Tag Archives: Red Dead Redemption

I Need To Talk About The Red Dead Redemption II Ending

Oh this article has been bubbling away inside me for weeks now. See, I bulldozed my way through RDR II‘s story just so I could get to the ending ASAFP as I wanted to do a write-up for this ere’ blog. Since finishing the game, I’ve been mulling the ending over in my head and comparing it to the ending of the previous game. See, I really didn’t much enjoy the ending of RDR when I first experienced it. It’s a cruel and unforgiving ending that torments the player. However, after a while and finishing the game again – the finale to the previous game quickly became my favourite game ending ever.

John Marston Death

So obviously massive SPOILERS ahead and throughout this whole article. If you’ve not finished RDR II yet, stop reading now and go play the damn game. This is the only SPOILER warning I’m giving and directly after this paragraph is done, I’m going straight into huge SPOILER territory… you have been warned.

The Ending

So Arthur dies in RDR II. When I first started playing the game, I had already convinced myself that Arthur would die in the game. I mean, this is a prequel and seeing as the plot of the last game was John Marston hunting down his old gang members and given the fact that Arthur was not part of the last game… you could pretty much work it out yourself. However, through the course of the story, some gang members do just leave the gang. So a ray of hope was given that maybe, just maybe Arthur leaves the gang at the end and is still alive during the events of RDR. But that wasn’t to be the case. Arthur dies in this game and depending on your moral-meter (being good or bad), the ending slightly changes too. But before I get to the last moments of Arthur Morgan, I need to cover just what it is that kills him…

Arthur Morgan Dies

Arthur is diagnosed with Tuberculosis at around 50% of the story. It wasn’t until my second play-through when I noticed during the mission Money Lending And Other Sins III where you have to collect a debt from a farmer called Thomas Downes that he spits in Arthur’s face. Later his wife reveals that Thomas is ill and even later still during another part of said mission, Thomas dies. It’s that previously mentioned spitting when Arthur contracts Tuberculosis from Thomas. As the game continues, Arthur slowly dies in front of your eyes and even before he is diagnosed. It begins with some subtle coughing that you don’t really notice, the coughing gets slowly worse as the game progresses. Arthur’s skin becomes pale and his eyes bloodshot. Other characters will comment on how ill he looks, etc, and it goes on until the very end. It’s a marvellous piece of storytelling from Rockstar where Arthur’s fate sealed very early in the game, but you the player (and Arthur) are not made aware of it until much later. Playing a second time really brings the clever writing to the forefront.

This is what kills Arthur, not a hail of bullets as with John Marston in the previous game but a disease. It’s a slow death and one that unfolds as you play. Rockstar can be pretty damn cruel sometimes, they make you enjoy and even love a character… then they kill them off. They even kill off your horse in this too and it’s got some emotional gravitas to it. I mean, you spend a lot of time with your horse, you brush it, feed it and bond with it through the game. The horse becomes more than just a means for transportation and as he/she dies, Arthur comforts it and its pretty damn touching too.

Arthur and Horse

There was one thing I was doing whole playing my way through RDR II, I was keeping an eye on the story completed %. As the game slowly built to it’s finale, as Arthur’s time was coming to an end, as I completed the “final” mission… I noticed something. The story was only 70% complete. Arthur was dead but there was still 30% of the story left? That’s when the epilogue began, a fucking huge more than a quarter of the entire story epilogue. John Marston returns and you get to play as him for this final 30%. I was kind of expecting something like this. I thought they would do something similar given the ending of the previous game as after John dies, you control his now grown up son Jack. In RDR, you only play as Jack Marston for a single mission as he tracks down Edgar Ross and kills him for betraying John. In RDR II, you play as John for a huge chunk of the game. It’s got to be around 5-7 hours of the game.

John Marston Callback.png

John’s section of the game is very slow and plodding in an already slow game. Most of John’s story is about him going straight by turning his back on his outlaw days, getting a job on a ranch, making a bad decision and Abigail leaving him. It then continues with John trying to make amends as he buys some land and builds his own ranch, the ranch in RDR. You have to physically go out an buy goods and building materials too then actually build the ranch to entice Abigail back. The whole thing is very slow and very, very reminiscent of the ending to the last game where John works on his ranch, tries to build a relationship with his son Jack and so on. It all leads up to where RDR (almost) begins as Edgar Ross searches for John to get him to work for the government to hunt down his ex-gang members.

Everything ties up nicely indeed… but is it a good ending?

Honestly, I’m still not sure. Yeah I didn’t much like the ending to the last game at first but it grew on me and became my favourite game ending so far. But that’s because it was a shock, a ballsy move by Rockstar to kill off the main character. With RDR II, it just feels like a repeat. Arthur’s death is very, very different – but the point is, it’s still pretty much the same ending. A lot of the same beats are repeated, not necessarily in the same order but they are there. The slow working on the ranch, the death of the main character, the “surprise” epilogue, etc.

I enjoyed playing as John at the end, of course I did as he’s one of my favourite game characters, but I also think it dragged out a bit too long. Did the epilogue really need to be 30% of the game? It’s not just the ranch building and all that, its the fact you have to take Abigail out on a date, get a photograph taken. Before all of that when working on the first ranch you have to teach the rancher’s kid how to ride a horse, milk a cow. etc. It just began to feel like unnecessary fluff to drag out an already very long game. Maybe if the John Marston epilogue had been released as DLC later and not part of the main game. Maybe if the credits rolled when Arthur died and with John escaping with his family leaving me to fill in the blanks, leaving me with a sense of loss as with the previous game, maybe I would’ve enjoyed it more?

