We always knew Xbox One’s backwards compatibility was good for more than just niche arcade games. Red Dead Redemption showed us that. Languishing at #3 on Microsoft’s most-requested BC games, Rockstar’s beautiful open-world western has finally made it on the list. Well, half of the game has, anyway.
That kick-ass single-player is still one of the best games we’ll ever play experience.
But the hell happened to that amazingly well-realised multiplayer?
‘Hey! Listen!’ Check out 8 Things We Need in Red Dead Redemption 2 (And 1 Thing We Don’t)
These days anything other than a private free roam is a bust, and even that needs to be accessed by entering the single-player first. So long as you’ve got friends playing online at that time, you’re sound. Public servers are infested with invisible players who rack up infinite XP and shoot on sight (if you’re not stuck on loading screen all night). You can check out the full details here, but the upshot is, the rot set in back in 2014, when hackers decided gamers had 4 years of unbroken fun and enough was enough. A literal zombie virus involving a nightmarish screaming NPC, kinda like ‘corrupted blood’ in WoW, spread from server to server, with players the unwitting carriers.
No more playable multiplayer.
What’s your game, Rockstar?
We’re not convinced this is very fair. In fact, we’d go as far to say this is near-criminal (kinda, sorta, let’s not give in to hyperbole just yet). There are two major reasons for this. The first is financial.
If you buy a second-hand game that came out years ago and no-one ever really plays, you half-expect the multiplayer to be dead (seriously, pick up James Bond: Bloodstone and see if you can get a multiplayer match). Keeping the servers running costs money, and eventually, if a game’s not selling – and if the studio isn’t actively advertising it – they have to be switched off. That’s not what’s happened here. Sure, RDR is an old game, released in 2010, but people weren’t picking it up cheap in the pre-owned section of Game or EB. They were buying it new, and in good faith.
Both Microsoft and Rockstar heavily trailed the backwards compatibility on social media, and even offered the game up in the Xbox Ultimate Sale for less than 10 dollars, with most of the MP DLC being free. Meanwhile, over at Amazon, the game made a relative killing, with sales surging by more than 6000%. Gamers were positively encouraged to buy the game. They spent out on a goddamn turkey.
But if that don’t sting enough, remember it’s not just money that gamers have lost. It’s all those incredible experiences, of joining your friends or pitching up with a random posse and trekking across the plains and prairies like true legends of the west.
The Old West Experience
We admit it, when we think about Red Dead Redemption we get a little nostalgic. The game’s ending still lingers on, haunting us. And we feel the same about the social aspect of the multiplayer (RIP, etc.).
The vast, beautifully rendered open-world of New Austin acted not only as a lobby in which to join game modes like co-op missions and gang shootout; free roam was a game mode in its own right, in which you could join a posse with other players, conqueror NPC-riddled gang hideouts or go toe-to-toe with outlaw gamers (commonly known as dickheads). Want to kill a few hours doing everything and nothing, then hit up some time-sink challenges in your journal, like killing rabbits or picking flowers – activities that have no right to be as enjoyable as they are because it’s not the destination, it’s the hunt and journey for that desert sage, shooting up saloons along the way. It was an RPG that never meant to be.
Unlike plenty of other old-gen games, with their blocky character models and lack of textures, even today RDR’s graphics can inspire and impress. They’re staggeringly detailed for its age – something we never fully appreciated at the time, as it pushed technological boundaries that Rockstar only surpassed three years later, with GTAV’s console releases.
It was the true precursor to GTA: Online without the generous free updates or the piss-takingly joyless Shark cards. You and your crew parking up along the Los Santos shoreline in pimped and modded sports cars is sweet AF, but it’s not nearly as visceral as when your posse saddles up shoulder to shoulder, Stetson to Stetson, bolt-action rifles in hand. Those are moments and memories that can’t be replicated today with a multiplayer as utterly fucked as Red Dead Redemption’s.
And that’s the biggest crime here.
So what’s the real reason Red Dead Redemption went backwards compatible? Well, it’s mostly Microsoft’s doing, since it’s their tech-heads who work their emulation magic. It looks great for them, a coup that their console rivals can’t beat, yet. But we wouldn’t put it past the uber-secretive Rockstar to tee-up gamers for a new western ride.
We’re tempted to suggest that the real reason for RDR’s glorious console return was to boost awareness. Think of it as a lead-in to re-familiarise audiences just before the sequel announcement, like the remastered original Stars Wars trilogy did before The Phantom Menace. Only actually good.
But however much we want to take to the plains once more, in a new game, the fact that the current multiplayer is a bust breaks our hearts. In a weird and frankly sociopathic way, it’s like discovering that someone’s entered your room and burnt your childhood bedroom down. Smarts, don’t it? That was your bedroom! That was where you learnt about the world, where you socialised with friends you thought you’d keep for life, where you matured.
You should be angry about that.
You should be angry on behalf of everyone who never had a chance to discover RDR multiplayer the first time around. Of course, you can sign the petition to get the multiplayer fixed right here, but won’t change anything, ’cause what was the last petition you remember that actually changed the world?
It’s not about the way these guys gleefully and knowingly took our money without so much of a heads-up – and it’s true that the single-player is worth the price of admission alone. But it’s the absolute loss of the memories, the experience.
After all, that’s where we first learnt to ride, play poker, and disarm a man with a single bullet.