Sitting by your campfire, watching the beautiful sunrise across miles of wilderness, a family a rabbits run past and your horse is taking a dump. Rockstar's prequel to 2011's Red Dead Redemption is here, and it's both massive in size and scrupulous in detail.
The game take place at the end of the 19th Century, and its huge 60-hour story tells the tale of an outlaw in hiding, with his crew, after a botched heist. Right from the start, the game's impressive details start to show. The ground covered in snow, creating imprints as you walk on it, that don't disappear. You can use the footprints to retrace your steps or track animals. You can pick up and inspect every item that you come across. There's pictures to look at, letters to read and trinkets to admire. The attention to detail is outstanding.
Gameplay is slow and methodical. You don't just run across items and pick them up with the tap of a button - you need to individually loot each one. Inspecting each corpse you've created is a slow process - you'll need to decide whether to loot a body, move it out of the way or just flee the scene so you don't end up having to hunt down witnesses, ending up with a domino effect massacre. There's a lot more to being a cowboy than just lassoing folk, and the numerous game mechanics show that. They're introduced in well-paced tutorials throughout, never leaving you overwhelmed or bored.
What the game lacks in fast cars, tanks and chaos, it makes up for in its mechanics and its world. If a tree falls in the woods when you're not around to hear it, does it make a sound? RDR2 feels like there are sounds all over the place that you never hear in a world full of life that exists whether you're part of it or not. The visuals, sound, dialogue, details and AI do a wonderful job of immersing you in this world. It's easy to say you want to be a hardened criminal, but then you feel guilty for murdering a man in cold blood for a measly 12 cents. It leaves a sense a guilt that's unusual to experience in a video game.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is a masterpiece and huge achievement in video game design. It's such a huge leap forward from everything that came before it.
RED DEAD REDEMPTION 2 / DEVELOPER: ROCKSTAR GAMES / PUBLISHER: ROCKSTAR GAMES / PLATFORM: PLAYSTATION 4, XBOX ONE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW