Like a stick of TNT exploding in an unlucky miner’s hand, Rockstar blew up social media this week. The impressive thing wasn’t that the Grand Theft Auto publisher wowed us by teasing what was eventually announced as Red Dead Redemption 2. It’s that it garnered more than 100,000 retweets and 200,000 likes with a single image featuring a stylized version of the company’s logo.
But for those of you who don’t understand the Red Dead hype or simply missed out on the original, we’re here to catch you up. Sure, there are spoilers ahead, but knowing how the story unfurls won’t rob you of the experience. And we can promise, Red Dead Redemption is quite the cowboy experience.
Glad you asked, partner. Yes, Red Dead Redemption 2 is the third game in the franchise. However, the original Red Dead Revolver (released in 2004 for Xbox and PlayStation 2) doesn’t connect narratively to 2010’s Red Dead Redemption. If you’ve got a hankering to revisit Red Dead Revolver, it is available with some visual enhancements on PlayStation 4.
You’ll need to rustle up an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3. You can purchase it digitally for both. If you happen to have an Xbox One instead, you’ll be happy to know that you can saddle up thanks to the backward compatibility feature.
Most of the game takes place in 1911. While the geography isn’t a perfect mirror of the real world, Red Dead Redemption takes place along the Rio Grande in Texas and Mexico, the deserts of Arizona, and the prairies of New Mexico and Arizona. You’ll have freedom to travel, hunt, and take on side missions across the expansive world.
Players step into the dusty boots of John Marston, who, like most Rockstar protagonists, has a dubious past that can’t easily be defined as “good” or “evil.”
Marston’s history as a bandit gang member is what lands him in hot water with the Bureau of Investigation. But even as he rode with his mentor Dutch van der Linde, Marston learned a code of honor. The gang robbed from the rich and gave to the poor, making them merry men on horseback.
While part of the gang, Marston met his wife Abigail. He leaves and settles down with her on a ranch, in the futile hope of leaving his past behind. The bucolic fantasy comes to an end when federal agents come knocking to demand John’s help in bringing his former compatriots to justice. Marston has no choice, with the safety of his wife and son the collateral for completing the job.
Along the way, we learn more about John through his interactions with other characters. He is loyal to his wife, even in the face of temptation. His views on racial equality are progressive, especially for the era. He treats others (especially women) politely, though he is not to be trifled with.
It’s crucial to remember throughout the game that despite all the side activities, the brief stories that bring us in and out of minor characters’ lives, and the countless dead bodies, Marston doesn’t relish his deeds. He takes momentary pleasure from tracking down and hog tying a wanted man or helping herd cattle, sure. But more than anything, he wants to be home with his wife and young son.
Sadly, when he does complete his mission and makes it home, the story isn’t quite over. Edgar Ross, one of the federal agents who conscripts Marston by kidnapping his family, completes his betrayal. John goes down in a hail of bullets, taking a number of Ross’ men with him (but not the instigator himself). His sacrifice, bursting out of the barn with guns blazing after sending Abigail and son Jack out the back on horseback, ensures that Ross will leave them alone.
If that’s where everything were to end, the story would be neatly wrapped up, with Marston walking the path back to the light. However, Rockstar doesn’t often go gently and the epilogue brings another kind of resolution.
Three years later, Jack Marston has grown into the spitting image of his father. Like a ghost, he stalks Edgar Ross to exact his revenge. On the shores of a river, the two face off, and the young man turns the blue water red with Ross’ blood.
We don’t know why Rockstar chose to make this a numbered sequel instead of finding another “R” word for the title. This hints that perhaps the stories are connected. Speculation suggests that Red Dead Redemption 2 could pick up with the rest of Jack Marston’s story. Alternatively, it could be a prequel, with the seven-member posse a glimpse back at John’s time in Dutch van der Linde’s gang.
The first teaser doesn’t reveal too much, unfortunately. We have a long time to go before Red Dead Redemption 2 arrives in Fall 2017, and we’ll certainly learn more along the way.