Rockstar Games’ Red Dead Redemption 2 is a marvel that should be recognised as the best open-world game since CD Projekt Red’s The Witcher 3.

Rockstar Games’ Red Dead Redemption 2 may not have won game of the year at Geoff Keighley’s Game Awards, but it is the best open-world title since CD Projekt Red’s The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt. While Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, Far Cry 5 and even Marvel’s Spider-Man abided by the Ubisoft gospel for creating bland and repetitive landscapes that are a chore to 100%, Rockstar decided to make a huge setting that was unpredictable, stuffed with secrets, and alive.

Back in 2015, The Witcher 3 was pretty much everyone’s favourite game for being an imaginative epic full of beasts for you to plough and bare lasses to kill (or perhaps the other way around). Forget Geralt’s dry humour, Ciri’s curse and Yennefer’s ample bosom, CD Projekt Red’s third and possibly final instalment was dubbed a masterpiece because its ginormous landscape was immersive, unique and fun to explore. No matter where you ventured on your drunken steed Roach, there was always something new to witness, record, and stab with the pointy end of your witcher blade.

© CD Projekt Red

After The Witcher 3 was released in 2015, there were a boatload of open-world video games that played things safe and thus underwhelmed. Fallout 4 was an ugly relic that needed to be set on fire, Watch Dogs 2 was Watch Dogs with a new and uninspiring coat of paint, and Horizon: Zero Dawn was Assassin’s Creed with a ginger protagonist and robotic giraffes. Despite creators having more freedom with vast spaces, they never did anything beyond copying and pasting towers and quests, or taking the No Man’s Sky approach of telling gamers that the world is empty and recycled so players can create a satisfying narrative with their mates or on their own. This wasn’t the developers being lazy, but rather them being unimaginative and wrongly focused on solely making the land detailed and beautiful. Then Red Dead Redemption 2 came out.

Red Dead Redemption 2 made fatigued cynics fall in love with the open-world genre all over again. Unlike all the other titles that tasked you with climbing towers, fetching a million feathers, and killing the same goons over and over again at identical bases, Red Dead Redemption 2 simply lets you roam about and meet eccentric individuals naturally. Be it rescuing a damsel whose horse has committed suicide by leaping off a cliff, or simply sucking the venom out of some poor sod’s knob, the world of Red Dead Redemption 2 feels alive rather than designed by a god who is stupidly copying another god’s outdated model town.

© Rockstar Games

Some critics have complained about Red Dead Redemption 2 occasionally being clunky and unresponsive, but as with The Witcher 3 it isn’t a big deal. While Arthur Morgan sometimes feels like an obese clod incapable of running for more than five seconds, Geralt was a clumsy oaf whose fatal weakness was small drops. Yet none of this matters as both games were/are fresh and exciting thanks to the ridiculous amount of content. Neither of them have towers to climb, but they each have a boatload of unforgettable individuals whose missions are equivalent to and sometimes even better than the main quests.

Another aspect that makes Red Dead Redemption 2 a feat on par with The Witcher 3 is its side activities/mini-games. Although Gwent still remains the best card game in any title, playing poker, blackjacks, dominoes and five-finger fillet in Red Dead Redemption 2 is a great way to relax and bond with your campmates. In addition, Red Dead Redemption 2 also has an honour system that is far superior to the typical paragon and renegade feature found in games like Mass Effect 2. Rather than simply being made a douche for selecting the blatantly bad option, the world of Red Dead Redemption 2 reacts to your behaviour with even the most minor civilian remembering if you were a d**k or saint to them.

© Rockstar Games

God Of War was crowned Game Of The Year at the Game Awards, but Red Dead Redemption 2 is still the best open-world title since The Witcher 3. Yes, Arthur Morgan may feel heavy and sometimes the game doesn’t respond to you wanting to feed your starving horse, but none of that matters. The landscape feels alive and organic rather than a cheap model stuffed with figures for you to play with, and every adventure on your trusty steed is unpredictable with there being a plethora of secrets and hapless individuals to discover. Not all developers have the luxury of being able to work on a game for eight years, but hopefully Red Dead Redemption 2 encourages more studios to p**s on the Ubisoft open-world handbook in favour of creating something new and exciting rather than recycled and lazy.