What we want from Red Dead Redemption 2 or Red Dead 3 or whatever the hell we're calling it
A new Red Dead game is on the horizon, and we couldn't be happier. But how do you follow up one of the games of its generation? We've got a few ideas for Red Dead 3.
By the way, Red Dead Redemption is actually the second game in a series, but Red Dead Revolver was one of those pretty-good-but-not-great games of the PS2 era which was easily overlooked in the enormous glut of titles releasing every week.
If Rockstar sticks to the pattern so far we can expect the third Red Dead game to be called Red Dead Retribution or Revenge or Rebellion or Rental or whatever - but given how many awards (and hearts) it won, we wouldn't be super surprised to find ourselves anticipating Red Dead Redemption 2 when Rockstar finally lifts the lid.
Whatever it's called, it has a lot to live up to. These are our expectations for Rockstar's next blockbuster.
Another superb score
Red Dead Redemption was only the second Rockstar game with an original score, but there's nothing amateur about it: composers Bill Elm and Woody Jackson knocked it out of the park.
The score went on to win best audio at the 2011 GDC Awards, best original score at the 2010 Spike VGAs (remember those), and best original score at the 2010 Inside Gaming Awards, audio of the year, music of the year and interactive score at the 2010 game Audio Network Awards - and was nominated for many more. Heck of a start for then rookie Jackson, innit.
Jackson stayed on with Rockstar to work on LA Noire and GTA 5, so we hope to see him return for a new Red Dead game. Unfortunately Elm's band Friends of Dean Martinez, which played an important role in shaping Red Dead Redemption's unique sound, now seems to be inactive. Elm himself appears to have left music to become a real estate agent.
Bold narrative decisions
Can you even remember what happened in Red Dead Redemption? "Marston had to do a bunch of jobs for someone to get his wife back", sure, but beyond that it's all a bit vague - and that probably boils down to the difficulty of stringing a bunch of open world missions together into a cohesive storyline.
But everyone who got there remembers the ending, which dared push a little further than the usual riding off into the sunset conclusion to show us that, redemption or not, this is a violent world and things aren't always fair. It was a clever way to allow the player to continue in free-roam after the official curtain down, to give them a chance to cut loose without feeling like they were breaking character, and to show a different side of Marston.
With such an impactful sequence to live up to, we're very interested to see where Rockstar goes next with Red Dead.
Shorter resource animations
If you were interested in hitting 100% completion in Red Dead Redemption, you had to do a lot of resource collecting and crafting.
This was relatively new and exciting back in 2010 but is old news now, which means our patience for the seconds it would take Marston to dismount, go through his gathering animation, and return to a playable state before getting back up on the horse has entirely evaporated. There is not even a hint of moisture in that well, Rockstar; don't attempt to dip a bucket in it.
Take inspiration from, say, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, where you stomp over a wolf's corpse while mashing a button. Lo! The liver is in your inventory. Much more tolerable for an action you're going to perform approximately 2,000 times if you want to grab that last achievement.
Even more horrifying maulings
Red Dead Redemption is famous for its wildlife, and rightly so: visiting specific environments in search of your quarry, setting out bait and stalking your prey was a wonderfully satisfying use of your time in that glorious landscape.
What was even better was the way corpses would attract other animals, so that you'd be merrily butchering an innocent bunny only to find yourself battling something a bit bigger, which in turn attracted something nastier, and eventually you were mauled to death by your fourth mountain lion ambush as your hammer clicked on an empty chamber.
While Far Cry has co-opted this reputation in some ways with its vicious honey badgers, Red Dead Redemption was the first game to make us really fear a sudden change in the soundscape. More of that please, Rockstar - and this time feel free to go big with the death animations.
More kick-ass women
Rockstar doesn't have a great track record for remembering women are full, complex human beings, but Red Dead Redemption is one of its better efforts in that regard. Bonnie MacFarlane is the obvious highlight here, pretty much single-handedly running her family's ranch in a way so many frontier women did, and which is often ignored in Western stories. A capable and skilled woman who exists to do more than look pretty and fall over screaming when bad guys arrive? Amazing!
As well as being rad as heck, Bonnie doesn't exist purely to be a romantic side story for the protagonist, which is rare as all get out. She and Marston maybe get a bit of a flirt on now and again, but in general their relationship is the same sort of buddy-buddy business you'd expect from a dude NPC in the same role. Her agency and independence isn't as dramatically undercut by events as we've come to expect from video games in general, either.
After presenting a generally serious and dramatic tale over multiple acts, Rockstar San Diego apparently lost its head and turned what might have been a silly Halloween bonus into a full expansion.
Undead Nightmare is the sort of thing that happens when you give developers a week to piss about between projects and then suddenly greenlight one of their resulting ideas; it's the Goat Simulator of triple-A video game expansions. Fill the sandbox with cannon fodder and let players really go ham in a way the atmosphere of the core game doesn't allow for? Yes please.
The more po-faced Red Dead fans were slightly offended by Undead Nightmare's playful tone, which plays up to a whole different genre of cinema instead of reverentially maintaining the Western facade, but we love it. Let's have more of that, Rockstar.
All-new multiplayer modes
Red Dead Redemption was one of those rare beasts where the multiplayer attached to a grand single-player adventure wasn't a total waste of time; there are a lot of fond memories of hours spent in a robust variety of modes and activities.
As such, we'd expect to see multiplayer make a return in the next Red Dead game even if Rockstar hadn't hit the jackpot with GTA Online. But it did: GTA Online is so successful that Rockstar gave up making single-player DLC and is rolling around in money instead.
It'll be interesting to see how Rockstar applies lessons learned from GTA Online to Red Dead's multiplayer, since the "get cash buy stuff" model doesn't seem quite as applicable to Red Dead's setting.
For it to come out like, next week
The thing about Rockstar is: it can do whatever the heck it likes. It doesn't need E3 to announce a game. If it wants to announce a game, it can just do it whenever. It doesn't need a six to 18 month marketing run up to shift a zillion units, either.
So if Rockstar would consider announcing that Red Dead 3 is coming out next week, that would be superb. We'd enjoy that very much. Yes please. This is the list's hot ticket item, innit.
Unfortunately, Rockstar usually leaks pretty egregiously, and there hasn't been a sniff out of the usual retail and talent sources this time - so we don't really anticipate an imminent release. On the other hand, maybe Rockstar's slammed the lid down after all those GTA 5 rumours revealed the setting and major feature list well ahead of schedule.