difference between micro-transactions and DLC content. But here in this article, I’m going to try to explain why I feel both are a bad thing for gaming and why they need to be stopped. In regards to micro-transactions, there have been two big offenders recently that have hit the gaming headlines for all the wrong reasons. MiddleearthShadow of War and Star Wars: Battlefront II. So much so that when EA tried to defend micro-transactions in Star Wars: Battlefront II recently via Reddit, it became the most despised post EVER with over 680,000 down-votes so far and still counting.

Micro-Transactions

South Park MT

First things, first. Micro-transactions are gambling as you have no idea what you will get in these loot boxes that you have to pay real money for. You could get an amazing 5 star, super rare item/character that is well worth the money you pay… or you could get something much less impressive. If you are paying real world cash for an item that you have no idea what you will receive – that is a gamble, it is gambling. Also, have you noticed how opening a loot box in a game is never a simple affair? They are always accompanied by sound effects, animations, flashing lights, etc – you know the same kind of things slot machines offer to entice people to play? But its not just the fact that these thing are a form of gambling that is the problem – its also the fact that they can give players an item/character that could provide them an edge over other players. Now if someone unlocks new abilities and upgrades through playing the game fairly, through their own skills then fine, I have no problem with that at all. But if you can just spend cash to get ‘better’ at a game giving you and advantage over others – then that’s a problem and by definition that is ‘pay to win’ in a big budget, high priced game.

I am strongly against micro-transactions in fully priced games. I mean, you go out and spend around £50 ($60) for a AAA, big budget game or even more for special editions… and then they try to entice you to buy ‘loot boxes’ within said game to unlock items in the game you have already paid for. AAA, big budget games should never have micro-transactions. These companies already make millions up on millions in profit from the sales – so micro-transactions are insulting to us gamers. Now there is a very different corner of the gaming world that rely on micro-transactions. Those ‘free to play’ games you can download and play without spending a penny. These games need micro-transaction because their games are ‘free’ – I get that. But big budget games? No, not at all. ‘Loot boxes’ within major game releases should never be a part of the game… ever. And its not just a matter of spending real world money to gain items within a game – its also a fact that doing so means missing out on gameplay of the game itself.

Shadow or War MT

In MiddleearthShadow of War  – you can pay to unlock orcs. But capturing orcs is a major point of the gameplay – its also one of the better aspects of the game too. It kind of like buying the new Forza game but then paying to have the races completed for you. Why would you do that? These things are a cancer of gaming and the fact that the recent fallout from Star Wars: Battlefront II is making gaming headlines – I hope this is the turning point, the era where gamers just get so sick of micro-transactions in gaming that future publishers/developers take serious notes and realise we do not want them.

One of the major reasons why Star Wars: Battlefront II is getting the bad press is due to the unlocking of characters. The aforementioned Reddit began with this:

 Seriously? I paid 80$ to have Vader locked?

This is a joke. I’ll be contacting EA support for a refund… I can’t even playing fucking Darth Vader?!?!? Disgusting. This age of “micro-transactions” has gone WAY too far. Leave it to EA though to stretch the boundaries.

Yeah, you can understand the upset right, paying $80 for a game only to have one of the most iconic characters of the franchise locked away?

Vader Battlefront II

Now, the way you unlock characters in the game is via micro-transactions to gain in-game currency to then buy locked characters… or you can grind away playing the game over and over to gain in-game currency without spending any more cash. It sounds ‘fair’ right? Well not if you just handed over $80 for a single game. Plus there is also the fact that it had been worked out that you’d need to grind away playing Star Wars: Battlefront II for 40 hours just to unlock ONE character. You want both Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: Battlefront II? That’ll be 80 hours of your life thanks. Some games don’t even have a 40 hour gameplay campaign… so how does having to play for 40 hours for ONE character make any sense?

