Red Dead Re­demp­tion II

THE buzz is get­ting louder, THE FACTS ARE get­ting clearer

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for­mat: ps4, Xbox one | Pub­lisher: ROCK­STAR GAMES | de­vel­oper: in-house | RE­LEASE: 26 oc­to­ber 2018 | PLAY­ERS: 1-tbc

Hype gets a bad rap, as we’re sure we’ve men­tioned be­fore. It can be mis­placed or over­reach the qual­ity of a game that’s on the hori­zon, but it re­flects a hope in all of us as gam­ing fans that the next big game or the next big se­quel will el­e­vate the medium, or at the very least give us some­thing we’ve never seen be­fore. Any­thing com­ing out of Rock­star seems like a wor­thy fo­cus of such hopes, but now that we’ve man­aged to get a closer look at the real game­play be­hind this highly an­tic­i­pated pre­quel, does it stand up to scru­tiny?

For the most part, we would say yes, but clearly by say­ing that we’re al­low­ing some room for doubt to creep in. Any game that’s at­tempt­ing some­thing this di­verse and on such a scale is tak­ing risks and leav­ing space for holes to ap­pear, but over­all, it is deeply im­pres­sive. Rock­star has talked about a liv­ing world in this game, which it did a rather nice job with in Red Dead Re­demp­tion as well. In this fol­low-up we can see a much richer ecosys­tem of wildlife in ev­ery lo­ca­tion, from ro­dents and birds in towns to lizards and preda­tors in the deserts, or bears, wolves and more in the forests. There’s the prom­ise of in­ter­ac­tiv­ity be­tween th­ese dif­fer­ent el­e­ments that if it ful­fils it­self would be very ex­cit­ing.

Then of course there are the NPCS who were an im­por­tant part of the game last time out with the rep­u­ta­tion sys­tem, and that’s re­turn­ing here with some im­por­tant me­chan­ics-based ad­di­tions. Con­text-sen­si­tive in­ter­ac­tions through the left trig­ger ap­pear to give you dif­fer­ent ways of greet­ing, in­tim­i­dat­ing or just vaguely ac­knowl­edg­ing passers by and Rock­star has said that th­ese in­ter­ac­tions will chain together, feed­ing into your rep­u­ta­tion sys­tem and per­haps lead­ing to evolved in­ter­ac­tions should you cross paths with a char­ac­ter again. What this means as a player ex­pe­ri­ence is a lot more control over how Arthur Mor­gan con­ducts him­self out in the world than we might have pre­vi­ously as­sumed. As an en­forcer for Dutch van der Linde we imag­ined that Mor­gan was go­ing to be a pretty re­morse­less and un­car­ing soul by de­fault, but that looks a lit­tle more open now.

The real test for Red Dead Re­demp­tion II and some­thing we won’t be able to make a judge­ment on un­til many hours into the game is just how var­ied and re­ac­tive th­ese lit­tle in­ter­ac­tions and chance en­coun­ters will be. We prob­a­bly all re­mem­ber the lit­tle road­side en­coun­ters from the pre­vi­ous game and how the dis­tressed oc­cu­pants of an over­turned wagon would call out to you, only to open fire as you slowed. We re­mem­ber that be­ing kind of in­cred­i­ble the first time it hap­pens, fun the sec­ond time when we could an­tic­i­pate it and then a lit­tle an­noy­ing as it con­tin­ued again and again. Th­ese kinds of ideas can be great as a one-off but be­come di­luted over time, so we’ll need to watch out for that very care­fully in the weeks lead­ing up to re­lease.

Prob­a­bly our big­gest area of con­cern, and even then it’s only mild con­cern, sur­rounds the game’s char­ac­ter en­gine and an­i­ma­tion. First, we should say that the RAGE en­gine ap­pears to have some sig­nif­i­cant up­grades in terms of char­ac­ter model physics from its use in

Grand Theft Auto V. When en­e­mies are shot they buckle and fall in ways that ap­pear very re­ac­tive to the place where they were shot, the pull of grav­ity, the na­ture of the ter­rain and other fac­tors. That should make shootouts even more chaotic, which is good. And handto-hand com­bat is also vastly im­proved with a lot more fluid moves and com­bi­na­tions to be called upon, which is handy since Mor­gan’s job will of­ten in­volve rough­ing peo­ple up with­out killing them. From the game­play we’ve seen though some of the com­bat an­i­ma­tion still feels a lit­tle stiff, al­most as if frames are miss­ing, break­ing up that flu­id­ity of mo­tion that seems to come so nat­u­rally else­where. And Mor­gan’s fa­cial ex­pres­sions don’t ap­pear to change much out­side of cut scenes, which may be ask­ing a lot of a game on this scale, but it was some­thing we no­ticed. This won’t likely be a game-break­ing is­sue, but it could break the im­mer­sive feel that so much of the rest of this world is achiev­ing, and it’s some­thing we’ll be look­ing closely at go­ing for­ward.

Above: As we un­der­stand it Red Dead Re­demp­tion II takes place largely in the South and South East US, not far re­moved from the last game but ex­tended out a lit­tle fur­ther East, giv­ing us ac­cess to a wider va­ri­ety of ter­rain, all of which looks ab­so­lutely gor­geous. Right: We’re not 100 per cent on this, but it looks like RDR2 will be fol­low­ing in Max Payne 3’s foot­steps and re­strict­ing you to car­ry­ing one long gun and pos­si­bly two sin­gle­handed guns at any one time. Any­thing else you’ll need to stash in sad­dle bags on your horse.

The rage en­gine re­turns with Eu­pho­ria physics un­der the hood giv­ing as much re­al­ism as pos­si­ble to the phys­i­cal­ity of the game. horses were a stand­out in this re­gard in the last RDR and they look even bet­ter in this game from what we’ve seen so far.

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