Red Dead Redemption II
Today, IGN and The Telegraph dropped the most comprehensive overviews yet of Rockstar Games' next open-world western, Red Dead Redemption II. The blitz of coverage is definitely worth checking out yourself, but we also wanted to surface our biggest takeaways after wrangling up the written and video features.
Another Generational Leap In Open World Design
We have yet to see the game in action ourselves, but judging from impressions of the first live demo, it sounds like Rockstar is taking another big step forward in its design. By strengthening the connective tissue between the myriad systems driving the game, the studio is dissolving the visible stitches between gameplay, cinematics, missions, and emergent play to make it feel like a more seamless experience. The world and characters are constantly aware of Morgan's presence, and the player has a new level of agency when interacting with them.
Red Dead Redemption II doesn't transition away from the game camera into cutscenes when talking to characters, and new missions arrive organically through conversation, not necessarily creating distinctions between golden path story missions and side missions. They are simply activities that present themselves as you live in this world.
Players have more control over how these interactions play out as well. Depending on the circumstance, the player has multiple contextual options for engagement. Upon first coming across a person, Morgan could act politely, intimidate, or even rob them. How the person reacts depends on their disposition. They also take note of whether Morgan's weapon is holstered and react accordingly.
No Protagonist Swapping
Coming off the massive success of the Grand Theft Auto V story, you couldn't fault Rockstar for going back to the well of giving players control of multiple characters. But Rockstar has other designs for Red Dead Redemption II; this time players control Arthur Morgan through the entire story. As gang leader Dutch van der Linde's righthand man, Morgan shoulders a lot of the responsibility for keeping this rag-tag group of outlaws together. Though he's a murderer and thief, IGN's impressions made it sound like he's also a likable character that many in the gang look up to, and he treats them like family. Ultimately, it's up to the player how honorable this outlaw will act throughout the story.
The Outlaw Camp Is Your Mobile Hub
After a Blackwater heist goes awry, the van der Linde gang is on the run for the vast majority of the game. As such, don't expect to take up residence in a town like a respectable citizen. Instead, the gang sets up camp on the outskirts of the area they happen to be in at that juncture of the narrative. This social hub is where the players get to know the rest of the gang members, which includes familiar faces like Bill Williamson, Javier Escuella, and Dutch, plus several new personalities as well. The blonde, female outlaw seen in the last two trailers is Sadie Adler. The old man telling stories around the campfire is Hosea Matthews, one of Dutch's oldest acquaintances. The scraggly blonde who tells Morgan that sometimes brothers make mistakes is Micah Bell. Players choose the degree to which they interact with these characters, and will go on missions with unique combinations of them throughout the game.
The camp has resource demands that need to be met, but it's up to the player if they want to take time out of their day to hunt for a fresh supply of meat or stay the course on their current activity. Expect your fellow campers to comment on your contributions or lack thereof. This camp evolves over time as the gang travels deeper into the Old West.
Keeping Your Horse Alive Matters
Horses were very gamified in Red Dead Redemption. You could whistle anywhere in the world and your steed would gallop to your side, and breaking in your horse only took a short while. Red Dead Redemption II amps up the realism in this department. The more you ride, feed, and groom your horse, the deeper the bond between you two forms. This is critical for the horse becoming more comfortable in precarious situations like shootouts and coming across nature's most formidable predators. If you bond is weak, the horse may throw you off its back and take off away from the threat, taking your supplies and best weapons along with it. This makes training your horse (and keeping them alive) a critical component to RDR II. Should your horse die, you must start this process over again with another thoroughbred.
Exciting New Locations
We know Red Dead Redemption II returns to some familiar locations like Blackwater, but you can also expect to visit several new areas as well, including snowy mountains, deep south swamps, and even industrialized cities. This demo took place in a region called New Hanover, which featured rivers, forests, and mountains of its own. IGN said these areas all felt teeming with life. Flies buzzed around the forests, farmers herded sheep over rolling pastures, and the small town of Valentine bustled with activity, especially after the gang robbed its bank and the lawmen chased them into the countryside.