Now to be fair, EA have recently lowered the amount of in-game currency required to unlock the characters, so no need to play for 40 hours any more right? Well no – because along with reducing the cost of the characters, they have also reduced the amount of in-game cash you earn by 75%. They publicly announced the reduction of the cost of the characters to make themselves look like they have been listening to the negative feedback – but kept the drop in game currency quiet, creating an illusion. They’ve given with one hand and taken away with the other.

I like unlockables in game though, I like getting rewarded for the hard work I put into the game. Getting a new level, character or something else that adds to the gameplay is fantastic. But there is a way to handle them and a way not to. EA’s approach in regards to locking characters in Star Wars: Battlefront II is both a great idea – but also poison to the game itself. Why are they not learning for the past?

GoldenEye

GoldenEye on the N64 is a perfect example of just how to reward players. Aside for being one of the best and most influential FPS on consoles ever –  it was also one of the most rewarding games ever created in terms of unlockables. From its extensive and hugely fun ‘cheats’ menu that added extra gameplay value with its ‘big head’ and ‘paintball’ modes to the extra hidden levels and characters you got for completing the game on various difficulty settings. Then to top the whole thing off, complete the game on its most hardest setting, and you unlocked a difficulty customisation mode where you could tailor the game in numerous ways. GoldenEye was the game that kept on giving and you didn’t have to pay extra for any of this, you didn’t have to grind away for 40 hours to unlock one character. So why could developers get it right two decades ago in 1997, but miss the point of unlockables today? Yes giving us players things to unlock is awesome – but you need to get the balance right and including micro-transactions along with stupidly long unlocking methods is a dark path that no one wants to venture down.

DLC

Food DLC

Okay, so this one is a little more tricky to handle than micro-transactions because while I can see zero point in micro-transactions for AAA games – I do understand DLC… but I still feel that its not needed in gaming.

Look, I’m an old timey gamer. I go back to the Atari 2600 days and I’ve been a gamer ever since. I’ve seen this industry grow, die, grow again. I’ve been massively impressed with just how games have evolved over the years – from the simplicity of Pong to the complexity of the games we have today. Cinematic stories to be engrossed in, engaging characters, in-depth gameplay. Its been a crazy roller-coaster ride and one I still enjoy. But when I was a young gamer growing up, we didn’t have DLC – you brought a full game and you got a full game, crazy I know. Anyone remember Combat on the Atari 2600? 27 games in one… okay so they were all variations of the same theme, but we did get 27 ‘different’ games back then built into one game. That would be sold as DLC now.

DLC is something I both enjoy and loathe at the same time, that’s because the quality of DLC varies so damn much its hard to paint it all with the same brush. I can give examples of both amazing DLC along side some absolute trash DLC… sometimes within the very same game.

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is a great pick here. From the awesome DLC that was Shivering Isles which offered an in-depth piece of story expansion which featured an all new main quest along with numerous side-quests to complete. Then the same game offered the now infamous Horse Armor. DLC is and always has been very uneven and sadly for every great piece of DLC – there’s dozens of crap ones. Some companies put little to zero effort into their DLCs just because they know the game will be massively popular regardless. By ways of an example: I got the season pass for Batman: Arkham Knight for free and even though I didn’t pay for it – I still felt I was robbed due to how lacklustre the whole package was. A handful of small gameplay expansions that last around 6-8 minutes each and the cosmetics of different costume skins – I almost forgot the shitty Riddler races that no one liked in the main game anyway. It was a beyond terrible DLC package and the only reason the developers Rocksteady shat it out was because they knew it would sell given the popularity of the Batman: Arkham franchise.

