Every Red Dead Redemption 2 Mission, Graded -- Chapter 5: Guarma
Red Dead Redemption 2 has put us through savage gunfights and hilarious nights in the saloon, and, with the end of Chapter 4, it has left us on a cliffhanger unlike any of the preceding chapters.
Some of the kindest and most thoughtful of our gang were put to rest in a disastrous robbery, and our attempts to evade the law reached entirely new heights.
While I had been loving my time in New Hanover and Lemoyne, the prospect of continuing my adventure in an entirely new locale had me excited, and I could not wait to dive in.
Let us see what the game had in store as we look at each mission of Chapter 5: Guarma.
One more piece of upkeep for those that may be skipping the preceding articles -- our grading scale is as follows:
A: These are the missions that are as impressive as Red Dead 2's immense and nuanced world. Transcendent moments that validate video games as art.
B: Exceptional sequences, these missions create moments that leave a lasting impression.
C: *The bread-and-butter of Red Dead 2. Filled with straightforward action and character development that keeps the game moving forward and the player engaged.
D: Forgettable missions that serve just to introduce a character or mechanic without many frills.
F: Painful. The game would be better without these missions.
It is important to note that the "C" grading is not meant to imply that a mission is average compared to other games. Rather, "C" should be considered a baseline for Red Dead 2 relative to its exceptional "A's" and "B's" and its lackluster "D's" and "F's."
The primary goal of this investigation is to create a hierarchy within Red Dead 2's missions, not to provide a definitive stance on how the game stacks up against others.
Note: Mission descriptions and heavy spoilers follow.
Red Dead 2 Chapter 5: The Missions
Welcome to the New World
Beginning Chapter 5 with all of the gear I had accumulated missing and all of my cores drained was exhilarating.
This first mission is loaded to the gills with new information, establishing an adversary for the chapter (Fussar) and connecting him to Cornwall as well as setting up the conflict that will pervade your time on Guarma.
If I was to get off this tropical island safely, I needed to both recover Javier (who is captured in the mission) and intervene in a conflict occurring between Fussar and the Natives. While I had become a seasoned veteran at rescuing gang members, my previous experience with involving myself in established conflicts suggested that this was not going to go well, and I felt a bit overwhelmed by the paths that were opening before me in this new setting.
I was transported back to my time at the beginning of Chapter 2, feeling as though I might drown in the options available to me. Ultimately, Guarma turned out to be very compact and manageable, but this feeling of discombobulation served to nicely immerse me in what Arthur was likely experiencing. It is impressive that Rockstar is willing to throw players so off-kilter this late in the game.
As I wandered through the jungle for the first time, I came across a man hanged, and, soon enough, I was taken captive and beaten in a cellar.
After breaking free of my captor, and cutting loose two Natives that I had been asked to rescue in the preceding mission, I found myself in the midst of a fairly stock stealth mission with some gunplay to close it out.
As I quietly crept past my enemies, I was struck by how often Red Dead 2's stealth segments ask me to follow directly behind an NPC. While this follow-the-leader certainly creates some nice cinematic moments, it ultimately brings the game's overall difficulty down significantly. As long as I stick close to my lead, I never really feel like I am in danger of being discovered.
Similarly, so many of the game's gunfights provide companions to assist you, often causing them to feel quite easy. When I am engaged in one of these missions, selecting a load-out feels almost entirely like a cosmetic choice, as victory seems guaranteed regardless of the weapons I have equipped.
In general, there is a sense in Red Dead Redemption 2 that Rockstar gives preference to creating cinematic moments rather than providing challenging gameplay. While it is nice to watch the story unfold with minimal death and interference, I would really like to see an increased difficulty setting come to the game in a future update.
A Kind and Benevolent Despot
After saving the Natives in the preceding mission, Dutch and Arthur can now focus on rescuing Javier.
At this point, it is made clear that all of the money stolen in the Saint Denis bank robbery was lost in the shipwreck, and Dutch continues to come apart at the seams, strangling the guide that brings them close to Javier's location.
From there, this is a wrote stealth/combat mission with a slight flourish as you sabotage a warehouse filled with sugar and set it ablaze. What can I say? I have been charmed every time Red Dead 2 has let me burn something to the ground, and it holds true here.
Hell Hath No Fury
With the resistance assisted and Javier recovered, it is time to attack Fussar directly and make a clean get away.
What follows is the most unique mission located on Guarma, as Fussar has some truly big guns (a Navy warship) at his disposal.
Before using a cannon (for the first time) to sink it, we get a standout gunfight on the island's beaches. After being stripped of all of my gear, it feels good to have a powerful shotgun back in my hands, and I painted that sand red.
