What is Red Dead Redemption 2 About? Red Dead Redemption 2 Explained

What is Red Dead Redemption 2 About?
The Red Dead series is back with a vengeance, and you're in the saddle as outlaw Arthur Morgan.

Back in the Saddle

A roaming band of notorious outlaws who have no one but each other. A dying way of life in a harsh frontier that’s all but been won. A desperate scheme to pull off one final big score and cash out of a life of crime before it all catches up to them. These are just a few of the story elements that Rockstar Games’s Red Dead Redemption 2 throws at players, but what is the developer of the most profitable piece of entertainment media in history’s newest game actually about? Let’s take an in-depth look.

10. The Story of Red Dead So Far (Spoilers)

John Marston, the gruff and conflicted protagonist of Red Dead Redemption 1.

Red Dead Redemption 2 is a prequel to Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption (but then why is it numbered like a sequel?!) , a gritty and downright fun realization of a Grand Theft Auto-style sandbox set in the death throes of the Wild West. Red Dead Redemption was, itself, a sequel to the developer’s earlier Red Dead Revolver, but that only confuses things further. All you need to know about Red Dead Redemption is that it is a tale of revenge starring John Marston, a no-nonsense outlaw with a voice like sandpaper and who has done his best to leave his criminal career in the past.

However, Marston is forced to return to his criminal stomping grounds when federal agents take his wife and son hostage, leveraging their safety for his cooperation in bringing his former gang members to justice—dead or alive. After a lot of shooting and swearing, he succeeds in his choiceless mission, and kills and/or apprehends Dutch van der Linde, Bill Williamson, and Javier Escuella, the leader and members of his former gang. After a cruel final section in which it seems to players that Marston will be allowed to live a life of peace with his family, Marston is murdered in cold blood by the federal agents who used him.

9. Red Dead Redemption 2’s Story

Join the Van der Linde Gang in their exploits and misadventures across a lawless frontier.

As mentioned before, Red Dead Redemption 2 is set before the events of its predecessor. Taking place twelve years prior to the first game, the prequel follows the story of Dutch van der Linde’s gang at its height in 1899. On the run from authorities across the United States, the Van der Linde gang sweeps the American heartland and frontier in a wave of bullets, booze, and gambling.

A few key plot points can be gleaned from the numerous, hype-inducing trailers Rockstar put out on the run-up to RDR2’s release. Much as in RDR1, the lawless spirit of the Wild West is being snuffed out by the sweeping modernization of the US, and that makes the Van der Linde Gang increasingly vulnerable. This is could be a large reason for the migratory nature of the gang, as they may be fleeing the growing arm of civilization as much as they are their own crimes. Knowing their lawless age is coming to an end, Dutch wants to pull off the age-old “one more job” to fill the gang’s pockets before it’s too late. Unfortunately, there are myriad rival gangs and obstacles that stand in the Van der Linde Gang’s way, and the largest seems to be the game’s big-bad antagonist, a sinister, bowler hat-wearing city slicker who wants Dutch (and presumably his whole posse) dead.

8. Arthur Morgan

Meet Arthur Morgan, RDR2's protagonist and Dutch van der Linde's protégé.

Players step into the boots of smooth-talking good ol’ boy Arthur Morgan, who speaks with a thick southern accent (voiced masterfully by Roger Clark) and is a lifelong member of Dutch van der Linde’s gang. Raised by Dutch as an outlaw since he was a boy, the Van der Linde Gang may be the only family Morgan’s ever known. And it shows, as Morgan is portrayed to be cut of the toughest cloth. In contrast to RDR1’s protagonist, Morgan seems somehow even rougher around the edges and to have a more ambiguous moral compass than John Marston. Since his reveal, Morgan has been shown shaking people down, issuing menacing threats, and being an all-around tough customer.

Like Marston, though, Arthur Morgan is more complex than his surface lets on. The Van der Linde Gang may be a group of thieving, untrustworthy scoundrels, but Morgan seems to truly care about them and can go to various lengths to ensure their wellbeing and nurture his relationships with individual members. Most telling is Morgan’s apparent hesitance to go along with Dutch’s final train heist scheme, despite his admitted undying loyalty to Dutch. This hints at conflicts that may arise between Morgan, Dutch, and other Van der Linde Gang members over the course of the story. With Rockstar’s track record of internally tormented protagonists, there’s little doubt that there is much more to Morgan than meets the eye.

7. Familiar Faces

You wanna know how I got these scars?

