Red Dead Redemption 2 is Almost Certainly a Prequel

Why all signs point to Red Dead Redemption's sequel taking place during an earlier chapter in John Marston's life.

Article by Kat Bailey, .

It's finally happening: A Red Dead Redemption sequel is on the way (though I almost wish it were this instead). After a lengthy hiatus, Rockstar is heading back to the Old West. But where can they take the series next?

Quick spoiler alert before I continue: I'll be talking about the end of Red Dead Redemption. Proceed at your own risk.

When we last left John Marston, he had posthumously left the family business in the hands of his son, having perished in a bloody last stand at the hands of the government. His had been a tale of redemption as he tried to make amends for his outlaw lifestyle. But in the end, he couldn't escape his past.

Marston's death leaves the series at a bit of an impasse. One of Red Dead Redemption's major themes was the death of the Old West, and it was filled with imagery suggesting that the book had been closed on people like Marston. Remember the minigun? That was only the tip of the iceberg. Red Dead Redemption concludes in 1914—the first year of World War I. There's not a lot of fertile ground there for a series set in the Wild West.

So, as most people are speculation, it will probably go backward—to the days when John Marston was still an outlaw running with Dutch van der Linde, one Red Dead Redemption's major antagonists. Rockstar has added fuel to the fire by posting a second teaser image featuring a group of gang members.

As Marston explained in Red Dead Redemption, Dutch's gang styled themselves as Robin Hood outlaws who would steal from the rich and give to the poor. They told themselves that they were making a difference, but they were mostly there to rob, kidnap, and otherwise wreak havoc across the frontier. The criminal who thinks he's one of the good guys but it slowly corrupted is one of Rockstar's favorite themes—see Grand Theft Auto IV—and one that they could perhaps do more justice to in a hypothetical Red Dead sequel.

Such an approach would also make sense in light of the advances made by Grand Theft Auto V. GTA V notably starred three protagonists scattered throughout Los Santos—a feature that could plausibly be expanded to encompass the seven characters in Rockstar's teaser image. It was also lauded for its heists, which were consistently cited as one of its best features. When planning a heist, you would determine what approach you would take (stealthy or guns blazing), hire operatives to give you a hand, and perform several setup missions before finally executing the grand finale, which was almost always immensely satisfying. This structure would mesh rather nicely with a hypothetical prequel in which you robbed trains and other high-profile Old West targets.

In fact, it's almost too perfect. It's obvious that I wouldn't be surprised if Rockstar decided to surprise us with something completely different. For all we know, John Marston won't feature in Red Dead Redemption 2 at all, which wouldn't be shocking in light of Rockstar's tendency to create new characters for their games. Maybe Rockstar will even exchange black hats for white hats, and your crew will be akin to the Magnificent Seven. Hell, maybe they'll all be robots.

Whatever approach they decide to take, I hope they are faithful to the spirit of the original, with all of its crazy frontier folk, persistent hangings, and ninja cougars. Absent the jaunt through Mexico, Red Dead Redemption's frontier really was a treat. I look forward to going back.

Can Red Dead Redemption 2 recapture the magic of the original?

No matter where Rockstar takes their much-anticipated sequel, they face a tough challenge: living up to the novelty and majesty of the original game. Red Dead Redemption is widely considered Rockstar's magnum opus, and for good reason—it was subtler and smarter than its modern day counterpart, utilizing its historical setting to great effect. It is in many respects gaming's definitive western.

Red Dead Redemption's appeal was in its beautiful and lonely landscapes, its harsh and unforgiving wildlife, and its often rather creepy sidestories (spoiler: everyone living in the frontier is evidently crazy). There was also a lot to do. Poker, for instance, was a shockingly addictive way to while away the hours. Its lack of density was ultimately a strength, as the world felt more organic—the closed buildings common to GTA were much less noticeable in Red Dead Redemption.

The area where it could use the most improvement is in its pacing. Red Dead Redemption was rife with long, boring shootouts, particularly in the Mexico section of the game. It felt a little more padded out than it probably should have, so hopefully the sequel will be tighter. Heists should help in that regard, assuming they make it in the game.

Criticism aside, I'm a much bigger fan of the Red Dead universe than GTA. Rockstar likes to go big, bold, and crass with GTA, making the lighter touch they've demonstrated with Red Dead Redemption a breath of fresh air. If I buy any Rockstar game, it'll be this one.

As always, Rockstar will keep their plans for Red Dead Redemption 2 close to their chest, building anticipation with a slow drip of information. With the release date currently slated for 2017, they may not show their hand until next year. It'll be a long wait.

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Comments 11

  • Avatar for Ralek #1 Ralek A year ago
    "Criticism aside, I'm a much bigger fan of the Red Dead universe than GTA. Rockstar likes to go big, bold, and crass with GTA, making the lighter touch they've demonstrated with Red Dead Redemption a breath of fresh air. If I buy any Rockstar game, it'll be this one."

