Red Dead Redemption 2 -whether you enjoy it or not – offers a stunning amount of immersion and detail. Often when playing, I can’t help but fantasize how much better it would be as a VR game. Getting away from the traditional controller/screen setup would work wonders with RDR2’s strengths and help minimize its weaknesses.
Even on the internet, we can (probably) all agree RDR2’s painstaking detail offers immersion rarely seen in the medium. I find playing in first-person mode though, draws me in even further. Rockstar changed the sounds and other details to fit the closer perspective. I enjoyed manually choosing where to look, especially in tense situations before the action starts up. Walking towards a suspenseful situation while keeping an eye out for an ambush felt great. However, the action set pieces are usually so linear that the suspense I’m feeling is mostly in my imagination. That’s another story.
First person view minimizes the sometimes clunky third-person animations. Watching Arthur or his horse bounce into and off objects looks quite silly, but first-person hides some of that. Picking a waypoint and having Arthur mosey there himself, auto-avoiding goofy stumbles could keep the suspension of disbelief much stronger.
On my high horse
An issue with VR gameplay can be how to make on-foot movement feel natural. Sitting on a horse would feel perfect for a seated gamer wearing a VR headset. And it just so happens that a very large percentage of RDR2 is spent sitting on a horse, taking in the views. A natural fit.
I’d argue RDR2 works better as an interactive experience than a traditional game. The mechanics and choices are rarely challenging, mostly amounting to the player following linear paths from one set piece to the next (in story missions of course). While I found many of these to be dull while holding a controller (usually holding L2 and X), in VR it would put much more emphasis on the ‘experience’ RDR2 offers in spades.
RDR2 is a wonderful time capsule. It’s deeply satisfying to take a detailed look at how people lived not too long ago, but worlds apart compared to our modern lives. The generic shootouts tend to mostly get in the way of the mesmerizing living museum Rockstar has created. Investigating houses, farms, towns, clothing, and every minute detail the developers painstakingly created is a superb highlight of the game, and would only be more effective with VR goggles strapped to your face.
Why it isn’t
Red Dead Redemption 2 isn’t just another video game release, it’s an EVENT. Rockstar will reach a staggering amount of customers and they can’t limit their market to the small niche of VR owners. Cheap phone VR sets have increased awareness but the console tech and price point still hasn’t penetrated enough.
There are reports that VR support is already in the game and will be added at some point, this makes sense as the first-person mode is already very usable.
While it’s exciting to think we could experience RDR2 in VR soon, I can’t help but think Rockstar’s next big breakthrough will be the first must-own VR event.