The wild west has never looked this good.
Yes, it’s finally happening my fellow outlaws. Red Dead Redemption II is real and it’s coming to PlayStation 4 this year. After Rockstar Games’ massively successful open-world cowboy game set during the death of the Wild West, fans began clamoring for a follow-up that continued the story of the Marston family or embraced a new gunslinger.
After years of rumors and silence on Rockstar’s end, they finally surprised the world on one random morning in 2016 by announcing a sequel to their critically acclaimed western. It took over a year to get any actual concrete details regarding the game and frankly, it’s still a bit of a mystery but it sounds like it could be a mix of a story of a new outlaw and also fill in a massive gap in John Marston’s story.
The story so far…
Rockstar Games appears to be returning to the traditional one playable character route after successfully experimenting with three playable protagonists in Grand Theft Auto V but he’s not John or Jack Marston. Players will travel back to 1899 (12 years before the first game) to fill the boots and don the hat of a much less noble man that goes by the name of Arthur Morgan, a brute that’s running with Dutch van der Linde’s gang during their prime. While little is known about Arthur, we know he’s a much more sinister cowboy who doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty. In the second trailer, we see him interrogating and roughing up several people who appear to owe money to Dutch’s Gang, perhaps for protection. He’s a brutal force that is loyal to Dutch and likely only Dutch.
It’s likely we’re going to see the rise and fall of the gang, with Arthur Morgan playing a pivotal role.
The story will see Morgan and Van der Linde’s gang stealing, running, and fighting to survive the rugged and cruel world that is the Wild West. Order has not yet been established, technology is slowly beginning to evolve into something far more advanced, and people like Dutch believe it’s important that things stay the way they are. The Van der Linde gang was always viewed as a Robin Hood-type of bandits, stealing from the rich to give to the poor and resisting the government in favor of a structure where it was an "every man for himself" situation.
The gang eventually evolved into something far more dangerous and unhinged according to an anecdote provided by John Marston, leading him to realize their Robin Hood act was all a front for their evil actions and crimes. The event that likely leads to the start of the downfall of the gang seems to be a heist in Blackwater which later became known as the Blackwater Massacre. In the plot synopsis for the game provided by Rockstar, it’s revealed that the gang is being hunted after they botch a robbery in the wealthy town that is seen toward the end of the first RDR.
Within the lore of the series, the Blackwater Massacre was a massive shootout that took the lives of over 30 people. Civilians, cops, and criminals were among the casualties of the bloody shootout, actual details of why the battle took place remain a mystery to the residents of Blackwater because the officials went to great lengths to cover it up. Why? Well, we’ll likely find out in Red Dead II.
Most people involved died or were criminals who escaped but one of the few survivors was the legendary lawman, Landon Ricketts. Ricketts is in the first game and Marston teams up with him in Mexico, Marston knows him for his status but the two don’t seem to know each other. It’s entirely possible that Marston was uninvolved in the heist or was playing coy and using him to further his quest for redemption.
How does it connect to the original Red Dead Redemption?
So, what’s the connection to the first Red Dead Redemption? Well, Rockstar is being very, very careful not to say much about this game and how it connects to the first game but it will shed light on the stories John told in the first game as well as provide more depth to the men we hunt down in that same game.
John Marston is indeed in the game but Rockstar has noted that this is Arthur Morgan’s story, not John’s.
Given this game takes place long before the events of the original game and has a direct link to it via Dutch van der Linde and his gang, it’s hard to imagine Rockstar isn’t trying to expand John Marston’s story in some way. With games like Grand Theft Auto, there have been very subtle connections tying the games together but none of them are direct sequels or relate to each other in any way. With Red Dead Redemption II, Rockstar had the chance to name the game something like Red Dead Revolution, Red Dead Retribution, or something along those lines given that the series so far has gone Red Dead Revolver and then Red Dead Redemption. They purposely named it in a way that links the two games.
Marston was also a substantial part of Dutch’s Gang, he was taken in by Dutch when he ran away from the orphanage he lived in. He was raised by this gang and lived with them for a large majority of his life and in the fallout of him abandoning the gang, it all went to hell and it was more or less disbanded. John Marston is indeed the game, he’s heavily featured in new screenshots and is seen in the newest trailer once or twice but Rockstar says this is Arthur’s story, not John’s. That doesn’t mean that we can’t expand on the character, it just means he will not be the focal point of the narrative.
