After a tantalising image of the Rockstar logo in the faded red and black colour scheme of 2010’s stellar Red Dead Redemption was revealed earlier this week, it is safe to say that the internet lost its stones. Following progressively more revealing images, this afternoon, we were indulged in the details of Rockstar Games’ latest project.
Following rampant speculation as to where they would go next, Rockstar have revealed that the blandly-titled sequel to their Wild West epic is expected in Fall 2017 (that’s Autumn for us Brits and…well, everybody that isn’t from the US…), and frankly, I can’t wait. It would seem that millions of you also can’t wait to gather your posse together once more and lasso yourself into missions involving enigmatic and fulfilling characters, a dense and intricate plot, and the locales one would expect with riding the range. After all, who could blame us?
If I may, let me cast you back to 2010. I was 11, was debatably bald (thanks, Mum) and was chubbier than I am now. Year 7 was an intense time, but I was rewarded when, upon its release, I snapped up my copy of Rockstar’s latest game, Red Dead Redemption. A three-year long love affair was born.
Prior to this, I had re-watched every Western that my Dad owned, and had downloaded every trailer onto my Xbox 360 – I was stoked. Once I started the game, I struggled to put it down. Overall, with the revolutionary online component, I must have sunk over 300 hours into that mass of shooting, outlawing, hunting and wooing southern belles. I met players who I game with to this day, and in those formative years, the game had a huge impact on me. I leached everything that could be leached from the game, and over those years, I became somewhat of a pretty-darned good player. It wasn’t until all of the DLC was released and I had done most everything a couple times over that I navigated away to new titles, but I say this:
Red Dead Redemption is my favourite game of all time; it had charm, and it came along in a time in my pre-pubescent life that was ripe for shaping my gaming tastes and interests. Every title I have ever played has been compared to Red Dead, every open world has been compared to Red Dead, and ultimately, I have not experienced the fuzzy feeling in my stomach of rocking up to Macfarlane’s Ranch since.
Yet I worry a little here, and please, bare with me on this:
The Magnificent Seven
Noobgrind affiliate and friend of mine, Pat, and I were discussing the main shot provided by Rockstar – the seven characters silhouetted against the delectably-Rockstar red background. We took from this a hugely strong multiplayer-focus – so far, no big, right? Rockstar’s official announcement today (which also advertises the first trailer on Thursday, at 11am EST) confirmed that multiplayer would be a massive focus once again.
The gent on the far right looks rather like a scout class, perhaps a Native American, with what looks like a mohawk style haircut and a long-bore rifle. The man in the middle bears a striking resemblance to Redemption protagonist, John Marston, whilst the man in the wide-brimmed hat to his left could suggest a return to the Mexican frontier.
Yet there are two fears of mine. The first is that maybe, just maybe, Rockstar may neglect the richness of the story that so many referred in Redemption. Let us not forget that in 2010, massively online sandboxes like Grand Theft Auto and even Redemption itself were still being tested and explored; it was a time when most of a game’s merit still existed in its ability to purvey a sense of story and achievement. Now, this is not so much the case, and the ever-increasing lean towards Multiplayer leaves me existentially worried that perhaps the Golden Age of story-led games may be in decline.
Secondly, Grand Theft Auto’s online mode in 2013 degenerated very quickly into ridiculous mods, an unbalanced economy. What kept Redemption’s multiplayer so fresh was its charm, and the community which very quickly formed around the game and its lore. I hope that Rockstar can fine tune what began as a fantastic mode in GTA and ultimately fulfil me and the fans in 2017.
The Disappointment Complex
Forgive me, Rockstar. Aside from CD Project Red, you remain my favourite developer. Your care to each game is incredible, and you look after your players like no other (GTA Online received yet another smattering of DLC this month – three years after release!).
But you work in an industry that is, I believe, is losing its feel…its charm, if you will. Cynically, I longer get excited about big-release titles. Assassin’s Creed: Unity soured that series for me, and Mafia III only confirmed my fears. In its rush to output as many games as possible, many titles that were once the pinnacle of my gaming library have simply disappointed me.
I trust you, Rockstar, I really do. But please, prove my trust in you is well-founded this time next year, yeah?
Could They Do It Again?
This is pretty self-explanatory. Red Dead Redemption worked because it innovated at the time, using many new systems and graphical techniques that simply had not used up until that point.
Has the industry become too desensitised to care about good graphics, when it is now more or less expected? What about a rich online world? In 2010, this was new, in 2017, again, its sort of expected.
Let me provide an analogy; I played Telltale’s The Walking Dead games upon their release. I downloaded them again, this time on my PS4, last month…yet I just couldn’t seem to get into them, and didn’t even make it past the first episode. This is not because it was a bad game – on the contrary, these games too hold a very special place in my heart. Yet I was no longer shocked at the events of the game, and the clunky controls that had once worked just made me go ‘meh.’
In a way, it is a testament to Rockstar that their first outing into this style of game was so good that it threatens to overshadow another of their titles a whole seven years (seven?!) later. Nonetheless, my pessimistic head is telling me to be wary.
The Age of the Remaster
Red Dead Redemption 2 is never going to be a remaster. That is just out of the question.
However, we know nought about the story, and it could go either way; will the game be a prequel to the first Redemption game, charting John Marston’s time as an outlaw, or will it be an entirely new story?
Currently, I’m not sure which I’d prefer. What would you like to see?
Ultimately, I believe that it is unlikely that Red Dead Redemption 2 will be a bad game, though I worry about whether or not it will make me feel the same way that Redemption did. Only time will tell, and as I said, if anybody is capable of pulling it off, it’s Rockstar.
So, I am stoked. You are stoked. The world is stoked. Rockstar, take it away.