Assassin's Creed II.jpg

There there are other bad examples of DLC where developers purposely withhold content for the sole reason to get players to fork out more cash to play it. I recall when I first played Assassin’s Creed II and loving the hell out of it, enjoying the engrossing story along the way… but then there were two parts of the game where it missed out on the plot. Two chunks of the game and the story just missing. It was later revealed that these missing parts would be relased as DLCs. The first being Battle of Forlì and the second was Bonfire of the Vanities. Two big pieces of the plot just removed that you had to pay for later to find out what happened. Deus Ex: Human Revolution is another game guilty of exactly the same thing. The plot is ticking along nicely, then you get to a specific point and there’s a gap in the story… and of course this was released later as a piece of DLC via The Missing Link. They even had the balls to rub it in your face that something was missing with the title of the DLC itself. How about Mortal Kombat X? Made a big deal that you can play as one of the original characters – Goro… but you then find out that to play as Goro, you have to pay extra for the privilege and even more so, it turns out that Goro was already on the disc you’ve paid for but just locked away by the developers to squeeze out more cash from you. Things like this, extra characters, costumes and similar are the bane of the DLC world. Remember playing games and unlocking characters/levels/costumes or having to quickly insert a code via the joy-pad to unlock secrets? Now, you have to pay extra to get stuff like this.

How DLC Started.jpg

Try to imagine if they did this with other forms of media. So you’ve just gone out and brought the latest Blu-ray of a film you’ve been looking forward to watching. You get it home and thrust the disc into your player, sit back in your favourite comfy chair and relax as you watch your film… only about half way through you notice there is a big chunk of the film missing or a character blocked behind a big black box – and then a message pops up on screen asking for for credit card details to ‘unlock’ the missing scenes or characters. We just wouldn’t put up with this shit in films or books, etc… so why do we do so with games?

Now the reason I wrote this article to begin with was due to a conversation I was having on a gaming forum where the subject of DLC was brought up. Without boring you with the details, basically someone said that DLC is (and I quote) “a requirement in gaming” because game companies “don’t make much money from the sale of the games alone”. They also said that “game prices have remained pretty much the same for the last 20 odd years” or so while “game development costs have continued to grow and grow”. Now, that all sounds pretty fair right? If games have remained the same cost for over two decades while development costs have increased – that says a lot about why DLC exists… except its not that black & white is it?

GoldenEye cart

You see 20 odd years ago we were (mainly) playing games on cartridges as digital media was still in its infancy. Just going back to GoldenEye for a second, it would have set you back around $60-$70 back in 1997. A new game now will damage your wallet for around the same today… but it’ll most probably be on a Blu-ray disc and not a cartridge because cartridge games are more expensive to manufacture and that expense had to be passed onto the consumer. Notice how Nintendo Switch games are more expensive than the same game on PlayStation 4 or Xbox One? Because the SD cards Nintendo use are more expensive to produce.

So that is one reason why game prices have not increased much (or at all) over the last 20 years… because they are cheaper to make now… unless you own a Switch. And if you don’t like that reasoning, then the games industry as a whole has exploded in the last 20 years too. Where once selling a couple of million units was considered a success – today, that would be seen on as a flop as more people now buy games than ever before and this too has helped keep the cost of games down because more are being sold. Then just to finish this point, my retort to companies don’t make much money from games – I’ll just go back to Star Wars: Battlefront II‘s publisher EA for a second. Their net worth as of 2017 is 1.210 billion dollars with 7.718 billion in total assets and an operating income of 1.224 billion dollars… yeah I can see they are struggling to make money. I bet their CEO struggles to put food on he table right?

I also used another line of defence to demonstrate my opinion that DLC is not needed in gaming via the use of a certain gaming company. One that is both guilty of offering micro-transactions and DLC but also made a hugely successful game with zero paid for DLC at all. A company that is both a prime example of why we don’t need DLC in gaming but also gave us some of the best DLC ever.

Rockstar logo

Rockstar are one of my all time favourite game developers/publishers. It has been recently announced that the eagerly awaited Red Dead Redemption II will feature micro-transactions. Bad Rockstar… except this was not their decision as it came from higher up with their parent company Take-Two. The mighty Grand Theft Auto V also featured micro-transactions via their Shark Cards for the multiplayer aspect of the game… again a decision from Take-Two not Rockstar themselves. I’ve already said my bit on micro-transactions and I hope they die a fast and painful death soon and with all the bad press they are getting right now – maybe Take-Two will reverse their micro-transactions decision with RDR II?