Major gameplay innovations are coming in the western sequel
Since Rockstar has been pretty prude about Red Dead Redemption II, we only have the word of the press who have seen the game in action to understand how the game plays. There will be more details in the future regarding what the gameplay will look like but for right now we’ll just give you the basic rundown of what we know. For starters, Rockstar seems to be creating their most realisitic world yet and abandoning some of the most video game-y aspects in their formula for something with more depth.
According to Rockstar, they’ve been developing Red Dead Redemption II for eight years, starting as they were wrapping up the first game. In that time, they’ve been handcrafting a world with lots of detail and creating systems that may be fairly unexpected from them. A large portion of the game is centered around managing the gang, Arthur is Dutch’s right-hand man and he helps keep everything running smoothly. This means you’ll help perform odd jobs for gang members, go hunting to get food for the camp or get money to line their pockets with, and so on.
Rockstar has been very clear that you don’t have to do this and you won’t be severely punished if you don’t but the gang will make comments if you leave them hanging for days on end. If you do choose to take care of your gang, you’ll be rewarded in ways that have not yet been revealed and your gang will grow stronger.
Also on tap is a new dialog system that allows you to approach situations with more options than just shoot and kill. Each NPC has their own set of branching dialog, with the player able to talk niceties or show a degree of impatience in any given encounter. And this isn’t just a black and white morality system either. Some choices will be gray areas, some will be lore-advancing, some will lead to friendships, and others will most certainly erupt into bloodbaths. It’s unclear if there will be any more to this system – such as a relationship mechanic that gauges each NPC’s level of warmth toward you – but it’s something.
If you do choose to go off and do things like hunting, you’ll be able to see the amount of depth that Rockstar has added to its hunting system since the original game and Grand Theft Auto V. You’ll find yourself stalking animals, choosing your weapon carefully so you don’t damage pelts/meat, and tracking an animal by following blood trails after you’ve hit it. Once you’ve tracked the animal down, you may find it still alive, bleeding out and yelping. Arthur will then take out his knife and stab the animal in the heart to end its suffering and take what you want from it.
You can then string up your kill on the back of your horse and take it back to camp to feed your people or sell it in town and take the money for yourself. Regardless of what you choose, your hunt will rot and decay over time so the longer you have it on the back of your horse (yes, it’s literally on your horse, not in an invisible pouch), the less valuable it’ll be. If you were to kill an animal (or even a person) behind and let it sit in the wild, vultures, coyotes, and other creatures would come and munch on the remains.
It looks as if Rockstar will be carrying over the heists from GTA V as we see Arthur Morgan robbing a bank and holding up a train in the second trailer. It’s unclear how much of a focal point these will be in the game since it was the core of GTA V’s campaign but one has to imagine it plays a similar role given you’re a gang of notorious western criminals.
We do know there will be some depth to those heists, though. Players can go loud or quiet, create distractions, choose who you bring with you (some can be done solo but isn’t recommended), and use a bunch of other different variables to create different outcomes throughout the heists. All of this will result on if and when law enforcement shows up amongst other things. It’s unclear if you can have gang members die or get critically wounded in these heists like in Grand Theft Auto V or just how dynamic these systems are. Grand Theft Auto V’s heists were heavily scripted, if you chose a certain crew member to come with, they’d always die on the same mission in the same spot because it was coordinated by Rockstar’s writing. It was more of the illusion of choices having consequences rather than them actually having any meaning at all.
Some major changes are also coming in combat with the ability to dual wield weapons like Max Payne, bows and arrows used for hunting and maybe even some stealth combat as we see Arthur Morgan taking a knife to someone’s back in the dead of night. We also see Arthur brutally beating people up in the third trailer, suggesting Rockstar has refined their melee combat to create more intense and fun brawls.
