It’s official. This time next year we’ll be saddling up, riding out and reaching for the skies. Rockstar are bringing us a sequel to the hugely successful – not to mention utterly sublime – Red Dead Redemption. But what do we really want from the open-world western besides a more imaginative title than Red Dead Redemption 2?
At first, that title might imply a continuation of original hero John Marston’s adventures. Or a look back at past misadventures with his old gang. But hell, GTA V didn’t continue the illegal undertakings of GTA III’s Claude. And anyway, as much as I love John, after 6 years apart, I’d like to see who Rockstar can introduce us to next. Unless that character is Jack Marston. In which case, you can piss right off.
The only games I’ve spent more time on – or in – are Skyrim and Left 4 Dead 2 (with a notable nod to Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins, which I hammered hard on the Gameboy). For hours at an end I lived, breathed and embraced life as a cowboy. Fuck me, I even enjoyed herding cattle that one time. It was an experience I’d never had in a game before; I was free, rounding up a posse and trample beautiful, natural landscapes on horseback under a crisp, blue New Austin sky.
With that in mind, here’s 8 things Red Dead Redemption 2 could do with (and one it could definitely do without)…
A Red Dead Story That Moves Us
One of the true highlights in the original game was its story – but I would say that, I’m a narrative nerd. It was chockful of character development, literary themes and was so well-written that it almost brought me to tears (OK, I admit it, it did bring me to tears). Red Dead Redemption was one of the first games that felt mature. Not mature in the bloody Manhunt sense, and certainly not mature in the thought-provoking way that Fragments of Him was. But compared to the joyously anarchic GTA’s previously, this was an adult tale of a seriously flawed man doing what’s right, but not easy, in a lawless and corrupt world. Let’s see what Rockstar’s made of after the satirical social commentary of GTAV.
Huge Open World
There isn’t a patch of land in New Austin that I haven’t rode along with my trusty steed. When the game went backwards compatible on Xbox One, I could still take you on a detailed tour and not get lost along the way. But even after all the hours, I put in, I’d still love an excuse to spend even more of them in RDR2’s map, so let’s go large, with even more random encounters, tumble-down buildings and towns that don’t look too kindly on strangers, you hear? And if you want to make a persistent open-world multiplayer too, you go right ahead and do it – I got faith in you, R*.
From the off, I always thought that Red Dead Redemption’s multiplayer lobby system, which placed you directly into an online New Austin, was the start of a new way to play. GTAV pretty much confirmed that, throwing you straight into an online version of Los Santos and letting you choose what you want to do from there. Better than a boring old menu, right? So when the multiplayer kicks off, let us join massive posses in a world filled with a Battlefield-style number of players. Because, man, posse-ing up with friends in RDR was the most seamless and enjoyable I’ve ever experienced. Also, more challenges, because having to hunt down 5 wild rabbits and pick 10 red sage is a neat time-sink when you’re waiting for others to join you.
A Rag-Tag Cast of Characters
Sure, the Red Dead Redemption 2 story needs to be brutally good, but it’s nothing without a collection of insane characters driving it forward. The sunset image implies we’ll be getting precisely that – although whether they’re heroes or villains remains to be seen. Chancers like Nigel West-Dickens, souses like Irish, and the ridiculously kick-ass Bonnie MacFarlane made exploring Red Dead even more magical (although most antagonists in the original were far less well-defined and characterful). But in the same way GTA: Online does now, let’s see all the new guys pop up in multiplayer and tie it all together like the Dude’s rug.
An Exciting Second Act
…Because I can’t remember a single character from the Mexican Army. Can you? Crossing the border into Mexico was one of the finest moments in gaming. Still shivering from the chills. But it was all downhill from there (literally, as it happens), as John’s sorry story began to sag. The concept of assisting a coup was rock solid, but the cookie-cutter missions just didn’t whip me up into a frenzy like before. Besides, I’d grown to love my wacky old cohorts in America – and here we were with new, far less memorable, less sympathetic crew.
You know it’s going to happen anyway. How else will they be able to sell you the Old West equivalent of a Shark Card? ‘The Dollars Trilogy’ outfit pack – you read it here first.
Optional RPG Elements
Maybe it was just me, but at the end of every session, I’d say farewell to my posse and ride my horse. it was the house on the back-left of the circle on MacFarlane’s ranch. I wasn’t just playing cowboy; I was a damn cowboy in my own foolish head, RPG-ing in a third-person action-adventure. Rockstar toyed with RPG elements in GTA: San Andreas, and swiftly dropped them in subsequent outings. Keeping an eye on hunger, thirst and physical fitness while upping your driving and shooting skills may not be for everyone, but gimme a choice. That includes…
Old West Properties
Let us own houses in every town the Old West allows. Let us buy up vast tracts of land, acres of the stuff. Hell, let us own towns and either protect the inhabitants or rule by fear. Take that wish fulfilment fantasy you guys work so well in GTA, and apply it here. I always fancied being a benevolent railroad baron and a goldmine owner and a…
No More Cougars
The shriek of a pouncing cougar still haunts me. The damn things came so close to ruining that spectacular moment when you’re riding back home for the first time, and their one-hit kills still terrify me. And then You son-of-a-bitches reintroduced them in GTAV. It’s like you’re trolling us… which, knowing Rockstar’s sense of humour, is probably true.