John Marston Ranch Building

I don’t know but after spending 50+ ours playing as Arthur Morgan and watching him die… that was enough for me. His demise was brilliantly written and realised. Yes I love John Marston and yes, of course they had to tie everything into RDR. I just think the epilogue as too much and superfluous.

 

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Red Dead Redemption II: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

So Red Dead Redemption II is a game I have waited eight years for. I adored the first RDR (Redemption not Revolver) and was more than happy to declare it my favourite Rockstar Games title… closely followed by Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. In short RDR was a masterpiece of game design, the graphics, the story, the characters and the most important bit – the gameplay were all top notch stuff. It was a perfect coming together high quality ingredients to make a hearty meal.

Red Dead Redemption John

This sequel had a lot to live up to and the 26th of October 2018 couldn’t come quick enough. I had my copy on release day, installed the game on my Xbox as soon as I was able and when all was done with the game was ready to play, just seeing the title screen put a big ole’ smile on my face. I did a quick first impressions article a while back where I played the opening few hours of the game. But that was just a taster, a quick glimpse at a small section of this gargantuan game.

Now, things are a little different. I sit here in front of my laptop having just completed the game. So now I have a bit more gameplay under my belt and even seen the story out until its climax. But was it ultimately worth eight years of waiting? I suppose a quick synopsis of the game in in order.

So you play as Arthur Morgan, a member of the Van der Linde gang. A rag-tag gathering of murderers, thieves and con-men (and women). The gang is lead by Dutch van der Linde and after a particularly messy bank job that goes badly wrong in Blackwater, New Austin (from the previous game), the gang find themselves wanted dead or alive and on the run from the law. Hiding out in the snowy mountains of New Hanover during a vicious snow storm, the gang find rudimentary shelter as they hide away. They eventually make their way to a more habitable environment as they move out of the mountains and set up camp. You then embark on a series of missions to gain money so the gang can leave the country crossing paths with all new characters as well as some familiar faces from the previous game all while still being hunted by the police and bounty hunters.

Red Dead Redemption II Arthur

Okay so I’ll include my usual SPOILER warning here as I’m about to cover elements the whole game from start to end. However, I’ll keep story spoilers to a minimum and while the ending will be mentioned, I’m not going into details. It’s time to look at the good, the bad and the ugly of Red Dead Redemption II.

The Good

The game features stunningly beautiful graphics, animations and an amazing attention to detail. Quite honestly, this is the best looking game I’ve seen to date. There are times while playing when I’m not actually doing anything to further the story and just find myself admiring the scenery instead. I’ll hop on my horse and just go out for a ride for no reason other than to take in the vistas. From snowy mountains to lush green forests and arid deserts – there’s a lot to take in and enjoy before you even get to any gameplay.

Speaking of the gameplay, Rockstar have crammed a hell of a lot into this game. outside of the already sizeable story there are so many side-missions and distractions that you can spend hour up on hour just enjoying all the game has to offer without touching the story at all. Fancy a spot of hunting? Well this game has you covered and it’s a pretty in-depth hunting mechanic too. It’s not just a case of simply pointing a weapon at an animal and killing it, now you have to track the animals and learn about each species. Plus depending on how you kill an animal (pepper it with a shotgun blast, multiple rifle rounds or a single arrow) affects how much damage you do to the meat and pelt, which in turn will alter how much you can sell the items for. The hunting distraction in this is better than most full priced hunting games. And the hunting is just one example of many, many distractions you can lose yourself in outside of the main story. You can go play some poker or dominoes. Take a break from the action with a spot of fishing. Hang out in a saloon and knock back a few drinks, get drunk and start a mass bar brawl. You can even go out robbing folk. From just holding up a random NPC walking around to taking on a train. You can rob your way across the Old West in numerous ways.

The level of customization is also impressive. Arthur can grow his hair and beard or you can maintain him by visiting a barber for a trim or even a whole new look and style. I let my Arthur’s hair grow and he began looking like a member of ZZ Top in my game…

Red Dead Redemption II Arthur Beard

Your clothes can be customized too. From pre-set outfits to you designing your own unique look, change belts and even gun holsters. Hell you can even add little modifications like rolled up sleeves, open shirts, etc. Clothes along with Arthur will get dirty and you can change your duds or even take a bath… or you can stay dirty and smelly through the game if you like which will have NPCs making all sorts of comments about your hygiene. Honestly, there’s a lot to cover in terms of customization and details – I’d have to write a separate article to cover most of it. In short RDR II is a hell of a detailed game. But there is much more to cover.

The story is very compelling. I wasn’t too sure about it for the first few hours, but after a while the game and story really opens up. It’s around the 55 – 60% mark of the story when Arthur begins to question Dutch and his leadership and things get really interesting as the gang begins to break up. Arthur also learns something about himself (as do we the player) that really elevates him from slightly boring henchman following orders to a genuine and well crafted character you begin to feel something for. Everything comes to a head in the final act of the game as the fractured gang begin to fall out with each other. The ending (no spoilers) is a very satisfying one and brings everything together nicely connecting to the events of the previous game. I’m not sure If I prefer this ending over the one in RDR. See I loved RDR‘s ending, it’s my favourite game ending ever. So this one really had to pull something special off to impress me… and it kind of did. I remember being so pissed off with the finale to the last game that it took a while for me to realise just how genius it was. As I’ve only recently finished RDR II, I need a little more time to take it all in and mull over what I’ve just witnessed. It’s crackling finale no doubt about it and well worth the long slog through the game to get to it too. I’m more than satisfied and it brings Arthur’s story to a wonderful conclusion… and then some. I might leave it a few weeks and let in all sink in then do an article disusing the pros and cons of the ending.

