It has been sung for over half a century. That the times they are a changin’, and it’s true. You can not stop progress and that’s the message at the core of both games in Rockstar’s western opus. Though he’s not centre stage for huge amounts of either game, Red Dead Redemption as a whole has been about the futility of complicated men, like Dutch van der Linde, resisting the changing tide and ultimately, like John Marston’s curtain call in Red Dead the first, going down swinging rather than sacrifice their old ways. Though the original was ahead of its time, I never expected the amount of heart Red Dead Redemption 2 would have. Rockstar take rascalish men, tear them down and use it as a lesson to swim with the tide which hit a whole lot harder than Grand Theft Auto’s attempts at pisstake social commentary which often fall flat.
It’s because it’s free from Rockstar’s satirical leanings that often bog down the writing in their Grand Theft Auto series that Red Dead Redemption 2 stands tall as a genuinely intelligent, human and authentic version of an Old West that’s on the cusp of oblivion as it is threatened aside by burgeoning industry and civilised life. I never buy into prequels but to see a younger, more optimistic Dutch van der Linde evading capture time and time again with a caravan of hopefuls desperate to believe that there’s still somewhere for them is truly a gift and it’s clearly head and shoulders above anything else Rockstar has in their stable, save for perhaps the original Red Dead. It’s a slow burn with a careful and considered message that unfolds at its own wary pace knowing it doesn’t have to resort to blockbuster set-pieces to wrestle back attention.