The long-awaited Red Dead Redemption 2 hits consoles the world over on Oct. 26, bringing with it a vast open world to explore on horseback.
But submersing yourself into such a big game requires careful preparation. After all, you wouldn't go on an arctic expedition in a three-piece suit, unless you're doing some kind of mad dare.
Here's how I fully prepared myself to tackle this game. You don't have to follow the guide to the letter, just be aware that willfully ignoring my advice may well spoil the gameplay for you. And you don't want that, do you?
Get the gear
OK, let's start with the glaringly obvious. It's a glorious-looking game so you need some hardware to do it justice. Grab yourself a big 4K and HDR-enabled telly and an Xbox One X (£400 at Amazon.co.uk) or that'll output at the same. I'm using my 55-inch Cello QLED TV which is not only pin-sharp, but has glorious colours thanks to being . Lovely stuff.
Next, sort out your sound. Beneath my TV is an Edifier S50 soundbar that will wrap me in all the sounds of the Old West to the point I believe I'm riding alongside them, terrified of being shot, getting dysentery or getting shot while suffering from dysentery. At least, that's my hope.
Also, don't forget to actually. Just budget some serious time for downloading or installing -- it's a near 100GB monster.
Make your excuses
When the game lands you'll want to invest a solid few days in it immediately. I booked Friday and Monday off work to give me a full four days in which to play the game. Your work may not be as accommodating as mine (thanks, guys!) but try and at least keep your whole weekend free.
Planned to hang out with friends? Cancel -- the game will provide you with new friends. And a. Agreed to help a colleague move house? That guy is always freeloading off you, don't enable that sort of behaviour. It's time he stumped up the cash to hire some proper movers.
A quick message of "An international ambassador requires my assistance" should be enough to satisfy all who were expecting you somewhere and will certainly not result in follow-up questions, so don't even worry about that for a second.
Arrange your room
Now that you've got your TV set up, make sure you have a good seating position in front of it. Don't be too far away or you'll lose some of that immersive, cinematic feel. Also, don't sit off at a weird angle. Don't be afraid to move your furniture around and just tell your spouse/housemates/parents I said it's fine.
Now I know this is trashy, but I actually brought in a folding camping armchair to play the game. Forget how bad it looks, this thing cradles the buttocks wonderfully for extended hours of gameplay and even better, comes with a drink holder in the arm rest. Being a camping chair, it's easier to pretend that I'm really sitting around the campfire with the gang -- after all, I don't remember John Marston relaxing in the Great Plains on a three-seater couch.
Finally, I made sure to close the window blinds. I want to remain fully immersed in the game and not think about the outside world and all the fun people are having outdoors with loved ones and cherished acquaintances, so physically blocking them out seems like a good tactic. Also it stops any glare shining on the TV and spoiling the lovely graphics.
Gather your food
You'll still need to eat while playing the game as according to my doctor, onscreen sustenance isn't enough to keep an adult human male alive for an extended period of time. Although I'm waiting on a second opinion.
So what should one prepare for a Red Dead 2 weekend? For me, the choice was obvious; a giant slow-cooked beef chili. Surely, this is exactly the food that RD2 protagonist Arthur Morgan would cook up for the gang and serve with what I'm sure would be a winning smile and some compliments for his fellow diners ("Delightful shirt, friend, make sure you don't spill any of this delicious slow-cooked beef chili on it!").
It's easy to make, too: Get a big chunk of beef brisket, sear the outside and chuck into a slow cooker with chopped tomatoes, beef stock, diced red and yellow bell pepper, white onion, garlic and a variety of spices. I also popped some butternut squash in. Let it cook for 8 hours or so and then shred the beef before stirring it all back together. Serve with tortilla chips and sour cream. I'm whipping up some cornbread, too, although I'm writing this before I've made that so it may well be a disaster. If you want the whole recipe for all this, hit me up on Twitter.
I also got some Maryland cookies -- because America -- and a selection crate of Goose Island beers, because they were the only ones in my local shop in London that were actually brewed in the US. They're therefore exactly what people would drink in the Old West, as far as I'm concerned having only been to the US (Florida) once when I was 4 years old.
Prepare your mind
Once everything is prepared, you need to take some you time. Leave your house and take the time to say your brief farewells to real-life nature as it will be some time before you see it again. Head to your nearest parkland and take it all in. I caught the bus up the road to a large moorland area and sat for a while imagining I was a cowboy. A cowboy who plays Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes on his iPhone while listening to podcasts. That kind of cowboy.
It helped get me accustomed to wide open plains, to the sounds of the wind and the sounds of the jumbo jets flying overhead from Stansted Airport -- not all of which are guaranteed to appear in the game.
The other benefit of course is to give you some good exercise and stretch those muscles out before you spend the next few days barely moving them. Sure, you'll need to nip back and forth to the fridge and the toilet (those beers, man) but that's not going to work off the richness of the chili, so make sure you're ready for the challenge.
If you've ticked everything on this list then you're a true hero and I cannot help you prepare any further for whatever Red Dead 2 has in store for you. It's on you now, old chum, so sit back, fill your belly with chili and settle in for what I hope will be a wonderful ride.
Red Dead Redemption 2: The CNET review