Red Dead Redemption II Arthur Shooting

Which brings me to the man himself, Arthur. I loved playing as John in the previous game. He was a charming and charismatic guy. But right from the opening, he had no secrets, no real surprises. Pretty much his entire story was laid out from the off. John was a man wanting to change his outlaw ways by hunting his ex-gang members. That’s clear from the start of the game up to the end. With Arthur though, things are different. He’s a loyal and honorable gang member at the start. He follows Dutch’s orders without question and to be honest, I found that a little dull. But it’s later in the game when Arthur begins to doubt Dutch and some if his ideas/decisions where he really comes alive as a character. Arthur is a slower burning, deeper character and we really don’t get to know him fully until after the halfway point of the game. I honestly preferred playing as John form the first game more as his charm and personality goes a long way. But I’ll happily argue that Arthur is a better written character that shows some depth and wonderful characterization thanks to some impressive writing.

But it’s not just Arthur who becomes a compelling character. I also have to mention Sadie Adler who you do a handful of missions with and along he way she reveals more about her history which leads to a sensational shootout as a finale. Josiah Trelawny is a flamboyant and charming conman always looking for new ways to earn some money and often gets you tangled up in his schemes. Hosea Matthews who is Dutch’s oldest and closest friend who is loyal to the gang leader until the very end. And then of course there is John Marston from RDR who has some of the best moments in this game from missions to amusing dialogue and even some foreshadowing to events for RDR. Plus there is the relationship between Arthur and John which slowly develops as the game progresses. At first, Arthur does not like John. He feels he is not trustworthy, not dependable, a poor father to his son Jack and an even worse husband to his wife Abigail. There is a divide between the two characters that is all too clear – however as the story flows, the relationship between Arthur and John grows and they eventually become pretty close to the point that… well I’d be getting into some serious spoilers here so I’ll stop now.

Red Dead Redemption II John

There’s a huge amount of variation to the missions and how you choose to complete them. As an example, there’s one mission where you have to break a gang-member out of jail in a small town. How you do this is up to you. Do you use dynamite to blow a hole in the wall, use a (conveniently placed) steam engine with a rope to pull the bars off the window or do you just walk in the front door of the jail with guns blazing for a more direct approach? It’s really up to you as all three options both have positives and negatives. This idea is used for lots of missions, some are linear and give you little room for improvisation while others allow you to experiment and mix things up and try different tac-tics. Some missions will have you going in gung-ho and others will have you using stealth. One mission will have you dressing up in a tuxedo and on your best behaviour to attend a high class party, while another will see you causing (very funny) mischief after getting paralytic drunk in a local saloon with another gang member. Oh and of course there’s shootouts, lots and lots of shootouts.

The gun-play is pretty impressive with a few new features added from the previous game. You have the basic dot telling you where you are aiming, but then there is a reticle that begins large and gets smaller the longer you aim giving you more accuracy for each shot. So you can’t just spam the shoot button over and over as your shots will fly around with hardly any hitting your target. Plus you have to cock your gun after each shot too. Press shoot once to fire and again to cock your gun ready for the next shot. It makes the shooting a little more methodical and gets you thinking about your next move instead of just being able to reign hell fire down on your target.

The map itself is huge. I thought the one for the previous game was more than enough and it was. Well the old RDR map, New Austin is included within the new one for RDR II. There is so much to see and do that your eyes will be tired from all the movement. Then on top of the fact you really have two maps in the game, New Austin from RDR and RDR II‘s New Hanover which are joined together to form one huge map… there’s yet another “secret” location not included on the in-game map. As during the course of the story you’ll find yourself on a Cuban island with its own unique wildlife, missions and locations. Seriously, this game is huge. And the variety of locales on the map(s) is equally as impressive. From the typical muddy roads, wooden building kind small towns you’d expect that the typical Wild West, dirty cowboy and women of ill repute to populate – to larger, sprawling cities with brick buildings which attracts a more “higher class” of citizen. There’s even a working tram/trolley system in one of the larger cities.

Red Dead Redemption II Saint Denis

There’s just too much that this game offers to cover in detail here. I’ve not even mentioned the home heists, legendary hunts, horse customization and maintenance. The way you build a bond and relationship with your horse. The various interactions with NPCs from just saying hello or antagonizing them, you can try to defuse a disagreement or just call them out for a dual. How the weather can affect your health and stamina from being too hot or cold and how there are different clothing items to suit different weather conditions. The eating mechanic and how being overweight or underweight affects your health. Using gun oil to clean and maintain your weapons. What about the random encounters or stranger missions? I bulldozed my way through the game just so I could complete the story, so I’ve missed out on a lot of what the game offers. The list of things to do in this game goes on and on. I’ve only really lightly touched on a few of it’s features and there is so much more to enjoy.

The Bad

Okay so RDR II is not a perfect game and it has it’s issues. Some of which I’ll cover now. But before I do point out the bad, I just want to say that I don’t necessarily agree with all of these bad points – I’m just highlighting issues some players may have as a warning. Many of the negatives I’m about to bring up, I actually quite enjoy…

So let’s get the big one out of the way. The game is slow. It just has a much more laid-back approach to it’s storytelling and pace. I know some people will most definitely find this game a bit of a grind. Due to the size of the map, it can take a good while to get from one place to another. A journey from the area you find yourself in to where you need to pick up a mission then to the location the mission actually takes place can (sometimes) be a drag and you’ll find yourself traversing the map for 5+ minutes or so from one mission to the next. There is a lot of traveling to do in the game too and as the majority of it is on horseback, some trips can drag on a little. Still, there are various options to speed things up a little. You can put the camera in cinematic mode and let the game do the travelling for you. Maybe you’d prefer to go by train or even stagecoach? There is even a fast travel option that becomes available when you upgrade your gang’s camp. Plus you can break up the longer journeys with a little hunting, maybe find a random encounter and so on. Yes there is a lot of traversing, but I never found any of it dull. Still, I can see some people finding it all a bit tedious.

