You should, of course, never talk to strangers. Un­less it’s in a Rock­star game, in which case chat away!

XBox: The Official Magazine - - CONTENTS - CHRIS BURKE

I have to con­fess that I’m a bit of a su­per-fan of Rock­star’s games. That the com­pany’s games play fan­tas­ti­cally well, have bril­liant themes and are pre­sented so stylishly, is ob­vi­ous. But my favourite mo­ments in any Rock­star game are all to do with the di­a­logue.

Rock­star is al­ways so very strong on char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion that, even go­ing back to be­gin­ning of GTA, its games al­ways con­tain de­li­cious script­ing. There is so much quotable scripted di­a­logue in Red Dead Redemp­tion II that we could fill this en­tire is­sue of OXM just with those gems. How­ever, it’s the more in­ci­den­tal mo­ments of chat­ter that re­ally im­press. With a mas­sive voice cast and 12,000 lines of di­a­logue seem­ingly for ev­ery named char­ac­ter, every­one’s got some­thing unique and funny to say. The game is packed with chatty non-named NPCs too, from farm-hands hav­ing their own hi­lar­i­ous con­ver­sa­tions to the bloke look­ing for his mate, Gavin. I ab­so­lutely have to go and check out a flash­ing ‘Stranger’ blip, just to witness a lit­tle bonus nugget of NPC di­a­logue, even if it has noth­ing to do with Arthur.

The most in­ge­nious touch, though, is RDRII’s sys­tem of so­cial in­ter­ac­tion - prob­a­bly the most finely-tuned piece of world-build­ing ever put into a game. Arthur can in­ter­act with his fel­low gang mem­bers in ways that feel con­vinc­ing and of­ten give deeper in­sights into that char­ac­ter. You can also in­ter­act pos­i­tively or neg­a­tively with any NPC any­where, and the re­sults can be any­where be­tween mat­ter-of-factly civil to won­der­fully rude, but it al­ways feels nat­u­ral, no mat­ter how far you take it. A sim­ple walk around Saint De­nis can show Rock­star’s wiz­ardry at work. Stop­ping at a bench where a man and a woman are sat, mind­ing their own busi­ness, I de­cide Arthur should an­tag­o­nise them. “Look at you fools!” sneers Arthur. They shuf­fle in their seats un­com­fort­ably. I defuse the sit­u­a­tion by say­ing, “I’m only jok­ing with you!” The French-ac­cented woman replies with, “You have a cruel sense of hu­mour, mon­sieur.” I con­tinue to taunt by say­ing, “At least you’ve got each other.” The woman rises to leave, might­ily of­fended. ‘An­tag­o­nise’ is pressed again, and Arthur says, “I’m sorry, I don’t know why I find this so amus­ing.” No, he re­ally doesn’t - but child­ishly, I do. A man rides past on his horse, and I ‘call out’. He reins his horse to a stop. I ‘dis­miss’ him with, “Ah, I can’t be both­ered,” He replies by say­ing, “Well okay then,” and trots on a cou­ple of feet. I ‘greet’ him again, he stops, and gets hit by a tram. Arthur, you’re

such a jerk.

Bully for you

It all helps the world feel like it’s ac­tu­ally pop­u­lated, although this is not the first time Rock­star has used this idea. The bril­liant Bully: Schol­ar­ship Edi­tion uses a sim­i­lar sys­tem for so­cial in­ter­ac­tion that makes Jimmy Hopkins’ school come to life with self-ob­sessed preppy kids, greasers, nerds and jocks. Run­ning around the Bull­worth Academy, you can greet or an­tag­o­nise kids. In­sult them and they’ll re­spond with any­thing from, “You’re not go­ing to hurt me are you?” to the spunkier, “I can see why peo­ple say you’re a true diplo­mat!” Push them fur­ther, they might say, “You’re scar­ing me!” Smaller kids will say things like, “No no, please, no wed­gies!” Push a big­ger kid, even a nerd, and he’ll say some­thing like, “You sir, are cruis­ing for a bruis­ing!” and it might end up in a bun­dle, as he at­tacks you scream­ing, “That’s a level five at­tack!” Con­versely, strike up a ‘greet’ con­ver­sa­tion and it might go from a cor­dial, “What’s up?” to the kid com­pli­ment­ing your clothes. The fun­ni­est one I’ve heard was when Jimmy tried to greet a preppy kid, who re­sponded with, “Those are the worst trousers I’ve ever seen!” At this point, off-screen, an­other kid yelled out, “Funny pants!” It’s oddly au­then­tic – ev­ery school has a Nel­son from The Simp­sons, primed and ready to join in the ‘ha ha’s, right?

The real genius of the sys­tem is how sim­ple it ap­pears – re­sponses are rea­son­ably generic, but sound so nat­u­ral. It cre­ates at least the il­lu­sion of a world that is alive and full of char­ac­ters with whom you can in­ter­act, and you feel that have a choice in how you in­ter­act with them, pro­vid­ing an in­cred­i­bly rich back­drop to the sand­box game­play.

With Red Dead Redemp­tion II, this has been re­fined to such an ex­tent that you can have kind-of con­ver­sa­tions with ran­dom NPCs, which never fail to amuse me. Then again, maybe that Saint De­nis NPC was right when he told me, “Your sense of hu­mour is an ac­quired taste!”

“Run­ning around the Bull­worth Academy, you can greet or an­tag­o­nise ran­dom kids”

right Bully offers a whole school full of pupils to be­friend or an­tag­o­nise.

Ab ove The in­ter­ac­tions you can have with your Van Der Linde gang-mates at camp make them feel more rounded as char­ac­ters.

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