Rockstar Games’ upcoming wild west adventure is a step forward for virtual world realism – and a reminder that cowboys, too, had to face up to modernity

Left to my own devices with Red Dead Redemption 2 for a few hours, I was expecting to see sweeping open plains interrupted by mesas, dusty frontier towns with swing-door saloons and wary inhabitants, and a gang of crusty outlaws sharing stories around a campfire then riding through the woods on their way to a shootout. This astounding virtual wild west models itself on the classic Hollywood image of that time, the same fantasy as depicted in Westworld. What I wasn’t expecting in my brief preview was a city, Saint Denis, modelled on turn-of-the-century New Orleans.

Riding into town as an outlaw frontiersman, I suddenly felt like a tragic anachronism. A tram rolled past, and I tied up my horse to board the next one

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