What We Want From Red Dead Redemption 2
Following a couple of teases this week, Rockstar Games finally revealed Red Dead Redemption 2 earlier today. The follow-up to one of last generation's most beloved titles is set to hit in fall 2017, and while we don't know much, Rockstar did give several hints on the direction of its next massive game. The first description given by Rockstar is "an epic tale of life in America's unforgiving heartland." Rockstar goes on to talk about how it also plans to use that setting to deliver "a brand new online multiplayer experience."
According to Sam Houser, founder of Rockstar Games, the team wants to continue to push its vision for "interactive entertainment in a truly living world" that "builds upon everything [they've] learned making games." As the creators of some of the most lauded games of all time (including the best-selling game ever in Grand Theft Auto V), that is a lofty goal. We may not know what Rockstar wants to do with the next entry in the Red Dead series, but we have some ideas of what we'd like from Red Dead Redemption 2. Check out our wishlist below and let us know in the comments what you want from Rockstar's upcoming western.
More Masterful Storytelling
Red Dead Redemption might represent the peak of interactive storytelling in open-world games, focusing on one former-outlaw-turned-herder’s search for redemption in the dying days of The Old West. What worked so well about RDR’s story is that it managed to present a compelling perspective on the wonders and dangers of its historical inspiration while also introducing a memorable cast of characters, even minor roles like snake-oil salesman Nigel West Dickens and Bonnie.
Everything gels together well as protagonist John Marston hunts down the ring of bandits he used to run with and we watch him inch toward Red Dead’s memorable, poignant finale. To me, the original game’s story is like capturing lightning in a bottle; I’m not quite sure what Rockstar’s got up its sleeve when it comes to narrative in Red Dead Redemption 2 but I’m hoping that it can deliver another epic and moving experience set in The Old West.
Explore Native Stories
I hope that the game explores themes with the native populations apart from having them as simply background characters. Depending on when Red Dead Redemption 2 takes place, the game could further explore themes of genocide of those people and their way of life. This could also include the buffalo, how they are targeted by the U.S. government, and their importance to the native tribes. All of this could impact not only storylines, but the kinds of activities for the protagonist.
Innovate Open World... Again
I have a confession to make – I’ve been very underwhelmed by the level of innovation thus far in this console generation. I’ve played some great open world games like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, but I’d argue nothing has yet matched or bested Grand Theft Auto V – a game that released on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 way back in 2013. That leaves Rockstar to once again pick up its own torch and show us the future of open world game design.
I’m not going to tell Rockstar what to make or how to make it. Instead, all I hope is that they wow us with forward-looking technology, their unrivaled attention to detail, and that amazing Rockstar vibe, showing other development studios yet again how to dream big and execute at the highest level possible. Given the global studio’s sterling track record, I don’t feel like that’s too much to ask.
Evolve Beyond Grand Theft Auto V
Rockstar's press release for Red Dead Redemption 2 says the game is "developed by the creators of Grand Theft Auto V and Red Dead Redemption." Although Rockstar North is often cited as THE studio behind the Grand Theft Auto series, other studios, like Rockstar San Diego, are a key part of the development process. We don't know which studio is leading the charge, but just think of the collective knowledge and development muscle behind this title. Picture Red Dead Redemption with all of the bells and whistles from Grand Theft Auto V. With that game in mind, I suspect Red Dead Redemption 2 will be playable from both third- and first-person perspectives, and if the teaser image hints at anything, it will allow players to jump to different characters on the fly. Rockstar has always been a studio at the forefront of innovation, so just matching the advancements from Grand Theft Auto will likely just be the tip of the iceberg. If that's the case, make sure that saddle is securely fastened to your horse – we're about to go for one hell of a ride.
Tap The Heartland For Activities
Open world games thrive on the variety of activities and discreet options for engagement that are spread across its world, and it’s hard to think of a richer playground than America’s heartland in the midst of western expansion and settlement. The big advantage that Rockstar can tap into here is the bounty of locations, people, and events that characterized the setting, and treating those opportunities much like they did in the most recent Grand Theft Auto, building games and activities for any and all things players might want to try. I’d love to have a deep and dedicated activity about driving cattle across the Heartland. Let us settle in a small town and learn to be an artisan. Give us deep options for complex, territory-spanning bounty hunts. Join up with friends to form a posse to defend a beleaguered village. Transform the world we see in-game into a boundless sea of potential activities, and players will be happily overwhelmed and immersed.
Holster the Jokes
Red Dead Redemption stands apart from other Rockstar games for several reasons – the setting being one of the most obvious – but personally its overall tone is what makes it feel so different from the other open-world games the studio has created. I’ve had a lot of fun with Grand Theft Auto over the years, almost in spite of itself. Frankly, I don’t think the writing or social commentary in that series is particularly clever or funny.
Red Dead Redemption had light moments – most appearances from snake-oil salesman Nigel West Dickens come to mind – but its tone was far removed from the morning-zoo-crew style of humor that leaks throughout GTA. I’m hoping that Rockstar keeps the same spirit with Red Dead Redemption 2, and doesn’t try to puff up the sequel with more lame attempts at squeezing comedy from nihilism.
Deliver A True "Shared-World" Online Experience
I loved virtually everything about Red Dead Redemption (I named it my favorite game of last generation), but the one aspect I didn’t spend much time on was the online multiplayer. Red Dead’s competitive offerings frustrated me due to the game’s aggressive auto-targeting, the co-op mode hadn’t been implemented yet when I was playing, and there wasn’t a lot to do in free roam mode at the time other than shoot your way through the same handful of gang hideouts again and again.
So why am I so hopeful for RDR 2’s multiplayer? Two words – or rather one word and an acronym: GTA Online. Rockstar has redefined its approach to multiplayer in the past few years by devoting a ton of ongoing effort into expanding and enhancing GTA V’s online mode with new activities, tons of free content, and robust editing tools for players to make their own fun. Unlike Red Dead Redemption, GTA Online offers virtually all of the same excitement and activities as GTA V’s single-player world, plus tons of crazy multiplayer shenanigans. For RDR 2, I imagine exploring a new, giant swath of the western frontier, filled with the same kinds of stunning vistas and personal discoveries and encounters of the first game – but with the added benefit of other players seamlessly coming in and out of your game.
In a weird way, HBO’s Westworld provides a good blueprint. The show depicts a massive world full of NPCs who are ready to distract and entertain you with quests while you intermingle with friends and other humans. RDR 2’s online mode could function the same way, littering the world with quests and secrets that players could compete over, team up and discover together, or just pursue solo. Towns would act as social spaces where you could play cards, get into bar fights, or orchestrate gun duels at high noon – sometimes with NPCs and sometimes with other humans. Also like Westworld, Rockstar could add new, sweeping storylines to the online world over time. More traditional competitive and cooperative modes could also be offered, but it’s the idea of exploring and role-playing in a big open world with other players that offers the most promise, as Rockstar tackles its first current-gen game with all of the knowledge it has accrued from GTA Online.
What do you most want from Red Dead Redemption 2? Let us know in the comments section!