It feels like it’s been a long time coming, but we’re finally in 2017, which means it won’t be too long before the releases of 2016 are conquered or have outstayed their welcome and our collective gaming minds will turn to what’s on offer in 2017. One of the bigger titles is a new Rockstar game, this time Red Dead Redemption 2, and as a critical fan (I still loved it) of the original game, here’s my list of what Rockstar needs to take into account to ensure Red Dead Redemption 2 can be an even bigger hit than the last-gen game that preceded it.
A PC release
Currently, Red Dead Redemption 2 is only confirmed for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles. Given Rockstar’s track record of either loving or ignoring the PC, this may mean the PC doesn’t get a release. That said, I feel it’s more likely Rockstar will follow a similar timeline to what it did with Grand Theft Auto V, where a PC release will drop a few months after the new-gen release. It’d also be nice if Rockstar releases a PC port for Red Dead Redemption, but my next point may address why this isn’t likely to happen.
A more stable version of the RAGE engine
It’s safe to assume that Red Dead Redemption 2 will be built atop the Rockstar Advanced Game Engine (or RAGE engine, excuse the tautology, for shortsies). If you compare RAGE-powered Red Dead Redemption to RAGE-powered Grand Theft Auto V, it’s clear that Rockstar has advanced the engine considerably, especially as it relates to visual fidelity, but also in terms of the online experience. The last time I played Red Dead Redemption via Backwards Compatibility , multiplayer was basically unplayable thanks to the presence of a virus-like hack that made the online open-world a barren wasteland. Given the prominence of hacking in games nowadays, fingers crossed Rockstar has learnt from this for Red Dead Redemption 2.
Fewer opposite-side-of-the-map quests
Now that Grand Theft Auto isn’t the only heralded open-world series, Rockstar could take note of what some of the other great examples of recent open-world games are doing. For instance, Red Dead Redemption was filled with quests that would make you ride to one far part of the map, only to complete the bulk of the quest on the other side of the map… and then you had to sometimes return to that original point to turn in that quest. While it’s okay to have this every once in a while, it’d make for a player-friendly experience if the majority of quests don’t force you to shift between the extremities of what will assumedly be a larger map.
A richer open-world experience
Since the release of Red Dead Redemption, heralded games such as Skyrim and The Witcher 3 have helped to modernise expectations of open-world experiences. In Skyrim, it was hard for me to stay focused on the main objective because there were so many fantastic distractions in the world. Similarly, The Witcher 3 kept me hooked because of well-written side quests and the feeling that I had control over certain quest outcomes, not to mention the feeling that certain decisions would have pay-offs later. It’d be great if Rockstar can weave in these kind of features (with its own unique spin) into Red Dead Redemption 2.
A protagonist who’s more of a doer, less of a talker
The protagonist of Red Dead Redemption, John Marston, was a likeable enough guy, but he had a real bad case of being full of piss and wind. When other characters screwed him over—and they did this regularly—he sure wasn’t afraid to run his mouth about the kind of consequences that would come their way if they did it again. Then they’d inevitably screw Marston over again, with seemingly no follow-through on the passive protagonist’s threats. A strong lead (or multiple different leads, like GTA V) will ensure that Rockstar’s trademark addictive gameplay formula is complemented by an engaging lead who’s not up for taking shit from NPCs.
Fewer cutscenes and more gameplay-driven story
I might be in the minority with this opinion, but I’ve never been a fan of game storytelling that feels too overwritten. I wasn’t a fan of the opening hours of Red Dead Redemption, and even the lead-up to that iconic ending left a lot to be desired. This certainly isn’t exclusive to Rockstar’s open-world games, but there is a tendency for lengthy cutscenes with characters that aren’t always particularly interesting (or during tasks that aren’t terrible exciting, like rounding up cattle in the original game). It’d be great to see a story that’s shaped by the player’s actions and interactions with the open-world, and if anyone has the time, patience and resources to pull it off, it’s Rockstar.
Drop-in/drop-out cooperative play
The most fun I had with the original Red Dead Redemption was playing with friends online in the open-world free roam mode, forming a posse and completing missions or battling with other players. Obviously, I’d love to see that return for Red Dead Redemption 2, but I’d also love to see a cooperative campaign. It’s something that Rockstar seems to be heading towards with multiple protagonists in GTA V, the post-release launch of co-op Heists in the same game, or the reality that missions in Rockstar’s open-world games are fairly regularly played alongside NPCs. Given how addictive Rockstar’s open-world gameplay loops are, I can only imagine it’d be an even greater campaign experience if it could be shared with one (or more) other players, too.
That’s the list. Be sure to let me know what you agree (or disagree) with in the comments section below, and if you have anything to add to the list, I’d love to hear about that, too.