Red Dead Redemption II Horse.jpg

Some of the animations begin to grate after a while, especially when it comes to the hunting. Having to watch Arthur skin an animal can take 15-30 seconds depending on the size of the animal. Then there’s the crafting and cooking parts where you can set up a campfire and create food, medicines and ammo. Each and every time you have to watch Arthur (when cooking) stick the food on his knife, hold the knife over the fire for a while and then watch Arthur as he eats the food. You see how long it took you to read that? Well it takes even longer to watch it and you have to watch the same animations every single time Arthur cooks food or makes some medicine or ammo or skins an animal and so on. So prepare yourself to watch the same animations over and over and over.

The are some light RPG elements that will affect Arthur as the game progresses. Your health, stamina and Dead Eye (the slo-mo thing) all have their own depleting bars the more you use them. But on top of the standard ever decreasing bars, each of the three stats have cores. These cores will also deplete and the lower the cores are, the less the bars will refill. So you need to keep topping up the cores and you can do this by sleeping or eating. Then there are similar stats for your horse too and those stats also have cores you’ll have to top up. Yes there is an eating mechanic and I can see some people getting annoyed with it. To be honest with you, I never paid much attention to topping up my cores when I played the game and the only time I really ate was if my health was dangerously low. So while the eating mechanic is there, I personally never found it to be intrusive and you can play through the game without really worrying about it… I did. Then there is the  providing for the camp. Your gang camp has three main supplies that need topping up. There is food, ammo and medicine. This is where the hunting and crafting side of things come into play as anything you hunt, make or even steal can be donated to the camp to keep morale up. Again, I can see this slowing the pace of the game down a little. But again, this is something I never really bothered with during my play-through. I didn’t even donate anything to my camp until I was around 70% of the way through the game and I only did that to get the fast travel upgrade I never used. Like the cores, its just another element of the game that its nice to have there and can be used if you really want to – but it can just as easily be ignored too.

Red Dead Redemption II Camp

The controls can be more than a little finicky. As there is so much to do in the game and so many variables, that means the game needs a lot of button presses. Sometimes, there are too many button presses to do something relatively simple and at times it feels like a console’s controller is not up to the job. Like talking to a random NPC as you’ll need to hold down a button to lock-on to the person you want to talk to, this then brings up another load of button press options that’ll pop up at the bottom right of the screen for you to choose from. As it’s not as simple as just saying hello and depending on the locale, the NPCs themselves and even your situation at the time, what you can say to the NPCs changes so you need to keep an eye on that bottom right corner of the screen to ensure you give the appropriate response. Honestly I’ve turned a peaceful little town into a bloodbath just because I pressed the wrong button in response and accidentally antagonized some random guy when I didn’t mean to. Never mind trying to talk to someone while riding on a horse…

Red Dead Redemption II Weapon Wheel

There are restrictions to what and how many weapons you can carry. In the previous game, John could walk around with a small arsenal of weapons in his pocket. Multiple side arms, rifles, shotguns and others all ready and you were able to change between them as and when needed. This time around you are limited to only carrying one side arm (two when you unlock dual wielding), two larger guns – be it a rifle or a shotgun or a mix of the two, your throwing weapons like knives, dynamite, etc and a melee weapon like a knife. And that’s all Arthur can carry. But your horse can carry any and all weapons you have in the saddlebags. So you now have to think ahead and pre-plan the weapons you want for the mission coming up and decide what to carry before you get into the action. But if you do find you’ve equipped the wrong kind of iron, then you could always go back to your horse and change your load-out. This can be a little annoying if you find yourself in the midst of a gunfight and realise you need a long range rifle when you’ve come with two shotguns instead.

The Ugly

To be fair, this section is a little light on content. For the most part RDR II is a very handsome game in both its look and design. Yet there is still a touch of ugly mainly from minor bugs and glitches I have found while playing.

I was once doing a mission where I had to be stealthy and was accompanied by a gang-member. While I was crouching being as quiet as I could, a bug meant my companion was standing up-right with his arms out in the shape of a cross. There was no animation when he moved and he just slid around the map attracting all sorts of unwanted attention. Another bug saw Arthur’s ears coloured in bright red and that lasted for several cut-scenes. There are a few clipping issues especially if you let Arthur’s beard grow to its full length. Sometimes horses will spawn in unusual places.

Red Dead Redemption II Bugs

One time I went into a post office to pay my bounty and as I walked through the door, the graphics for the back wall hadn’t loaded in and you could see outside through the wall but the wall was still there as I couldn’t walk through it. My horse got stuck in a rock and I couldn’t get it out no matter how many times I whistled or tried to pull it out via holding the reigns. A common bug is certain gang-members not appearing at the camp when you need them.

I have come across a few minor issues that could do with a fix from graphical glitches to a few audio ones too. But nothing game breaking, just a few things that kind of annoyed me. Still, with a huge open-world game like this, you’re always going to get some niggles.

Overall

I guess the most obvious comparison for RDR II would be GTA V, makes sense given the fact they are both Rockstar games and a lot of the same people worked on both titles. However, I think RDR II is more like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. They both have similar problems with the slower pace, the finicky controls and the amount of traversing (especially on horseback), etc.

Witcher 3

I really didn’t think much of The Witcher 3 when I first played it for the very reasons I just stated. But the more I spent with the game, the more I fell in love with it until it finally won me over. RDR II is just like that too. The opening was good and I enjoyed it… but it still felt a little stale. Yet the more I played RDR II, the more I enjoyed it and by the time I got to the 50% mark in the story – I was hooked. It’s a slow burner for sure but well worth sticking it out.

