But it’s hard to feel as if you’re truly affecting the world when there are no NPCs to express satisfaction or disdain, or to be directly influenced by your actions. Even killing feels hollow. Some of my best battles in Fallout 4 came when I stumbled across an outpost and found there a raider in there; he’d yell and scream at me as we were facing off. The Scorched, while armed, feel like nothing more than zombies.
Red Dead Redemption 2’s missteps are few. The autosaving system is a little bit cruel, leading you to replay failed missions not from a pivotal point, but often from the very beginning of the mission or the section; the game should have taken cues from Ubisoft’s Far Cry and implemented far more friendly checkpoint saves. And while horseback riding in this game is largely fantastic, it’s odd to spend so much time tapping a button just to create your horse’s pace. This is intuitive -- but it feels unnecessary at times, too. The entire Red Dead experience, though, feels fantastic overall.
Director Stefano Sollima, who cut his teeth on Italian TV mob dramas, is good at building suspense. He fills the screen with striking images, too -- night-vision raids, heat-signature tracking, eye-in-the-sky surveillance.
The special effects remain startling, and in your face. But there's nothing new here, and what's old feels like less. The corporate villains seem to have wandered over from "Rampage." The humor has vanished.
It’s smart, funny and bursting with ideas about the joys and rigors of motherhood and reckoning with the past and the future. It’s too bad, then, that the final head-scratching stretch sinks what’s preceded.
The script is surprisingly smart, pulling together all the subplots and cutting among all the locations. Chris Pratt’s Star Lord has some clever lines. Thanos is a far more complex villain than we usually get. And the movie ends on a stark and shocking note.
Some movies are feasts. Some films are desserts. This picture is cheese in a can, and if it only accepted that, it would be a lot more fun — like “Alligator,” the tongue-in-cheek classic that had a toothy terror climbing out of a city sewer.
Pike is terrific, and Hamm has a credibly bleary, weary look. The movie’s ambitions are worthy. But it rarely turns its action into real excitement, or moves past cynicism into insight. It’s the spy movie that leaves us in the cold.