Open worlds have been a staple of gaming for a long time, but recent titles like Breath of the Wild and Horizon: Zero Dawn have significantly pushed the boundaries of what players expect from their environments. Rockstar, of Grand Theft Auto fame, is looking to make them all look like toys with Red Dead Redemption 2 and its wild west frontier that looks to be not just huge, but refreshingly real. Rockstar is certainly best known for the immensely popular GTA series; but its arguable its most beloved game is actually 2010s Red Dead Redemption, which, though a sequel, so spectacularly transplanted the run-and-gun outlaw freedom of GTA to the American West that gamers have been clamoring for a sequel for years. RDR2 was teased back in late 2016, but only recently have we seen hints of what it will actually look like. And today brings the first of a series of videos from the developer detailing the world, character and gameplay systems. The natural beauty of the frontier is, of course, simply amazing to see rendered in such fidelity, and Rockstars artists are to be commended. And it is realism that seems to be defining the project as a whole — which makes it a departure from other games whose creators bruit a living, breathing open world to explore. Take Far Cry 5, which came out last year to mixed reviews: The natural landscape of fictional Hope County in Montana was roundly agreed to be breathtaking, but the gameplay and story were criticized as artificially and (strange juxtaposition) monotonously intense. Its clear that Far Cry 5, like other Ubisoft games, was a sandbox in which interesting but unrealistic situations were bred by the developers — a helicopter crashing on the person youre rescuing from bandits, and then a cougar mauling the pilot. Horizon: Zero Dawn and Breath of the Wild were both praised for the depth and extent of their worlds and gameplay, but they both had the significant advantage of being fantasies. A mechanical dinosaur or ancient killing machine (same thing?) arrests the eye and imagination, but because one cant really compare them to reality, they can stay definitively unrealistic. Creating a compelling sci-fi or fantasy world has its own significant challenges, but on the whole its considerably easier than creating a convincing replica of the real world. RDR2 seems to be attempting real realism in its game, to the extent that its possible. Take for example the fact that your items and cargo actually take up space on your horse. Your horse isnt 20 more grid spaces of inventory — you can tie a deer you hunted on top, but then it cant run. There are loops for two long guns but not three, and you cant carry an arsenal yourself. The flora and fauna are real frontier flora and fauna; theyll react realistically. Encounters can be approached in multiple ways, peaceful or violent. Your fabulous hide coat gets dirty when you fall in the mud. You get new things to do by getting to know people in your gang. Many of these have been seen before in various games, but what Rockstar is going for appears — and for now only appears — to be taking them to a new level. It will of course have the expected cartoonish violence and occasionally eye-roll-worthy dialogue of any game, but the attempt to realistically, and at this level of fidelity, represent such a major and well-known portion of history is an undertaking of gargantuan proportions. Will the game be as good as the amount of work that has clearly been put into it? Well find out later this year when it comes out.
Talk yourself into, out of trouble as part of a camp of outlaws on the run. After nearly a year of vague, story-focused trailers, Rockstar released a video this morning showing the first gameplay footage from the anticipated Red Dead Redemption 2. The video places the focus on Arthur Morgan, a "senior gun in the Vanderling gang" that's on the run "from the pressures of civilized life." The gang will be continuously forced to flee from encroaching law enforcement and civilization, according to the video, setting up temporary remote camps where they can eat, sleep, do chores, play games, or share stories. It sounds like these camps will serve as the primary hub system for the game, where you can meet Morgan's fellow gang members and talk with them to "find new secrets, fun things to do, and opportunities for mischief." While you can still shoot pretty much everything that moves in Red Dead Redemption 2, the video highlights how "guns aren't the only way to interact with the environment." Morgan will be able to talk himself into or out of trouble with rival tough guys or law enforcement officers, escalating or diffusing situations and forming friendships or making enemies. Witnesses to crimes can be intimidated into keeping quiet, and passing riders can be engaged in conversation. On-screen prompts show options to greet, antagonize, diffuse, threaten, beat, rob, or dismiss various non-player characters, based on the situation. "Your actions have consequences" the video promises, allowing you to dictate Morgan's "honor." The full video features plenty of dramatic shots of the game's open-world setting, encompassing "mountain trails, dense forests, untamed swamplands, sweeping deserts, livestock towns, and modernizing cities. " It also includes a few more details regarding the "realistic" reload and recoil on period weapons, the ability to hunt for food and valuable animal pelts, and the necessity of bonding with your horse based on how well you treat it. But we'll have to wait for Rockstar's next info-drop video for deeper details on "missions, activities, enemy gangs, robberies, [and the] evolution of sharpshooting with the Deadeye system." The lack of hands-on previews and relative paucity of information about Red Dead Redemption 2 thus far is relatively par for the course as far as Rockstar Games releases go. So we'll take whatever drips of information the developer is willing to provide ahead of the October 26 release.