Why the Characters in the New ‘Red Dead Redemption 2’ Trailer Look So Ugly

Matthew Loffhagen
(Photo: Rockstar)

There’s a new trailer for Red Dead Redemption 2 out, and some elements of it look very good.

The scenery is gorgeous. The storytelling is of a high quality, and the voice acting is impactful and believable.

It’s just a shame that all the people are so ugly.

This is not the best, most realistic video game character work we’ve ever seen. The models all look pretty dated, and while they’re more complex than those we see in the original Red Dead Redemption, they’re nowhere near as impressive as modern games of this era.

Red Dead Redemption 2’s characters look about on par with Grand Theft Auto V, a game that the same company, Rockstar, put out four years ago. Heck, let’s be honest, this new game’s trailer footage doesn’t even look as good as what we first got to see of Mass Effect: Andromeda, and we all remember how that turned out!

So why is this game so ugly? It’s nothing to do with laziness or corner-cutting on the part of Rockstar, but rather a necessary part of making an enormous open world game.

If there’s one thing that Rockstar is known for above all others, it’s giving players big, expansive sandboxes to explore, with a vague main story running through the action, but plenty of freedom to allow gamers to go wherever they want and make their own fun.

This kind of gameplay is growing in popularity, but perhaps aside from Bethesda, Rockstar is still the undisputed king of sandboxes.

The challenge is one of scope. Making a tight game with a focused narrative and a linear story means being able to put a lot of polish into the look and feel of every aspect of the game. Creating a sandbox title, on the other hand, involves building a huge, wide variety of game assets, and, as a natural result, not being able to spend as much time on each individual piece.

There’s no time for Rockstar to finesse every character movement, or to give all characters a complex facial rig. The one time the company tried to aim for photo-realistic faces in a game ended really awkwardly, as LA Noire featured confusingly complex human heads bobbing around on relatively unrealistic digital wireframes.

In order to be able to make any progress on Red Dead Redemption 2 whatsoever, Rockstar is forced to take a “good enough” approach to character animation. If the models and textures look relatively okay, they’re going in the game. This isn’t an attempt to push the technical boundaries of the genre, but instead, a project that focuses on making the prettiest possible game without spending an eternity on every single frame of cutscene.

Red Dead Redemption 2 Character
Source: Rockstar

It’s also entirely possible that Red Dead Redemption 2 will get prettier as development continues. The game is still a long way from release, and it’s possible that the team is focusing on getting the entire project to a more finished state before narrowing in on specific elements like character models that can do with tidying up.

So if you looked at the new trailer for Red Dead Redemption 2 and couldn’t help but feel unimpressed by its graphics, worry not – this game will be the best it can be, and will have a nice, open world to make up for any awkward character designs that don’t quite work.

Plus, the scenery looks nice, so that’s cool. It’s easier to make trees that look realistic because they don’t constantly move around, drawing attention to themselves.

Share on Twitter