After years of sandbox silence, Rockstar is finally saddling up for another epic, open-world Western. Red Dead Redemption 2 releases Fall 2017, and its lone trailer already points to a gorgeous game that once again taps into the rough yet romantic charm of the Old West. This cowboy follow-up has some pretty big spurs to fill, of course. The original Redemption is one of the most beloved games of all time. No pressure, guys.
While concrete details are still few and far between, there are plenty of nuggets buried away in the Red Dead 2 trailer that give hints towards when the game takes place and new forms of old timey travel. With GTA Online casting such a long (insanely profitable) shadow, Red Dead 2’s promised multiplayer will be looking to make a lasting impact. All we currently know is PS4 players will get access to , but other than that there’s no indication whether Red Dead 2’s online will be seamlessly woven around its campaign or not. At any rate, it’s time to dust off that six-shooter and buckle up, partner. This is going to be another epic ride.
Barring any nasty delays, you should be playing Rockstar’s sandbox sequel next holiday season. The is set for Fall 2017, with PS4 and Xbox One the only two currently listed formats. Rockstar has a reasonable record of making good on promised release dates, though both GTA 4 and GTA 5 slipped by a few months. Red Dead Redemption 2 has clearly been in development for years, though, so here’s hoping we’ll see Rockstar’s latest open-world Western by October/November 2017 at the latest.
If Max Payne 3 and GTA 5 are anything to go by, we should also get a PC version at some point in the (depressingly far off) future. We had to wait over six months to play Trevor and co’s sociopathic sandbox on our rigs, so if a port does happen, don’t expect it before summer 2018. As for beefed-up console versions, PS4 Pro support for Red Dead 2 seems a certainty. With Project Scorpio also due out by holiday season 2017, we wouldn’t be surprised to see a 4K-friendly version of the upcoming cowboy classic pop up on Microsoft’s semi-next-gen Xbox. Either way, at least the vanilla PS4 and Xbox One editions of Red Dead 2 should ship before the end of 2017.
No-one does lonely Wild West spectacle quite like Rockstar. Just rewatch the . Golden prairies that stretch as far as the eye can see. Cavernous valleys where eagles dominate the skies. Simmering deserts that immediately recall the iconic sights of Monument Valley. Rockstar sandboxes always contain exquisite lighting and insane incidental detailing, and its latest world looks like it’ll top everything that’s come before.
Red Dead 2 has strong foundations to build on, too. If you’re lucky enough to have the hardware, play GTA 5 on PC at 4K and tell us it’s not one of the most consistently gorgeous games ever made. Now consider that engine has benefitted from a few subsequent years of development, ageing like a particularly sumptuous (super shooty) wine, and there's every chance Red Dead Redemption 2 will be the prettiest open-world game ever made when it launches towards the end of 2017. At the very least, the trailer hints at a beautifully varied sandbox, filled with epic canyons, dense forests, and spectacular Old West vistas.
Look at the . Rockstar isn't promoting the game with a single, Marston-style figure. Instead, it’s seemingly prepping us for the very real possibility that Redemption 2 centres on an entire posse of outlaws. Rockstar North absolutely nailed GTA 5’s criss-crossing trio of leads, so why can't Red Dead 2 successfully integrate the seven characters hinted at in the trailer and promo art?
Everything we’ve seen so far - from the trailer’s parting shot to that previously mentioned sketch - suggest a number of outlaws will figure heavily in Red Dead 2. This wouldn't be uncharted territory for the franchise, either. After all, put you in the spurs of a good half dozen playable characters back in 2004.
Sure, Red Dead 2 won’t necessarily let you play every outlaw that stars in that stylish concept art. Yet at the very least, it looks like the game’s story will give each one of these antiheroes decent screen time. Westerns have a special relationship with the very specific number of scoundrels shown in the Red Dead 2 trailer, and we’ve no doubt swapping between a potential Magnificent (murderous) Seven cowboys would be a huge treat.
This looks pretty legit. Early last year, a was leaked on NeoGaf. The fidelity of the design, and specificity of the names on said map, only lend further credence to this being an accurate blueprint of the Western world we’ll hopefully all being roaming around towards the end of 2017.
Look closely at the leaked map, and you can see an area labelled ‘The Great Plains’. This significant chunk of prairie real estate was one of the most visually striking locales from the first Redemption - remember that sweeping valley with all the grazing buffalo?
The presence of islands and caravan sites on the leaked document are also interesting. Couple the former with the trailer shots of the canoe, and it would seemingly all but confirm boat travel is in Red Dead 2. The inclusion of caravan sites also suggest this is a less populated take on the Old West than the original Redemption’s. Again, this points towards Red Dead 2 taking place before Marston’s adventure, during a time when the American Frontier was still being discovered by European settlers.
