Red Dead Redemption 2 is a cowboy simulator from the makers of the Grand Theft Auto series that has one of the most incredibly realistic worlds in video games. And that is thanks to super-specific details like vast swaths of beautifully empty land, hair growth, and horse testicles. And I absolutely hated playing it.
There are no specific spoilers in this post, but I do talk vaguely about game mechanics and activities you’ll find throughout Red Dead Redemption 2.
Red Dead Redemption 2 starts you off in one of the most awe-inspiring environments I’ve seen in a video game, wandering through cold, barren, snow-covered mountains. As the story progresses, you’ll find your character and his gang moving to the wide-open, barren plains of the midwest.
After a series of scrapes and scandals, they move on to the dank, barren swamps of fantasy-Lousiana. Don’t think of these as levels, though, because remember that this is an open-world game, which means that each mission has you chatting with someone about something they need doing, then riding across these amazing and expansive and barren landscapes for several minutes on your horse until you need to shoot some folks. Then you’ll usually go back along the same fantastic and apparently infinite pathways to get back to camp.
When I was a kid, my family took a road trip through the midwest, and while it was amazing to see that beautiful countryside for a few minutes, I spent most of the time playing Toy Story on my GameBoy Pocket. I’m really impressed that they made a world this beautiful, but I don’t really play games to sightsee.
On to the character now, one of the things that’s always fun in a game like this is getting to waste time playing dress-up with your digital avatar. Arthur Morgan can be outfitted in a pretty large variety of pants, shirts, vests, jackets, gloves, hats, ties, spurs, and satchels, so you’ll be able to find the perfect outfit to really reflect your inner cowboy. Of course, you also can style Arthur’s hair and mustache to suit your mood. Maybe you were feeling a wild mountain man look, so you have Arthur with scraggly hair and a big bushy beard, but you want to dapper-up for a hot date in San Denis.
No problem, a visit to a barber will let you trim your hair to a sweet fade and your facial hair down to a respectably waxed handlebar. After the date you might decide that it’s time to spend hours looking for bear feces to hunt for the perfect pelt to make a new hat, and want to revert back to the mountain-man-look.
You fool, that’s not how hair works! If you want your hair to grow longer, the best you can do is chug hair tonic and force Arthur to sleep for days on end while his hair slowly grows out, just like the real cowboys did!
There’s nothing wrong with this… it is in fact technically correct: hair takes time to grow. However y’all, I’m just here to play with this dumb cowboy, let me make him look however I want, you jerks!
Finally, no respectable cowboy would go anywhere without his trusty horse by his side, and Red Dead Redemption 2 represents these horses beautifully. You’ll unlock access to stables where you can bring stallions you’ve broken to be stored, and then you’ll be able to attach your saddle to one horse at a time, who will mystically be able to show up somewhere nearby anytime you whistle. If the worst happens, you will need to haul the saddle from your dearly departed equine back to the nearest stable, so do your best to keep your horse alive. I guess that’s unnecessary advice, right?
I mean, the Red Dead Redemption 2 horses are so beautiful that, of course, you’d do everything you could to keep them alive. They’ve got manes that blow beautifully in the breeze, tales that flick to keep flies off of them, and testicles that grow and contract based on the ambient temperature of the region you are in.
That’s right, Red Dead Redemption 2 is so realistic that it has variable horse testicles.
And, I mean, that is damn impressive, and it’d be silly for me to pretend that the whole game isn’t damn impressive throughout. It goes further to capture the feel of the Wild West and outlaws than any other piece of media I can think of.
Unfortunately, it’s so focused on getting those details right, that it makes you realize that most of being an outlaw in the Wild West wasn’t exciting shootouts, it was riding your horse across boring, empty wastes and sitting by campfires while your beard hair grew, trying to make sure that neither you nor your horse got so cold that your balls froze off.
The developers of Red Dead Redemption 2 did an amazing job of creating a beautifully detailed and realistic and immersive world, it’s just a shame that they forgot to translate that into a fun video game.