RDR1 had a colorful cast of memorable characters, and several reappear in RDR2 as Morgan’s fellow gang members. One of the most notable is Dutch van der Linde, who was the main antagonist for the majority of RDR1. Though he had gone off the deep-end by the time players encountered him in the original game, it was stated multiple times that Dutch had been a revolutionary by outlaw standards in his prime. Since RDR2 is a prequel, players now get to see a more a fully fleshed out version of one of gaming’s most memorable villains that we all love to hate. Also returning from RDR1 are John Marston’s other peers-turned-enemies, Bill Williamson and Javier Escuella.

The most welcome and highly anticipated character that players revisit in RDR2 is John Marston, himself. The first we saw of Marston’s return was in this trailer, in which he’s briefly shown being held at knifepoint to draw Morgan out from safety. Even though his defining scars are still fresh, Marston is at once recognizable to players of RDR1. Marston’s future wife Abigail Roberts and their son Jack Marston (who takes Marston’s place after the main story in RDR1 and can exact sweet revenge on Marston’s killers) also make a return, as well as everyone’s favorite alcoholic, Uncle.

6. New Characters

RDR2 is full of fresh faces, and you'll get to know them intimately as you progress through the story.

In addition to series mainstays, at least fifteen new characters join RDR2’s cast, and that’s just in the Van der Linde Gang’s camp alone! A bevy of social outcasts, killers, and thieves accompany Morgan on his journey across America, and they’re a highly diverse cast with fascinating backstories. These new characters range from the fallen and depraved former Reverend Swanson to the young but street-smart Tilly Jackson, to the well-educated Lenny Summers, who joined the gang at 15 after exacting revenge upon his father’s assailants, and the unkempt and unpredictable hitman Micah Bell, who is reminiscent of GTA V’s unhinged co-protagonist Trevor.

This wide variety of supporting characters steal the spotlight in the game’s camp. The camp serves as a mobile hub where Morgan and the Van der Linde Gang hang their hats, and—true to the series’ frontier spirit—it travels where the story takes it. At camp, Morgan can talk to his fellow gang members to learn more about their backgrounds, discover secrets and gameplay opportunities, and play gambling mini-games like poker, dominoes, and five-finger fillet (RIP Liar’s Dice). Morgan can also fulfill his obligations as a camp resident, bringing hunted game and other supplies to keep everyone well taken care of. While Morgan isn’t punished for skipping out on his fair share, camp members will voice their displeasure with his lack of neighborly behavior when they see him.

5. A World Full of Enemies

Prepare to shoot and loot a lot of bad guys.

No matter where they set up camp, the Van der Linde gang is always in enemy territory, and players’ shooting and fighting skills are put to the test regularly. You can expect hostile NPCs to be present throughout the game world, and it’s up to you to decide how to best deal with them. This time around, Morgan is able to start trouble or try to talk himself out of it, but when negotiations fail he has a vast arsenal with which he can dispatch his foes. Returning from RDR1 is the Dead Eye Targeting system, a bullet-time mechanic that bathes the world in sepia and slows time around Morgan, allowing him to lay numerous enemies to rest with ease. Using Dead Eye can now even display critical hit areas on potential victims, and other upgrades for Dead Eye are unlockable as you progress through the story.

Also returning is Rockstar’s patented Wanted system (would it really be a Rockstar game if it didn’t?), but this time deputies aren’t the ones who come to round you up when you have a bounty on your head. RDR2 instead sends bounty hunters who will pursue you to collect on your bounty, and—similar to GTA V’s cops’ shoot-first-ask-questions-later approach—it’s not likely they’ll try to bring you in alive. Though they be pay bounty hunters to pursue you, law enforcement will make its presence known outside of city bounds in RDR2. In his travels, Morgan will encounter law officers as they track wanted criminals and investigate crime scenes. Catching their attention while having a high bounty will trigger heated shootouts and horseback chases.

4. A Living, Dynamic Game World

Animals in RDR2 include both predators and prey. If you aren't careful you might end up like this bird, but in the jaws of something much larger.

Rockstar claims RDR2 to be their most ambitious open-world experience to date, and that seems to be no exaggeration. Amid a pulsing AI ecosystem of humans and animals that all react to each other, Arthur Morgan’s actions and choices impact the world around him. Animals prey upon one another (and Morgan if you aren’t careful), city dwellers praise and confront Morgan in the street for his past actions, ladies flee from Morgan if he neglects to practice basic self-care, and the list goes on and on.

