Red Dead Redemption 2 finally hits doormats and inboxes this morning, the latest title from Grand Theft Auto developers Rockstar Games and a prequel to 2010’s Red Dead Redemption.

The Western game has stunned critics, achieving almost unwavering five-star reviews across the board (including The Independent‘s verdict), and will be feverishly installed by millions this morning – some hardened gamers even taking time off work to play it.

Red Dead Redemption 2 had a lot to live up to when it comes to reviews. Rockstar’s previous game, GTA 5, has a 97 on Metacritic. The original Red Dead Redemption has a 95, and GTA 4 has a 98. The review embargo lifted today, and it doesn’t look like this absurd winning streak is ending any time soon. Red Dead Redemption 2 on PS4 currently stands at a 97 on Metacritic, and with 72 critics currently reporting in it doesn’t look like that’s going anywhere fast. The Xbox One version is actually one point higher, at 98.

Critics praise the game’s expansive world full of impeccable detail, as well as it’s involved and lengthy storyline. There’s a bunch of perfect scores in there inflating the number, and my review is actually one of the lowest ones by a longshot, coming in at a 9/10. I just got frustrated by the long, hopeless story mode.
The pristine white mountains of the Grizzlies give way to the greenery of the Cumberland Forest, wildlife teeming through the thinning trees as you head out into the plains of the Heartlands, through green meadows and swampland, into Saint Denis; so busy and alien to the swathes of nature that surround it. The weather shifts dramatically, thunderstorms crackling across the plains, downpours giving way to sunshine, rainbows sprouting as awnings drip with the last of the rain.

Rockstar is the master of open-world building, of course, with nothing coming close to Grand Theft Auto V’s urban sprawl until now. Red Dead Redemption 2 feels more of an artistic challenge. You will not find a better facsimile of Los Angeles than GTAV’s Los Santos, but in a sense that world is already defined by artifice. Creating something as natural as Red Dead Redemption 2 is a seismic achievement that, for all the rightful exploration of Rockstar’s apparently challenging work conditions, I hope the developers are deeply proud of.

Here’s what critics are saying.

Forbes, 9/10, me: Red Dead Redemption 2 is big, unwieldy and ill-equipped to be boiled down to a number. Both its triumphs and its failures live at grand extremes: maddening, beautiful and awesome. The game hits each every one of its moments with grace and force, whether they’re bombastic gunfights or a small moment on a boat in a lake outside Blackwater.

The Guardian, 5/5, Keza MacDonald: There can be no doubt that this is a landmark game. It is a new high water-mark for lifelike video game worlds, certainly, but that world is also home to a narrative portrait of the wild west that is unexpectedly sombre and not afraid to take its time. With very few exceptions, the many stories that Rockstar’s writers have set out to tell about this group of outlaws land perfectly, the enjoyable twists and turns of individual missions and chapters feeding into an exciting, sophisticated and absorbing larger narrative – and the stories that you discover yourself within its world are no less compelling. Around 2,000 people worked very hard (probably too hard, in some cases) to make this game possible. Every last one of them should be proud of their contribution.