The Last of Us Director Criticises Lack of Player Freedom in Red Dead Redemption 2

Bruce Straley, game director of The Last of Us and Uncharted 4, has criticised some gameplay decisions in Red Dead Redemption 2.

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NecrumOddBoy34d ago

It's so amazing how the story can alter your perception of a topic based on a headline. After digging through the Twitter comments, I get the complaint that a game that's open world can feel a little off-balance when story missions kind of give you the freedom to move but are not designed to go too far off the rails. R* still is archaic in some ways, but it's still pretty difficult to bring that true cinematic experience into the open world but I think they were getting pretty close there.

thedr90434d ago

The tweets specifically refer to a mission in the game where Bruce's choices led to him failing, and he criticised this choice of focusing on "epic stories" over gameplay. Not sure how the headline would alter your perception of this, it seems pretty accurate to me.

salmonade34d ago (Edited 34d ago )

Bruce is so right too.

I Platinumed Red Dead 2 ok, but so many times in some missions, I would move ahead of the other character and FAIL. Like, for example, killing people easily (the game is NOT hard at all in any sense of the word) and moving too far ahead, and because I didn't read a little message saying "wait for Charles"... the mission FAILED me.

Using my Eagle Vision and seeing the trail of the bandit, but having to wait for Sadie to get through her lines before I could move. At times the game absolutely forces you to stop. At other times you drive a carriage to the house you're supposed to go to, but nothing happens because you need to get back on and move it one meter into more of the 'yellow section'.

nucky6434d ago

what salmonade says is true - and it was very frustrating.

Helljumper9234d ago

I don't get the big deal. Games have set objectives and ways to do them. You can't get mad for failing the mission or being punished.

zeuanimals34d ago

But it's a sandbox and Rockstar's supposed to be the kings of the sandbox. It's entirely possible to make their missions have some flexibility in allowing you to finish them in your own way, you know, how Rockstar used to make their games.

StormSnooper34d ago

I don’t think this was a diss of Rockstar or even the game, he is pointing out something that he feels underwhelms or is ineffective because player choice/creativity in his opinion are too high a price to pay just so a cutscene can make sense. He is saying player choice should be given priority and the story has to be implemented so it doesn’t take that away.

P_Bomb33d ago (Edited 33d ago )

Yes you can get mad when the game breaks its own inconsistent rules re. honor, looting, loadouts while harping about realism. In real life, if I hop on my bike with my phone in my pocket, it doesn’t bloody disappear when I get off the bike.

I’ve had missions launch me with only my pistols when seconds earlier I was carrying a bloody Arsenal. My horse is two feet away. It’s right there. Let me go get my BFG. Let me line up my shots. What’s that Sadie? No no no don’t shoot my targets for me I got this wtf I was just choosing my gun!!!! No ones moving! Why you rushing me Sadie? I got this I’m aiming I’m gonna shoot I want my gold medal...argh she shot one of them! Moron! THAT HAPPENED

Helljumper9233d ago

Why did everyone wait until now to complain about this when this has been in all the GTAs.

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toxic-inferno34d ago

I find this fascinating. Naughty Dog are possibly the masters of interactive storytelling... and they are one of the only high profile developers still focused on making linear games.

What is even more remarkable is that they were one of the companies who were instrumental in shaping the 3D open world genre with Jak and Daxter.

zeuanimals34d ago (Edited 34d ago )

You could still tackle encounters how you liked in The Last of Us and Uncharted 4 though, the two games he worked as a game director for. And they don't hamstring the experience by making you sit and wait for dialogue to end with a game over screen as the consequence for not staying to chat.

34d ago
rainslacker33d ago

TLOU and UC aren't designed around player freedom to do anything they want. There is choice within the confines of the actual levels or scenes, but beyond that, they aren't sold on the premise, or designed for the player to be able to do whatever they want whenever they want.

