Red Dead Redemption II finally hits doormats and inboxes this morning, the latest title from Grand Theft Auto developers Rockstar Games and a prequel to 2010’s Red Dead Redemption.
The Western game has stunned critics, achieving almost unwavering five-star reviews across the board (including The Independent‘s verdict), and will be feverishly installed by millions this morning – some hardened gamers even taking time off work to play it.
We’ve had RDR2 for 10 days now, and will be roaming the plains this morning, offering up any tips, tricks and things we wished we’d known when we started, along with updates on the release, the reviews and the reaction.
The game centres on Arthur Morgan, an outlaw at the end of the age of outlaws, trying to scrape out a living in the country at a time when America is becoming increasingly urbanised.
Ah, that's good news. (Except potentially for my access to the PlayStation.)
After having played for a while, has your mind changed about the online mode, ahead of it arriving next month? Full disclosure: despite loving both GTA and playing online, I've never much got on with GTA Online, which seems confusing and makes me depressed because whenever I go on it seems that everyone is richer and better than me. (I have enough of that in real life! Aha!)
Do you get any sense from the campaign about what Online might look like? Any big hopes for what you might be able to do? Is it something you've been hungering for while you pay single player?
I know online will actually be the main draw for a lot of gamers, but I can't say I'm one of them. Competition has so invaded our real lives that inviting it into our virtual ones feels anathema to me, and part of the enjoyment I've found in the game the past couple of weeks is in slowing down and checking out of the din for a bit.
I'm definitely intrigued to see how Rockstar handles it though (details are still pretty scant), and I plan to dabble in the online for sure. Long term, I'd be interested in some kind of "deep multiplayer", where you only very occasionally come across another human player, or where they're subtly, non-compromisingly inserted into the story campaign – a bit like Westworld.
But if it turns out to be hordes of people in clown attire sprinting around like headless chickens on speed, as with GTA Online, then I'm outta there! I have low-level video game addiction too, I'm pretty sure, so the whole idea of climbing up and down a leaderboard with no end is a little dangerous for me. Godspeed to the people that get a kick out of it though! And sorry not to be of more help on this one.
Lovely. I have something of the same interest and fear of the online, so look forward to seeing how it goes down.
Here's another one, a little similar to my first question. A lot of the reviewers keep using the word "realism", and some of the things sound incredible. (I was just watching a video that was explaining how some guns require you to press fire twice, once to clear it out, and that you can use that to give a dramatic pause to the whole thing.)
How much does that realism enhance, or interfere with, the game? Is there a sense that this was a thing done for its own sake, or does it help get you engaged with the world?
Yeah, as I mentioned briefly in my review, I think this will be one of the few divisive things in the game.
Personally, I love all the new elements of realism, almost without exception. Looting bodies feels a bit of a pain. In most games, you just tap X and the person's belongings magically appear in your inventory, but in RDR2 Arthur stoops down, lifts the corpse slightly and roots around its pockets. After you've done this a thousand times you kind of yearn for a less realistic approach, especially post-gunfight when you're surrounded by a sea of bodies.
But in the overwhelming majority of cases, the realism not only doesn't interfere or hinder the experience, but makes it better. Take the whole concept of returning to camp, for instance. When you make it back to your gang after a fraught mission, wash off the blood, eat a restorative bowl of stew (made from the spoils of your last hunt), share a beer with whoever's around the fire and finally go to bed, you actually feel fresh the next morning. There's a 'right, I'm back in action' moment; you've grabbed some more ammo, maybe had a shave, and are ready to go work on whatever task you've lined up next. For me, this a more enjoyable style of gameplay to one where your character is a nomad who's been sprinting around a map for about 78 days straight.
I don't think I've come across that gun where you have to clear the barrel yet though, that's wild!
I hope you're going to do all the sensitive stuff like bucking hay bales for the good of the camp, Andrew? Don't let me down.
I intend to do only the sensitive stuff! I was watching a video review on YouTube earlier and it was showing the process of hunting the animals, and my vegetarian heart was so torn – I remember how fun it was from RDR 1, but I'd sort of like it if I could just go through this game eating vegetables and being kind to people. I presume that's not a strategy that would pay off, but yes – I intend to play in as much of a communitarian and kindly way as possible.
Anyway, that yellow-bellied cowardly bunk out the way, GTA 5 felt something of a paradigm shift for Rockstar: less silly, less of that very 2000s-feeling corny "satire". And I enjoyed it so much more as a result. It felt like the first GTA game where the narrative and writing were as serious and substantial as the world that they'd so painstakingly created.
Does this game have some of the same thing? Does it feel more earnest than the first game, and than the GTA series? What do you think Rockstar have learnt from GTA 5, and what haven't they learnt?
Haha oh please try and play RDR2 as a vegetarian! I actually think as far as Arthur's diet goes you'd be fine, and as long as you don't mind buying meat from a butcher for the others in the camp then you're golden. You won't make make it to 100% completion without spilling some animal blood though I'm afraid – gotta get them pelts.
And yes, the hunting and skinning process is incredibly visceral and not for the faint hearted (see below). It's probably a good thing, in terms of making meat eaters like myself more aware that their sandwich was once alive, but that's a think piece for another day!
As for the tone of the game, I actually quite liked the immaturity of GTA: Vice City and San Andreas. The unsubtle pop culture parodies and movie homages and dumb radio commercial jokes. To be fair that still exists in GTA V a little, right? Don't you basically raid Facebook's HQ at one point?
Anyhow, this is definitely Rockstar's most earnest game yet. The dialogue is less Spaghetti Western, more True Grit or arty Netflix indie Western (side-note: it would be such a no-brainer to get the Coens or even Tarantino in to write a scene!).
You can tell a lot of time has gone into making the writing worthy of the incredible graphics and physics – I hope players will recognise this and not skip cutscenes. If you're into the narrative and the "feel" elements, look out for the question marks in camp. They typically lead to therapy-like encounters, where Arthur reflects with a friend on his exploits. "I just keep...killing innocent folks."
The Red Dead series isn’t a household name in the way Grand Theft Auto is, but a new instalment is a huge event in gaming nonetheless, and the Wild West offshoot goes for a more sedated, atmospheric effect than its largely city-based cousin.
RDR2 is available for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and you can read more about installing and pre-loading the game, and how much space it will take up on your console, here.