Originally announced close to a year ago, Red Dead Redemption 2 has been one of gaming’s most highly-anticipated titles for some time now, but even though it’s being released in Spring 2018, we still don’t really know all that much about it. Fortunately, we are now one step closer to getting the full picture of Rockstar’s plans for their sequel to the critically-acclaimed 2010 western game, as the publisher/developer just dropped a new story trailer into our collective laps. The major takeaways are that Red Dead Redemption 2 is a prequel featuring an all new playable protagonist, but there are other details that hint at what kind of activities we’ll be getting up to in the game.
Here’s my (highly speculative) breakdown of said trailer. Enjoy!
10. The New Protagonist is Definitely a Bad Guy
Perhaps the most surprising revelation from the Red Dead Redemption 2 trailer is that the game will feature a new protagonist named Arthur Morgan, which may disappoint some who were hoping for the chance to play as John Marston again (something that would technically be possible given this game’s status as a prequel). While we don’t really learn much about Morgan other than that he’s an important outlaw in Dutch’s gang — the same gang that Marston once rode with, in fact — it’s clear from his dialogue and actions that Morgan is being framed as much more of an antihero than Marston was and may in fact be a villain.
We see him repeatedly threaten and intimidate people, including civilians, and participate in illicit activities such as train robberies and murder. This is a bit of a change from John Marston, who was a former outlaw seeking redemption and a quiet, peaceful life with his family. Of course, I’m sure there’s more to Arthur Morgan than just being a one dimensional criminal, but it’s still interesting to see Rockstar cast an outright bad guy as the protagonist this time around.
As a further indicator that we’re not going to be as far west this time out, the RDR2 trailer contains footage of the game’s swamp environments, which of course means — crocodiles! There’s a brief shot of a crocodile (or is it an alligator?) surfacing from the swamp waters and snatching up an unsuspecting boar in its jaws, followed by a scene of three men sneaking through marshland to attack what appears to be a village. As if bears and cougars weren’t bad enough in the first game, it looks like we’ll now have crocs to contend with, alongside other creatures that call the swamp home (please don’t let there be any snakes).
8. Diverse Environments
Red Dead Redemption 2 is unmistakably a western but it looks like quite a bit of it will be set away from the rolling plains and desert vistas that predominately made up the original game’s environments. The trailer not only gives us a taste of a frontier version of New Bordeaux — the fictional, New Orleans-like town from Mafia 3 — but contains a rich diversity of environment types, from woodlands to swamps to snow-capped mountains.
Of course, the first game had quite a bit of environment diversity of its own, but most of it was saved until the third act when you traveled to the northern parts of the map. It’s still too early to say for sure, but it looks like RDR2 will feature a larger mix of different environments throughout the game, which should go a long way in helping the open world from feeling and looking stale.
7. Bow and Arrow
The trailer doesn’t offer much in the way of gameplay details, but one addition that’s hard to miss is the shot of Arthur using a bow and arrow to hunt wildlife. Hunting was a pretty integral part of the first Red Dead Redemption, so it’s hardly surprising to see it return for the sequel, but the inclusion of a bow suggests that stealth-based gameplay may now be possible. In the first game, it was pretty difficult to avoid alerting other animals to your presence since almost all the weapons in the game were firearms of some sort, but using a bow would be a good way to get around this. This could mean that enemy encounters will work differently as well, as you theoretically could use a bow to take out enemies silently without raising alarms.
I’ll be interested to see what other new weapons Red Dead Redemption 2 introduces but for now, I’m excited by the prospect of taking out cowboys with a well-timed arrow to the head — even if it is getting a bit ridiculous that every game seems to be all about bows these days, though to be fair, Red Dead Revolver had them long before games like Tomb Raider and Far Cry.
6. The Graphics Look Incredible
The first Red Dead Redemption was a gorgeous game for its time, especially when you take into account its open world design. Rockstar’s sequel looks to be keeping that visual legacy alive, as the trailer depicts some of the best graphics we’ve seen in a game like this. In typical Rockstar fashion, the whole thing has cinematic production values, with excellent facial animations and jaw-dropping vistas.
Granted, the trailer mostly consists of cinematics but they’re all in-engine and according to the official PlayStation Twitter account, the whole thing is captured on a PS4. If a PC version ever sees the light of day, I don’t think I’d be able to handle how gorgeous those visuals would be, but I think it’s fair to say that Red Dead Redemption 2 is going to be one of the best looking games on both PS4 and Xbox One when it ships this Spring.
5. Running From The Law
For a story trailer, not much is really revealed about the characters or what the big narrative push is in Red Dead Redemption 2. According to Rockstar, the game is “the story of outlaw Arthur Morgan and the Van der Linde gang as they rob, fight and steal their way across the vast and rugged heart of America in order to survive.” This is supported by Arthur Morgan’s narration, in which he states, “We got lawmen in three different states after us. They chased us from the west, they chased us over the mountains …”
The impression I get is that the game will revolve heavily around this idea of running from the law (shocker, I know), but this theme could even be present in the moment-to-moment gameplay. Perhaps law enforcement will be more present than they were in the first game and we’ll see something similar to the wanted rating in the Grand Theft Auto games. In some ways, this feels like the inverse of the first game, where John Marston was working with the authorities in order to bring the members of his former gang to justice, and as hinted at by the train robbery scenes, heists could also be a big part of the mission structure — another borrowed element from GTA V.
4. Returning Characters
The only two named characters who appear in the trailer are Arthur Morgan and Dutch, the latter of whom was of course present in the first game. So far, Dutch is the only confirmed returning character but there’s a very good chance we’ll see other familiar faces along the way. If Dutch is in the game, it’s not a stretch to imagine that Bill Williamson, another one of Marston’s old gang members, will be as well. There’s a chance we could also see some side characters from the first game pop up again — you have to think that snake oil salesman Nigel West Dickens will be peddling his wears somewhere — but the real question is whether John Marston will make an appearance …
3. No John Marston?
As mentioned above, the most shocking revelation of this trailer isn’t that Red Dead Redemption 2 is a prequel (most of us had already been assuming that for the last year), but that it features a whole new playable protagonist. This of course raises the question of whether or not John Marston is even in the game and if he is, how much will he be in it? The only way I could see the game getting away with not having Marston around is if the story is set during the time after Marston leaves the gang, but before the events of the original Red Dead Redemption. That being said, Rockstar is no doubt aware of just how much people liked John Marston, so I’d be very surprised if he’s not in the game in some capacity.
2. Intimidation Missions?
One thing we learn about new protagonist Arthur Morgan pretty early on in this trailer is that he really seems to enjoy intimidating people. This suggests to me that intimidation missions of some sort could be a repeated mission that shows up throughout the game, ie. shakedown this guy for money, intimidate this family to pay up their protection money, etc. Again, it’s really hard to get a sense of what the mission structure will be like in this game or what kind of activities we’ll be getting up to, but based on the footage released so far, there are going to be some missions that are going to make players a little bit uncomfortable with their actions and that’s an intriguing possibility.
It’s Not a Western Without a Good Old Fashioned Train Heist!
Train robberies are one of the biggest western tropes in the book, so it’s hardly surprising that locomotives show up more than once in this short trailer. We see Arthur Morgan and his gang stop a train at night, as well as a scene later in the trailer where Morgan fights someone on top of a moving train during daylight hours. I’m hoping this all suggests that trains will play a more important part in the sequel overall and that we’ll get to participate in at least one elaborate train heist before the credits roll!