Cowboy choices, life in camp, and more things we learned from Red Dead Redemption 2's first gameplay demos

Red Dead Redemption 2 gameplay has officially been seen by people who aren't employees of Rockstar Games! And though they weren't able to bring videos to show the rest of us, we can still learn a lot about RDR2 from the written previews published by IGN and The Telegraph. They both had a ton of great details to share, and I've highlighted five key points from them for easier info-digestion.

Outlaw life is full of choices

Arthur Morgan will never be an upstanding citizen, but there's plenty of wiggle room on the wrong side of the law. People will still react differently depending on whether you're tromping around with your pistol drawn or holstered (or pointing directly in their face) but an improved social system opens room for more intricacies. When you're speaking to another person you'll see a variety of context-sensitive options in the corner of the screen. You could give a fellow traveler a friendly greeting or choose to antagonize them, and when the owner of that lockbox you just popped open walks in, you could threaten them or just shoot them where they stand. Just remember, murderers make for much more tempting bounties than thieves.

Camp is more than just a safehouse

Even wanted criminals need a place to rest and relax… or more likely a series of them, because of that whole "being wanted" thing. In Red Dead Redemption 2, the Van der Linde gang's activities will begin and end at camp. Everyone is expected to contribute to the gang's continued survival; for Arthur that could mean hunting to help feed the camp, going out on a bank heist to bring back some big money, or completing some other kind of odd job. Rockstar is trying to make your life back at camp feel like it's part of the rest of the game - rather than stepping into a glowing mission marker, you'll walk by some companions who are discussing their plans for a score and ask if you're ready to join them.

Hunting is an even bigger deal

We spent a loooot of time out stalking prey as John Marston in the original Red Dead Redemption. Then Grand Theft Auto 5 even had its own weirdly detailed hunting mini-game, complete with scents on the wind and surprise cougar attacks. Rockstar is further indulging its love for hunting simulators with Red Dead Redemption 2. Taking down a 12-point buck will feed your camp for days, but it isn't as simple as shooting and looting; assuming you don't take it out with a first-shot bullseye, you'll need to chase it down and finish it off. Then you'll need to strap its carcass to the back of your horse because that thing is definitely not gonna fit in your satchel. And make sure you ride back in a hurry - wait too long and the meat will spoil!

Dead Eye is back

The original Red Dead Redemption put John Marston's uncanny ability to line up shots (almost as if he'd entered slow motion) to great use, both in terms of fun action and dramatic moments. The Dead Eye aiming system will return in Red Dead Redemption 2, and what Rockstar's shown so far is very familiar: the screen takes on a sepia tint as the world slows to a crawl, giving you time to mark a set of targets before Morgan fans the hammer and takes them all down nigh-instantly. We'll see if it becomes more powerful as you play through the game like last time, or if it remains consistent.

Don't call it a prequel

We know John Marston, and likely his (future?) wife Abigail, have a role to play in the events of Red Dead Redemption 2. But don't let their presence fool you into thinking that Red Dead Redemption 2 is meant to be a straight prequel to their tragic story of love and family. Co-studio head Rob Nelson told The Telegraph that Rockstar started out thinking of RDR2 as a "companion piece" to the original.

“Dutch was the thread that pulled players through the first game, so we wanted to explore how he went from a gang leader to the wild-haired guy players saw in the first game,” co-studio head Rob Nelson told The Telegraph. “[In the first game, players were] chasing him, wondering about him, he was character that you were driven to get to. He sounded cool - a mysterious figure - and so telling that story of this gang and what happened to them was what we wanted to do."

Want to learn more about Rockstar's next story of life in the West? Check out 9 things you might've missed in the new Red Dead Redemption 2 trailer. 

Connor Sheridan

I got a BA in journalism from Central Michigan University - though the best education I received there was from CM Life, its student-run newspaper. Long before that, I started pursuing my degree in video games by bugging my older brother to let me play Zelda on the Super Nintendo. I've previously been a news intern for GameSpot, a news writer for CVG, and now I'm a staff writer here at GamesRadar.