To get back to the point of DLC, Rockstar have given us three pieces of simply awesome DLC from their games. Grand Theft Auto IV‘s The Lost and DamnedThe Ballad of Gay Tony DLCs were fantastic. Giving fans a continuation of the main story along with new gameplay features and mechanics. They were pretty big too adding dozens of hours of gameplay value. Then there was Red Dead Redemption‘s Undead Nightmare – which similarly to the GTA IV DLCs gave players a whole new story with new gameplay features and mechanics along with hours and hours of gameplay. These DLC were well worth the money.

Now let’s take a look the biggest game Rockstar has developed so far and the biggest selling game of all time – Grand Theft Auto V.

GTA V.jpg

More than 800 million dollars in worldwide revenue, equating to approximately 11.21 million units sold in less than 24 hours of being released. Sales totalling $2,079,480,000 by March 2015 and around 52 million copies sold since its release in 2013… again these figures were accurate as of March 2015. The game is still selling now (hence why it still holds a decent price) and how much paid for DLC does GTA V have? None, yet it’s online portion has continually been updated with FREE content for several years now… FREE content. Some of that FREE content even carries over to the single player game… for FREE.

Yeah you can bring up Shark Cards if you wish and I’ll rebuttal with this…
They are not a necessity, anyone can play GTA: Online without spending anything and still get all the FREE DLC in both multi and single player. Also, GTA: Online didn’t exist when GTA V was first released and making 800 million dollars in the first 24 hours alone. So you can’t blame Shark Cards for that – it made its money on the game it was at the time. GTA V has been the  most profitable game made so far and not a single piece of paid for DLC either… but loads of FREE DLCs and updates adding more content.

So please get out of here with all that ‘games are too expensive to produce and they don’t make profit’ when GTA V broke sales records in 24 hours, made more profit than any other game so far, gets continually updated with FREE content and features no paid for DLC. So if the most expensive game so far to be produced can bring in that kind of money in 24 hours alone with no paid for DLC or micro-transactions… then why can’t other games? Some people are still screaming for some story based DLC for GTA V – but here is the main point… it doesn’t ‘need’ it. Its a game that is 100% complete upon release (not including the online aspect), just how games used to be. Buy a game and get a full game.

No More DLC

DLC is most definitely not a requirement of gaming and if developers put all of the games out there from the get go like GTA V being 100% complete from day one, maybe they could see better sales minus the micro-transactions, DLC and other withheld content. You know, just what gaming used to be like. What a great future of gaming that could be… just like the past.

What If, In Red Dead Redemption II…?

Yeah I got another one of those darn Red Dead Redemption II articles – but hey, I’m really excited for this game and can’t wait to get my hands on it. And the release of the second trailer a while back is not helping much as ideas for the plot keep popping into my head.

Given the mass amount of detail Rockstar like to cram into their game worlds, I’m sure Red Dead Redemption II will be no different – I mean, they even added swinging horse-bollocks… they really have, check out the trailer closely. Actual horse-balls physics!

But there is one detail in the previous game that some people overlooked and its a detail I hope plays a bigger part in this sequel… err, prequel. And seeing as Red Dead Redemption II is a prequel – that means that my idea could work out too. Okay so for those not in the know despite the ‘II’ in the title of the game, Red Dead Redemption II is not a sequel but a prequel – even more so, it not really a II either.

Red Dead Revolver

Red Dead Revolver was the first game in the franchise and released in 2004 by Rockstar for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox. It told the story of bounty hunter Red Harlow (above) who uncovers the plot that killed his parents and extracts his revenge. This was followed by Red Dead Redemption for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in 2010. Where we play as John Marston trying to atone (or get redemption) for his past life as a gang-member – making this game the second in the series and Red Dead Redemption II the third… but its a prequel so technically its the second or could it even be the first?