Paradise Mercifully Departed
Even with the Navy ship dispatched, there are still some problems - namely, the captain of the ship that is to return us to Saint Denis has been captured by Fussar and an array of artillery is certain to sink any of our attempts to leave by boat.
There is a lot going on in this mission. Explosions, a cannon shoot-out, some corridor-style gunplay, and a tense four-man standoff that feels like it could have been plucked right out of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
Additionally, if Red Dead Redemption 2 has taught me anything it is that I am a sucker for gunfights in crop fields, as I loved blasting my way through Fussar's fields of sugarcane.
This mission showcases so many wonderful ideas and proves that, even after all of the preceding missions, the game's straightforward action sequences can still standout.
Dear Uncle Tacitus
Now back on the mainland, the Guarma crew splits up to locate the rest of the gang that was left behind.
While there is a short burst of action, this mission functions as a truly transcendent rejoinder, putting you on a long, lonesome horse ride set to a wonderfully surprising new song from D'Angelo.
It is hard to convey why this mission is so effective, as it relies so heavily on Red Dead 2's ability to create a breathtaking atmosphere, but to be alone with Arthur, quietly reflecting on where you have been and where you are headed, is powerful and marks one of the game's high points.
As I wiped the tears from my eyes, I found myself back with my crew, and (surprise, surprise) Sadie has been the one to keep everyone together during our absence.
However, there is not much time for celebration, as another assault on camp cuts things short. This time around it is the Pinkertons, and they are not messing around, carting a gatling gun to make sure they leave no survivors.
Unfortunately for them, they did not plan for Sadie Adler, and again I found myself marveling at her ability to dish out death before I stepped behind the gatling and finished the lawmen off.
It is also revealed that Dutch is not planning to spring John from prison any time soon, but Arthur and Sadie seem to have other plans.
A Fork In the Road
While walking through the streets of Saint Denis, a coughing fit overcomes Arthur, and a trip to the doctor reveals that he has tuberculosis.
This mission feels like Red Dead 2's single greatest misstep.
This needs to be an extremely resonant moment, as it informs Arthur's character development for the rest of the game. Following "Dear Uncle Tacitus," it is clear that Rockstar is able to build powerful and impressionistic moments, however, this one simply does not land.
There is no foreshadowing that makes this mission the gut-punch it should be. Instead, we are blindsided by Arthur's illness, and it almost feels as though I missed a portion of the game that would build to this reveal.
Considering the methodical pacing used throughout the game, I am very surprised to see Rockstar not escalate this more gradually and effectively.
Icarus and Friends
Anyway, despite having TB, I am off to meet Sadie to solidify our plan for getting John out of prison.
As we saw in Chapter 4, Rockstar has begun to include different vehicles to keep the action missions feeling fresh, and we get a wonderful one in this mission: a hot air balloon. Additionally, Arturo, the balloon's owner, is a nicely rendered side character that gives this mission the Rockstar feel.
This airborne shoot-out is one of my favorite action sequences in the game, and while taking a tour is the cover used to get Arturo to take you up in the balloon, I really wish there was the opportunity to see more of Red Dead 2 from this vantage point.
That's Murfree Country
After the Pinkerton assault, it is clear that the gang cannot stay holed up where they are, and Arthur and Charles are sent up North to scout out an area that has an unfamiliar mystique to it.
On your ride, Charles mentions that no one would come to this part of the country to look for us, as people are known to go missing -- color me intrigued.
When you arrive, this bizarre and mysterious undertone remains. In the town of Butcher Creek, the citizens have bruised and sore-riddled faces, and, at the hideout of the Murfrees, you find ritual sacrifice and a woman locked in a cage.
Something so wonderful about exploring the world of Red Dead Redemption 2 is encountering its dark and odd underbelly, and the prospect of the next chapter bringing this in to the main story had me very excited.
Additionally, the mission closes by raising the stakes yet again, demonstrating that the gang is willing to execute its own if they have acted out of line.
Chapter 5 Summary
Guarma gave us a breather, offering a temporary new setting and some good to great action sequences.
However, the true standouts of Chapter 5 all occur back on the mainland. "Dear Uncle Tacitus" provides a beautiful and poetic interlude while "Icarus and Friends" showcases some of the game's most thrilling action.
Unfortunately, we find a major pitfall, as the mishandling of an important dramatic beat renders it ineffectual.
Hopefully, Chapter 6 can convey just how important Arthur's sickness actually is, and I am champing at the bit to learn more about the oddballs in Butcher Creek and the horrible Murfrees.
If you want to know what we think of the game as a whole, be sure to check out our Red Dead Redemption 2 review. If you're looking for tips and tricks for the Wild West epic, be sure head over to our Red Dead Redemption 2 guides page.
And if you would like to see more of our Red Dead 2 mission gradings, those that are currently available can be found at these links: