It’s been eight years since Rockstar released, an open-world, story-based shooter set in the Wild West for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Most gamers consider it to be a modern masterpiece, and some (myself included) even herald it as one of the best games ever made.
That’s why people are so excited for Red Dead Redemption 2, the long-awaited follow-up that’s finally set to arrive for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One gamers later this year. First announced in October of 2016, the sequel actually looks to be a prequel set before the events of the first game, and with the annualcoming up in just a few weeks, it’s likely that we’ll know more about it quite soon.
For now, here’s a quick rundown of what we know to help get you caught up.
What’s Red Dead Redemption all about?
Developed by Rockstar Game — the same studio behind marquee franchises like Grand Theft Auto and Max Payne — the original Red Dead Redemption was an open-world Western set in 1911 that cast you as John Marston, a complex and conflicted former outlaw forced to hunt down his old crew after the government takes his wife and son hostage.
The game was developed using the same engine as Grand Theft Auto 4, and it borrowed the same basic story-driven mission structure of that franchise. As you gallop your way through the gorgeous open world, you encounter a wide cast of memorable characters, many of whom enlist you on tasks and missions that help move the plot forward. Along the way, you’re free to explore, hunt wildlife, trade with the locals, visit the saloon for a quick game of Liar’s Dice and countless other open-world opportunities.
The game was notable for the vast landscapes and breathtaking vistas of its map, which takes you through a surprisingly diverse mix of Western-influenced settings — everything from dusty ghost towns and Mexican mesas to serene prairies and snowy mountain trails populated with lumbering grizzlies. This writer has many fond memories of evenings spent exploring the terrain on a trusty steed, often chasing a blazing sunset over the horizon on my way to the next story mission. It wassans the dystopic existentialism (more shotguns, fewer shoguns).
Also notable: the game’s freshly refined shooting mechanics, which represented a significant step forward from what Rockstar fans were used to in the Grand Theft Auto franchise at that point. Gamers still enjoy that Red Dead approach to gunslinging today, as Rockstar incorporated much of it into future hits like.
Where does Red Dead 2 pick up? Is Marston back?
From the looks of it, the Red Dead Redemption sequel is actually a prequel that takes place 12 years before the events of the first game. We’ve yet to see any sign of John Marston in any of the trailers — instead, our hero appears to be a new character named Arthur Morgan, a debt collector for the Van der Linde gang. Fans familiar with the franchise will recognize that as Marston’s old crew, so it seems possible if not likely that Marston will somehow factor into the plot, but we don’t know that for sure yet.
The trailer footage we’ve seen so far does show that we’ll be seeing other familiar faces, including a younger version of gang leader Dutch Van der Linde, as well as the seedy outlaw Bill Williamson, Marston’s initial target from the first game.
It’s also worth noting that this will actually be the third game in the Red Dead franchise. The first, 2004’s Red Dead Revolver, was initially developed by Angel Studios before Rockstar acquired the company and released the game. It’s more of a spiritual predecessor to the Redemption games than anything else, though some of the themes and mechanics, like Quickdraw, which lets you slow time and highlight multiple targets for a rapid multi-shot strike, have carried over.
When does it come out, and how can I play it?
After initially pitching a Fall 2017 release, Rockstar pushed Red Dead Redemption 2’s release back. The game’s creators have insisted that there will be no further delays, so we’re expecting that date to hold as October draws near.
The game will launch on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles, but it’s still unclear if we’ll be able to play it on PC, too. The original never made it to PC, but recent triple-A titles from Rockstar, like Grand Theft Auto 5 and LA Noire, have. A PC port is something that fans are clamoring for (there’s even a petition on change.org that’s getting close to its 75,000 signature goal), but with Rockstar largely a no-show at E3, don’t be surprised if we don’t hear anything about PC availability at the show.
I’ll also be curious to hear about things like multiplayer and any plans for post-launch content. The original Red Dead Redemption featured a multiplayer mode that let you get into shootouts with your friends, and while Rockstar offered a complete core game at launch, it also ended up offering a fun, standalone offshoot game called Undead Nightmare that had John Marston scrambling to contain a Wild West zombie plague. And while Rockstar, again, doesn’t have a real standalone presence at E3, it’s quite possible that we could see fresh details on potential for Red Dead 2 multiplayer modes talked up at the Xbox or PlayStation press conference.
You can also check out GameSpot’s coverage of Red Dead Redemption 2 and Giant Bomb’s coverage of Red Dead Redemption 2.