After watching Red Dead Redemption 2 for two hours there is only one word that comes to mind: “ambition”. On the other hand we are talking about a Rockstar game, which after the over 95 million pieces of Grand Theft Auto V, after having created the most successful product in the history of entertainment, certainly cannot be satisfied with simply creating a game that sells more. of the previous one.

The result is something that the videogame label is close to, which wants to be more: an experience. That’s why the first part of the presentation saw Rockstar insist on seemingly irrelevant aspects, such as the presence in the prairies of lizards a few centimeters large yet perfectly recreated and animated. Or on the footprints of horses that vary according to gait. Or again, on the branches of the trees that bend according to the weight of the snow on them.

Because all these details, added up, in Rockstar’s intentions will help immerse the player in a way that is as vivid and believable as ever. To the point that, always in the name of realism, you will be able to see our horse doing its steaming needs right before our eyes. And that every weapon that we will see on the protagonist will actually be usable. There are no inventories from which to magically extract rifles: if you can see it you can use it, and vice versa.

Red Dead Redemption 2, however, does not want to be just realism pushed to the highest levels but a work built on three pillars: gameplay, interactivity and narration. From this last point of view, the story projects us into a very particular historical moment: while in the first episode we were playing the role of John Marston, an outlaw in search of redemption, this time we will experience the life of Dutch van der Linde’s gang. Gang which also includes young John, who in our demo we met with fresh wounds on his face that will distinguish him later.

The character we will play this time will however be another, Arthur Morgan, one of the oldest members of the gang, adopted by it when he was a boy and who has never known any other family other than gunslingers, scammers, fugitives and ex revolutionaries who live with him at the camp. Rockstar describes him as a smart, ruthless character but with a sense of honor, and in his shoes we will have to hunt, steal, fight and assault.

We will be able to do it in the ways and times we want, given that RDR2 will guarantee us maximum freedom of action. The only thing that will be really central in the economy of Red Dead Redemption 2 is the camp, which Rockstar defines as a sort of living entity and in which, through the interaction with the other members of the gang, we will be able to experience the different activities at Arthur’s disposition, whether it’s a saloon drink, a bank robbery, a hunt or a game of poker.

Talking with our companions will also allow us to know their history with its background, which will gradually bring out their personality. The dialogues, at the camp as in the rest of the game, will be contextual. If we talk to someone after an argument, they will be agitated; if we do it while drunk, he will answer us differently than if we are sober; finally Rockstar states that if we lost a Domino game before our interaction, maybe we will be pointed out.

The camp, however, does not maintain itself and it will be advisable, although not mandatory, to provide for its subsistence by bringing money, food and other provisions. In this way, the morale of the companions will be kept high, which will be reflected again in the conversations with them, in the activities they will want to participate in and in the stories that will be told around the bonfire. However, the benefits will also be concrete, such as additional supplies of food, medicine and ammunition. In addition to the ability to move quickly.

Red Dead Redemption 2 will be playable entirely in first and third person, and you can switch between the two views seamlessly with the push of a button.

And it is by reflecting on the depth of these details that we delve into the customization present in Red Dead Redemption 2, which reaches a depth that borders on maniacality.
Taking the time that I frankly found excessive (in the end I was there to play, oh dear!), The demonstrator lingered on the dozens and dozens of possible customizations of every single weapon. Drum, barrel length, stock, colors, engravings: Rockstar doesn’t want us to use ‘weapons’ but ‘our’ weapons.

Incredibly similar speech for the horse, customizable like the cars in the GTA V workshops. But since you cannot mount lowered ailerons and rims on an equine, here are thousands (minimum) of possible customizations of the saddle, which can be changed in the knob , in the stirrups, in the seat, in the deck and in all the other parts of which it is composed.

Fortunately, Rockstar did not want to linger as long in customizing the clothes, however present. On the other hand, in the game we will move from the snowy Grizzly Mountains to the swamps surrounding Saint Denis, and it would be unrealistic for Arthur and the other gang members to always wear the same clothes. Which, a bit like in the last Zelda, will have to be appropriate to the surrounding setting, under penalty of negative repercussions on the player’s stamina.

Rockstar’s goal is to create a coherent and credible game world, with a personality capable of matching that of the protagonists. And to become the protagonist itself.

