“Your choices matter.” That seems to be the mantra of many games, these days, but I didn’t think I’d see that over the top of a Rockstar game. Of all Rockstar game series, the one that lends itself best to that mantra is Red Dead. The openworld western was always rich on character, with NPCs drip-feeding lore and their own stories, making this the perfect setting for Rockstar to focus on narrative choices. The new Red Dead Redemption 2 gameplay video shows more than just player choice, with a wealth of new features and mechanics to keep us occupied.
While GTA revels in its distasteful humour and doesn’t hide its role as the game where you can just do whatever the hell you like, no matter how low it is, Red Dead always occupied a more mature space. Red Dead Redemption was the slow burn western about a man struggling to be the all American hero. It was a love letter to Hollywood westerns and spaghetti westerns and the big open skies of America.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is a much busier game, judging by the gameplay video. This time around you get to set up camp with your gang, go hunting for food and resources or just to trade in in town. In addition, getting to know gang members means you find out secrets and gather side quests, along the way.
The list of gameplay features goes on; there are more realistic guns, with different loading actions and recoils; your horse is more of a companion, allowing you to bond with it over time. In addition, different breeds are more suited to different tasks. And much like Fable, it seems that your horse’s temperament alters, depending on how you treat it.
Although, the video focuses on a fairly ruthless protagonist, in the shape of Arthur Morgan, who looks a bit like a really grizzled, Nathan Drake, you don’t have to be the dark antihero. In Red Dead Redemption 2, your Arthur Morgan can choose to make friends with people or defuse the situation, when you’re in a confrontation. This is new for Rockstar, let alone the Red Dead series.
Arthur’s gang of outlaws are often forced out of town, when the law gets too close for comfort. This means the gang travels caravan-style through the countryside looking for a place to set up camp. There are scenes of a frontier community, sitting around a campfire, telling stories and singing songs. You’re encouraged to get to know your fellow gang members and going hunting and gathering to raise morale at the camp. It also looks like there may have been a romance option, but don’t hold me to that.
Rather than a late 1800s outlaw rampage across the across the wild west, Red Redemption 2 looks like it may offer us a chance to make moral choices. All this, set during the moment when modern America is born.
My one worry about this game, is gameplay clutter. I’m concerned it may fall into the modern game trap of too much stuff to do. Red Dead Redemption gave you space, as a player, to roam and be the lonesome cowboy. Red Dead Redemption 2 feels like it’s going to keep you busy. I just hope there’s time to stop and be alone in the landscape. And I really hope there’s a mysterious stranger around a campfire who might be death or the devil or something because that was the best part about Red Dead.
Regardless of my misgivings, I’m still excited to jump into this game. I loved the previous one and I’m looking forward to treating my horse well and making friends and enemies along the way. What sort of America will we build in Red Dead Redemption 2? Remember; your choices matter.