That’s how long we’ve waited for Rockstar to get back in the saddle and craft another wonderful virtual Western. Red Dead Redemption was one of Xbox 360’s very best games – a poignant sandbox love letter to the Spaghetti Western, full of doomed honour and snappy shootouts. Now its brand of outlaw (or should it be outlaws?) has returned, and it looks like Xbox One is going to be treated to the most sensationally detailed open-world Rockstar has ever made. Get ready, partners… this is going to be quite the ride.
The big question going into Red Dead Redemption 2 is just how many outlaws will you be playing as? Considering the quality of the last game, epic frontier scenery, frantic pistol-duelling and lots of ambient horse-riding all seem assured. What we can’t bet the farm on is whether or not Rockstar is going back down GTA V’s multiple character-switching route.
Both the art reveal and the debut trailer’s big closing shot hint you could swap between as many as seven different outlaws. We look at who each of these scoundrels may be on page 47 (see The Scandalous Seven), but regardless of their identities, the notion of having that many antiheroes to switch between is dizzying.
Outlaw and order
Switching between GTA V’s triple threat of carjacking crims worked a treat, but the mechanical complexities of being able to swap between seven characters during missions seem seismic. Then again, we thought that back when switching between three seemed technically impossible. Imagine the potential for set-piece spectacle. Remember the sniping, abseiling, copter-downing delights of GTA V’s Three’s Company mission, where you switch between Michael, Trevor and Franklin on-the-fly as they bust into IAA headquarters to kidnap a federal witness? Now picture that but played out in a Western setting, say a train robbery, with you in command of another four characters who must simultaneously shake down passengers for cash, keep an eye out for lawmen, and try to make a clean getaway.
This is all just speculation, of course. With so few concrete gameplay details to go on, we can only try to make educated guesses based on design decisions from past
“Red Dead Redemption was one of Xbox 360’s very best games – a poignant sandbox love letter to the Spaghetti Western...”
“The actual headliner is the obscenely gorgeous chunk of Wild West real estate Rockstar has once again crafted”
Rockstar games. It seems likely the story will revolve around a gang of outlaws, true, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get to play as all of them.
SIMPLY THE WEST
In the case that you play as a single gunman, we’ve got money on it being the chap who appears 48 seconds into the trailer, a bandana masking his face as an oil field burns in the background. Could this fellow’s name be Marston? If Red Dead Redemption 2 is a prequel, it could well be a young John, back during his wild days of running with Dutch van der Linde and Bill Williamson. Conversely, if the game takes place after his death in 1911, it may be his son, Jack. There are so many cowboy questions that need answering.
Not least of which is: when exactly is the game set? Seeing as the last Red Dead Redemption was such a comprehensive nod to the dying days of the Old West, we doubt the game will take place in the early 20th century again. It seems more likely Red Dead Redemption 2 will be a prequel – witness the old-timey carriages in the trailer. If that’s the case, setting the game in the mid19th century would allow Rockstar to touch on the American Gold Rush, an era thick with criminally greedy thematic potential.
None of the mysterious outlaws are the real star of the trailer, though. No, the actual headliner is the
obscenely gorgeous chunk of Wild West real estate Rockstar is once again crafting. Golden, yawning prairies stretching out towards a simmering frontier sunset. Dense forests that are so thick only dappled rays of sunlight can break through their canopies. Gaping gorges with untamed rivers stretching as far as the outlaw eye can see. The original Red Dead Redemption is one of the most tactile, effortlessly believable open-worlds ever created. Yet with the power of Xbox One now at its fingertips, Rockstar’s current-gen slice of American Frontier is clearly going to blow Mr Marston’s six-yearold sandbox away.
With such a seemingly varied landscape to roam, our magnificent (and probably quite murderous) seven are going to need some new forms of transport to get around. In the last game, John was pretty much restricted to loyal steeds, the occasional carriage, and if he was really down on his luck in Mexico, a wheezy little donkey. If he even went near a body of water it was cowboy curtains – there were no boats to commandeer in New Austin. Thankfully, that’s something the sequel has almost certainly fixed.
Skip to the 31-second mark in the trailer and you can clearly see two figures paddling upstream in a canoe. Unless Rockstar is being an unbearably dirty tease, it looks safe to say boat travel has finally come to
Red Dead. And so it should – after all, GTA antiheroes have been able to navigate that series’ criminal waters since GTA III. It’s high time Rockstar’s Wild West caught up. To complement these canoes, don’t be surprised if your outlaws aren’t also dab hands at the front crawl. GTA V’s underwater sections were fantastic, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see a proper swimming system make the cut in Red Dead Redemption 2.
horses for courses
Not that the series’ traditional neighing bread and butter is being forgotten. Indeed, it looks like Red Dead’s horses are getting an upgrade. About halfway through the trailer there’s a glimpse of a rancher walking next to his steed, a deer carcass slumped over his pony pal’s back. This would seem to suggest you can now use your horsey chums to ferry around dead animals. Last time out, John could merely skin critters for their pelts. If you can now move an entire carcass, could that mean the fur selling system from the first game has been expanded? Perhaps delivering an unsullied deer or boar to a local merchant will net your outlaws more coin than just selling a skinned pelt.
Campfires also seem to be back. In Marston’s sombre sandbox, these burny mobile sites performed two functions. You could either rest, saving your game and fast-forwarding time by six hours, or you could use them to fast-travel around John’s sprawling wilderness. There’s only a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it glimpse of a campfire in the trailer – around 27 seconds in – but we’d be surprised if they don’t perform the same function in the sequel. Speaking of said scene, is that not the most spectacularly starry in-game sky you ever did see?
Rockstar has clearly been beavering away on this Western for years and, brilliantly, you won’t have to wait too much longer to see if the studio’s latest epic endeavour can match the sandbox splendour of Mr Marston’s quest. Red Dead Redemption 2 is slated to hit Xbox One next year, meaning we could all be saddling up with these outlaws in eight or so months’ time. Will our Wild West theories pan out? We’ll find out soon enough. Yee-haw, indeed.
“Rockstar has clearly been beavering away on this Western for years and you won’t have to wait too much longer”
top Look at all that Western wilderness. Let’s hope you can scale those snowy mountains.
far left A lone figure trots over the horizon. Could this be RDR2’s lead outlaw?
above Notice the dead deer on the horse’s back. It looks like you can now transport carcasses. right Will cattle-herding return? RDR1’ s A Tempest Looms mission had some ace cow action.
left Is this our star? This pose is a dead ringer to a shot of Michael from GTA V’s first trailer.
above Talk about squalor. Areas of the game’s map have obviously fallen on hard times.
top left Could this ranch act as a base for the game’s cast of outlaws? Also, nice skull!
above It looks like campfires make a return. They’ll likely act as fasttravel hubs, but what other activities might they allow?
left Judging by this shot of a canoe, water will be way less deadly than in Red Dead Redemption 1.