RDR2 is set up like that, but often sets up scenarios where there is no choice. In many ways, it's more restrictive, because once you enter a mission, its about as linear as it gets. About the only choice you have is the weapons you can use, and for about 1/4 of the missions, that isn't even a choice. You are forced to follow the narrative, and play the scene the way they want it to be played for cinematic effect. This can lead to all sorts of issues depending on how you're approaching the scene. If you're just playing through, no biggie. If you are trying to try things to see what happens, it's pretty much a failed mission. If you don't follow the path, you are penalized, which is why this game only offers the illusion of choice.

Pennywise13833d ago

One thing I don’t think Spider-Man gets enough credit for, same with God of War though it’s not a fully open world game, is how well it does bring a great cinematic experience into the open world. Spider-Man basically keeps you on track with certain story threads then saying ok now is a good time to go out and explore. I think we are finally starting to see the end of open world games giving you a mission that basically says “go save this person because they are about to be killed any minute” but before you can finish the quest the game throws countless distractions and other side missions at you that by the time you get to the end of that mission a week has gone by and you forgot what even led to that mission in the first place and clearly that person wasn’t killed by your lack of getting there in a timely matter. Getting the pacing right in open world games I hope will be the focus going forward and not just throwing countless amounts of repetitive side missions out there.

Nu33d ago

lol says the guy that's only developed linear games like Uncharted and The Last of Us.

Strafe33d ago

It is ironic. Let's criticise this developer of games that are far more ambitious than our own, and far away from our comfort zone. Where we have nothing to compare against. Let's criticise them.

Rockstar are far more forward thinking than ND. ND makes games in a bubble.

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TGGJustin34d ago

He's absolutely right on this.

salmonade34d ago

Look. If you take the butthurt out of the situation and look at what he's saying... he ABSOLUTELY is correct about this. There are soooo many examples of this in so many ways in so many missions. Look, I love Red Dead 2 and I platinumed the game friggin weeks ago, grindy boring trophies and all, and I would rate the game a 9 or 9.5, but his criticisms are SPOT ON

chiefJohn11734d ago (Edited 34d ago )

He's right and a sense but it's like that on purpose and it has to be like that to tell a great story. If you give the player freed how do you end up with emotional moments of deaths and confrontation and other triggered events. Without contradicting cutscenes?

Open world isn't an open sandbox that's what y'all are confusing it for. Plus if red dead 2 was it's story wouldn't be as good.
No one is butt hurt there's nothing to be upset about I'm just using common sense and know what's required yo tell a great story. For example halo 4s campaign and Spartan ops? One allows way more freedom but it's story and quality lacks because of it. Someone brought up vice city having more freedom and GTA 5 limiting it. GTA 5 hands down had a better story than vice city because of it. If I want to tell a story and capture specific moments you have to limit appoarch other wise you have a game without much substance.

Razzer34d ago

He is talking about an open mission design being reduced down to a singular path because the story required it. He isn't saying players should be able to dictate the story a la Quantic Dreams type games.

Rachel_Alucard34d ago

I understand the need to do things that make sense in Arthurs perspective for immersion, but they go too hard on it many times. They did the same thing in GTA5 and I assume their game design philosophy changed because their new design contradicts everything outside the story missions. Like you can do whatever you want outside of story missions, but as soon as you activate one you'll be pushed down a specific path.

ziggurcat34d ago

@razzer: the story missions aren't free roam, so why should people expect them to be?

Rachel_Alucard33d ago


If you're going to restrict what you can do in a specific piece of the game for immersion, why let the player freely do what they want outside of that if they don't want them expecting that type of freedom everywhere?

ziggurcat33d ago


again... because the missions aren't free roam. it's no different than any other game (especially one from R*) that involves some form of free roam mode, and story missions (i.e. Spider-Man, inFamous, Mafia II/III, Horizon, Assassin's Creed, etc...).

Moe-Gunz33d ago


Those games you mentioned you can tackle the mission in ways you want. One of the best examples of giving the player choice and freedom in missions is MGS5. You can stealth it, guns blazing, drop a crate on a guards head to proceed, blow up a watch tower to create a distraction and enter from the other side, etc.

This is what he’s talking about. People are failing to understand that he’s not referring to how the story is told but more so about how the missions are executed.

ziggurcat33d ago


some missions you can choose to do stealth or go in guns blazing, so...