In short, RDR II is a masterpiece just like its predecessor only much more refined and a lot more to do. I can see some of the slower elements not working with other people. The traversing can be tiresome, but I always found something to see and do along the way. The scenery of the game always kept me entertained as I galloped through forests and open land just in awe of what I was looking at. The light RPG elements can be ignored just as much as they can be embraced, just like the gang camp management. Spend time building your camp and trying to keep everyone happy if you wish – yet you don’t actually need to do any of it. I think this is something RDR II does very well.  There are parts of the game that can be embraced and played around with, but you don’t necessarily have to and you can ignore many of the distractions to just plough through the story… I did.

Red Dead Redemption II Horse Ride

I loved my time with the game even though I missed out on a lot of what it has to offer by blistering my way through it. There’s some impressive and engrossing writing from a character point of view as I went from not thinking much of Arthur to really enjoying playing as him as the story progressed. He’s no John Marston, but he’s close. The story itself is one I enjoyed and seeing how the Van der Linde gang go from a twenty two strong posse at the start of this game to the broken and disillusioned handful of people they are when the previous game kicks off was fantastic. It all builds to a very satisfying climax that ties everything up nicely and still offers a great little something to get your teeth into even after Arthur’s story is done.

I’ve been thinking of a way to quickly sum this game up and I think I have it. There have been some great games released this generation. However, none of them have truly blown me away and they’ve always felt like last gen games with improved graphics. RDR II looks and feels like an evolution in gaming, a genuine “next gen” game. I just feel sorry for all games that will be released after RDR II. Yes this was well worth the eight year gap between games and Its has left me wanting more RDR games in the future. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to start a new game. Only this time instead of speeding my way through the story, I’ll be going a much slower pace and taking in all the game has to offer. Play around with the distractions, do the side missions, etc. It’s time to head into the Wild West once more.

Horse

And I just got through an in-depth look at RDR II without talking about horse balls.

What Should Rockstar Games Do Next?

Only one more week!

Red Dead Redemption II.jpg

Okay so I fucking love Rockstar Games – as publishers, they have released some of the most enjoyable games I have ever played and as developers they have created characters and game worlds that have left a lasting impression on me for years. After a year long delay, we will soon be getting our hands on their latest release, Red Dead Redemption II… and I can’t wait. The first Red Dead Redemption is one of my all time favorite games and the new sequel (its really a prequel) is my most anticipated game in a decade if not ever.

Rockstar Games are a big, worldwide company with many branches, different development teams that work independently of each other as well as sometimes teaming up to craft some of the most loved games ever made. They’ve had a great and record breaking life in gaming since Rockstar Games was formed 1998, formally BMG Interactive. And I’m willing to bet that they have already begun work on their next fleet of games, even if only on an early pre-production level. At least one of their several branches must be working on something now that RDR II is so imminent.

But my question is, what should Rockstar do after the release of Red Dead Redemption II?

I guess the most obvious answer to that question is Grand Theft Auto VI. After the staggering success of GTA V, of course Rockstar would want to follow up with a new game in their most successful franchise and most probably have already been working on it in some capacity. But you know what, as much as I loved GTA V (and I really did), I’d be happy if they left it for a few years more yet despite the fact the last game was originally released back in 2013.

But before I get into my suggestions and ideas, I’d like to make a quick observation.

Have you noticed the gap between Rockstar’s games is getting longer and longer? There was a point when they would release a new game every two years or so (sometimes earlier) now its more like every five years. As I said at the start of this article, I fucking love Rockstar Games but I feel they have become a little lazy/complacent in recent years. Yeah I know they deliver highly polished and (almost) perfect games… often after numerous delays and yes I know games of their magnitude take a long time to develop. But still, they have multiple development studios and yet they can only manage an average of one game every five years as of late?

Rockstar Games Logos

Let me just go back ten years to 2008. Rockstar released Grand Theft Auto IV and it’s two amazing expansions with The Lost and Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony. They also released Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars. Then there was Red Dead Redemption and it’s brilliant add-on, Undead Nightmare. They published L.A. Noire. Developed Max Payne 3 and of course the mighty GTA V in 2013. That’s nine games (including add-ons) in the space of only five years between the release of GTA IV in 2008 to GTA V in 2013. Now lets take look at 2013 to 2018… nothing until Red Dead Redemption II in seven days. From nine games in five years to only one game in the latter five years. That’s quite a production drop off eh? I can only hope they have been working on numerous games over the last five years and will release them all pretty soon.

Anyway, back to the point.

As I was saying, the obvious game that Rockstar could announce next is GTA VI and despite my remark earlier about not being that fussed by another game in the series, if they did announce it – yeah I’d be chuffed. But I’d like to see something else from them other than more GTA, or other games as well as a new GTA anyway. Rockstar really have a rich pool in which to dive when to comes to their IPs outside of GTA. So I’d like to take a look at a few and offer some suggestions.

Bully 2

Bully

Oh how I adored the original Bully. A love letter to one of my all time favorite games growing up, Skool Daze given that distinctive Rockstar lick of paint. You played as troubled teenager Jimmy Hopkins who is forced to attended the the corrupt and seedy Bullworth Academy. A school that is as prestigious as it is scandalous. Jimmy crosses paths with all sorts of characters from geeky nerds in need of help to gangs of greasers and jocks. Mischievous and rule breaking teachers impede his mission as Jimmy uncovers a deep seeded delinquency and wrongdoing running rampant though the school.

When originally released back in 2006, Bully was nailed the cross by naysayers in the media claiming the game was a bullying simulator teaching children how to carry out bullying and the game was even accused of glorifying and trivializing school bullying. These claims were all made before Bully was even released. Of course Bully was nothing like it was being perceived in the press and it was in fact the opposite as your character stood up to the bullying and corrupt teachers trying to put and end to the immorality in the school.

