It’s looking more likely than ever that we’ll see the release of Red Dead Redemption 2 in the near future, with the sequel’s map reportedly having been leaked online, leading many to speculate that developer Rockstar is gearing up for an announcement this year.
With the original Red Dead Redemption being one of my favorite games of all time, there is plenty that I want to see from its successor. While I’m very confident that Rockstar will manage to surpass my expectations, here are some of the changes that could ensure it surpasses the original RDR, potentially making it Rockstar’s best game ever:
1. Morality system
Red Dead Redemption‘s biggest flaw, at least narratively, was that the player’s actions directly contradicted its plot throughout the bulk of the game. While protagonist John Marston was a hero (at least by the Wild West’s standards) in the game’s story, you could willfully shoot down innocent bystanders without any ramifications, with there even being an achievement handed to the player if they hogtied a woman, placed her on train tracks and witnessed her death. That you could do this and then go back to Marston’s story of desperately trying to forge a new life for his family and leave his crime-ridden past behind was jarring, to say the least.
Unfortunately, morality systems are becoming less prevalent in games as time goes by. Some may be happy to see this change, given that they often presented their own set of issues, but open-world games have yet to put anything in their place that satisfactorily replaces them. Fallout 4, for instance, limited player interaction with NPCs to a set number of dull dialogue choices that largely consisted of “I’ll help you,” “I won’t help you” or “sarcastic response.” While morality systems may not be perfect, they’re at least more enjoyable than this method, and more appropriate than linear cutscenes in which the player-character assumes the role of the hero, before they then goes on to mercilessly gun down unwitting pedestrians left, right and center.
Rockstar attempted to circumnavigate this latter issue by making Grand Theft Auto V‘s band of protagonists fundamentally unlikable, which also wasn’t exactly an ideal solution considering that the player was then forced to take this journey with them. While it was certainly interesting to play a triple-A game which let you control not one but three assholes, it ultimately made me care less about the game’s plot considering that everyone involved deserved whatever punishment was coming to them. My hope is that RDR2 doesn’t go this route (oh God, Rockstar, please don’t give us another Jack Marston) and that our hero this time around doesn’t need to be a hero who just so happens to hijack carts and wantonly shoot people in the face, nor do they need to be a GTA V-esque hateful individual that the player reluctantly controls. The implementation of a morality system would therefore solve this problem, by allowing players to effectively choose what kind of character they wanted to play as.
2. Train heists
When it was announced that a train would run throughout the world of Red Dead Redemption, it was assumed that players would be able to conduct train robberies, as bandits were wont to do in the American Old West. Unfortunately, despite the game’s promotional material explicitly claiming that this would be the case, train robberies were solely limited to the mission ‘The Great Mexican Train Robbery.’ It also didn’t help that this wasn’t a particularly exciting mission.
So in Red Dead Redemption 2, I am firmly hoping that train robberies will be available to partake in outside of specific missions, and will prove to be a lucrative activity for those who do so. In theory, they should really be the most fun ancillary activity in the entirety of the game, though they represented a wasted opportunity first time around after players discovered that they could board these locomotives and shoot everyone on board, but for no real reason other than to force John Marston to lean closer towards psychopathy. Hopefully, in RDR2, we’ll see longer train carts that player must hop onto from horseback, before successfully clambering atop them, gunning down enemies before taking out the driver and ransacking everyone on board. Kinda like Uncharted 2’s legendary train scene, then, only mercifully with fewer wisecracks.
3. A busier world.
Red Dead Redemption is arguably the most gorgeous game world Rockstar has ever created, with it still holding up six years after its release mostly as a result of its stunning art direction. However, its desolate Wild West environment ensured that there wasn’t the vast amount of extra-curricular activities players are typically afforded by the developer’s other open-world series, Grand Theft Auto. This was overlooked at the time given the number of unique features Rockstar introduced to make its world appear “busier,” including a simplistic ecosystem that pitted predatory animals against the player-character, NPCs and other animals, weather effects that altered depending upon where you were located within its world, and a heap of side-quests and additional quests that kept the player moving forward regardless of its sparse setting.