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27d ago
ClayRules201234d ago (Edited 34d ago )

“They need me to do what the story requires [and] continually remove my choices. The [environment] was open [and] I had the skills, but they punished me for thinking for myself instead of rewarding me.” I feel his pain. Happened to me sometimes as well.

“I want to continue thinking of how to honor the mechanics and opportunities we’ve afforded the player-not wedging them into sequences I felt would be epic because of some story outcome”

Right on, Bruce. Can’t wait to see what he does next.

FalconofLucis9834d ago

Hes left Naughty Dog, doubt hes doing anything of the sorts.

ClayRules201234d ago

Yeah, I’m aware he left Naughty Dog. But on his Twitter I think I read something about him doing something new or he hinted at something new.

TheOptimist34d ago

Most ironic thing I have heard this generation.

Rimeskeem34d ago

Someone doesn't listen to American politics

Also, someone doesnt read

TheOptimist34d ago

1. I am not American, so I wouldn't care

2. I was talking only in terms of the gaming industry

Rimeskeem34d ago

I still hold the single player games dont matter at the top.

bluefox75534d ago (Edited 34d ago )

Why? They made an open world game. How is it ironic to criticize an open world game that often pulls you back on rails? The whole point of a sandbox game is to give you freedom. If ND had made an open world game and did the same thing, then maybe you'd have a point, but otherwise I'm not sure what you mean.

Profchaos34d ago

They made a structured narrative that takes place in an open world which gives you full freedom outside of the structured narrative.

Like most open world games this generation going over to random parts of the map when you need to achieve XYZ will kill you as it doesn't help drive the story.

We had full freedom in vice city where if you struggled with a mission there was nothing stopping you from driving to a army base and stealing an attack chopper for example gaming has moved on from that because it doesn't work story wise anymore.

opc34d ago

you certainly are the optimist haha

my man, the idiocy in American politics right now is going to impact the entire world. Aside from the geopolitical chaos, we seem to be in a race with the UK to see who can hit a recession first. That typically ripples around the world within a year.

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ArchangelMike34d ago

I agree with this. There were too many times when I failed the mission because I wanted to flank. I would get the "You abandoned Dutch" or some such message and the mission would insta-fail. That's bad design in an open world game.

pasta_spice34d ago

The insta-fails are a big reason I didn't enjoy a lot of the main story stuff, and preferred side missions and doing my own thing. My first fail was one of the early missions where you have to ride a cart into town. I had almost made it to town, but got my wheels stuck on something small like a bush. "That's ok, I'll just reverse it" I thought. So I start reversing the cart, only for an insta-fail to pop up saying I couldn't move the cart (even though I could!) and it restarted the entire mission! Very frustrating.

DrumBeat34d ago

That happened to me on a different mission and the fail text literally read "The cart got stuck." I was literally in the process of getting the damn thing unstuck.

DrumBeat34d ago (Edited 34d ago )

And to add to the frustration of going through all the dialogue (again) it pulls you out of the immersion it wants you to experience. How can I be immersed if you keep pulling me out of the story? I always felt under pressure for all the wrong reasons in these missions, and it really hurt the experience for me.

Don't drive that cart too fast (we want you to drive it slow so you take in the sights and pay attention to dialogue) or it may get stuck on fencing. It was a tooth gritting, fist clenching experience to say the least.

DrumBeat34d ago (Edited 34d ago )

Or I would fail because I would take too long looting. The game's single player missions simply aren't designed with player freedom in mind. They force you onto a very linear path where you're punished if you move ahead of the exposition, and punished if you take your time. This makes it hard for many players to enjoy the story missions. The writing and scripting force the player to keep in timing with it, because if it didn't force the player to do that, it wouldn't flow naturally like a story. They want it to be like a movie.

Imagine watching an action movie where the protagonist would constantly stop to search the dudes he's killed or knocked out for clips and weapons and supplies. In reality they'd actually do this, but this would bore moviegoers and hurt story/narrative continuity, so they don't.

RDR2's story missions are trying to be these perfect show pieces, but it hurts game play.

P_Bomb33d ago (Edited 33d ago )

Yes. Dear lord yes the looting. Whoever disagreed with you, fight me!