Bully Fight

Anyway, I want a sequel. Bully is one of Rockstar’s best IPs not to already have a sequel. There have been rumors in the past of a new game. Back in 2009, Shawn Lee who wrote the music score for the game said he was working on Bully 2… it never happened. in 2011, Rockstar co-founder Dan Houser said they will work on Bully 2 after Max Payne 3… it never happened and then in 2013 Houser again said he has plans for Bully 2… it never happened. Even as recent as 2017 the rumors began to fly again when supposed “leaked images” of Bully 2 appeared online yet Rockstar never commented either way. Plus more recently, it has been suggested that Rockstar’s next game will be a sequel to Bully after RDR II is released. All we can do is wait and see.

Max Payne 4

Max Payne 3

Telling the story of ex-cop turned vigilante, turned bodyguard. Famed for its bullet time shootouts and action set pieces. The Max Payne franchise is fast paced (except for the slo-mo stuff) and non-stop action from start to finish. But there’s also an interesting story about the dark and twisted Max Payne himself from the first game from when his wife and new born baby daughter were brutally murdered.

Max Payne 3 Action

Max is a complex and deep character with a broken soul… who likes jumping around in slow-motion shooting people in the face. As much as I enjoyed Max Payne 3 it lacked that dark edge the previous two games had when Rockstar decided to change the presentation to a format I really didn’t like all that much with its distorted/glitched cut-scenes and all that guff. The game itself was immense fun though but if they do bring Max Payne back, I just hope they ditch the whole glitch presentation and go back to something more like the first two’s graphic novel idea. A more film noir approach. Speaking of which…

L.A. Noire 2

L.A. Noire

This game was a very mix bag title when it comes to opinions. Some people hated the game while others loved it. I always felt a lot of the hate came from groups of people expecting the game to be Grand Theft Auto in the 1940s what with it having the Rockstar name attached and all. But here’s the thing, L.A. Noire was not a Rockstar game at all. It was published by them yeah, but it wasn’t developed by Rockstar. The game was created by Team Bondi who are no longer around and closed down a few years back now.

But when Team Bondi closed, they sold the L.A. Noire IP to Rockstar who now own all rights. Rockstar then released a remaster of the game which I recently played through… and still thoroughly enjoyed it as much as my first time with the game last gen. I loved the slower pace, the clue finding and evidence collecting. The having to use the old noodle to piece everything together, check your notebook and question suspects over the various crimes. Being a detective was great fun.

L.A. Noire Badge

I hope they didn’t just buy the IP to make a remaster as I feel this game has a lot of potential. L.A. Noire was not a perfect game and I could sit here and nit-pick it even though I think its utterly brilliant. Seeing as the first game was inspired by real life crimes (namely the Black Dahlia), I’d like to see further games follow suit. As much as I loved the 1940s setting of the first game, I’d like to see them move to a 70s setting, I mean that decade was full of notable and infamous murders, Rockstar would be spoiled for choice. The Manson Family, John Wayne Gacy, The Zodiac, Son of Sam, Ted Bundy to name a few. Plus pick a city like San Francisco as its backdrop. The sequel may not make sense being called L.A. Noire 2 if the time-frame and setting is changed but you get the idea.

The Warriors 2

The Warriors.jpg

Perhaps one of Rockstar’s most overlooked games, which is a shame as its amazing. Based on the classic 70s flick about a street gang being accused of a murder they didn’t commit just trying to get back to their home turf. The film is great as was the game. It was nothing more than a scrolling beat em’ up but one made with a lot of love and attention to the source material including bringing back the original actors to reprise their rolls.

The Warriors Fight.jpg

Now I now what you are thinking, there is no The Warriors 2 film to base a game off. No there isn’t, but there wasn’t a Scarface 2 film to base a game of either, yet it exits with Scarface: The World Is Yours. I’m sure the talent at Rockstar Games could come up with a new and original story to work as a sequel. I mean the majority of the first game actually took place months before the film anyway with only the last few missions being based on the events shown in the film. So it just goes to show they can write an original story while still being inspired by the movie at the same time. Can you dig it?

More Red Dead Redemption

Red Dead Redemption Art

Goes without saying really doesn’t it? Of course I want more RDR, the first game (and I mean Redemption not Revolver) is one of my all time favourite games. The soon to be released sequel/prequel is most definitely my most anticipated game ever. I have played and finished the first game, I don’t know how many times over the last eight years but I’m sure I’m onto double figures. I just played through it again the other week as I get excited for RDR II.

Original Image

The Wild West is a great setting with hundreds of possible stories to be told. Other games could be connected to the already established lore and characters, or they could be all new tales. Either way, I don’t care. Just give me more RDR, only maybe get time between the release date a little less than eight years.

Agent

Agent

I’ve not forgotten about this one, not at all. See Agent was a game being worked on by Rockstar to be released as a PlayStation 3 exclusive – only that never happened. Interestingly, the game has never been officially cancelled either and Rockstar even renewed the copyright for the game in recent years. Plus Agent is still shown as an up and coming game on their official site (still listed as coming to the PS3) Is there a chance that Agent is still being worked on?

Agent Screen

Then there is the fact that images from the (unfinished) game have found their way online (see above). I hope the game is still being worked on as it sounded intriguing. Very little was known about Agent before everything went dark but what was known is that you played as a secret agent during the Cold War in the late 70s. The game would rely heavily on stealth gameplay. To be honest, it’s most probably is dead but as I said, it’s not been confirmed either way.

DMA/Rockstar Classics Collection

DMA Design

One of my favourite purchases of the last few years was the Rare Reply from 2015. A collection of thirty games from the legendary developer. So why not a similar thing covering DMA Design from before they became Rockstar and maybe even early Rockstar games too? Now I’m not sure how the rights thing will work out or if Rockstar Games even own any of the IPs for the older DMA games but I’m sure they could work something out.

Lemmings.jpg

Here are a few title suggestions they could include. The classic shooters Menace and Bloody Money. Lemmings would have to be included without question as would Lemmings 2: The Tribes. WalkerUnirally and Body Harvest would all be a dead certs. Plus of course I can’t forget GTA and GTA 2. Even get a little more modern with the likes of Red Dead Revolver and Manhunt maybe all topped off with improved graphic resolutions and all the usual gubbins. Ply the collection with game histories,  documentaries, makings of, artwork, etc. Throw in online multiplayer for games that are applicable and you’d have a corking collection.

Something New

New.jpg

Pretty much all of my suggestions have been other games in already established franchises (except Agent). Rockstar have some amazing talent working behind the scenes and I’m sure they could come up with some all new IPs.

I do love me some GTA and of course RDR. But there are times when I’d like to see something new. I’m a fan if these big, open world, sandbox type games. I really enjoy just exploring the map and playing around with the game mechanics, getting lost in all the distractions and side quests, etc. No one does open world games better than Rockstar – but how about something else from them? The Manhunt games were pretty popular… massively controversial, but popular. They weren’t open world and instead followed a more linear gameplay style. You may notice no mention of a new Manhunt game in this list. Well that’s not because I didn’t like the linear thing but more a case of I just wasn’t a big fan of the games in general.

The Long Dark

I’d like to see something more streamlined from Rockstar. I mean, The Warriors was linear and I loved it, so was Max Payne 3. The more restrictive game style just needs a better game within it and I’m positive that Rockstar are the developers to get it right. I’m a fan of hardcore survival, story driven games. Have you played The Long Dark? It’s brilliant with all it’s many variations on trying to survive the harsh weather. I’d love to see Rockstar do something like that with their production quality for example. A strong, story driven game with hundreds of possible variances.

Lets see some new IPs, new gameplay mechanics and ideas. A break from all these 50+ hour stories and huge open world maps.

Duo

Oh by the way. Did you know this time next week and Red Dead Redemption II is released?

The History Of Red Dead

Two weeks or fourteen days if you prefer. Hell, you could even say a fortnight. Either way, Red Dead Redemption II is almost here. It will soon be time to head into the Wild West once more – but how did we get to RDR II anyway? Well that’s what this article is all about, from the very start before Red Dead Redemption even existed to the release of the latest game in the franchise. This is The History of Red Dead Redemption.

In 1984, a Colombian artist by the name of Diego Angel set up his own visual effects company called Angel Studios, Inc. By the 90s, the studio specialized in computer generated effects work for movies, music videos and the like. You know all the CGI work in the film The Lawnmower Man? Yup that was Angel Studios.

Lawnmower Man.jpg

In 1996 Angel Studios worked on the cut-scenes for the game Mr. Bones on the Sega Saturn and got its first taste of the gaming industry. From then, they began developing their own games – Major League Baseball Featuring Ken Griffey Jr. was their first title released on the Nintendo 64 in 1998. They also handled the port of Resident Evil 2 for the Nintendo 64 too. But it was their driving games that really got them noticed, games such as Midtown Madness, its sequel Midtown Madness 2 and Test Drive: Off-Road Wide Open were well received at the time. But it was a relationship with a certain developer/publisher where things really changed.

Enter Rockstar Games who stepped into publish Midnight Club: Street Racing as well as Smuggler’s Run and Smuggler’s Run 2, all developed by Angel Studios in the early 2000s. But Rockstar were not the only company impressed with the studio. Capcom loved how Angel Studios manged to port Resident Evil 2 back in 98 and wanted to team up on a new game. A few ideas were brought up before it was decided that Capcom wanted to revive one of their arcade classics, a scrolling shooter from 1985 called Gun.Smoke.

Gun

This was a top down scrolling shooter Wild West inspired game where you played a bounty hunter tasked with bringing numerous outlaws to justice. This new version would make use of 3D graphics and in the early 2000s, Red Dead Revolver was born. The game was not finished but an early version was shown around 2002 as a work in progress. The plan being that Angel Studios would develop the game and Capcom would publish it. Revolver was set to be a third person shooter with its heart still firmly in the arcade, an O.T.T., non-stop, action game with little regard for realism. This is where things began to fall apart. While Capcom wanted a straight up arcade style game, Angel Studios wanted to make something with a little more depth, they wanted a story and characters. A divide began to form between the two as they just could not agree on the direction of Red Dead Revolver and so development ground to a halt.

The relationship between Rockstar Games and Angel Studios a few years previously continued to grow as Angel Studios were working on Midnight Club II to be published by Rockstar while the whole Red Dead Revolver debacle unfolded. In 2002 Rockstar Games parent company, Take-Two Interactive bought Angel Studios outright and renamed them Rockstar San Diego. Now a part of the whole Rockstar Games umbrella of studios, the ex-Angel Studios and now newly named Rockstar San Diego could no longer develop games for anyone else other than Rockstar Games… so Red Dead Revolver was finally put in its grave. However, it was a short death as Rockstar co-founders Sam and Dan Houser had been keeping an eye on this Wild West game Capcom had asked Angel Studios to develop, they liked how it looked and felt there could be a good game under all that ridiculous arcade crap. So Take-Two stepped in and bought the rights to the game from Capcom with Rockstar Games taking over publishing duties. Development of Red Dead Revolver was back on track and this time developer Rockstar San Diego and publisher Rockstar Games shared a vision. This wasn’t going to be the all action, arcade title Capcom originally wanted it to be. Now with the backing of Take-Two and Rockstar Games, with the massive success of the Grand Theft Auto series with their character and story driven gameplay – the development team finally had their vision for the game respected.