See, we don’t actually know just how far back in the timeline of the series Red Dead Redemption II will go. Five years, ten, twenty, more? Which brings me to the aforementioned little detail in Red Dead Redemption that many people overlook or just did not know about. There has always been some sort of debate as to whether Revolver is even part of the Redemption series at all as many people claim that Redemption is in fact a reboot to the Red Dead franchise and exists in its own separate universe. Except that’s not true…

Red Harlow

That right there is Red Harlow from Revolver in Redemption – he is in the game. Now before everyone jumps in with ‘that’s only in the multiplayer’, yes that is very true. Numerous Revolver characters including Annie Stoakes, Shadow Wolf, Ugly Chris and even Red Harlow himself are playable in Redemption… but only as part of the multiplayer aspect and not the main story. So that really does not count does it?

You know how I talked about the level of detail Rockstar put into their games (horse-plums people!)? Well Redemption has a ton of tiny details too and one of them was being able to just wander over to a campsite in the dessert, sit down and listen to stories told by strangers. And who was the subject of some of those stories?

“You heard of that Red Harlow fella?

Red Harlow and his adventures, the events of Revolver are mentioned within the main story of Redemption more than once. That video is just one of the numerous stories told and more than one of them mentions Red Harlow by name. So there you have it, solid proof that Red Harlow and the events of Revolver happened and do exist within the main story of Redemption. So what does this all mean?

Well people are getting all excited about the prospect of John Marston returning as the new game is a prequel, me? I’m really not all that bothered if John returns or not, yeah it’ll be nice to see him and all that – but what if another character returns, what if Red Harlow is a part of the Redemption II story line? It is possible, it could happen right?

For me, I’d much rather see Red back over John… or what about both?

RedJohn

Given we don’t know exactly how far back Redemption II will go, its kind of hard to work out the timeline. But the main events of Revolver were set sometime in the 1800’s, I’ve not played the game for years so if anyone can come up with a more accurate date, it’ll be much appreciated – but I’m not even sure if an exact date was mentioned. While Redemption was set in 1911 with John being born in 1873, making him around 37-38 years old during the events of the game. So it is possible the two existed in the same place at the same time… depending on exactly when the events Revolver occurred. A younger John Marston could have interacted with an older Red Harlow and that could be a part of Redemption II‘s story even if its set 20 years before Redemption. A 17-18 year old John and a 50 year old Red? If Billy The Kid could be an outlaw by the age of 18 (and he was), then so could John Marston.

Red Dead Redepmtion 2 Image 7

The more I think about this, the more it makes sense. Redemption II could be the game that officially links the previous two games together… with added horse-nards!

 

About That ‘Red Dead Redemption 2’ Leaked Image… Its Not

Pretty much any and everyone eagerly awaiting the release of Rockstar’s sequel/prequel to Red Dead Redemption has gone crazy over the leaked image that has been doing the rounds recently.

Wild West Online Image 1

Its Not What You Think

I’ve read articles that have analysed the image over and over. “That’s definitely a young John Marston.”, “That’s Armadillo. It just looks different because its a prequel.” and so on. Some sites have compared the image to the official trailer released last year and made direct connections as proof that the said image is definitely from Red Dead Redemption 2.

There is a slight problem with all of these articles that are making these comparisons. That ‘leaked’ Red Dead Redemption 2 image is not from Red Dead Redemption 2 at all. In fact – the image comes from an all new game called Wild West Online being developed for the PC and there are other images too.

The Wild West Gets Social

Wild West Online will be an open world PvP MMO game. A countdown on the official site is promising more info in a few days but some features of the game are already known. Being inspired by Rockstar’s Red Dead RedemptionWild West Online will give players the chance to explore an open world map all while forming a posse of other real players. You can also decide to either defend or break the law as you try to make a name for yourself and your fellow cowboys or you could just sit around in a saloon and play some cards.

