Red Dead Redemption 2 doesn't care about other games that have come out in recent years, and it doesn't defer to successful models when deciding how to present an open world to the player. The game can be obtuse. It can be difficult. It can be incredibly slow. But, in spite of all that, Red Dead Redemption 2 exists as a breath of fresh air among a crowded field of open-world games. There is an unforgettable atmosphere. And players who stick around will perceive the immense level of care in the game's design. Rockstar went to absurd lengths to bring the West to our screens, and they did a damn fine job. Here's how Red Dead Redemption 2 broke the mold with open-world games.
10 Stripping Away The HUD
Most games maintain a steady stream of information that floods the screen. Little markers delineating new destinations. A compass to coordinate movement with your position on the map. Reminders for the quest that you're undertaking. Indicators of health, stamina, or any other status that might be necessary. Everything is designed to assist the player and ensure that you're not lacking context. Red Dead Redemption 2 throws that out the window. You're going to die. You're going to get lost. That's part of being in the Wild West. Get used to it. And that perilous freedom means so much in an open-world game.
When you sit down to play an open-world game, a to-do list usually builds until you have item after item that you need to cross off the list. One quest leads to another. Or more likely, one quest begins only to be derailed by the introduction of another quest or an errand that you need to run or a dungeon you've never seen before. Have you ever just wanted to start your morning by sitting down for a cup of coffee? Small details in Red Dead Redemption 2 really ground you in the world. There's not always a quest to finish. You may spend your days wandering and not really find a quest. And that's okay.
8 No Holding Your Hand
This aspect connects to the same idea as the lack of a heads-up display. The spirit of Red Dead Redemption 2 isn't progression. It's the experience. Whatever that means to the player. In other open-world games, there is a desire for completion. There are quests, collectibles, achievements, and a myriad of other things to finish. Rockstar doesn't want you to complete their game. They want you to live in it. If you're completing something, then you're also moving on to the next thing. But Red Dead Redemption 2 is asking you to stay. So it's not going to help you finish anything. Figure it out on your own.
7 Oh My God, It's Beautiful
Plenty of games have incredible graphics. Open-world games especially can be some of the most engrossing to move through and study the surroundings. But no other game that I know of has a Cinematic Camera. And they wouldn't need them, necessarily. But Red Dead Redemption 2 wants you to forget that it's a game. Which is possible. Because the environment is drop-dead gorgeous. When you play an open-world game, you usually want to explore because there is a host of tasks left undone that you want to finish. But Red Dead Redemption 2 asks you to seek out the undiscovered, with a slack jaw at the beauty around you.
6 An Air Of Mystery
You'll be hard-pressed to figure out what you're missing in Red Dead Redemption 2. The main storyline could be complete and you could have wandered about the wilderness for hours, but you're sure to find something you previously missed. There are so many encounters waiting beyond the horizon. No icons on the map will guide you to every little moment. Make your own moments. And the shroud of uncertainty that blankets what you should do next is thrilling.
5 An Amazing Story
Sometimes open-world games sag under the weight of their content. There is simply too much to do. What's worst is when the same amount of time applied to develop content for the world is not equally applied to create a compelling narrative. That is not the case in Red Dead Redemption 2. The writing is superb. The characters are fully realized. The emotions are nuanced. The story is believable. Every piece in that puzzle fits nicely, and the result is an elegant tale set in a wild world.
4 Your Choices Matter
Some games free the player of responsibility. Killing someone might not have any consequences. An evil act may go unpunished. If there aren't any witnesses, then it doesn't matter. That moral vacuity doesn't translate well in the world of Red Dead Redemption 2. What you choose will affect you as the game develops. One decision early on will bear fruit or consequences, depending on what you've done. And the decision to help those around you or to forego a killing blow might influence how people respond to you.
3 Freaking Weird Moments
Rockstar seems to relish injecting strange experiences into their games. Things that don't fit. They scattered amusing detours in GTA V that have players chasing down leads for wacky stories. And they've done the same in Red Dead Redemption 2. Not everything has to fit perfectly into the narrative of an open-world. Humanity has weird conspiracies, and the world is full of strange, bewildering things. Red Dead Redemption 2 reflects those oddities. And it makes exploring all the more rewarding when you stumble across something that doesn't make any sense.
2 The Little Things
Drinking coffee in the morning. Grooming your horse. Taking care of your guns. Talking to the members of your camp. Not all gaming moments have to revolve around epic quests and crazy gunfights. As Zombieland taught us, "Enjoy the little things." And Rockstar has made Red Dead Redemption 2 a mountain of small moments. If you really want to escape into a game, then you have to believe in the world, and the little details that Rockstar has infused into every aspect of the game helps us to forget the world we live in and embrace Arthur's life in Red Dead Redemption 2.
When you have to travel in an open-world game, speed is essential. Style, though, is something oft-overlooked. With that in mind, let's pay homage to the humble horse. The beasts are faster than humans. Horses look much cooler when they gallop. A man riding a horse looks suave. A man that isn't riding a horse is just, horseless. And let's not forget that you can ride them while using the Cinematic Camera. Because nothing says traveling in style like riding a horse while admiring the panoramic views. Horses are the best.