I’m riding into the small town of Valentine when the duel breaks out. A rather rough-looking bloke guns another down, hooting and hollering in triumph as his opponent falls. I watch this from the back of my horse, staring at NPCs in the way you usually do in video games – sure of the fact they’ll have no reaction to you. But Red Dead Redemption 2 isn’t an ordinary video game, and the chap gives me the stinky eyeball, offering that perhaps he and I should dance a bullet ballet.
It feels rude to deny the chap a crack, so I hop off my horse and get ready to draw. He’s fast, he’s mean, but on this day he’s outmatched. Four bullets blast through his chest, one in his neck and he falls down like a slab of freshly butchered meat. Passersby barely raise an eyebrow. In the old west this is just another day. I saunter over to the man’s corpse and check his pockets, grabbing a few items. I then loot the first chap’s corpse and that’s when the crowd decides it has had enough. A few expressions of disgust, jeers, one bloke even walks into town telling anyone who’ll listen what a dishonourable wretch I am. Feels bad, man, but I get back on my horse and head to the saloon.
This isn’t a mission in Red Dead Redemption 2. This is a random event that just happened during a stroll through the insanely massive open world. I know this because of the shocked expressions of the Rockstar Games crew as they watch me play for around two hours. They’ve been playing and obsessing about this game for countless hours over many months and it still manages to surprise them.
Rockstar Games’ follow-up to the 2010 masterpiece Red Dead Redemption is released on consoles in five weeks and anticipation is at a fever pitch. Even after playing it for two hours I realise I’ve barely scratched anything even resembling anything more than the surface. The game is epic in size, scope and ambition. It’s beautiful, dense and absorbing.
At the end of the session I plough through a combat-heavy mission. I switch POV to first person (a trick I use in GTA V) and take out my freshly polished Springfield rifle. Initially I attempt to move stealthily through the trees but, well, I make a pig’s arse of that. Swiftly I’m running from tree to tree, trying to stay in cover and getting satisfyingly meaty headshots when I can. It’s visceral, it’s chaotic and it’s absolutely wonderful. I manage to survive, just, and my session ends.
Even in a short session you can see RDR2 isn’t messing around. The level of immersion, detail and the interaction of systems is stunning and groundbreaking and paired with some of the most beautiful graphics on any existing system. This is going to be huge and rest assured we’ll be back with a full review when Red Dead Redemption 2 releases on October 26. Yee-hah.
Red Dead Redemption 2 releases for XBOX ONE and PS4 on October 26.