Last of Us Director Calls Out Lack Of Player Choice In Red Dead Redemption 2

Naughty Dog/Rockstar Games

Released towards the end of last year, Red Dead Redemption 2 became a critical and commercial hit, hoovering up awards and praise left right and centre. 

Personally, I had a grand old time with Arthur Morgan and his gang. I came away particularly impressed with the game’s massive (and gorgeous) open world, which was packed with life, detail, and horse testicles.

With that said, I certainly wouldn’t suggest the game is impervious to criticism, a sentiment clearly shared by Bruce Straley, game director of The Last of Us and Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. 

Straley was discussing one of Red Dead Redemption 2’s particularly exciting set pieces with Naughty Dog game designer Matthew Gallant on Twitter. Gallant praised Rockstar for keeping this mission “on the stick”, which means keeping the player in control instead of switching to a cutscene.

On the flip side, Straley revealed he wasn’t a fan of the tight restrictions in the mission in question, explaining that the game “killed him” when he tried to flank the enemy – something Rockstar clearly didn’t want the player to do in this particular scenario.

He went on to explain that he feels a lot of story missions in RDR2 do just that; funnel you through an open environment in a very specific way, leaving little room for player choice. It’s an interesting point, to be sure.

Straley then elaborated:

I’d argue removing player choice 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.

Taking what he’s learned from RDR2, Straley suggested that he’ll be approaching his own future projects with Rockstar’s cowboy bash in mind.

He said he wants to “continue thinking of how to honour the mechanics [and] opportunities we’ve afforded the player” rather than “wedging them into sequences I feel would be epic because of some story outcome.”

With that in mind, I do wonder what Straley thinks about the sword fight at the end of Uncharted 4 that comes out of nowhere and has nothing to do with anything the player has learned up to that point.

Straley left Naughty Dog back in 2017, having been with the company since the days of Crash Team Racing. 

He’s certainly not the first to level criticism at Red Dead Redemption 2’s design, which some argue is inherently flawed as the game’s open world structure and linear narrative constantly find themselves at odds with one another.