The biggest game of 2018, “Red Dead Redemption 2,” may be the most detailed game I’ve ever played.
It’s certainly the most detailed game I’ve played since the last project from Rockstar Games, “Grand Theft Auto 5.”
The simple act of walking through mud in “Red Dead 2” becomes a sight to behold. Fighting in it – during a light rain, no less – can be downright distracting:
Each individual footstep shows up in the mud, quickly filled by nearby puddles and topped-up by the rain.
I spent more time than I’m willing to admit simply staring at the mud. How could it be so detailed? How could there possibly have been this much attention lavished on the ground?
Those stop and gawk moments were frequent while playing through “Red Dead Redemption 2” over the last week. It’s a game that, even after dozens of hours, continues to surprise me.
Here’s just some of the craziest, most impressive stuff I’ve seen:
1. Let’s start with the bear head hat.
There are quite a few hats in “Red Dead Redemption 2,” and even more outfit combinations. That’s to be expected in any blockbuster, character-driven game in 2018. Who doesn’t want to play dress up?
What’s not so expected is this outrageous bear head hat,which is a bear’s head – a bear you’ll kill in a relatively early mission. This hat is almost certain to become yours.
After taking the bear skin to a trapper, he’ll offer to buy your legendary bear skin. In an instant, he turns that skin into a handful of different clothing items. The one I purchased immediately, of course, was the bear head hat you see above. It looks exactly like the bear I shotgunned in a panic.
2. Your outfit, including the bear head hat, shows up in every cutscene.
No matter how serious the moment, whatever silly outfit you’re wearing is the outfit your character will wear in cutscenes. This is no small thing – most games don’t bother with this level of consistency.
And that’s just the beginning.
3. If you’re muddy from riding through mud, you’ll appear dirty and people will react accordingly.
The main character, and the one you’ll control throughout “Red Dead 2,” is Arthur Morgan. If you get into a fight in the mud as Arthur, he’ll get extremely muddy. When he walks into a bar, people will comment on his smell and demeanour. When he appears in a cutscene, he’ll appear as a mud-covered maniac.
There’s a level of detail consistency throughout the game that’s subtle at first, and becomes almost overwhelming as the game goes on.
4. The world remembers and responds.
After that fight I got into in Valentine – one of the game’s early towns – people were less friendly the next time I showed up for a drink. Some were cautious, and some were downright mean.
This is a common trick in gaming, but it’s far more nuanced in “Red Dead 2.”
There’s a staggering variety of reactions from the world’s many characters, based on a wide range of parameters: how you’re dressed, if you’re dirty/covered in blood, the time of day, previous actions, notoriety – and assuredly more that I can’t identify.
It’s the number one aspect of “Red Dead 2” that makes it feel like a major step forward for all open-world, narrative-driven games.
5. The tale of the cart on fire.
Around 10 hours in, I was riding to a mission alone. As I came to a bridge, a bunch of men on the other side shouted at me to stop – they were from the O’Driscoll gang, and I had better turn around.
So I turned around, went into the woods nearby, and found another way to cross the valley beneath the bridge. Then I snuck back around to where the O’Driscolls were hiding – the arch rivals to Arthur’s Van der Linde Gang – and quietly took out each one. Since it was the middle of the night in a remote part of the map, no one happened to be riding by. That’s good, because just one witness could mean trouble.
I carefully hid the bodies – after looting each one for ammunition and treasure – before realising I had a horse carriage on my hands. I unhitched the horses from the front and told them to get out of there, carefully took aim at the oil-burning lanterns on the side of the cart, and fired.
And that’s the story of the cart on fire.
It’s a great example of the kind of emergent, unexpected moments you’ll find in “Red Dead 2.” This is just one of many such stories from my time with the game.
6. How I learned that oil lanterns explode.
Gunfights in “Red Dead 2” are messy.
Aiming is tough, and people are moving quickly if they’re on horseback. There’s a system called “Dead Eye” that slows down time and makes it easier to take out enemies, but it is finite.
It was just such a situation where I discovered that oil lanterns explode, while in a nighttime gunfight with bounty hunters. I was firing wildly, trying to get them off my back, when suddenly a shot connected with one rider’s lantern and he was set ablaze.
It was horrific, but also instructional.
7. Sometimes you gotta get super drunk.
There are a lot of video games about shooting enemies before they shoot you, and there’s plenty of that in “Red Dead 2.”
I’ve also gone drinking more than once, spent a surprising amount of time fishing and hunting, sat around a campfire singing with friends, and replaced the wheel of a cart.
The best stuff in “Red Dead 2” doesn’t involve using a gun. It’s the simple engagement with the world that’s everywhere to be found, from making friends with strangers to playing Five Finger Filet at the gang’s camp.
A lot of video games offer minigames as a means of adding in extra stuff, but minigames in “Red Dead 2” can lead to story beats. At very least, they add a layer of depth to your relationship with a character – playing a game with a fellow gang member changes how Arthur speaks to them and vice versa.
It’s the kind of thing that makes the world of “Red Dead 2” that much more believable and impressive
Looking for even more “Red Dead Redemption 2”? Check out the video below!
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