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Red Dead Redemption 2’s Sound Design Makes It A Unique Masterpiece

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Red Dead Redemption 2 isn’t just a game, but an experience to be lived, enjoyed and cherished. Of all the factors that make the game a unique experience, its sound design tops the list.

The Original Soundtrack (OST) is currently embroiled in an epic tussle between players who love the game and the ones who find it the most laborious “game” they’ve ever played. For me, it’s simultaneously a 10/10 game and a 2/10. Do you know what is a consistent 10/10 across the board?

The overall sound design/ music is fantastic but I hardly see any praise for it. However, players rarely seem to realise the fact as everyone is too busy crying about the controls or fawning over the visuals. So, I guess I will.

Audio was always one of the major reasons the first Red Dead Redemption to this day is one of my favourite games ever. The sequel maintains the standard and in some ways surpasses it.

Let’s talk about the music first. This is an early call given I’ve only just finished the second chapter but I’m going to say this is a contender for best soundtrack this year. Music in video games often gets criticised for falling into one of two categories – either being too “gamey” (more distinctive and catchy) or falling into the trap of just sounding like “epic” orchestral tracks (generic and not memorable).

I don’t think I can overstate how perfect the music in RDR 2 fits the setting and genre. They manage to straddle the line between melancholy and gentle without sounding boring or like generic “sad” background music. I mean the first time you hear one of your gang members playing a classic tune on a banjo while sitting next to a campfire is understatedly perfect. I’m not going to post any Youtube links, just play the game and listen for yourself.

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It’s not just the quality of the music itself, it’s how they’ve integrated it into the actual experience. Open world titles, in particular, have a lot of issues when it comes to actually implement the music loop into free roaming.

Combat themes occurring too early or lingering long after the fight is done is a common problem. Tracks often don’t flow smoothly when you’re transitioning between entering towns, engaging in combat or moving onto a different region. As much as I loved the music in The Witcher 3, it definitely had issues with the in-game portrayal of it.

In RDR 1/2 everything is seamless and dynamic sounding. It’s almost like there is a conductor following you around and manipulating the background music to cater to what you’re actually doing in the game. It can change from a sombre wandering tone to a bombastic upbeat combat theme without you even noticing. In elongated shootouts, the music even seems like it slowly ramps up in intensity depending on how far into the climax you get.

Sometimes there’s actually no music at all but somehow it never feels missing. I’m not exactly sure how but I’ve never heard any other game do it as well as RDR did in 2010 until its sequel 8 years later. If you’re one of those people who play open world games Spotify open and the sound turned down you’re really missing out here.
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Now for the overall sound design. I guess its quality is not that surprising given the fact that the entire premise of the game is designed around immersion and attention to detail but still, it’s very impressive.

You can literally hear all the money and resources they’ve poured into it with how unique and detailed every little thing sounds. Just spend 2 minutes sitting in your camp and listening to all the different sounds you can clearly hear in that time, it’s actually quite insane. Despite the sheer amount of noise going simultaneously, it never sounds muddled or loses definition.

They always get the tonal balance right so you can hear everything properly if you’re paying attention. So many games just turn up the bass so everything rumbles and sounds muddy – the original Gears of War trilogy was the worst for this.

If there’s one word I would use to describe the audio it would be “satisfying”. Everything sounds rustic and clanky as you’d expect. Wood creaks realistically, walking through foliage is rustling. Stagecoaches are appropriately rickety.

When you’re trotting slowly on your horse you can hear the soft clanging of the buckles. Rivers streams flow softly in the background. Every different surface you walk/ride across sounds different. Ride past an oil refinery and you can hear the thunderous machinery metronomically working away.

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Rain is enveloping and thunderstorms sound scary to the point of almost being violent. The ambience in the wilderness sounds like an actual ecosystem that is affected by the elements. Your horse actually sounds like it has a bit of personality as opposed to just making the same generic neighing sound over and over again. I think you guys get what I’ve trying to convey here.

It wouldn’t be a Red Dead game if they guns didn’t sound meaty as hell and Rockstar have delivered again. Every weapon sounds different and firing them has a nice reverb effect that you don’t hear much in other games. It still bemuses me that the guns in GTA are so bad when RDR’s are best in class.

Again, if you’re just using TV speakers you really won’t notice most of this outside of the music so do yourself a favour and play with proper hi-fi speakers or a decent pair of headphones if you can. Also, the voices seem to be at 50% volume by default so if they’re hard to hear for you check the settings.

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This piece was voluntarily submitted by ResetEra user leng jai, allowing Spiel Times to have the entire rights for the submission. The piece first appeared on ResetEra, and later as per the agreement, Spiel Times now owns the complete publishing rights.

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