However, RDR existed in a time when open-world games weren’t a dime a dozen, which cannot be said of 2016. It seems that every couple of months we’re treated to another huge open-world game, so much so that even by the end of 2015 people began to vocally express how they were keen to see more linear action games, something which the triple-A gaming industry has mostly avoided in recent years. RDR2 has its work cut out for it, then, with 19th century America not exactly being the ideal host for a bustling environment, and with Rockstar unable to fill it to the brim with content as they have with the likes of Grand Theft Auto V.
RDR still stands out as a unique oddity in the open-world genre, as it didn’t have an issue with allowing players to take a moment to bask in their surroundings. Compared to the hustle and bustle of the likes of Rockstar’s own GTA series, there was plenty of time for quiet reflection in RDR‘s environment, which the game actively encouraged by way of the lengthy journeys to new areas it tasked players with embarking upon. While I hope that this isn’t absent in the sequel, especially considering how excited I am to see Rockstar rendering its environment using the new technology afforded to them by current-gen consoles and PCs, there is going to need to be significant changes in order to ensure that an industry filled with open-world games can maintain interest in something that may not aim to keep them constantly stimulated for 20 hours.
4. Red Dead Redemption Online
Rockstar’s GTA Online, the multiplayer component of Grand Theft Auto V, is flawed but fun. It’s suffered from multiple problems since it was launched, from server issues through to a notable lack of things to do within its world, but it’s still done just about enough to warrant a wide-ranging audience and bundles of cash in microtransactions for its creators. With that being said, it’s very likely that Red Dead Redemption 2 will receive its own similarly robust online mode, but hopefully one that doesn’t simply fall in line with the foundations Rockstar has laid in GTAV.
GTA is all about the obtaining of wealth and then flaunting it. This is reflected in GTA Online, with players encouraged to go out and buy themselves the best weaponry, clothes, apartments, and vehicles. As such it’s incredibly superfluous yet still admirably successful, but the driving motivation behind the game – showing off your wares to others – simply isn’t befitting of the RDR Wild West setting. While wealth is still obviously important within the context of the Old West, having a gold-plated horse and a mansion would be tonally disparate from the kind of environment Rockstar cultivated in the original RDR. As such, I feel that a less ambitious and more streamlined approach would be favorable, with players still able to form bandit gangs with their friends, but with its multiplayer not serving to undermine its setting.
If GTA is about criminality in the pursuit of selfish monetary worth, then RDR is about criminality in the pursuit of survival. If RDR2 is going to ape GTA Online with an expansive multiplayer suite, this shouldn’t be overlooked, and if Rockstar is going to look towards a microtransaction-focused online component – as will likely be the case – then perhaps RDR Online would benefit from players plugging in their time and effort in order to ensure they’re more well-equipped for hostile takeovers, rather than to ensure they’ve got the best-looking horse in the game. Theoretically, this could mean that the apartments of GTA Online could be replaced with settlements that players take control of and then defend, with other players able to hop into your play session in an attempt to steal your goods and equipment in these settlements, while you and your friends defend what you’ve gathered. This could present opportunities for players to work towards obtaining better defenses in order to ensure the impact of these takeovers is minimized, or work towards raising the profile and equipment of their own gang in order to ensure they’re more successful when they attempt a takeover themselves. This is a hypothetical scenario, of course, but something along these lines would certainly make more sense than players striving towards being able to put a unicorn in their stable or something similarly ostentatious.
5. A solid PC port
PC owners were left frustrated by the length of time it took Rockstar to release a PC port for Grand Theft Auto V, but the end result was the best version of the game available. Though the developer fluffed the PC version of GTA IV, they righted that wrong by not only fine-tuning GTA V‘s already stunning visuals for PC gamers, but by also offering a selection of great new features including its remarkable movie maker mode, the Rockstar Editor.
Red Dead Redemption has never been released on PC, which has been something of a sore spot for PC owners. However, with Rockstar now proving that they can release great PC ports of their games, there should be nothing stopping Red Dead Redemption 2 making its way to Steam in the near future. Though it will be hoped that it will be released within the same time period as the PS4 and Xbox One versions of the game, if Rockstar decides to release a more comprehensive port then I’m sure many PC owners will be more than happy to wait a little while.