This past weekend was a significant one if you’ve been anxiously awaiting the release of Red Dead Redemption 2 (RDR2).

With the game taking more than a couple of days to do a proper review, we decided to offer up our first impressions of the hotly anticipated title, and what we experienced in the first few hours of gameplay.

Good of the gang

Red Dead Redemption 2 starts off with the Van De Linde as they try to make their way through a snow storm following a botched robbery attempt in the town of Blackwater, which you may remember from the first RDR game.

In terms of timelines, the action here takes place before RDR, and we even get to encounter and interact with a young John Marston, who has the main protagonist in that iconic game.

The hero (or anti-hero depending how you look at it) in this piece is Arthur Morgan, who is a bit more surly than Marston. We weren’t that keen on him at first, but over time we’ve grown to like playing as Morgan. As far as strong silent types go, he’s the embodiment.

He’s also a fierce local member of the Van de Linde gang, whose leader Dutch is almost a surrogate father to Morgan.

Speaking of the gang, much of the action in the opening few chapters involves helping the gang out, while also coming to grips with the game mechanics, types of missions available and general lay of the land.

Added to this is incentive to help out the gang, whether that be with giving it shares of the money you earn, hunting and foraging for food, or getting your hands on other handy resources.

As such, helping out the gang, while also forging out to do your own thing is a big part of Red Dead Redemption 2.

Equestrian studies

Another significant part of the gameplay is Morgan’s horse. It’s not simply a means of transport, but an extension of Morgan too. Just like our hero, who has a new Core system for things like health, stamina and Dead Eye, your horse has similar stats that need to be maintained.

Added to this is the ability for your horse to serve as a storage vessel, with surplus weapons, clothing, wildlife and bodies capable of being placed on your four-legged friend. You can even name your horse, if that’s your thing.

As such, giving a few more gameplay elements, as well as a need to maintain one’s horse, certainly helps to make them more valuable.

We learned this early on after a drunken night left us waking up in a random location, and despite how intensely we whistled, our horse was simply out of range, forcing us to leg it instead.

Deeper and richer

Is Red Dead Redemption 2 like it’s predecessor?

With the exception of the protagonist, yes, very much so. But do not think this is just a carbon copy, as developer Rockstar Games have looked at almost every element of gameplay and looked at ways it can be enriched.

As such there are a few hard to notice elements that show just how much attention to detail there is.

Some of the more interesting ones we encountered was how weather, and precipitation in particular effects the look and movement of your character. Another aspect that impressed us is the fact that Morgan’s beard grows over time, which means if you want to keep things clean-shaven, you’ll need to shave every morning as our protagonist is rather hirsute.

We haven’t experienced every element that Red Dead Redemption 2 has to offer, but we’re definitely looking forward to it.

First impression

After the first hour or two, we had mixed feelings about Red Dead Redemption 2. It did not immediately grab our attention like its predecessor did, despite the superb visuals and environment that was created.

Over time though, and with each completed mission, the game is winning us over. As is its protagonist Morgan.

Should the storyline come close to the heights of the Red Dead Redemption, and the online mode prove worthwhile, then Rockstar could very well have another iconic game in the making here.