Breaking Down The Red Dead Redemption 2 Trailer

by Matt Bertz on Oct 22, 2016 at 12:00 PM

We just got our first, brief glimpse of Rockstar’s return to the wild west. The trailer opens with several idyllic environmental shots of the frontier, backed by a soft, violin and piano-driven score, ending with a shot of an armed posse on horseback charging across the plains toward snow-covered mountains. So what should we make of the early look at Red Dead Redemption 2? We performed a shot-by-shot analysis of the trailer to extract any intel we could possibly find. Read on to learn more:

Signs Point To Late 1800s Setting
A few clues in the trailer helped us triangulate the timeframe in which Red Dead Redemption 2 takes place. In the shot of Worth’s General Store, you can see an electric light lining the muddy street. The earliest use of electric street lighting in the United States was 1880. That is also the relative time period many oil fields started popping up in the heartland, which we see in another shot later in the trailer. The large buffalo herd implies that this may take place before the species nearly went extinct around the turn of the century, with a mere 300 bison in existence by 1900. These signs point to Red Dead Redemption 2 being set before the events of the original, which took place in 1911.

Rockstar Technology Takes Another Leap Forward
Grand Theft Auto V is still one of the most stunning open-world games you can buy, and Red Dead Redemption 2 looks to continue that legacy. Many of the gorgeous vistas from the American frontier on display almost look like cinematic stills from famed directors like Alejandro Inarritu (The Revenant) and Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood), from the sun piercing through the forest canopy to the burning oil fields. Perhaps the most impressive shot in the trailer is the campfire with an amazing skybox of the Milky Way galaxy above. 

Get Ready For A Vibrant Wildlife Ecosystem
Throughout the trailer, we saw grazing deer, roaming buffalo, herded cattle, a fox-like animal attacking a rodent, soaring birds, and vultures picking away at a coyote carcass as a dog barks angrily in protest. The pervasive nature of the wildlife hints at a fleshed-out ecosystem where animals hunt and scavenge others independent of whatever else is going on in the open world. This may likely be a key component to Rockstar’s promised “truly living world.” This should play well into the hunting system, which was one of the many highlights from the last game.

American Heartland Has Very Diverse Environments
The Red Dead Redemption 2 announcement teased “an epic tale of life in America’s unforgiving heartland.” Judging by the trailer, this heartland looks quite expansive. The settings we’ve already seen include dense forests, rolling prairies, meandering river valleys, lakes, snowy peaked mountains, the aforementioned oil fields, and dusty plateaus. This hints that the game could cover a wide swath of the American Midwest, stretching from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi river. 

Increased Native American Involvement?
Native Americans played a minor role in Red Dead Redemption. Given the “American heartland” setting of the sequel, the lands that some of the most prolific tribes called home, there’s a great chance they play a larger role in the experience this time around. One shot from the trailer shows a dreamcatcher in the foreground as two people paddle a canoe along the bank of a lake or large river. We feel there is a lot of potential in exploring that natural friction that occurred between the settlers and the natives, so here’s to hoping Rockstar integrates it into its narrative.

Changing Seasons
In the same scene where we see the dreamcatcher and the canoe, we see a solitary leaf falling from a tree. Maybe a squirrel rustled it from the branch as it ran through the tree, but perhaps it signals that RDR 2’s open world is dynamic enough to support the changing of the seasons. We would love to see how gameplay would be affected by dangerously low temperatures and deep snowbanks covering the plains and mountain passes.

Who Are The Outlaws?
By the end of the GTA V teaser trailer, we had a good feel for the background of at least one of the game’s protagonists. No such luck with Read Dead Redemption 2. The trailer showcases several people riding alone in the countryside, returning to the farm from a hunt, visiting town, camping in the forest along a riverbank, mounting a horse at a cattle ranch, and one mysterious man with his back to the camera watching something burn. None appear to be repeat characters, leaving us to wonder which may be the next star. The trailer wraps with a shot of seven armed outlaws riding across the plains with their weapons drawn, surely a harbinger for future teases to come. Is this a posse that players control and/or recruit? Is it seven cooperative players in an experience that seamlessly blends the narrative and online elements of Rockstar open worlds? And is that a woman on the far right? 

All of these questions must wait until Rockstar gives us our next look at what is surely the most anticipated game on the horizon from here forward.