Red Dead Redemption 2’s Dialogue System Turns It Into a Comedy | Gaming News
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How to shoot friends and alienate lawmen.
Red Dead’s always seemed a little like GTA’s more serious older brother; cut from the same cloth, but less willing to poke fun at its world, or the people in it. Where GTA’s satire is spread thick across everything from the story, to its radio chatter, to individual billboards, comedy in Red Dead Redemption tended to emerge more out of the player’s actions (or those terrifically strange early glitches).
But after going hands-on with Red Dead Redemption 2, one of its least grandstanding additions might become one of its most meaningful, simply because it adds the potential for comedy to almost every meeting you have with an NPC.
The Dialogue feature is a way to interact with almost any living creature in Red Dead’s world (you can read more about that in our hands-on preview), but its most significant and varied use comes with how it applies to your fellow human. It’s essentially a significantly beefed-up version of that semi-hidden feature in GTA that let you spout randomly-chosen lines to the nearest passer-by with a press of the D-Pad.
Here, with weapons holstered, you hold L2 to “target” an NPC, and a contextual menu of choices appears. Sometimes this is straightforwardly useful – if you don’t fancy a showdown with lawmen, you can choose to ‘Defuse’, and hope your crimes are minor enough that they let you off. If that doesn’t work, you can pick ‘Surrender’, which sees you reaching for the sky. Then again, if you just want them to let their guard down, you can press R2 to draw your gun while surrendering and get the drop on a whole posse.
It’s a fairly intuitive thing. If you chase down a witness to your crimes, ‘Threaten’ will appear, where you can hopefully talk them out of reporting you in town. If they don’t seem appropriately convinced, you can always hit ‘Beat’. But, honestly, I think I’ll be spending most of my time on less… practical pursuits.
You see, when it comes to run-of-the-mill encounters, the options tend to be much more simple. ‘Greet’ and ‘Antagonize’ will be your staples, but the conversational paths they lead you down are amazingly natural, and frequently hilarious.
The brilliance at work behind the scenes is that hitting one of those options begins an actual conversation with an NPC, with multiple avenues for where that discussion can go from a single starting point. Essentially, it seems to summon up a sort of script flowchart that doesn’t just throw out random lines in sequence, but creates convincing dialogues between you and your chatty partner, no matter which options you choose.
Take one conversation I had with a man walking the streets of Valentine (and this is from memory, so the words may not be exactly correct, but definitely get across the gist):
Arthur: [Greet] Good mornin’!
NPC: Good mornin’!
Arthur: [Greet] Not enough people show respect today, so thank you for that.
NPC: Well thank you too!
Arthur: [Antagonize] Then again, you’re not worth much respect, are ya?
NPC: What the hell did you say to me?
Arthur: [Defuse] Ah, I’m just jokin’ with ya.
It’s worth thinking about what I could have done here. If I’d continued to greet the man, would we have kept talking about ‘respect these days’? If I’d antagonized twice, instead of defusing the situation, would I have dug in deeper as to why he wasn’t worth my respect? I dread to think how complicated the scripts for all of this must look on paper.
The number of ways these encounters can play out is, even in my two hours with the game, absurdly varied. One passing rider immediately geed up his horse and galloped away from me – when I gave chase and used Antagonize, Arthur essentially shouted a series of “your mama” jokes at the coward. It’s situation specific, too: Greet a cowboy and you might complement his horse, Antagonize a carriage rider and Arthur might bellow, “I need that wagon!”
I was doing this with everyone, and never heard a repeated line, which made it all the more fun to play with. The surprise of being reacted to by a game is just consistently, childishly pleasing. I told farmers what a beautiful day it was before bothering their chickens, told a travelling family that my threatened robbery was just a joke, and was shot by several lawmen because I insulted them before I could see the gleam of their badge.
It’s also a fantastic way to endear you to Arthur himself. His gruff, workmanlike attitude is softened somewhat when you realise he absolutely has a sense of humour buried away – and it’s up to you to bring it out.
Rockstar’s previously explained that you’ll be reacted to differently depending on your appearance and situation. If you’re covered in blood or mud, people won’t be quite as friendly. If you’ve got a bandana over your face they might try and avoid you entirely. If you’re carrying a buck over your shoulders after a successful hunt, they might congratulate you on your prize, or try and rob you for it.
Going by how much I’ve already enjoyed the system, I’ll be trying all of this and more, to see what other comedy I can wring out of Rockstar’s more ‘serious’ proposition. Under my thumbs, Arthur Morgan is going to be a very chatty outlaw indeed.