Red Dead 2: The Influence of Max Payne 3, GTA 5, Bully, And More
By Jacob Dekker and Matt Espineli on
Red Dead Redemption 2 is Rockstar’s most ambitious game to date. With nearly 20 years of experience and almost 30 games under its belt, it’s clear that the studio is pulling from its strong history in order to make its biggest game to date. Eight Rockstar studios around the globe are putting bits and pieces of eight different games into Red Dead Redemption 2.
The physical health mechanics from Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas appear in Red Dead Redemption 2, for example, and they're expanded to affect your character's own personal hygiene. RDR2's weapon handling emulates Max Payne 3 by only allowing your character to carry as many guns as they can physically hold with their hands and available holsters. Heck, even the NPC interaction from Bully is present, although with improvements that allow you to respond to characters in a variety of ways depending on what's going on.
With so many past elements showing up in the upcoming open-world adventure, it seems like the game is a true culmination of everything Rockstar has learned. In this gallery, we detail eight of Rockstar’s biggest games from the last 15 years and what they contribute to Red Dead Redemption 2.
RDR2 releases on October 26 for PS4 and Xbox One. Pre-orders are available now at a number of in-store and online retailers, and there's some extra content tied to specific platforms and timed exclusive DLC. If you're curious about all the new features in the game, check out our round-up of everything we know, including the game's most surprising details.
What do you find the most intriguing about the way Red Dead Redemption 2 takes elements from past Rockstar games? Let us know in the comments below.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (2004): Physical Health
In 2004, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas was the biggest game that Rockstar had ever shipped. Alongside a sprawling map with three distinct cities, San Andreas allowed you to morph CJs body as you played. For example, if you gorged on Meat Stacks at Burger Shot, CJ would start to get plump. Conversely if you ate healthily and hit the gym every now and then, CJ would get buff. An in-shape CJ would garner more respect and have greater sex appeal while a chubbier CJ would have less luck with the ladies.
As unique as this mechanic was at the time, Rockstar has not revisited it in any subsequent games until now. Like CJ, Arthur Morgan will change and evolve depending on how you play. His beard and hair will grow over time if you don’t get him a trim. You can even make him look sharp by slicking his hair back. If you overindulge, Arthur will put on some weight, and even deride himself when he catches his reflection in mirrors. And if he doesn't clean himself every now and then, Arthur will start to get stanky. NPCs and gang members respond to Arthur differently depending on his hygiene and personal upkeep, even take him aside to suggest that he wash himself.
The Warriors (2005): Melee Combat
The Warriors was a notable contribution to Rockstar's output mostly due to its overall quality as a licensed game based on a film. It wonderfully worked in the style of its source material into its small sandbox world. Not only that, but it expanded upon the story of the film, giving its characters more background. However, The Warriors' most notable quality was its melee combat, which was modeled after classic 2D beat-em-ups. While this would be later expanded in Bully, it was in The Warriors that we saw Rockstar's first attempt at melee combat.
Subsequent Rockstar games dabbled in melee, but none really went for it in the way The Warriors and Bully did. Red Dead Redemption 2 seems to be bringing melee back, giving Morgan the ability to duke it out with enemies by punching, kicking, and even stunning and throwing them. There's some pretty gnarly sound effects accompanying each blow, bringing it more in line with the level of violence seen in The Warriors.
Bully (2006): NPC Interaction
Compared to Rockstar's previous open world games, Bully was rather unique. It was a much more intimate experience: Bullworth Academy was far smaller than a city, there were no guns, and if you were a good student you’d be spending a lot of time in class. But the scope, no matter how narrow it was compared to GTA, was the right fit: Bully became an influential addition to Rockstar's catalogue in its own right.
One of Bully’s more interesting parts was the way you interacted with NPCs. You could greet them either positively or negatively. You could talk your way out of trouble, and even apologize to someone you injured. While it wasn’t as fleshed out as it could have been, it did allow you to respond to social situations in unique ways.
Rockstar briefly revisited this mechanic in Red Dead Redemption where a tap of a button allowed John to tip his cowboy hat to those around him. But now Rockstar is expanding this mechanic in Red Dead Redemption 2. If you target an NPC without your gun equipped, you're given a handful of options for social interactions. You can greet, threaten, or rob an NPC. Depending on how they respond to Arthur, he can continue the conversation or just walk away. Based on the first several hours, this adds another layer of complexity to the world. NPCs feature a wider range of attitudes toward you--they aren't all either simply docile or shooting at you. You can diffuse encounters in ways you see fit.
