Red Dead Redemption 2: Simply Whelmed

Years in development, months of hype, and teaser after teaser have revealed Rockstar’s newest entry in their product lineup after half a decade: Red Dead Redemption 2.

With a massive marketing budget drip-feeding the public morsels of information about the upcoming romp through the Wild West, why don’t’ we feel ourselves getting as hyped as we probably should be?

The answer is easy: it looks like more of the same. For all their fancy trailers and raytraced models, Rockstar hasn’t shown much in the way of new for Red Dead Redemption 2. All that’s been teased so far has looked like they transplanted the gameplay out of RDR1 straight into a new and shiny graphics engine.

Don’t get us wrong, we love us some delicious eye candy. After all, if we’re going to be spending countless hours staring at pixels, they’d better be sexy pixels at the very least.

The problem with RDR2 is that, from what Rockstar has elected to share with us, nothing looks too different from what we’ve had before. Gun-slinging action set in a true-to-life Western setting that tackles issues such as justice, lawlessness, colonization, racism, and yada-yada-yada we’ve been here before.

It’s hard to pin down what’s changed at Rockstar, but the developer is certainly a different beast to what it was before.

Where they once strived to deliver innovative gameplay married with top-notch writing, it’s becoming harder and harder to see their work as something more than derivative of their previous instalments.

Unfortunately, the path looks to be leading to the same place as it did before.

There’s no doubt that Rockstar will move thousands – if not millions – of units of RDR too. With massive publishers such as them, the modus operandi seems to have become “release a massively expensive game with copious amounts of hype to recoup the investment, rinse, repeat”.

With such a mentality, the focus is becoming more and more on selling a product that wows the audience at first glance and distracts them long enough before they realize that there’s little of substance beneath the glossy veneer.

RDR2 could drop some revolutionary game mechanics that’ll upend the way the industry conducts itself. Hell, the game isn’t out yet, so anything’s possible.

And yet, we feel comfortable enough by going out on a limb here and say that Rockstar’s focus will be far greater on eliciting that sweet recurrent user spending they managed to tap into through GTA online rather than pushing the envelope when it comes to single-player systems.

Rockstar’s shift over the last half-decade reflects what has begun to occur to massive studios the world over. With so much competition in an already over-saturated market, developers are forced to engineer products that no longer just recoup their investment through initial sales, but transform into long-term platforms that can provide investors with a steady stream of revenue for a much longer time horizon.

The direct result? Tried and true mechanics that offer nothing new, but have been tuned and tweaked with the express intention of making you forget that you’ve been doing the exact same thing for years on end – and keep you hungry for more.

At least with this release schedule, we only have to wait another five years until we see Rockstar’s next attempt.

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