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

Red Dead Redemption 2 on the stick

Bruce Straley, game director of The Last of Us and Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, has criticised some of the gameplay decisions in Red Dead Redemption 2.

Straley responded to Naughty Dog game designer Matthew Gallant, who praised Rockstar’s decision to keep one of the game’s most cinematic sequences  of Red Dead Redemption 2 “on the stick”—meaning to keep it as gameplay instead of a cutscene. In his response, Straley noted that “the game killed me when I tried to flank in that mission — like so many RDR2 story missions.”

Straley continued, “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.”

He argued that “removing player choices in order to achieve ‘epic stories’ undermines the power of interactivity completely. So, it winds up NOT being epic, because I end up frustrated that the game just doesn’t trust me. Then I’m just ticking boxes to start cutscenes.”

Straley said that he would use the mission in Red Dead Redemption 2 to improve upon his own projects. “I want to continue thinking of how to honor the mechanics [and] opportunities we’ve afforded the player—not wedging them into sequences I feel would be epic because of some story outcome.”

“They need me to do what the story requires & continually remove my choices. The [environment] was open & I had the skills, but they punished me for thinking for myself instead of rewarding me.”

Straley also responded to a video by Jacob “NakeyJakey” Christensen regarding Rockstar Games’s “outdated” game design evident in Red Dead Redemption 2, stating that the open world and linear aspects of the game are at “such odds”. Check out NakeyJakey’s video below.

Straley worked at Naughty Dog for 18 years, dating back to Crash Team Racing. He worked as an artist on the Jak series before becoming co-art director on Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, followed by game director on Uncharted 2: Among Thieves and The Last of Us. Following his work as director of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, Straley took a year-long sabbatical and resigned from Naughty Dog in September 2017.

In January 2018, Straley discussed his final day at Naughty Dog and the rewarding feeling that it finally granted him, stating that “the emotional security that I’ve always been looking for finally came.” Similarly, Uncharted creator and director Amy Hennig said that not publishing a game since 2011 is “killing” her. Hennig left Naughty Dog in March 2014 and joined Visceral Games, which closed its doors in October 2017.

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Rhain Radford-Burns
Rhain discovered a long time ago that mixing one of his passions (video games) with the other (writing) might be a good idea, and now he’s been stuck in the industry for over six years with no means of escaping. His favourite games are those with deep and captivating narratives: while it would take far too long to list them all, some include L.A. Noire, Red Dead Redemption (and its sequel), Wolfenstein: The New Order, The Last of Us, and the Uncharted series.

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