A cowboy’s best friend
A cowboy’s best friend isn’t his fellow outlaws/lawmen, it’s his horse. In the original Red Dead Redemption, your horse was almost supernatural in the sense it teleported to you and was basically immortal. You didn’t have much of a connection to it because outside of its speed and stamina, there was nothing too special about the horses. In Red Dead Redemption II, Rockstar plans on changing that.
Your horse in the sequel will be very special. Perhaps the most significant change from the first game or any Rockstar game for that matter is that you won’t be able to carry every single weapon with you. The joke of pulling an RPG out of your rear end in GTA wouldn’t apply in this game as you’ll only be carrying small weapons such as handguns on your person, rifles and other gear will travel via your horse. We’re not sure if you can sling at least one rifle over your shoulder while walking around but you can expect most of your guns to be unavailable if your horse isn’t nearby.
Your horse won’t be disposable in this game, it’ll mean a lot more to you because it has lots of value. You’ll grow a bond that effects how scared it gets when put in danger, how far it gets from you, and more. Rockstar hopes that this bond won’t just serve a gameplay effect but a personal and emotional one to. If your horse gets critically wounded, you can attempt to heal it with medical supplies, if you don’t have any you can try and run into town quickly and gather some and run back. You may come back to your horse dead, making you realize that you left that poor animal that loved you to die thinking you abandoned it in its final moments. Brutal stuff, I know. Should it die, you’ll have to start that bond all over with a new horse and presumably any gear you can’t carry off of that horse’s corpse is lost.
It adds a whole new layer to an aspect that’s iconic to westerns but doesn’t have a lot of attention paid to it.
When you can play it and when we’ll know more
The only questions remaining are when we can play the game and when we can expect more firm details from Rockstar. The game is currently scheduled to release on October 26th, 2018 for PlayStation 4 as well as Xbox One, and we can likely expect some news regarding the game in June or July via a Game Informer cover story or a new breakdown directly from Rockstar. As of right now, we’ll just have to hold our breaths and keep waiting to saddle up again.
Where to buy Red Dead Redemption 2
You can now pre-order Red Dead Redemption 2 ahead of its October 27th release date. You’re in for some nice goodies if you decide to give Rockstar your cash early. All pre-orders for Red Dead Redemption 2 come with the War Horse mount and the Outlaw Survival Kit. The former is a grey-colored steed that has better courage and stamina than others, while the Outlaw Survival Kit gives you extra health kits, Dead Eye replenishment, and more.
If you pre-order the digital copy on PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, you’ll also get some extra in-game cash to start your game, as well as a treasure map, though you’ll need to pre-order the game by July 31st to get those.
There’s also a special edition of the game available. It comes with 2 extra side missions, a black thoroughbred horse, gameplay bonuses through medllian and talisman charms, in-game cash bonuses, gameplay boosts, and discounts, a gunslinger outfit, and three additional weapons. You’ll also get a real map of the game world.
If that’s not enough, the Ultimate Edition comes with everything that the Deluxe Edition does, but you can add two more in-game outfits, another black thoroughbred with an exclusive saddle, a Survivor camp theme for the game’s online mode, three additional free weapons, and XP bonuses for online play up to rank 25.
As an added bonus for Grand Theft Auto 5 players, all digital pre-orders also come with in-game currency for GTA Online. Standard Edition gets $500,000, Special Edition gets $1,000,000, and Ultimate Edition gets $2,000,000.
Then there’s the big kahuna reserved for the most die-hard Red Dead fans. It’s a full-blown Collector’s Box, a red-tinted metal tithing box with a lock and key that comes with an assortment of real world goodies. There’s a collectible coin, a double-sized puzzle, a red bandana, a treasure map, a pin set, commemorative playing cards, a real 150-page Wheeler, Rawson and Co. catalogue, and 12 collectible cigarette cards.
You can pre-order your preferred digital edition of Red Dead Redemption 2 at the PlayStation Store, Xbox Store, or direct from the Rockstar Warehouse. Those opting for the Collector’s Box, however, can only get it through the Rockstar Warehouse.
Wanting to catch up and play through the original Red Dead Redemption before the sequel drops? You can find the Game of the Year Edition for $20 at Amazon
Updated June 2018: We’ve added details about newly announced pre-order bonuses and special edition options for you to consider!
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June 7, 2018 at 11:36AM