Red Dead Redemption 2 redefines interactive entertainment in a post-brexit world2018/10/26
Where does one start when reviewing Red Dead Redemption 2? With the vast open world that has been hand crafted down to each individual piece of foilage? Or maybe with the complex and eerily realistic AI systems that underpin every interaction throughout the world? Or again still, with the frightening attention to detail in achieving historial accuracy in a game set in a fictional wild west?
To get to the heart of Red Dead Redemption 2, one need only look to the horses - and I'm not talking about the oft-quoted realistic and unnecessary behaviour of parts of their anatomy.
The horses in Red Dead Redemption 2 are balling. The way they behave and can be interacted with acts as a perfect microcosm of the game's design as a whole. Every horse in Red Dead Redemption 2 is unique, and behaves in a way that makes you as a player not only empathise with their plight, but attribute them with real sentience. Treat your horse well (for example by patting them on the nose or feeding them treats) and they will grow to like you, following you around and coming to your aid in a shootout. Treat them poorly however, like stealing from their pack, and they will remember that also. Horses in Red Dead Redemption 2 that don't like you will refuse to let you ride them, or in extreme cases even attack you on sight. Anyone who has seen a horse kick can understand quite how dangerous that can be.
The unique individuality of horses is also persistent. Rockstar extend this detail in ways never quite seen before in a video game. Shoot your horse and it will die - permanently (at least until you find the horse god who will revive your dead companions for a steep price). This is a world where your actions have consequences.
The AI in Red Dead Redemption 2, as evidenced by the horses, is not just clever but beguiling. There is always an explanation behind an action, but that reasoning is not normally made apparent to the player. When you ride into town and the sheriff comes out to arrest you, you're left wondering what gave you away. Did word travel from the next town over? Are tales of your infamy growing throughout the game world, just as the beard grows on your character's face? Did that horse report you after you stole from his pack? Or maybe it was the yet-to-be-skinned but already dead barkeep slung over the back of your own steed that tipped them off. There is magic in the obfuscation, and that's what makes the game feel so real and immersive.
Coming a little less than year after L.A. Noire for the Nintendo Switch, the jump in quality and scope from Rockstar with Red Dead Redemption 2 is staggering - although it is slightly strange given that context to see Nintendo's console forgotten by the studio. We're still waiting on hearing more news about when the port is due, but at least if GTAV is anything to go by it shouldn't be too long a wait.
Of course any review of Red Dead Redemption 2 would not be complete without mentioning the working conditions controversy at Rockstar Games.
+ Incredible and immersive open world
+ Signature animation based gameplay
+ The best horses in a video game since Pocket Card Jockey
- No word yet on the Nintendo Switch release
- I probably won't get round to playing it for a while