It’s time to dust off the console and check out a couple of new game releases, starring a bunch of grizzled cowboys and your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man!
Red Dead Redemption 2
Developed by Rockstar Studios (2018)
The original Red Dead Redemption was published back in 2010, itself a sequel to 2004’s Red Dead Revolver. The 2010 version told the story of former outlaw John Marston and featured a morality system, where player choices impacted the way that other characters in the game reacted to you. The game was critically acclaimed but decried by some for its level of depth and slow-moving plotline.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is a prequel to the 2010 version, telling the tale of a young John Marston through the eyes of fellow outlaw Arthur Morgan. While ostensibly a bad guy, Arthur is frequently called upon to help out strangers and right wrongs, allowing you to make the choice of being an anti-hero or a genuine villain. Needless to say, I chose the latter.
Fair warning – RDR2 is a slow game. Glacially slow. Most of the time you’re travelling by horse, which is a slow way to get around the massive in-game map. The upside to this is the ability to go into cinematic mode, allowing you to appreciate the level of detail that Rockstar put into the game, allegedly by forcing their developers to work 80-hour weeks. There are also endless mundane tasks that Arthur has to complete, including (but not limited to) changing a cart wheel, picking flowers and hunting rabbits.
Players who can deal with the slow pace will be rewarded with an incredibly deep game experience, where almost every one of the non-playable characters has a backstory and fully rounded character arc. RDR2 is also very funny at times, particularly the early scene where Arthur and a mate get blackout drunk and spend the night wandering around trying to find each other.
It’s not perfect, however. You’re supposed to be an outlaw, but the game penalizes you for the smallest infringements while on a mission; if you accidentally bump into a pedestrian, it’s mission fail. In fact, the choice to be an actual bad guy results in you getting chased by bounty hunters and makes the game more difficult.
Developed by Insomniac Games (2018)
There have been many Spider-Man video games released over the years, few of them good. The first one I remember playing was the 1992 Super Nintendo release of Spider-Man and the X-Men in Arcade’s Revenge — which was a bit crap, to be honest. I also played the 2000 version based on the Tony Hawk Pro Skater engine, which was fun, but did at times make you wonder why Spidey threw so many skating tricks into his repertoire.
One of the main problems with previous Spider-games was the travel aspect — web-swinging from one end of town to the other was often a tedious affair. The 2018 version fixes this problem immediately, giving Spidey a freedom of movement that makes travel a joy rather than a chore. It also manages to capture Spidey’s sarcastic but well-intentioned personality and takes a leaf from the Arkham series in terms of fight mechanics.
The game version of Spider-Man is a little older than the current movie iteration (Tom Holland, the best movie Spidey ever) and sees Peter Parker working for Dr Otto Octavius — soon to become the villainous Dr Octopus. After a bunch of super-villains including Electro, Rhino and Vulture escape from the Vault, Spidey makes it his mission to track them down and bring them to justice, all without killing, of course.
As a gaming experience, Spider-Man is an enormous amount of fun. The storyline is engaging, the combat is intuitive and hard enough to be challenging and the graphics are fantastic, particularly when you start earning alternative costumes for the wall-crawler. On the downside, it must be said that the Mary Jane Watson/Miles Morales segments of the game tend to drag — I understand why Insomniac introduced a stealth element, but if I wanted stealth, I’d play Metal Gear Solid.
Both Red Dead Redemption 2 and Spider-Man have made mind-boggling amounts of money since their launch earlier this year. Gamestop reports that Spider-Man made around $198 million in revenue in its first three days of release, which sounds like a lot until you realise that Red Dead Redemption 2 sold $725 million worth of copies over the same period.
There is a lot of good stuff in both games, so my recommendation really depends on your mood. If you have a few hours (or a week) to spare and are looking for an immersive simulation of what it was like to live in the wild west, check out Red Dead Redemption 2. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for some fast-paced action and a real sensation of movement, Spider-Man is definitely a better bet.
Red Dead Redemption 2 — 8/10
Spider-Man — 8/10
Books by John Turnbull are available on Amazon and Kindle, including supernatural thriller Damnation’s Flame; action/romance Reaper, black comedy City Boy and travel guidebook Bar Trek: Europe. Damnation''s Flame by John Turnbull is also available in paperback in the IA store HERE (free postage).
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