The 5 Biggest Problems With 'Red Dead Redemption 2'

Red Dead Redemption 2Credit: Rockstar Games

It's funny: we've done this double feature of 5 biggest problems and 5 best things with other games before, and sometimes the problems feel like reaching, particularly with some of the best-reviewed games in the industry. And yet the funny thing about Red Dead Redemption 2 is that despite all of the things it does so fantastically well, the problems aren't exactly hard to spot. This is a massive, sprawling title with both triumphs and failures that are hard to ignore no matter how you're playing, and it's a testament to those triumphs that we're able to forget about these problems when faced with what the game does well.

Still, this is a game with some issues, and there's no way around that. If you want to see what the game does well, head on over to 5 best things. Below we've got the 5 biggest problems with Red Dead Redemption 2:

Depressing, Endless Story: If you read my review, you know that this is by far my biggest gripe with the game. The story is well told but feels poorly-conceived, and it's a relentless, depressing downer. The fact that this is a prequel means we already know that things don't end well for many of these characters, but you don't need to have played Red Dead Redemption to witness the continual beating they take just in this game. Things start bad and they end worse, the difference is that it takes a whopping 60 hours to make it through. Some editing and reorganization could have significantly lessened the impact here-- there's a reason why Cormac Mccarthy books aren't 60 hours long, and there's a reason King Lear is crammed full of raunchy jokes.

Clunky Mechanics: Fortnite this is not. Red Dead Redemption 2's Arthur Morgan is a slow, bulky cowboy that responds to button presses in good time. Not only is there noticeable input lag in a number of situations, but the main character also moves slow and strangely throughout much of the game. There are great moments in the control scheme, notably the always-satisfying Deadeye ability. But all in all, things aren't as tight as they need to be here, even if this isn't a competitive multiplayer game yet. The game too often forces you to slow down unnaturally, and the result actually breaks the illusion rather than reinforcing it.

Add into this a confusing and slippery UI and you have a situation where the game just doesn't do what you want it to nearly often enough. The less said about horses running headlong into trees, the better.

Red Dead Redemption 2Credit: Rockstar Games

Aggressive inconvenience: Rockstar had an idea with Red Dead Redemption 2, and it works beautifully in places. The world here is tactile and grounded in what feels like a genuinely new way: when you skin an animal it doesn't just give you an inventory icon, it gives you this physical object that you carry under your arm. When your character gets off his horse he pulls the longarms he wants off of its side and puts them on his back. When he fires a revolver he slams the hammer with his palm. There's a ton of places where this grounded quality works beautifully.

And yet there are parts of this concept that just don't fly when it comes to actual gameplay. Fast Travel is bizarre, limited and annoying. The inventory system is a neat idea but has a way of putting you into situations where you want your gun but don't have it. Having to go to a dozen different shopkeepers to sell your stuff is a pain, the stew is never finished in time: etc. Finding yourself outside of whistling range with your horse is a colossal annoyance. One doesn't imagine that the old west was a particularly convenient place to live, but this is a video game, at the end of the day.

This might work better in Red Dead Online, where the game can reorient itself around a slower pace and lean into some of these things as organizing principles. It's tough in the story mode.

Finicky Laws: If you accidentally get on the wrong horse, prepare to suffer the consequences. If you're riding too fast in town, prepare to suffer the consequences. If you gun down someone in cold blood, prepare to suffer the consequences--that last one actually seems reasonable. But the rest of the time, obeying laws in settlements can just feel like a pain: if a civilian decides to make a bizarre sidestep and just sort of dive in front of a galloping horse, you're wanted for murder and have to retreat to the outskirts of town until the heat dies down and then head back to the post office to pay your bounty before you're out of hot water. It's just sort of annoying: I don't think the game should be as liberal with lawbreaking as the GTA series, but a little more leeway here would have made the parts of the game that take place in towns and cities significantly less prickly.

The West? This game is a Western, though that's a pretty amorphous genre all things told. There's something interesting about a Western that takes place primarily outside of the West, and it allows Rockstar to produce some gorgeous visuals inspired by places like West Virginia and Lousiana: the game's stand-in for New Orleans is a particular star. And yet whenever you navigate your horse back to the towering rock formations and wide open vistas we more closely associate with Westerns, we remember what's lost by spending the vast majority of our time in the East. There's a visual language here that defines a Western, and without it the game has a hard time conveying a certain sort of drama. The game does eventually let us back to our home on the range, but by this point we've spent too much time in the hazy south.

I'm a freelance writer whose work has appeared in The Atlantic, The New York Times, The New Republic, IGN.com, Wired and more. I cover social games, video games, technology and that whole gray area that happens when technology and consumers collide. Google

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook