Returning to the Wild West: A Closer Look at Red Dead Redemption 2’s First Trailer

on October 23, 2016 3:37 PM

Originally released in 2010, Rockstar Games’ Western revival Red Dead Redemption holds a special place in my heart – and in the hearts of many other fans like me. That’s why with this week’s reveal of its long-awaited follow-up — all starting with just a tease of a Rockstar logo on a blood-red background — fans can follow look forward to the upcoming Red Dead Redemption 2 in fall 2017.

After a series of teasers that led to the eventual announcement of the Western sequel, Rockstar Games followed suit with the first teaser trailer for Red Dead Redemption 2, and a first look at what Rockstar will be whipping up with its first title being made specifically for this generation of consoles.

Though it’s brief on actual content and long on landscapes and pretty scenery, the first teaser trailer still gives some good ideas of what to expect from Red Dead Redemption 2, with a breakdown below of what our first taste of RDR2 offered.

Open Landscapes, Endless Potential

Though the trailer itself was only just over a minute, a large portion of the trailer itself was devoid of many of the game’s characters (at least up close), and instead gave us a look at a whole other character itself – the Western landscapes that players will be exploring.

Much like the lands between the US and Mexico that players ventured through in Red Dead Redemption, the first trailer for Red Dead Redemption 2 showed us how current-generation hardware will bring to life the sweeping, breathtaking vistas that the series has been known for.

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Even with the brief glimpses that trailer showed, there’s already a variety of landscapes and environments on display that make Red Dead Redemption 2 pretty enticing (or at least more than it already was). Where the original Red Dead Redemption gave us a dusty, Western environment with endless plains, cold mountains in the north, and vast rivers as far as the eye can see, the first trailer showed off an incredibly vibrant and detailed take on the American West.

In particular, some of my own personal shots come from the diverse arrays of environments in store, such as the sweeping shot of a passing train with accompanying bison herd, the pristine Western river at sunset, and the campfire scene that’s surrounded only by the pitch black of the night sky.

Into the Wild

One of the key features of Red Dead Redemption was its integration of wildlife between the player and their natural surroundings. From the presence of potential game hunting from deer, boar, and bison to more ferocious predators like wolves and bears, Red Dead Redemption 2 also gave an indication in its trailer that yes – we can indeed expect more wildlife for players to maim and tame.

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The trailer showed off that and more as players saw some of the usual suspects like horse, and deer, to a variety of other creatures like dogs, vultures, and more on the way that we can (probably) expect to be either valuable for pelts and trading, or adversaries for players to encounter on their journey.

Farm Life, and Civilized Life

With its Western environments and setting in 1911 (showing the final years of the American Frontier period), Red Dead Redemption built on the familiar tropes and iconography of the American West with a story that not only was a revenge tale, but also built on American history and showcased the changing times in the last decade of the Frontier.

Based on the trailer for Red Dead Redemption 2, it’s easy to see that that point in history will likely play a large role in the story, with the trailer showing equal amounts of the beautiful landscapes that define the American West, but also showing the changing times as industry and new innovations were on the horizon.

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Previous rumors and reports had pinned that the next Red Dead title would possibly be a prequel to the events of Red Dead Redemption and perhaps show protagonist John Marston in his early days as an outlaw. While no official confirmation or details have come from Rockstar Games on where Red Dead Redemption 2 will fit in the timeline, it’s just as likely that RDR2 will indeed be a sequel to the previous game’s events and continue where John (and Jack) Marston’s story left off.

Whether or not we follow those characters is up for debate, but a lot of the imagery from the trailer speaks — maybe just to me personally — that the game will likely be a sequel. In particular, the contrast between farm and town life (as shown at many points in the trailer), versus the imagery of train lines, oil drilling, and more leads me to believe that if the game is set a later point from Red Dead Redemption, that the divide between the Wild West and the industrial innovations that were on the brink of changing everything will play a larger part in Red Dead Redemption 2.

The Wild, Wild West

Aside from the landscapes and imagery that make up most of the initial reveal trailer, the first video for Red Dead Redemption 2 also gave some brief glimpses at how Rockstar Games might be building on already strong foundations of Red Dead Redemption for a bigger, badder Wild West.

In particular in both the teaser images that Rockstar released on social media and in the game’s reveal trailer, a group of seven characters appear — most likely outlaws or a Western gang of some sort (and presenting a nice reference to the Western classic, The Magnificent Seven). Whether or not they tie into the gang that John Marston rolled with in the events prior to Red Dead Redemption remains to be seen, but it’s still an interesting aspect in many ways that can tie into both the game’s story and its potential gameplay.

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Specifically, the allure of playing as a gang of cowboys could present some interesting twists and mechanics for Red Dead Redemption 2. In particular, the most obvious use could possibly be Rockstar implementing a character switching system like the one found in Grand Theft Auto V, where perhaps players could switch between different members of the gang to complete missions, see new sides of the story, and (I hope) to complete epic, Western heists.

However, it could also lead to other possibilities that may help to set Red Dead Redemption 2 apart from both its predecessor and Grand Theft Auto V that I think, just as equally, could make for some exciting changes. Maybe players can control or direct their cowboy posse for elaborate heists and missions, while still maintaining the intimate focus of one character’s story (like John Marston’s)?

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Of course, it’s also just as likely that the allusion to a group of cowboy outlaws in both the artwork and trailer can tie to the multiplayer elements that will be in Red Dead Redemption 2. With reports indicating that a “Red Dead Online” is perhaps more than likely to appear in the sequel (given that GTA Online has been a massive success for Rockstar Games), it would still be interesting experience to see if some sort of co-op element — such as the co-op missions introduced to Red Dead Redemption as DLC — may make an appearance in its impending sequel.

Returning for Revenge

As one of Rockstar’s deeply-loved projects in the past few years, the excitement and anticipation building around its now official sequel is one that’s certainly going to escalate throughout this year and next. With just a few sets of images and a video, it’s easy to say that Red Dead Redemption 2 easily just jumped toward the top of my most anticipated titles for 2017, in a year that’s already busy with other games I’m looking forward to like Horizon: Zero Dawn and Persona 5.

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Though there’s still a year before we get Red Dead Redemption 2 in our hands, the first trailer for the game — brief as it was — still gave just enough of a taste to show that, hopefully, the long wait for the highly-anticipated sequel will be more than worth it. Even in the six years since Red Dead Redemption first released (and my temptation to buy and replay the game again through backwards compatibility), the fact that the sequel is still a year away is one I don’t mind at all.

What Rockstar has shown is already getting me pretty excited, and I can’t wait to dust off my cowboy hat once Red Dead Redemption 2 finally arrives in town.

Red Dead Redemption 2 will release for PS4 and Xbox One in Fall 2017.

 /  Features Editor
Ryan is the Features Editor at DualShockers, with over five years' experience in the world of video games culture and writing. He holds a BA in English & Cinema from Binghamton University, and lives in New York City.