Can’t tell you how many times I’ve been yelled at to hurry up. Well then don’t make your search mechanic so #%^* slow!!!!! Don’t pile up a dozen bodies that I damned well know have loot on them, money, ammo, sometimes exclusive weapons like the Mauser. Take “too long” decides to play itself and 9 times out of 10 some idiot walks into something he shouldn’t and DIES. INSTA FAIL!

The gold medal challenges are terrible and more on rails than on rails games like RE umbrella chronicles/dark side chronicles. Combine that chain gang gameplay (which I’ve mercifully chosen to ignore) with horrible AI partners getting killed moving ahead without me, losing honor for looting civilian dead bodies you find in the wilderness that also have exclusive items on them, having your load outs reset or frozen on missions, randomly losing honor if you defend yourself in a fight (I fought soldiers at a camp, was attacked, killed like 5 of them but one guy made me lose honor lol wtf). Throw in some online griefing handicaps. It’s a structural mess.

I’m on a mission, carrying a guy outside after being yelled at for searching it (I found documents + the Mauser so stop RUSHING ME)! Night time, big shoot out. Can’t see squat cuz it’s dark and I’m carrying a lump. Trip going down the stairs cuz the game loves rag doll physics. Fell a half foot to the ground and the guy I was carrying apparently died! Insta fail. GTFO

rainslacker33d ago

Yeah, the looting of this game is terrible. Outside the animations which seem to take forever, and its even more pronounced where you have a lot of bodies, it's so random on if it's right to loot a specific body. Sometimes, it's OK to loot random in missions. Loot a random body on the road, even if you didn't kill him, and you lose honor. Other times, you lose honor, and suddenly you're wanted by the law, then you have to pay a bounty. That really sucks when you maybe get a belt buckle and a few cents off the body. Then you have to either go and pay the bounty, or just hope it doesn't cause problems. God forbid you have great honor, always greeting people. People are all nice to you. Then you happen to lose some honor somewhere because you loot a bottle, then suddenly everyone is an a**hole to you.

This game is so random, it makes me wonder if they even really had a solid design on what is acceptable, and what isn't.

But I certainly agree that the way they rush you through missions to the next point, despite having all these bodies around, which usually have good loot, or lots of money in missions from chapter 3 onward, is really annoying. The one that starts chapter 4, I got so sick of the guy nagging me while I looted the 12-15 bodies around the house. Then of course, once it's all done, I have to carry the bodies in the house out to the swamp, because the a**hole pestering me the whole time to move to the next scripted event couldn't be bothered to loot all these bodies, despite this constant notion that the gang needs money to finally be free of their past.

So many bad design decisions. So many things that don't make sense. Those things take away from the good things the game does.

I guarantee that if they gave the option to have quick loot/skinning options, 100% of people would turn them to quick loot. That's the kind of thing when designing a game you have to consider. It's all great they want realism, but when their choices on what to make realistic are the things that are the most annoying to the player, it's bad design.

Back in the day, the creator of Gran Turismo was asked why crashing in the game didn't end the race, or make the car undrivable. He said, "Because we tried that, and its not fun". This is something R* should have recognized when designing the game, or at least playing it themselves during the many years of development. Surely, their testing crew would have mentioned it, because testing teams are allowed to put in opinions on how to make the game better, so the director can consider it.

salmonade34d ago

lol... Abandoned? Biatch, he's just over there on the other side of the house. I didn't hop on a train and travel off into the sunset without him. hahaha

rainslacker33d ago (Edited 33d ago )

Outside of a few choices on how to maybe enter a area(like by foot or on a coach for the oil refinary), there is absolutely no choice on how one can play the story missions. The most variety you get is what weapons you can use, and many times, they even decide that for you. There are a few missions where you can stealth it out some, or decide to go in guns blazing, but going in guns blazing usually penalizes you by dropping your honor. So the game offers choice, but doing anything that is what the dev doesn't want you to do means you get penalized.

I personally don't mind the structured path so much in narrative missions, but this penalty for doing what you may want, despite the devs wishes, for the sake of story, is kind of opposite of what this kind of game is supposed to offer.

