Cowboy simulator Red Dead Redemption 2 is the biggest entertainment release of the year, selling over 17 million copies in less than two weeks. In 2018, a year jammed packed with major pop culture events and some really, really good video games1, RDR2 stands out as a major achievement. It’s a masterpiece. Also, because it was made by Rockstar2, it is also full of tremendous opportunities for fucking around3.
12 Different Kinds of Tail Coats
In Red Dead Redemption 2, protagonist Arthur Morgan is a hard-living, morally grey outlaw with fierce loyalties and complex emotional entanglements lurking just beneath the surface of his gruff exterior. That’s your starting position.
In my Red Dead Redemption 2, Arthur Morgan is a 19th century fashion god. After a successful train robbery4 Arthur advised his gang to “lie low.” I took Arthur on a vacation to Saint Denis, the game’s scaled down diorama of New Orleans5, and spent $500 on clothes. 500 dollars. In 1899. That’s over $15,000 in 2018 money.
I bought three whole outfits that I won’t even wear out on the trail, because if I do that, they’ll get dirty6. I bought enough clothes to change every day, but only on the days where I wake up in camp, because completely switching my outfit after sleeping rough out in the country would be unrealistic. When I do this, I worry one of the less sartorially inclined cowboys I travel with will say something about it. This video game about robbing stagecoaches has brought up my old anxieties about being bullied.
Smoking & Riding
Brace yourself for a shocking revelation: in this game set in the Wild West you’ll spend a lot of time riding a horse. Luckily, Rockstar lets you do almost anything from horseback. You can look through binoculars on horseback. You can pet, feed, and whisper nice things to your horse on horseback. You can clean your guns on horseback. You can eat and drink on horseback. Smoking cigarettes and cigars refills your Dead Eye7 and you can do that on horseback too. Of course! Who doesn’t want to enjoy a smoke while riding their horse? The game doesn’t care that you can’t see where you’re going as you fumble with the three-level-deep radial menu, cycle through all the items in the “mouth” category of your inventory, and release a button to select the item.
Your horse certainly doesn’t care what you’re doing up there either. Your horse loves you. It won’t so much as huff while you’re blindly trying to activate Smoke Mode, even if it means you both ride right off a cliff. When this happens, Arthur will exclaim “Woah!” which is both exactly what someone would say as they suddenly find themselves plummeting 50 feet straight down, and a way-overdue command to his horse to stop moving.
Here’s some other things that happened:
- Saw a guy trying to pull off his horse’s shoes. When I said hi, he waved to me and his horse kicked him to death.
- A british man asked me for help finding his friend Gavin. Instead of saying hello, I accidentally shot him in the mouth. That’s probably not a mistake I would make in real life.
- I accidentally punched my horse in the face instead of petting it. Things were tense between us for a while.
- Arthur Morgan’s relationship with his horse is the greatest love story in video games. Cloud and Aerith. Commander Shepard and Liara. Arthur Morgan and Horse. As your Horse Bond level improves, the things Arthur says to his horse, and the way he says them, get softer and sweeter. I wish someone would talk to me the way Arthur Morgan talks to his horse8.
- I saw someone being robbed on the side of the road. I intervened, but not before the victim was shot. I killed the assailant, who fired on me first, but the guy in the wagon who rode up the hill didn’t see that. He saw me murder someone, and bolted. I gave chase, thinking, “I can’t shoot this guy, that would be wrong.” So, I lassoed him instead. I lassoed him right off the wagon, and under the wagon’s wheels. He died. He was carrying 0.24 cents and a box of crackers. I ate the crackers.
- I named my horse “Valentine” after the town I bought him in and also because he is a gift of love and friendship. I brush and feed him every day. I am now considering buying a horse in real life.
In conclusion, this is a very good video game.
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||Spidey senses are tingling|
|2.||↑||Who you might have heard of|
|3.||↑||And with Rockstar games, you can take that literally|
|4.||↑||Masterfully modeled after the opening scene from The Assassination of Jesse James|
|5.||↑||RDR2 continues Rockstar’s weird ‘almost the real world’ naming conventions. Texas is “New Austin” and New York is “Liberty City” but there are Canada Geese and one character says “If we go any further east we’ll be in Paris.”|
|6.||↑||Yes, clothes and people and even your horse get physically dirty. Yes, this is a ridiculous attention to detail and yes, it is cool every time. If you pick up a body and sling it over your shoulder, there will be a blood stain on your shoulder. One time, after a hard ride through the plains, Arthur looked shiny. I thought it was a graphical glitch until I realized he was sweaty.|
|7.||↑||AKA Wild West Bullet Time|
|8.||↑||Yeah. You’re a good boy.” “Hehe, that’s my boy.” “Ah, I’m sorry boy.”|