(Credit: Rockstar Games)

Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto V has been a blockbuster for the company, coming out on two different console generations and Windows PCs, and raking in hundreds of millions from in-app transactions in its GTA Online multiplayer mode.

But it's also been five long years since the company produced a fully new game, so the mounting anticipation for Red Dead Redemption 2, finally coming out this Friday for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 consoles, has been immense and intense.

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In the years since Grand Theft Auto V came out, the mobile phone world has changed quite a bit, and this time Red Dead 2 will be getting its own newly announced companion app for iOS and Android. And unlike other apps of its type, this one looks like a genuine extension of the game's behavior.

For one, you'll get a full-size interactive map with touchscreen controls, which may actually be easier and faster to navigate than the console version that uses a gamepad. You can pan, zoom, and set waypoints with a tap. (When a waypoint marker is set, it will show up in-game, allowing you to more easily find your bearings and quickly get to that destination.)

The app can also display your character's "core info and stats" instead of showing them on your TV screen, allowing for a more minimalist presentation that may be especially suited for sharing screenshots and video clips with your friends. However, the app isn't critical for enabling this, as Red Dead Redemption 2 also has a dedicated "photo mode" that will make the interface temporarily disappear. The game also has a first-person perspective mode, if you want to remove your character from the scene and focus on the environment instead.

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The companion app will also give you access to your character's "Journal," which is presumably where you keep track of your mission information. And you can get Rockstar Social Club stat tracking; if the previous game is any indication, this will keep a record of things like how many bad guys you've captured, banks you've robbed, money you've collected, and animals you've hunted.

The app will also have a digital version of the game's manual, and it will be able to load the official guide. Rockstar says the guide is a 384-page tome that includes an "at-a-glance walkthrough, dedicated maps chapter, comprehensive reference sections, and an all-encompassing index," and it contains "essential information about every mission, character and feature."

As you might expect, this guide is not free. Amazon sells the hardcover version for $24. (Disclosure: Its publisher Simon & Schuster is owned by CBS Corp., which also owns Download.com.)

A couple important notes about Red Dead Redemption 2

While the game is numbered like a sequel, we should note that it's actually a prequel. In fact, John Marston isn't even the central character. Instead, you'll be in the shoes of his mentor Arthur Morgan, though the trailers have shown a few glimpses of the main character from the first game.

It's also not a conventional western theme, because it's actually taking place at the turn of the century, which traditionally marks the end of the "wild west." So while there are frontier towns, you'll also encounter more developed areas with some buildings made of brick or stone instead of wood. Either way, Red Dead Redemption 2 will take place deep in the heart of Texas and feature several locations from the first game.

Takeaways

  • Red Dead Redemption 2 is getting a companion app for iOS and Android, to be available when the game launches this Friday.
  • The app will have a fully interactive map where you can pan, zoom, set waypoints, and check your character's stats.

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Tom McNamara is a Senior Editor for CNET's Download.com. He mainly covers Windows, mobile and desktop security, games, Google, streaming services, and social media. Tom was also an editor at Maximum PC and IGN, and his work has appeared on CNET, PC Gamer, MSN.com, and Salon.com. He's also unreasonably proud that he's kept the same phone for more than two years.