After over six years of silence broken only by fleeting rumors, Rockstar Games has finally confirmed that another Red Dead game is coming. While not as widely acclaimed (or controversial) as Rockstar’s flagship Grand Theft Auto franchise, the Red Dead games are rich historical sandbox games best described as “Grand Theft Stagecoach”, featuring the same basic game play style but set in the late 19th to early 20th century in the frontier of the American West.
The series began in 2004 with Red Dead Revolver, which told the story of bounty hunter and title character Red Harlow’s quest for revenge. In 2010, Red Dead Redemption, a long-rumored sequel much like the one recently announced, was released. Although it bore the Red Dead title, Redemption had nothing to do with Red Harlow or his story, instead telling the tale of John Marston, a former outlaw extorted out of retirement by the fledgling Bureau of Investigation and offered total amnesty in exchange for bringing his former gang mates to justice, who he walked away from after being abandoned when he was shot in a botched attempted robbery. The sequel is being called Red Dead Redemption 2 instead of Red Dead 3, which gives a very clear indication of how Redemption out-shined its predecessor.
This new game announcement will likely bring new fans to the Red Dead franchise, so in the interest of avoiding spoilers, suffice it to say that at the end of Red Dead Redemption, John Marston is in a situation which makes it very unlikely for him to have further adventures worthy of a sequel. His son, Jack, may or may not follow in his footsteps, but by that time it’s the mid 1910s, and, as is a major theme of Redemption, the West is largely tame.
It’s possible that this new game will follow Redemption’s precedent and follow a new character, but upon closer inspection of the teaser image tweeted by Rockstar, keen-eyed fans of Marston’s will notice it appears to depict a group of people including familiar faces such as, at far left, John Marston…perhaps running with his old gang from before retirement? Is it possible that this “sequel” is indeed a prequel?
Back in April, IGN reported that a map from Red Dead Redemption 2 had leaked. As with all Rockstar games, the map consists of regions that are mostly thinly-veiled fictional analogues for real U.S. states. Redemption, for example, had New Austin (Texas) in the west and West Elizabeth (West Virginia/the Midwest) in the East. In this leaked map, West Elizabeth is the westernmost state, suggesting that this game will take place in a more eastern setting. John lived in West Elizabeth before being dragged to New Austin to hunt his former comrades. This matches up with the very brief press release from Rockstar Games stating that this game will be, “an epic tale of life in America’s unforgiving heartland.”
This article from GamesRadar+ dissects the image, noting that not only does Marston appear alongside his erstwhile partners in crime including Dutch van der Linde and Bill Williamson, but that it also seems to depict Red Harlow himself and a few of his associates. This upcoming Red Dead appears to be a prequel uniting the two previously unrelated games in the series, which is an exciting prospect indeed for longtime fans of the franchise. All will hopefully be revealed at 11 AM EST on Thursday when a trailer is released on the official game site.
Watch this space.