    I'd agree with that with the exception of GTAV. The heists were really great, drawing heavy influence from stuff like Heat quite obviously and generally speaking, the multi-pov approach and the mission design, was truly excellent.

    If they can add these elments to RDR 2, then this game is going to be amazing, and as the article states, the heists seem like a natural fit for this to say the very least. In fact, I was always disappointed with the lack of "heists/robbery mechanics" in RDR. I wanted to do stuff like robb trains and banks, but unfortunately, the game didn't offer much in that regard. Something that always feel counterintuitiv to me.

    If I recall correctly, RDR was the last game I ever preordered, so ... chances are RDR2 is going to break that streak ^^
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  • Avatar for cldmstrsn #2 cldmstrsn A year ago
    Wait. What was wrong with Mexico? I loved that part where the music starts to play as you head into Mexico. Still gives me chills. After that it seemed more of the same which isnt a bad thing.Edited October 2016 by cldmstrsn
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  • Avatar for Captain-Gonru #3 Captain-Gonru A year ago
    I wouldn't mind them stepping a bit further back into the past than simply "younger Marston". It seems like some of the early West and its promise versus its reality could be fodder for some interesting storytelling.
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  • Avatar for Dastuun #4 Dastuun A year ago
    It would be difficult to play a Red Dead with someone else voicing Marston, and Rob Wiethoff made it pretty clear he wasn't coming back. Alas.

    That said, it seems too obvious, but is that John third from the left? Presumably Dutch is in the middle, and Bill would be... third from the right?

    Nah. Looks like a different crew. Whatever it turns out to be, my body is ready.

    Hit me, Rockstar.

    Err... just don't force me to do too many of those doggone horse races...

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  • Avatar for PerfectUgly #5 PerfectUgly A year ago
    Boy, a one-year, pre-release announcement. THAT is a long time to wait (though almost certainly worth it when it finally gets here).

    Hopefully, Rockstar will give us a re-release of RDR1 for the current gen consoles to ease the wait.

    And ... you know ... reacquaint us with our revolver.
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  • Avatar for PerfectUgly #6 PerfectUgly A year ago
    @Captain-Gonru Chronologically, events of RDR1 occurred near the END of the Wild West, so pulling us towards a prequel seems like a good move. And if the storytelling can aspire to even equal the masterful interplay of GTA 5, I'm good with it.

    Clearly, RDR1 was a structural template for GTA5. They just took it to the next level with multiple characters and some of the richest tongue-in-cheek storytelling on the market.
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  • Avatar for PlatypusPlatoon #7 PlatypusPlatoon A year ago
    @cldmstrsn I agree, that folk song from Jose Gonzalez fading in right after you're banished to Mexico caught me by surprise, in a good way, and is one of the most memorable moments in any game that I've played. I remember bringing my horse to a slow trot and just soaking in the atmosphere of the environment, which is something I hadn't done until that point in the game.

    Whatever they do with the sequel, I hope they bring back Jose Gonzalez for an encore.
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  • Avatar for The-Mike-Staub #8 The-Mike-Staub A year ago
    It would make more sense if the next Red Dead game was either a prequel to Redemption or takes place earlier. It doesn't necessarily have to be a prequel, it can just be another game in the same universe. I believe RDR ended in like 1910 or 1911. That's a little late for the guslinger, it would make more sense if it went a bit earlier, maybe 30-40 years earlier.
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  • Avatar for docexe #9 docexe A year ago
    Red Dead Redemption became my favorite Rockstar game ever and I’m glad the sequel is finally official (although I’m a bit surprised they merely opted for adding a 2 in the title rather than going with, I don’t know, “Red Dead Retaliation” or something like that).

    Now, while it would be interesting to see more of John Marston’s past and his time as member of the Van der Linde’s gang, if the GTA series is any indication, I think it is more likely that the sequel will focus on new characters. Of course, even if that’s the case, it’s entirely possible that John and/or some of the characters from the prior game will still appear at some point or have at least some cameos (personally, I would like to see Landon Ricketts again, as well as that good for nothing huckster of Nigel West Dickens). But whether or not it focuses on Marston, I agree that RDR 2 is likely to be set at an earlier time period than the previous game, as the 1911-1914 setting didn’t leave much room to continue with another story.

    Now, if the game features multiple playable characters as the teaser image implies, personally I wouldn’t mind it if the main storyline takes some cues from The Magnificent Seven (it would be a nice change of pace, considering how the prior game took many cues from Unforgiven for the main story). In any case, the heist system of GTA V actually lends itself well for this series. As@PerfectUgly mentioned above, Red Dead Redemption actually had a similar structure of sorts, with several missions usually serving as prep work in order to take down a bigger target. Having your companions being playable this time instead of only NPC would be truly great.Edited 2 times. Last edited October 2016 by docexe
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  • Avatar for Captain-Gonru #10 Captain-Gonru A year ago
    @PerfectUgly I was speaking more to going back much further. I'm thinking somewhere around the gold rush, pre-Civil War, era.
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  • Avatar for ambermaclean55 #11 ambermaclean55 A year ago
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