‘Come with me, and you’ll be in a world of pure imagination,’ said Gene Wilder, in that film about a series of unfortunate events that befell children who were randomly entered into a competition for unimaginable riches. I think it was The Hunger Games. ‘We'll begin with a spin travelling in the world of my creation,’ he continued. ‘What we'll see will defy explanation.’ He didn’t know it then, but Gene Wilder’s speech actually applies itself neatly and tidily to video game modding. A week ago, Red Dead Redemption 2 was released on PC, and people were already making mods for it. You can make Arthur Morgan look like the Joker, you can run around in the nuddy, and/or you can fly high and watch over the wild west as a pigeon.
This is all very well and good, but I wanted to take Wilder’s words to the next level. I wanted to see what Red Dead Redemption 2 was truly capable of. Could I play other games within this game, and then rate how well the Red Dead representation worked out? The short answer: sometimes. Funnily enough, the game doesn’t like it when you spawn a cruise ship in the place marker of a horse. I persevered, however, and I made Red Dead Redemption 2 look like seven different games and then reviewed how good they were.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is rather lacking with regard to tombs, raids, and a female protagonist. Mods allowed me to swap Arthur with the tiger tamer lady, who is rocking a pretty practical outfit for exploration and archaeology. I wanted to reproduce that iconic shipwreck scene at the beginning of Tomb Raider, so I turned the day to night and opened the heavens on ‘Lara’. There was one issue, though. The torch I summoned into her hand kept being drenched by the downpour. This played havoc with the screenshot I was trying to take and you can see the footsteps she took over and over again as I attempted to snap an atmospheric shot of her emerging from the waves. It paid off though! I went looking for tombs, too, but unfortunately Guarma is quite empty. It’s almost as if the majority of the map was meant to be left alone. I did find a ruined building with convenient caches of explodey things, but sadly there were no Trinity goons lurking in the shadows.
Untitled Goose Game
It is a lovely day in Strawberry, and you are a… well, you’re just a goose. The first thing you will notice about this bird is that it is a regional variant. The Canada goose is like the mild-mannered cousin of the demonic fowl in Untitled Goose Game. The goose can’t pick things up, it can’t wield weapons, and it can't interact with the people of Strawberry. This falls short of the ticklist in the short but sweet puzzle game, but the goose in Red Dead Redemption 2 can fly. I thought this would offer a new mechanism for making mayhem, but alas. Strawberry had no interest in a flying goose, possibly because this is what we expect of birds. And, I had a terrible time taking to the skies, as the controls are completely wacky. The goose would launch itself into the air with no warning and pitch into buildings, rocks, carts, water, until I somehow coaxed it back down to earth. Then it would set off again, and I would circle Strawberry for several minutes panicked and afraid of this goose’s ambition. In conclusion, playing Untitled Goose Game in Red Dead Redemption 2 made me feel more like one of the hapless villagers than the goose, which was no fun at all.
There is an easter egg in Red Dead Redemption 2 wherein the player can encounter the Saint Denis vampire and slay him for a cool dagger. That is very reductive. The Twilight series of books and films were, and continue to be, incredibly important to me, and I know that this man hides a tortured soul under that translucent, emaciated form. He battles with his morality like Jonathan Reid, in Dontnod Entertainment’s Vampyr. So, I shrouded Saint Denis in darkness and transformed into the creature of the night. No one seemed frightened by the vampire’s appearance, strangely, but maybe everyone just looks like that when illuminated by the ochre glow of gas street lamps. My hunt began and I stalked a portly, well-to-do NPC through the alleyways. Then, as I closed in on my midnight snack, I realised that the vampire couldn’t interact with his prey. I was literally following an NPC round their route to no end. I let him live, and pivoted to a different take on the vampire genre. Bursting through the doors of the Bastille Saloon, I’d paint the town red, taking the tenets of Vampire – The Masquerade: Bloodlines to heart. However, fate intervened. A man pickpocketed me and I gave chase, summoning my sanguine super-speed to pursue this unfortunate soul through Saint Denis. What to do when I caught him? A moment of clarity in the haze of bloodlust, and I remembered who I was. I didn’t drain his blood and I spared him the curse of eternal life. (I dinged his head on the pavement and looted the stolen $15).
