As I am circling the lake on my way to St Denis, a man in a zebra jumpsuit comes charging out of the treeline, begging me to take the shackles off his ankles. I oblige by shooting off the chains and, in return, the escaped prisoner tells me of a robbery opportunity at a wealthy family’s house nearby. The icon pops up on my map, and I can go and take a look if I so wish.
In the town of Valentine, Arthur comes across an author attempting to write a book on gunslingers with a down-and-out drunk. The man then tasks Arthur with finding a group of legendary gunslingers, handing over a selection of pictures and a last known location for Arthur to track them down across the map.
There are seemingly countless occurrences throughout the game. Later, on the swampy outskirts of St Denis, a pair of outlaws from a local gang have two men on their knees by the water. I can trot on by as the men are executed and dumped into the Bayou, or intervene by taking out the gang and gaining some honour.
There is a sense of natural discovery out in Red Dead Redemption 2’s map that even the first game or GTAV cannot match. In fact, if you were to make any comparisons, you will find them from rather different sources. The sense of just setting out to lose yourself in its world is reminiscent of Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, while its mechanics have the experimental and ambitious air of GTA: San Andreas. A potent combination if ever there was one.
While the wilderness is stunning in its isolation, St Denis is equally so in its busyness and density.
We have been over its visual impact, but this extends to a variety of definable districts. Walking along that main strip, you can drop into a number of theatres for a few dollars a ticket. Ornate picture houses show colourful animations that are genuine of the time or live stage-shows.
Wander further down and an arch gives way to a bustling market, fit to burst with fruit and veg to browse and merchants to talk to. Or hold-up, of course. But with so many witnesses, there is little chance of getting away with pinching a bunch of carrots.
In a busy town, it can be dangerously reactive. I saw a woman shot and killed by a thug on the street. If I was quicker, I could have intervened and saved a life, earning myself some Honor in the process. As it was I solemnly wandered over to console her grieving husband. Further on an irritable man, of the belief I was following him down the strip on horseback, started yelling at me. Unperturbed I carried on, before getting shot at.
Rockstar say that it used 1000 actors to flesh out the inhabitants of its towns and wilderness. Each non-player character in the world has their own personality and mood state, which can be calmed or escalated by talking to them with a squeeze of the left trigger and choosing a dialogue option. Even if you barge into someone on the street, a time-honoured right of the open-world protagonist, you might have to apologise if you are looking to avoid a quarrel.
Crazy game huh? Enjoy it mates.