In fact, wanting to be bad in this game so heavily penalizes the player, it's actually not even fun to be bad, or means you have to spend a lot of time doing extra work to be able to do anything in towns. For a game where you're playing a bandit, it seems like an absurd design, and it's one of the reasons why I claim that this game only gives the illusion of choice, because while you can play things in almost any order you want, you are still mostly required to do it their way....not your way.


I like the side stuff of this game a lot. But I almost dread advancing the story, because it's not really all that fun or engaging.

P_Bomb33d ago (Edited 33d ago )

100% agree on the side stuff. Much like the Yakuza series, a lot of the game’s soul is in the sides. Far less mission constraints, no one’s rushing me, the characters are good with a nice mix of funny and tragic.

Strauss’ missions started to grate on me the most but then, they started to grate on Arthur too! The end to that series turned a seemingly throwaway bunch of collections into a must see finale.

Times I’ve had a few story missions lit up on my map, but went straight to Charlotte instead. Straight to the civil war vet who invited me fishing at his cabin after I accidentally stumbled upon him in the wild. Wrapped up Marco, took the Braithwaite elopers on a train ride lol. Wrapped up the photographer, the competitive brothers, the circus freaks, then watched them actually do a show on stage in St Denis. Good times.

DrumBeat33d ago

Agreed on all points. I also agree with what you wrote earlier about the games systems reacting randomly to what you do. I wrote something very similar a few months back. Looting a 'stranger' is bad... sometimes. Killing a search party of bounty hunters that are chasing you is ok... sometimes.

Onto the bad guy play style.

Unfortunately, being 'bad' goes against what I'm assuming Rockstar wants to be canon. This is supposed to be a "redemption" so if you play as a 'bad guy' you're essentially going against canon and the game penalizes you. I guess. In any case, it makes what should be fun choice (who doesn't want to be an outlaw-ish outlaw?) into a punishing one. Like you said, it's ultimately a bad design choice. If you want to be bad, maybe give the player a different ending depending on how you played? There are just so many things that hamper the enjoyment of the game, no matter how you choose to play it.

rainslacker33d ago (Edited 33d ago )

"so if you play as a 'bad guy' you're essentially going against canon and the game penalizes you. I guess."

I get that mentality, and I actually agree that's probably what R* is trying to build with this system.

the problem is, Arthur constantly recognizes that he's a muscle man for the group. Taken along to be the one that can do the bad stuff. Dutch himself, despite all his lofty and self-righteous reasoning, is still a murdering bandit, and none in the gang, including Arthur have a problem doing the bad stuff in the story missions. The story missions themselves are almost always them committing some crime which are usually more horrendous than anything you do in the side missions, or randomly to people throughout the game. Even if it's not, 9 out of 10 of those mundane fetch quests end with some sort of gun fight....usually against a rival gang coming after you. Collecting debts, or getting people to talk, there are no qualms about beating or threatening another character.

So, in this game, the dev is fine with you being bad when it's about narrative, but punishes you if you want to be bad on your own. it's like the dev gets to decide when it's OK to be bad, otherwise, you better play nice....or hope the random bounty system doesn't kick in.

The game justifies these actions as they are standing in the way of the protagonist. People protecting the plantations are the enemy, despite doing nothing against the gang...until the gang does something against them. It's a warped sense of morality that they're presenting, and to me, these aren't even the likable bad guys like you see in some games or movies where the protagonist is not a good guy.

So, for whatever the game is trying to present, it doesn't do it very well, and since it's so tied to the game play, it's actually a problem, regardless of their reasons for doing it like that, because it breaks continuity when you get to missions, compared to the rest of the gang. They want you to be good, and promote that through the game. but the character of Arthur is staged for you to have a sense of connection of undying loyalty to Dutch, but Dutch is completely counter to what the dev is trying to portray. There is no sense of remorse from Arthur up through about halfway of Chapter 4. Maybe that comes a bit later, since that's where I'm up to, but it's not staged to be anything other than a sudden change for no reason than to be surprising, and even if that's their purpose, the narrative and game play don't support what's going on now in the game, so the two are disjointed.

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