Each character in RDR2 will have his own style in dressing, so as to make him immediately recognizable. Instead, we will enjoy greater freedom and we will be able to have a large wardrobe at will, even deciding whether to keep the pants over or under the boots or whether to roll up Arthur’s sleeves (!!!).

Equally surprising is Rockstar’s care taken in weapon simulation. Not only will their use be even more realistic in terms of rate of fire and recharge times, but if neglected they can jam on the most beautiful. Here, therefore, we will need to carve out moments in which to clean and polish them, a choice that will certainly favor immersion but which could have an impact on the fun: after all, no one would like to stop and fill up the car in Grand Theft Auto V .

The part of the story that Rockstar showed us initially saw the gang engaged in the Who The Hell is Leviticus Cornwall? Mission. Dutch van der Linde and associates are in a very difficult moment in their existence: a blow went wrong and it was necessary to flee to the icy Grizzly Mountains. A place where no one would like to stay and that is why the only solution seems to attempt a new blow, and with the money thus obtained move towards the plain. If only to show that the dream of the frontier, of life free from the hindrances and constraints of civilization, is still alive.

The opportunity soon presents itself in the form of a train to rob and that’s where our demo began, that is with the gang riding to the place deemed ideal to blow up the tracks. This allowed us to see the new “cinematic cameras” at work, a device thanks to which, by pressing a button during the inevitable movements, our journey is framed from different angles.

Hunting will be a pivotal moment in the game’s economy. Rockstar has created a rather structured system to simulate it and it will also be necessary to pay attention to the quality of the skins and meats that will be obtained.

The goal, according to Rockstar, is to give the feeling that the duration of the trips is compressed. We will only have to hold down the X / A button to make the horse proceed at the same pace as the group, and then give the right direction to stay on the path. This does not mean that the duration of the movements remains unchanged and that after three minutes spent holding it down on the same key, our thumb started asking for mercy. At this point we would have preferred a real autopilot that would allow us to focus solely on the dialogues, also because giving direction to the horse at a crossroads while the camera is framing the scene from the side can lead to error.

Once we got to the point of the ambush, it goes without saying that things did not go as planned and that therefore it was necessary to resort to improvisation. Which, without wanting to go into too much detail to avoid spoilers, has given way to highly spectacular sections worthy of the best western films, underlined by a “kill-cam” capable of enhancing the most spectacular moments. After this phase (but we have a feeling that the oil tycoon Leviticus Cornwall will sooner or later demand revenge), it is time to indulge in some healthy free roaming, and this is where RDR2 has flexed its muscles.

The idea of ​​a game capable of going beyond the canonical distinction between primary and secondary missions is undoubtedly fascinating, and we would be lying if we claimed to have seen it enough to be able to judge it. But the possibilities of interaction that we have experienced have been exemplary.

For example, we happened to walk into the shop of a small settlement. Initially we looked at the objects displayed on the shelves, we took them in our hands, rotated and manipulated them as in LA Noire (those wishing to resort to more immediate procedures, know that they can buy them directly from a canonical menu). Then we went directly to the clerk and, at the developer’s instructions, pointed the gun in his face.

The evolution of the relationship between gang members will be central. Doubts, conflicts and relationships that crumble under the weight of the end of an era, will be narrated with the usual Rockstar mastery.

The option was immediately activated to steal the money from the cashier but that wasn’t what we were interested in. Upon exiting, we walked around the block and noticed that the back of his shop communicated with a small building protected by a security door. We then went back to the shopkeeper, we threatened him again with the gun and this time the option to have us escorted to the back of the shop also appeared, where there was a clandestine gambling den.

Obviously, by selling us to enter armed, those present inside it proved to be very unfriendly and to make a clean sweep we resorted to the Dead Eye badge, which in RDR2 will be upgradeable during the course of the game. There will be a total of 5 levels that can be improved according to parameters such as slowing down time, automatic and manual locking of the highlighted targets, as well as the display of the critical points of the targets (the latter skill that will be very useful when you go hunting).

What if the developer didn’t tell us about this possibility? Perhaps we could have discovered it for ourselves by listening to the conversations of the inhabitants; or talking to someone; or even deducing it from the information available in the local newspaper, whose articles will be entirely translated into Italian. But the fear of being able to finish Red Dead Redemption 2 having beautifully ignored much of its contents, is tangible. At least the ending will be one and only one, which will make our possible shortcomings more acceptable.