612 Games, the developers of Wild West Online are made up of some of the talent behind games like Crysis and League of Legends are set to launch a Kickstarter at the end of this month to help fund the project and include stretch goals for an added bonus. Yet even without the Kickstarter campaign, the team say that they are already so far along in development that the game will see a release later this year regardless of the Kickstarter.

While the game takes in main inspiration form Red Dead Redemption – particularly the multiplayer/online element. The development team want to bring a very different game with this MMO and that it won’t be a typical grind-fest and repetitive quests and promise a very different MMO with more variety and depth. It seems there will be more to the game than just being a cowboy as you can forge an alternate career and specialise in various vocations such as a gatherer, prospector or even a farmer. Then use your wares to inject fuel into a player-driven in-game economy.

Gathering resources and even building camps will be a big social aspect of the game that will be coupled with a crafting system which will rely on discovering new creations, recipes and weapons. All will help build and grow your posse as you add more and more real life players. The team also say the game will be more story, character, and gameplay-driven than other MMOs and they are working on a unique progression system that will add depth and keep players coming back for more.

The Good, The Bad And The Lawless

If you do chose the wrong side of the law path for your posse, then you will soon find yourself becoming a wanted gang. As you earn wanted starts and the infamy of your gang grows, you’ll find yourself being sought out by bounty hunters, sheriffs and deputies all played by real people. Rivalries will be formed between the right and wrong side of the law as the intricate gang system in the game starts to grow with each new player.

The developers are promising many, various way to break the law and become a known outlaw if you wish. From simple robberies and bigger bank heists to outright murder. As you and you gang raise their lawless profile, you’ll find that you will become exiled from towns – and this is where you can set up your very own bandit hideouts and where the previously mentioned resource system will play a big part. As you’ll be able to build and upgrade your hideout trough the course of the game.

Its looking and sounding great. Seeing as Rockstar seem to have no intention of bringing either the original Red Dead Redemption or its sequel/prequel to the PC – then this game seems the be the closest PC gamers are going to get to a multiplayer wild west game.

More details of the game will be released soon, stay tuned to the official Wild West Online site.

Sources: playwwo.com, pcgamer.com.

Red Dead Redemption 2 Release Date Leaked?

Quite possibly the biggest game of 2017 is just a few moths away from release. The only problem is, we don’t know exactly when Red Dead Redemption 2 is due to hit shops as developer – Rockstar are infamous for playing their cards close to their chest.

Details of the game are spare to say the least and the interwebs is alight with fans scouring any and every detail they can to find any morsel of small information about the upcoming title. But it may just be that UK based retailer – Base have let a rather large cat out of the bag…

Base are currently taking pre-orders for Red Dead Redemption 2 and have a release date of 26th September. That day is a Tuesday (to save you checking) and Tuesday is normally the day when new releases hit shops. Plus September is in the Fall season, which is the only date revealed up until now via Rockstar themselves. It all adds up.

Rockstar themselves have neither confirmed nor denied that this is the official release date… yet. It could just be a mistake and maybe Base are just taking a wild stab in the dark – or maybe they have accidentally let something slip that they were not supposed to? Is it worth booking a week off work right now or maybe wait until an official announcement?

Red Dead Redemption 2 is set for release 26th September… possibly…

You can watch the teaser trailer for the 157th time below because whenever anyone writes an article on Red Dead Redemption 2, they have to include the same teaser again. Its the law!

 

Could Red Dead Redemption 2 Be Delayed Until 2018?

There are two games set for release this year that have got me salivating with an-tici-pation. Those two are State Of Decay 2 from Undead Labs and Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption 2. These two games share something in common (aside from a ‘2’ in the title), neither one of them have been given a specific release date yet and just a rough estimate.

