Impressions: Red Dead Redemption II | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Impressions: Red Dead Redemption II

Liv Boyce gives us a deeper look into the recent Red Dead Redemption II trailer

Few games have been anticipated quite like Red Dead Redemption 2 has been. Red Dead Redemption, Rockstar’s 2010 foray into the outlaw centric world of the wild west, took 160 Game of the Year Awards, was widely called one of the best games that console generation had to offer, shipping over 15 million copies. Its sequel (though technically Rockstar’s third in the series if 2004’s Red Dead Revolver is included) has been called for by fans for years, and many have hopes it will exceed even the critical brilliance its predecessor displayed. So, with a few trailers now released, and more details slowly emerging, does it look like this will live up to the hype?

The second trailer seems, tentatively, to indicate so. It opens with a shot of a man, cooking at a campsite as his horse grazes nearby, gorgeous sunlit sky and mountain range in the distance behind them. It is a stunning visual, and the first of many in the trailer and teaser images, certainly seeming to suggest that the game will capitalize on the increased operating power the newest generation of consoles has to offer to create a beautiful looking game. We see landscapes of snow, open plains, towns and prairies, suggesting the setting may be a large expanse with a variety of locations to explore. Certainly, a requirement for a game so reliant on creating an immersive world.

The original also gained praise for building a ‘wild west’ world populated with eclectic characters who, while larger than life, felt realistic, and had a great deal of individual depth. From Bonnie, the kind-hearted farmhand whose personal tragedy drives the game’s early plot, to the not-so-sober Irish, to the outlaws of the Van De Linde gang who you hunt down, the characters are memorable and engaging.

Of course, it also had a protagonist unlike most we’ve seen before - John Marston, the former outlaw forced into hunting down his former friends by federal agents. Marston’s story was beautifully realised, and was drawn to a close in a powerful heart-breaking way, one which became a marker of storytelling excellence for future games, and indeed the New York Times proclaimed “[Marston] and his creators conjure such a convincing, cohesive and enthralling re-imagination of the real world that it sets a new standard for sophistication and ambition in gaming.

The second game seems to be capitalising on this strength, with the trailer introducing us to Arthur Morgan, a grizzled outlaw who is part of the Van De Linde gang, and who appears to be the playable character. With the gang stealing, threatening, and shooting their way across America as they are chased by lawmen from multiple states, Morgan seems to fit the morally complex characters Rockstar often create as their protagonists.

Red Dead Redemption

He shoots, bargains and quips his way through the trailer, seemingly as charismatic and acerbic as Marston was in the first, telling a young boy quite chillingly ‘maybe when your mother is finished mourning your father, I’ll keep her in black on your behalf.’ Perhaps we might see multiple playable characters announced in further trailers, as happened with Grand Theft Auto 5, and indeed the trailer shows us brief glimpses of other important figures, but whether or not this will happen is a matter for later information releases.

Fans of the first may also have noted the reference to the Van De Linde gang perhaps with a little surprise – their presence reveals Red Dead Redemption 2 to be a prequel to the first game, something fans had speculated over before. Indeed, the trailer shows us Dutch Van De Linde, the gang leader who players spend almost the entirety of the first game tracking down as Marston, looking younger than his first iteration, but none less sinister. This gives the potential for a much deeper look into the gang, giving nuance to characters encountered in the first game, and allowing a rich addition to the Red Dead universe – and perhaps most appealingly to fans, there’s the potential for a reappearance of Marston.

Red Dead Redemption

The trailer certainly seems to suggest that it will capture that cinematic aspect of its predecessor too, with shots of a fight atop a train, a street brawl, a plantation-style house ablaze, and a gunshot to camera as the screen fades to the logo. These take place amidst gentle panning shots of open landscape, of Morgan hunting in some woods, all accompanied by an incredible ambient sound mix that really feels authentic.

The emphasis, then, seems to be on the action, on the chaos being brought forth by the gang and those chasing them, but also on the setting itself, on how the conflict shapes the world in which it happens. Indeed, one character remarks “this place… ain’t no such thing as civilized”. That’s what players are being promised; when it launches in Spring 2018, they will have the chance to step into the shoes of an outlaw, where the normal morals don’t really apply.


Recent graduate BA English, soon to be MA Literature and Culture student. Print Editor for Redbrick Culture. Appreciator of all things literary or stagey. Often found singing musical theatre tunes when I think no-one is watching. (@liv_boyce)


1st November 2017 at 9:00 am

Last Updated

3rd November 2017 at 8:12 pm

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