The absence of the usual markers placed on the NPCs from which to take the missions will, however, be a design element to be explored in the review. The very realistic imprint given by Rockstar to RDR2 seems in fact to force you to listen to all the dialogues and talk to all the NPCs to avoid the risk of losing something on the street.

The attention to detail will be spasmodic. Rockstar, for example, explained to us that the footprints of horses in the snow will be affected by the gait.

And the lack of a quest log on paper could cause a return to the 80s / 90s, when you had to arm yourself with pen and paper so as not to forget the information of a quest (I already know that if I had to go on a press tour, at my return I will not remember most of the missions). When asked explicitly, we were told that the presence of unspecified objects in the inventory and markers on the map should solve the problem, so we are curious to see how Rockstar will handle the removal of canonical elements in today’s video games in the name of realism.

It will be equally interesting to see how the AI ​​of the enemies behave during the close range shootings: at the time of escaping with the stolen goods in hand (after the shooting above), the game has placed a nice Wanted on us. The measure, however, was still ‘anonymous’, in the sense that having not been seen in the face, the bounty was not assigned to our alter ego. However, the police immediately rushed in and twice we found ourselves fighting with characters who put themselves in cover on the other side of our door, occasionally appearing to shoot.

Since we were there waiting for them at the gate, we managed to get right once by shooting him at point-blank range, the other by jumping directly at him, so close was the distance from which they shot us. It’s nice that the game switches to melee automatically (and in this case pulling the trigger to fire punches), but overall the whole situation seemed surreal and we hope to see some improvements in the AI ​​in the final release. .

Improvements that we hope to observe also from a technical point of view. The graphics of Red Dead Redemption 2 are beautiful and striking (albeit slightly inferior to the images distributed by Rockstar for this article), but the recent Marvel’s Spider-Man has raised the bar considerably and the feeling is that for a game developed by eight years and only for the current-gen, you could get something more from the PS4 Pro on which he ran the test code. Even the fluidity of the image seemed to us to be improved, while the faces of some NPCs made us raise our eyebrows.

The camp will play a major role in Red Dead Redemption 2.

The controversies of Mass Effect Andromeda are well etched in the memory of every gamer and in this regard we point out that Rockstar has guaranteed us that the appropriate improvements will be made to some NPCs that we saw during our test. Because, it should be remembered, what we are writing about is a game but with a month of development ahead and at least two patches (day 0 for the press and day 1 for the public).

The breath and ambitions of Red Dead Redemption 2, however, are such as to transcend these smudges, since Rockstar, we remember, more than a video game aims to create an experience. For example, we were kidnapped by the hunting sessions, where we will be able to keep checking even the direction of the wind to understand if our smell is coming or not to the animals we are about to ambush. And if one is injured, we will be able to finish it on the ground with an animation that is as realistic as it is brutal. In our case, the memory of the wounded deer to which we stabbed the heart is still alive, and we are already expecting the editorials of indignant animal rights activists on some overseas newspapers.

With the dead prey at our feet, we will be able to skin it (even here the animation is as brutal as it is realistic) and load both the skin and the carcass onto our horse. In our session we went to sell them both, in no particular hurry but bearing in mind that if it took too long, the meat could rot; or that its smell might have attracted predators to the area; or that someone might have tried to steal it from us.

Once we arrived at the shop, our game was evaluated. Yes, because both the skins and the meat will be paid little if the animal’s body is shot with firearms, while it will be worth more money if the bow is used. The highest rating will be obtained only by hitting the beast in the head, and some items can only be crafted with the highest quality leather and rare beasts. Keep this in mind when you go hunting.

In Red Dead Redemption 2 it will also be possible to fire a shot in the air to scare people or order the fugitives to stop.

At this point, we realize that we have written the equivalent of two articles, yet there is still a lot to talk about. For example, the horse, our traveling companion with whom we will have to build a relationship that will lead us to groom it, feed it, calm it when it is agitated or afraid, or even just to spend time running with it on the prairies.