The original Redemption was such a tender love letter to the dying throes of the Old West, it would be pretty bizarre if took place after Marston’s quest. The last game spanned 1911-1915, and even during this period modern civilisation was beginning to encroach on the ways of the West; be it whispered chatter about flying machines or early automobiles shuddering along the cobbled streets of Blackwater.
Based on footage from the Red Dead 2 trailer, it looks like this follow-up’s world is less advanced than Marston’s. Shots of a downtrodden streets show an old-timey local store and a passing horse-drawn carriage. The latter in particular suggests the game takes place before 1911.
If Red Dead 2 is a prequel, perhaps that means a young Marston could feature. Rockstar setting the game in the 19th century would also allow the developer to focus on events that really cemented the legacy of the Wild West, like the American Gold Rush of the 1850s. Whatever the theme, it seems unlikely Red Dead 2 will be set after 1915, and with the last game bidding adieu to the Old West in such emotional style, an earlier era celebrating the golden days of the Frontier would give Rockstar plenty of fresh material to tackle.
Red Dead 2 multiplayer details are thin on the ground - all the promises is a ‘brand new online multiplayer experience’. But C’mon, Rockstar would be mad not to build a Red Dead 2 multiplayer mode that apes . Rockstar’s break out phenomenon has netted the studio over half a billion dollars in just over three years; a figure fuelled by folk constantly buying in-game currency with actual money. GTA Online has been so stratospherically successful, such a relentless money-making machine, it seems unthinkable Rockstar wouldn’t want something similar for Red Dead Redemption 2.
The original Redemption was already blessed with a terrific (if overlooked) online mode. Though It doesn’t get talked about much, saddling up in eight-player posses, robbing stagecoaches and messing about in that pristine Western wilderness was a hoot. Whether Red Dead 2’s online multiplayer is seamlessly woven into the single-player campaign remains to be seen - god, drop-in/drop-out co-op would make for some fantastic missions. Perhaps Red Dead 2’s multiplayer will be its own separate entity, like GTA Online? Regardless of its final form, there’s little doubt multiplayer will be a huge deal in Red Dead 2. Half a billion bucks is a figure Rockstar and publisher Take-Two simply can’t ignore.
The big hero shot at the end of the heavily suggests the story revolves around a gang. If Rockstar’s latest open-world adventure is a prequel to the first Redemption, then said posse could well be Dutch van Der Lin’s crew; a group constantly referred to during Marston’s many musings last time out. Regardless of whether you saddle up with Dutch, it wouldn’t be that much of a shocker to see Red Dead 2 follow on from GTA 5 with more criminal-swapping missions.
Controlling and switching between multiple characters worked brilliantly in Blaine County, and the prospect of potentially hopping between various outlaws in Red Dead 2 is tantalising. Would Rockstar have the stones to allow you to control every one of the seven figures seen storming into the desert at the end of Red Dead 2’s trailer? Mechanically, it would be a big ask. Swapping between upwards of five characters could become a logistical nightmare, but Rockstar is nothing if not ambitious.
Even if you only play as a single outlaw - most likely the man seen standing in front of a burning oil field in the trailer - the tiny glimpses we’ve seen of Red Dead 2’s plot suggest a gang features heavily. Seeing as some of GTA 5’s best missions revolve around jumping between Michael, Franklin and Trevor on-the-fly - think back to the terrific Three’s Company, where you abseil into IAA headquarters - we’d love to see Rockstar (be it North or San Diego) take on set-pieces where you switch between more than one cowboy.
John Marston was not a strong swimmer. Hell, if the outlaw so much as dipped a toe in the waters of New Austin, swift (decidedly damp) death awaited. Thankfully, it looks like our outlaw(s?) will get along swimmingly - sorry - with the wet stuff in Red Dead Redemption 2. Rewatch the trailer, and about thirty seconds in you can quite clearly see two figures paddling upstream in a canoe.
Water played a big part in , whether it was daring, submerged scuba dives to bust into secret government facilities or scanning the ocean floor for nuclear waste in a mini-sub, so it wouldn’t surprise us to see river-based missions play a substantial role in Red Dead 2. Even the last game had a fantastic river quest. Remember We Shall Be Together in Paradise? It saw Marston venture into Nuevo Paraiso for the first time; his Mexican adventure kicking off in style as Irish helped the charismatic cowboy paddle upstream on a raft against a hale of bandito gunfire.
If the original Redemption can give us a great on-water mission - in spite of Marston’s suck ass swimming skills - surely Red Dead 2 and its canoes can serve up some H₂O treats? Providing another mode of transport other than horse riding would certainly make traversing Rockstar’s latest sandbox more diverse, too.
Will John Marston ride again in Red Dead Redemption 2? Check out these character theories
Red Dead showed us the death of the Wild West - here’s what should happen next
Red Dead Redemption was Rockstar's masterpiece... and still is