Grand Theft Auto IV (2008): Sense Of Place
Grand Theft Auto IV was a bit of a departure from previous entries in the franchise. Many of the features from San Andreas and Bully had disappeared, and the over-the-top tone was replaced with a more realistic one. Gone were the jetpacks and planes of San Andreas and the '80s nostalgic decadence of Vice City. And while some players lamented the loss of this wackiness, Rockstar replaced it with something just as important: A strong sense of place. Liberty City felt alive. You could follow NPCs going about their business and Niko could just hang out and befriend key characters. Since GTA IV, Rockstar has opted--for the most part--to create more grounded and realistic experiences that offer a stronger warmth and presence. GTA IV’s vision of a more realistic take on the open-world genre can be seen in nearly all of Rockstar’s subsequent games and is pushed much further than before in Red Dead Redemption 2.
L.A. Noire (2011): Environmental Interaction
L.A. Noire was an unusual game for Rockstar and its developer Team Bondi. Combat was put on the backburner in favor of a slower-paced experience that asked you to carefully explore crime scenes, gather evidence, and question witnesses. If you weren’t thorough, you could completely botch a case, the perp would get away, and yet, the story would continue. Not everyone loved it, but to this day, there are still very few games like it.
One of L.A. Noire's key mechanics is the ability to examine and manipulate objects found in the environment in order to piece together how the crime went down. L.A. Noire wasn’t the first game to do this, and it certainly won’t be the last, but it’s the only Rockstar game to date that allowed you to interact with the environment to this extent. Red Dead Redemption 2 aims to do something similar. While you may not be solving cases, Arthur Morgan can pick up certain objects in the environment and examine them as you would in L.A. Noire. Instead of exploring the wild frontier you might find yourself holed up in a house examining pictures and notes left by the previous residents. You can even inspect your weapons and shop items.
Max Payne 3 (2012): Shooting And Weapon Management
Max Payne 3 is a bold game. While we wouldn’t call it realistic--you hang from a helicopter and shoot rockets out of the sky during an early section of the game--its mechanics made it feel like one of Rockstar’s most grounded experiences to date. If Max takes a bullet to the head, he goes down immediately, even on the easiest difficulty. But what stands out is how the game handled weapon management. Max could only carry as many guns as he had hands and holsters. This meant that if you were using a pistol and had a rifle, Max would carry the rifle in his other hand. If you decided to dual wield handguns, Max would toss his rifle on the ground. Even the reload animations were different depending on what weapons Max was using.
These mechanics are returning in Red Dead Redemption 2. Every weapon Arthur carries appears on his body. This means you can only take a few weapons with you into a firefight. The rest of your firearms are stored in your saddlebag. Weapon management isn’t the only thing the game borrows from Max Payne 3. At the end of a firefight in Max Payne, you would be treated to a gruesome slow motion kill cam. If you’re into that sort of thing, you’ll be happy to know that this feature is returning in Red Dead Redemption 2 and it will change based on your morale. If you’re a good cowboy, the killcams will look more heroic--but if you are villainous, it will be gorier.
Grand Theft Auto V (2013): Practice Skills And First-Person View
To no one’s surprise, Red Dead Redemption 2 expands on many of Grand Theft Auto V’s mechanics. A notable example is stat building. As you played GTA V, Trevor, Michael, and Franklin’s stats would increase in logical ways. If they swam a lot, their lung capacity would increase, if they drove everywhere, their driving skill would increase, and so on. Red Dead Redemption 2 takes a similar approach with Arthur’s skills. The more he runs, the better his stamina gets, and the more he shoots, the more his sharpshooting increases.
GTA V was also the first Rockstar game--unless you count Midnight Club--to support a first-person camera. It offered a radically different feel to GTA and it’s returning for Red Dead Redemption 2. If you want, you can play the whole game in first person from the very beginning. It even allows you to tweak the first person camera settings to your liking. But remember, just because you can’t see Arthur, it doesn’t mean he shouldn’t bath every now and then.
Grand Theft Auto Online (2013-Present): Multiplayer Scope And Variety
Grand Theft Auto Online is a different beast from Rockstar's various games. While plenty of its games support multiplayer, GTA Online is far bigger and far deeper than anything the studio had released previously. It's built off the openworld structure of Red Dead Redemption’s multiplayer. Players can purchase property, build out their garages with exotic supercars, and even start their own businesses. And of course, it has plenty of cooperative and competitive missions and gametypes to participate in.
To this day, Rockstar still releases free updates for GTA Online and it continues to be a massive source of income for the studio. We don’t know much about Red Dead Redemption 2’s online component yet, but it sounds like it will be building off of GTA Online. You will once again be able to explore a massive world as a cowboy or cowgirl and partake in various missions and competitive game modes. Unlike GTA Online, the slower pace of Red Dead Redemption 2 might elevate the more intimate moments that arise. Despite this, it sounds like fans of GTA Online should feel comfortable with Red Dead Online. Though, it's worth noting that, like GTA Online, it won’t be available until a few weeks after Red Dead Redemption 2 launches.