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Both mesmerized and turned off by RDR2’s uncanny realism

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RDR2 has to be the greatest technological feat in the medium of gaming. Everything from its animations, lighting system, and draw distances are state of the art. The game's incredibly polished to say the least.

Not only that, it's packed with an insane amount of "little details", like mud splattering over your clothing, and a believable ecosystem where animal carcasses decay over time. This is just scratching the surface. I'm sure many of you have seen all the compilation videos on YouTube.

Anyway, it's easy for anyone, even non-gamers, to appreciate RDR2's world. It's a work of art, both in and out of motion. I was so immersed in the world I felt like I was under a trance. It got to a point where I felt guilty admiring the virtual scenery, and the lush wilderness making up the game's setting. And I don't say this with cynicism; more like pure awe. Like, "why am I so content hiking this trail as Arthur Morgan, when I can drive 20 minutes and hike Angels Rest in real life." And the horses in the game are so real, I deliberately looked for errors in the animation system to remind myself "this is a video game, so where's that video game clunk?" But I'll be damned, the animations are so refined it's hard to find anything interrupting the flow of 'realism'.

It's not until you actually play the game, or do some story missions, when you realize it's a third person shooter like any other. There's sorta this stark separation between the dynamic open world and the story mode. I won't get into that tho, there are plenty of discussions out there for RDR2's linear design.

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Back to my original point. RDR2 was so realistic I felt a little guilty fully immersing myself in it. It truly transcended that feeling of immersion in a video game, no other game took it this far. There was no real reason for me to get Arthur Morgan back to camp every night, wake up and have him sip a coffee, eat three square meals a day (especially since the game has no real survival mechanics) – none of it was truly fun, just super satisfying in a dumb, shallow way. I had to control Arthur, and adhere him to routine schedules, to keep him in line with the game's realistic world. It was a strange little endeavor. I'm sure many others played the game in a similar way. Sorta this simulation-based cowboy RPGlite that's super linear underneath the surface. I felt like the game didn't commit to any strong design choices, so I was tricked into roleplaying Arthur as a real human being because the realistic world deemed it so. But at the same time Rockstar wanted us to play it this way, otherwise they wouldn't have made or advertised all these immersive features. Honestly, I'm not sure what my point is. The game is super realistic, but super shallow in some ways.

TL;DR: Nearly everything about RDR2 is commendable. On a technological level, this game deserves every award it can get its hands on. It's an achievement on both a tech and art level. Even if you took away the game part, you would still have an amazing virtual map to observe. The lengths Rockstar went through would scare off any other developer in terms of ambition. But for me personally, I was equally mesmerized and turned off by how realistic the game was able to be. It sorta had this creep Westworld simulation vibe to it. Like damn, are we even ready to see games be this realistic? What are your thoughts? Do you guys simply see it as a video game, a transcending work of art, a little bit of both?

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