State Of Decay 2 developers – Undead Labs have said that they will be revealing a lot more of their game and even a specific release date at E3 this June… and I can’t wait. Yet Rockstar seem to be much less revealing about Red Dead Redemption 2. So far – all we have is a very lose ‘Fall 2017’ release with many people assuming this will be sometime in October/November. But I have a question, what if Red Dead Redemption 2 is delayed until 2018? You see, Rockstar don’t really have a great track record of keeping their games release dates. I mean, lets look at some evidence…

Grand Theft Auto IV

This was Rockstar’s big anticipated game for the last generation consoles after a 4 year wait since Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Grand Theft Auto IV was slated for a late October 2007 release for around eight months of that year, but it was not released in October of 2007 at all.

With just 2 months before its scheduled release, Take-Two (Rockstar’s parent company) Chairman Strauss Zelnick made this satement:

With Grand Theft Auto IV, Rockstar is setting a new standard for next generation video games. Certain elements of development proved to be more time-intensive than expected, especially given the commitment for a simultaneous release on two very different platforms. We all recognise that perfecting the game is vital and I can assure everyone it will be worth the wait. We owe it to the game’s millions of fans, to our dedicated development team, and to our shareholders to make sure that Grand Theft Auto IV is a groundbreaking gaming experience that takes maximum advantage of next generation technology.

What that all meant was that Grand Theft Auto IV was delayed until April of 2008 instead of its planned October 2007 release date.

Red Dead Redemption

For pretty much the whole of 2009, Rockstar kept tight lipped about a release date for their recently announced Red Dead Redemption, but many assumed the game would see an early 2010 release. Then Rockstar revealed an official trailer with a firm April 27th 2010 date seemingly set in stone. You guessed it – the game didn’t make its April 2010 release date.

This time around, it was Take-Two CEO Ben Feder who said:

We shifted the launch of the game by several weeks into the third quarter. We believe this is the optimal time frame to release what is being hailed as the next generation of sandbox games.

So the delay this time was only a few weeks as Red Dead Redemption actually hit stores on May 18th, 2010 instead of April. But believe me – after reading up about the game and seeing the trailers. Those few weeks of a delay felt like several months.

Grand Theft Auto V

It was in October 2011 when Rockstar formally announced that Grant Theft Auto V was coming. The announcement was also very similar to that of Red Dead Redemption 2 with an early tease followed by a debut trailer soon after. Rockstar originally stated that Grand Theft Auto V would see a Q2 2013 release – with many thinking an early summer date.

Then on January 13th, 2013 on Rockstar’s official site, they posted this announcement:

Dear all,

Today, we have an official release date to share with you: Grand Theft Auto V will arrive in stores on September 17, 2013.

We know this is about four months later than originally planned and we know that this short delay will come as a disappointment to many of you, but, trust us, it will be worth the extra time. GTAV is a massively ambitious and complex game and it simply needs a little more polish to be of the standard we and, more importantly, you require.

To all Grand Theft Auto fans, please accept our apologies for the delay, and our promise that the entire team here is working very hard to make the game all it can be. We are doing all we can to help ensure it will meet if not exceed your expectations come September – we thank you for your support and patience.

Yours,

The GTA Team

The strange thing is that this delay came from nowhere after months of complete silence from Rockstar since the official Grand Theft Auto V reveal. You know, very much like how we have heard nothing about Red Dead Redemption 2 since its official announcement months ago too.

Summing Up

It seem to me that Rockstar have been making a habit of delaying games. Let’s not forget that they also delayed Max Payne 3 from its original March date to May 2012 too.

Some delays are a few weeks, some are several months. But there is no denying that Rockstar have had all of their major releases delayed over the last decade or so. Yet all of these delays share one thing in common – they all come about after not hearing anything about the game for several months. And we have heard nothing about Red Dead Redemption 2 since its official reveal trailer back in October of last year…