Revamped since their debut in RDR1 are random encounters, and Morgan is constantly sucked into these dynamic events while traversing the game world. These fluidly blend tasks together to form a seamless and cohesive gameplay loop, and any visible point of interest within the world that the player sets their sights on should result in some reward for exploration. Whether or not this dynamism reaches overwhelming levels of open-world insanity like Far Cry 5 is open to player interpretation, but their inclusion ensures that you never know quite what to expect each time you start the game.

3. Activities Galore

Put simply, RDR2 is a ravenous beast that subsists exclusively on your free time.

When Morgan isn’t outrunning the law with the Van der Linde gang, there is a seemingly endless lineup of activities to do in RDR2. Similar to GTA Online’s acclaimed heists, Morgan is be able to plan and execute intricate bank and train heists with his gang members. Alternatively, Morgan can go it solo and take part in traditional side quests, commit armed robbery and extortion, and generally reign terror upon the American frontier. In a single play session, Morgan can collect a bounty on a wanted man, get sloppy drunk at the saloon, lose his money in a card game, share a dance with a lucky local lady, and slay her jealous beau in a duel before calling it a night.

The above sounds like a lot, but it hardly covers what Morgan will be able to do outside of the game’s main quest. You can expect to be able to kayak down scenic rivers, go fishing, operate handcars alone or with an NPC friend, chop firewood for the Van der Linde camp, track and hunt a huge variety of wildlife, attend burlesque shows, herd cattle, and manage Morgan’s look, including his clothes, hairstyle, and horse. That still isn’t an all-inclusive list. Don't say you weren't warned when you find yourself putting more hours into this dizzying array of side content than the main storyline.

2. A Man and His Horse

Take care of your horses and they'll take care of you when you need them most.

In an age before mass-produced automobiles, your primary mode of transportation in RDR2 is Morgan’s trusty steed. Much as we were able to do in RDR1, Morgan can lasso and break wild horses or purchase tame ones. What’s different this time around, though, is that horses in RDR2 now have a bond level assigned to them a la The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. How easy or difficult a horse is to control in certain situations depends upon the strength of the bond Morgan shares with it, meaning that taking good care of your horse is essential to success. Adding diversity to the game's stock of horses is the introduction of breeds, and some breeds are better suited to certain tasks than others.

While on horseback, Morgan is now able to more finely maneuver his horse in order to perform more complex movements, such as strafing around enemies, animals, and obstacles (another welcome leaf out of Breath of the Wild’s playbook). Horses also now carry saddlebags, and they can be used to carry additional items, weapons, and even animal carcasses.  RDR1 had revolutionary horseback riding for its time, and it is exciting to see RDR2 do more to further iterate upon the mechanic.

1. Experience the World Through Arthur Morgan’s Eyes

RDR2's first-person mode is truly stunning and immerses you in the action.

When GTA V re-released for the Xbox One and PS4, Rockstar tried its hand at introducing a first-person perspective into one of their traditionally third-person sandbox games for the first time. Since then, Rockstar seems to have gotten a much better grasp on strong first-person play, and it shows in RDR2. While the feature was far from perfect in GTA V, players who opt to play RDR2 in first-person now experience much less view-bob and crisp gunplay that sacrifices little to nothing. Even better is the fact that the entirety of RDR2 can be played in first-person mode (excluding cutscenes), and doing so makes RDR2 one of the most immersive experiences on console to date. Now, re-read this article and add “in first-person” to the end of each sentence. Pretty nice mental image, right?

Multiplayer on the Horizon

Red Dead Online is coming, but can it live up to the hype?

How Rockstar incorporates multiplayer in RDR2 is the real elephant in the room any time the game is brought up, and for good reason. Because of the runaway success of GTA Online, GTA V has become the most profitable piece of entertainment media ever made. While some consumers have voiced feeling burned by the monetization system and artificial grind present in GTA Online, the resounding financial and critical response by the gaming industry and community has been overwhelmingly positive. Understandably, Rockstar has announced that Red Dead Online will be coming to RDR2 post-launch, and a public beta for Red Dead Online will be released in late November 2018. No further details about RDR2's multiplayer component have been announced as of yet, so it’s anyone’s guess as to how grounded or zany (rocket-powered horse armor, anyone?) its gameplay will be. We’ll all soon find out if Rockstar Games can make lightning strike twice when players discover Red Dead Online has in store them later this November.

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When not debating internet strangers or being ignored by his cats, Phillip writes about and plays video games. It is rumored that he can be lured from his cave with craft beer and college football.
Gamer Since: 1999
Favorite Genre: RPG
Currently Playing: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Top 3 Favorite Games:, ,

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