Why I’m A Little Worried About Red Dead Redemption II

Please note the headline does say “a little worried”. It’s minor, but it’s still something that’s niggling away at the back of my head…

Arthur Morgan Quote

Six weeks, just six more weeks and Red Dead Redemption II will be released. Its been eight years since the previous game and after a year long delay, we will finally be able to play the bloody thing. My palms are sweating in anticipation.

So I’m really damn excited for RDR II. This is easily my most anticipated game of the last ten years if not ever. I’m a huge Rockstar Games fan, they just deliver the most highly polished and beautifully crafted games ever. Interesting characters wrapped up in intriguing and wonderful stories. Game that have me returning year after year. I’ll happily debate with anyone that the first RDR (and I mean Redemption not Revolver) is the finest game Rockstar have made to date and definitely one of the greatest games ever created to boot. This new game has some pretty big cowboy boots to fill. Yeah I’m pumped for the sequel/prequel, but there’s something that I can’t get out of my head, a problem that could be minor and nothing to worry about…or could it be something major? That problem is Leslie Benzies.

Leslie Benzies

For those not in the know, Leslie Benzies was a programmer on the DMA Design game  Space Station Silicon Valley for the Nintendo 64 in 1995. A few years later and DMA Design would make one of the most important games in history with Grand Theft Auto III of which Leslie Benzies was a huge part of as he soon found himself as a producer on the game along with Sam and Dan Houser. Eventually, DMA Design are renamed Rockstar North and the birth of one of the biggest British gaming studios ever began. Benzies along with the Houser brothers became presidents of Rockstar Games. Benzies influence can be seen and felt in games from GTA III right up to GTA V and everything else in between including Rockstar’s finest, Red Dead Redemption on which he worked as producer and designer. He’s a passionate man with a lot of vision…and he no longer works at Rockstar Games.

See, it was in 2014 when Benzies took a break, a sabbatical from Rockstar after a suggestion from Sam and Dan Houser for all his hard work over the years at the company. Only when Leslie Benzies returned a few months later with his batteries recharged ready to work, he found that he didn’t have a job anymore. Now exactly what happened is only truly known by those involved, the Houser brothers, Rockstar Games, Take-Two Interactive (Rockstar’s parent company) and of course Benzies himself. Though it has been said there was a disagreement about royalties not being paid, something about an unfair dismal and all sort of accusations. Anyway, Benzies ended up filing a lawsuit against Sam and Dan Houser, Rockstar Games and Take-Two. Its a rather messy story and not one I want to dwell on here, but if you really want to get into it then click here. Its all very unpleasant and the lawsuit is still on going today. But my point is that one of the main people behind the success of Rockstar as a company and their games no longer works at Rockstar. Leslie Benzies no longer being part of the company is a worry not just for RDR II but for the company in general from this point onward.

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RDR II has been in development since the massive success of the previous game eight years ago. So I’m sure that Benzies has been involved with the title in some way before he was ‘removed’, so hopefully his mark is still imprinted in the game somehow. Yet I still can’t help but worry that the whole affair has had an effect on Rockstar Games on the whole. Its been well known that RDR II was delayed…three times leading to a whole year long delay. The postponement itself is no surprise as Rockstar are quite infamous for delaying games, in fact I called the RDR II setback a year ago shortly after the game was initially announced. Yeah Rockstar will suspend games and have done so for over a decade now – but the delays have usually been a handful of weeks, maybe a couple of months. Never a whole year and that twelve month delay has me worried that something is not right behind the scenes at Rockstar.

The whole thing is just leaving a bit if a bad taste in my mouth. I know no one man (or woman) is never bigger than a worldwide famous and respected company such as Rockstar Games – but there is no denying just how integral to the company Leslie Benzies really was. Other development studios have suffered after the leaving of a key member, see Bullfrog after Peter Molyneux (before he became a laughing stock) left in 1997 for proof. Going back to his first job with them (then DMA) in 1995 to his insistence and passion behind developing GTA III and beyond, Benzies was the rock in Rockstar. I have a feeling that the Rockstar titles that we do have wouldn’t have been as great without him. Benzies was a huge piece of Rockstar and now he’s gone, they are missing something…I just hope that something isn’t missing from RDR II and any future Rockstar games from this point onward.

Benzies’ dismissal from Rockstar, the extra long delay of RDR II, the rather unpalatable lawsuit – its all got to add up to something. Could Red Dead Redemption II be the last great Rockstar game?

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I’m sure that RDR II will be an amazing game, it’ll get high praise and mop up all sorts of gaming awards over the next few months. I have no doubt that this is going to be a jaw dropping gaming experience. But still, no Benzies has got to have an impact on anything Rockstar related from this point onward.

Currently Leslie Benzies is working on a new game with the working title of Everywhere. Said to be an open world game like no other, one that will offer freedom not seen in a game of this type before. Oh yeah, he has some ex-Rockstar employees helping out too. So Benzies isn’t the only talent gone from Rockstar…

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