Improving the relationship with our steed will make him more effective and obedient. For example, there are some steps that initially he will not be able to take, such as moving sideways, while taking his confidence to the maximum we can observe him performing dressage (admit it, you weren’t expecting more, huh?) Moreover, he will no longer be scared in case of shootings or explosions, while initially it will not take much to make him restless.

The bags loaded on the horse’s back will act as an additional inventory, and will contain weapons that we can alternate with those we are wearing. But what happens if the horse is killed? We can remove the saddle and put it on another horse (we can have several, each with its own statistics and characteristics) but if this is not possible, we will find the saddle with its contents in the nearest stable. And what about realism? According to Rockstar, some concessions are needed in the name of fun.

As important as and more than the horse is the management of honor, an integrated system in the game that monitors our interactions with the world around us. Let me be clear, Arthur is and remains an outlaw but he can behave as a criminal and a gentleman or as a brutal murderer. Our conduct will have repercussions not only on how the world reacts to our passage (our fame precedes us, as they say) but also on his posture and body language.

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By behaving in a dishonorable way we will put ourselves negatively towards the rest of humanity even without saying a word, which will not necessarily be bad. The good people will look at us wrong and it will be easier to intimidate, on the other hand the robberies will pay more and the kill-cam killings will be more intense. Obviously, the opposite will also apply: if we put ourselves well towards others, it will be easier to interact with decent people, and therefore be assigned bounties that will be worth more money. The kill-cam instead will return more “heroic” images.

Finally, we dedicate a few lines to the importance of the L2 key, the instrument through which to interact with the rest of the world. Depending on what is framed, a series of options will open (which can be activated with the other keys of the pad) thanks to which we can greet people or shoot them. Its universality is overall a good, although initially care must be taken not to accidentally chill a salesman, as happened accidentally to a colleague of ours.

The possibilities of interacting with people, however, go far beyond talking or shooting, and RDR2 will field a series of nuances that are difficult to describe because the options available to us will also depend on having more or less clean clothes (we went We will enter the city stained with blood and people will understandably be wary), by our reputation and by the mood of our interlocutors (if they are scared the dialogue options available will be fewer, if not entirely absent).

In GTA V, people reacted to our passage in only three ways: by running away, by ignoring us, or by being friends with us. Here we are facing an important step forward from the point of view of social interactions and, for example, if someone sees us commit a crime they could go straight on their way or try to report us. And we can either chase him and block him, or fire a warning shot in the air and scare him. If he stops, we can talk to each other and convince him to give up or intimidate him; and then again let it go or possibly rob it. The combinations seem potentially infinite and we are really curious to see everything at work.

The game interface includes 5 indicators for the protagonist’s health, stamina and Dead Eye, and the horse’s health and stamina. However, it will be possible to customize it or eliminate it completely, in the name of the most immersive experience.

In closing we got to play the Paying A Social Call mission, in which after exercising some persuasion, Dutch and Bill manage to extort the location of Colm O’Driscoll’s gang camp from a prisoner. After the usual long ride, in which as per Rockstar tradition we witnessed verbose conversations between the protagonists, we arrived at the rival camp where we easily got over the enemies with an initially stealth approach and then with guns in hand.

The main difference compared to the past was that on this occasion we were able to act in a group by giving commands to our allies but the mechanics are lost to us less intuitive and elastic than in other games in which team play is a fundamental part of the gameplay (one above all: Ghost Recon Wildlands). Also because, since walkie talkies did not exist at the time, orders must be communicated verbally. Which in the stealth phases means going back to our companions (still crouching) to whisper the instructions in their ear. That aside, Red Dead Redemption 2 seemed to get played exactly like its predecessor.

And on these notes that, finally, the time has come to conclude our test. As we wrote at the beginning, RDR 2 is a product with immoderate ambition, which tries at all costs to be an experience even before a video game. The strong emphasis placed on realism, however, potentially exposes it to a multitude of inconsistencies. Because in some moments the game is so truthful that when you then take concessions in the name of fun, they jump to the eye with an emphasis that in other titles, far less ambitious, would be completely absent.

But beyond these philosophical reflections, we are faced with a potentially boundless game, in which to get lost not for hours but for months. And if the multiplayer, which will be added later, will be able to repeat the success of that of GTA V, Red Dead Redemption 2 could be the new blockbuster of a Rockstar to which the ‘video game developer’ label is now. tighter and tighter.