The regions of Red Dead Redemption 2 are teeming with wildlife who survive in the untamed environments of the Wild West. Modding would let Arthur bring these animals into his care and create a zoo, which would attract people from all over. He could educate the people, and explain that these critters are not just meat or pelts or terrifying monsters; they’re worthy of respect and kindness. In theory, it sounds ideal. In practice, it was an unmitigated disaster. Summoning alligators, bears, horses, badgers, cougars, and more into the Heartlands, Arthur was instantaneously mauled beyond recognition by the animals I wanted to protect. They then attacked each other and wandered off into the badlands, leaving the cowboy basting in the sun in a pool of blood. It probably caused an ecological crisis, too. In fact…
An underappreciated indie darling, Death Stranding is set in a post-apocalyptic future wherein the world of the dead and the world of the living intermingle with devastating impacts. The cities of the United States are fractured, and it’s down to Sam Porter Bridges to complete deliveries and connect them to the Chiral Network. Obviously, the gritty environments of Red Dead Redemption 2 and the eerie environments of Death Stranding are like oil and water. But that was it! Teleporting Arthur under the world makes all of the assets hang in the air like BTs. I changed the time and weather to a foggy midday morning, but that wasn’t quite enough to recreate Death Stranding. I gave Arthur a jug of moonshine. It’s the closest object I had to a baby in a jar. Also, being under the map turned Arthur’s model black (like the oily beaches) and he had a black box on his back (like a cargo delivery). Like Sam, I took my first steps towards reconnecting America. And fell infinitely until the game popped him back into the world like nothing had happened – well, he is a repatriate. I’m pretty sure this is exactly how Death Stranding plays, so this was a very successful representation.
Luigi’s Mansion 3
The rooting-tooting, cowboy-shooting game has its fair share of spectral surprises, and I knew just the guy to bust these ghosts for good. Equipping him with an electric lantern, I plonked this guy outside the Braithwaite Manor and tried the doors. Nope. This was a good representation of Luigi’s Mansion 3, though; this was a puzzle and I was looking for a secret entrance or a trapdoor to get into the estate. Circling the verandah and pressing on the walls and windows for a switch, I attracted the attention of groundsmen on patrol. They were keen to help me on my way… from this world to the next. ‘Luigi’ met angry guards at every turn and our story was cut short before it had even begun. But do you know what upset me the most? This character model has a red shirt. Like Luigi hasn’t suffered enough in his brother’s shadow.
Pippa Funnell – Stable Adventure
Let me be clear. The Pippa Funnell – Stable Adventure game for the Gameboy Advance was tough. It was not an adorable horse-riding sim where the sun never set and you were good at everything because this game was meant for children. It opened my eyes to the realities of owning a horse. To take care of the horse, the player had to feed and water, clean and brush the animal every day. I did not do this every day because I was a child and was easily distracted, and so the horse resented me. The heat of its gaze emanated through the scuffed Nintendo DS screen, and if I had somehow won its trust and its love, I could take the horse for rides. This was actually just an auto-runner on a beach, the woods, or the farm, and you had to jump over hurdles. If you fudged a jump and clattered into the obstacle, it hated you again.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is the best Pippa Funnell game ever made. You’re given a horse that likes you, and you can take it for rides that are actually interesting and don’t result in seething hatred for each other. The animal will only object to you if you treat it like a tool and, to be honest, you would deserve it. You can go out into the wilderness and tame wild horses which is literally what every child who watched Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron dreamed of. I could sack off the story and have a herd of happy horses, peacefully living out Arthur Morgan’s days roaming the county. I think I will.