The Dead West never looked like this before. After almost two years of teases and a few delays, we finally have our first look at how Red Dead Redemption 2 will actually play come October 26th. The gameplay trailer is directly in the vein of the videos Rockstar released in the lead-up to Grand Theft Auto V and the first Red Dead Redemption. Today's footage is a high-level overview showing off the world and its inhabitants. Towns and forests look bigger and more expansive than ever, with gorgeous mountain ranges, dank swamps and plenty in between. Gunplay and melee combat takes a heavy focus in the clip, and both look vastly improved over the last game. Environments look positively gorgeous -- stylized rather than photo realistic -- and character faces follow that lead, staying out of uncanny valley. There's even a quick glimpse of Blackwater, a main town from John Marston's 2011 tale. Things from the last game like a morality system, bonding with your horse and hunting look like they've been given a huge overhaul. There's also plenty of new, like social bonds with your gang and other non-player characters. Rockstar promises that there will be more of these videos coming over the next few months, with episodes about missions, side activities (fishing!), enemy gangs, how robberies will work and one dedicated to the new-and-improved Deadeye slow-motion targeting system.
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.