Rockstar San Diego

Rockstar San Diego got to work cutting out most of the more ridiculous moments Capcom insisted on including (there was a flying character at one point) and began replacing them with gritter and grounded elements. While the game was reigned in from its more outrageous origins, Revolver still maintained a level of humour, a style Rockstar had become famed for with their previous games. There was a level of realism and maturity without losing a sense of fun.

After a troubled development cycle and even a short stint of being all but dead only to be revived by Take-Two/Rockstar Games – Red Dead Revolver finally saw the light of day in 2004 when it was released for PlayStation 2 and Xbox. Telling to story of Red Harlow who, as a child, sees his parents murdered over the discovery of some gold. Years later, Red has become a bounty hunter who sets out to track down and extract revenge on those who killed his loved ones.

Red Dead Revolver

The game was a moderate hit for Rockstar selling less than a million copies in North America, it didn’t set the gaming world alight as their previous GTA games had done – but Revolver still saw positive reviews and a loyal fanbase was created. The future of this new IP was uncertain for a time as Rockstar San Diego concentrated on the Midnight Club franchise instead. But that little cowboy game still left an impression on the Houser brothers, they saw something in the game they wanted to explore. When Rockstar got to create a title from the ground up, installing their trademark DNA and not just take over a failing project, that’s when the RDR franchise was truly born. The next game began initial development the year after Revolver was released in 2005 and this time they raised the bar. No one expected much of it and hardly anyone really remembered the previous RDR title with some thinking that the new game was an all new IP.

It was six years between games but the sequel, Red Dead Redemption was released in 2010 and the series underwent a drastic direction change. Revolver was a pretty linear game, yeah there were slight elements of openness and freedom. But by and large, Revolver was restrictive… bloody good fun but it lacked that open-world environment other Rockstar Games had and were famed for. Redemption changed that as its basically GTA wearing a cowboy hat and just for the record… I think RDR is better than GTA. Still being developed by Rockstar San Diego for the most part but also enlisting help from other Rockstar Games studios, Redemption took the ideas from Revolver and cranked up the volume. The game is a work of art, but that’s not to say it didn’t have problems along the way.

Red Dead Redemption Art

Development for the game was strained to say the least. It was the first time Rockstar had tired to develop a game via multiple studios and the logistics were a nightmare. The building of the map itself was also a major problem. See with games like GTA that are set within cities, developers can use tricks to hide elements behind buildings or not even program graphics at all and use a lesser draw distance. With RDR being set in a large and open world with a lack of skyscrapers, etc this meant the map had fewer restrictions so the player would see more of the world and would need a bigger draw distance which proved problematic. Plus there were various issues with the impressive horse models in the game that took over a year of development alone. The recent Leslie Benzies lawsuit saw all sorts of accusations come out detailing the many, many problems while developing Redemption. And yet despite the numerous obstacles Redemption was released after a few weeks delay in 2010. With you playing as John Marston who is forcibly working with the government to track down ex-members of his old gang. The whole game is just a joy to play and leads up to one of the greatest endings to a game ever. There was some fantastic DLC released for the game too in the shape of Undead Nightmare and a handful of online extras, but nothing was ever mentioned of another RDR game for years.

Redemption was a much bigger hit than the previous game shifting a little over 14 million copies and fans were screaming out for a sequel. Then in October 2016 and after several rumors, Rockstar announced Red Dead Redemption II via a teaser trailer saying the game would be released in the fall of 2017 but it was delayed. This time given a spring 2018 date… only to be delayed again. This time given a solid 26th of October 2018 date, a date just now two weeks away. Developed by pretty much every studio under the Rockstar Games umbrella and reportedly coming in at a whopping 105gb install (on the PS4, that doesn’t include the 4K enhancements for the Xbox One X), RDR II is going to be a huge game of epic proportions.

Lawnmower Man Red Dead Redemption II

From wired cyber sex scenes in The Lawnmower Man to the realistic horse bollocks of Red Dead Redemption II. Angel Studios/Rockstar San Diego have come a long way.

 

Will Red Dead Redemption II Come To PC?

Yup its almost here only twenty two days left and you can tell I’m excited as all I’ve written the last few weeks are RDR related articles with a few more to follow before launch day. Very, very soon and after a year long delay, PlayStation and Xbox owners will be able to finally be able to play Red Dead Redemption II. But while console owners are gearing up to play what will easily be the best game of 2018, what about PC owners?

Comp

The first game (and I don’t mean Revolver) was never ported to the PC and this casts a little shadow of doubt over the chance of RDR II making its way to the platform too. But why didn’t RDR make it over to the PC? Well there is a rumor going around the interwebs that the game never game to PC because the coding was a mess and it was just too much trouble to port. Its a rumor that I can find no evidence about though. I’m pretty sure the messy code theory is just something some idiot said a while back and given the nature of the internets and people not bothering to check basic facts, it just spread like a bad game of Chinese whispers gotten out of hand.

I suppose there could be some truth in the code not being very easy to port to PC…but there is a major flaw with that idea. The game was designed and coded on PCs to begin with. So how could the coding for RDR be a mess and not work on PC when it was coded on a PC? The closest thing I can find that suggests there were problems with RDR is this article from 2016 that mentions problems with the development from 2006. But it never specifically mentions problems with the coding nor a PC version, just general issues with the game’s development overall and all games have troubles during the development cycle, so this is hardly news really. So we can’t really say that is proof the code was too messy to post to the PC. As I say, I chalk this one up to a rumor that spread over the interwebs and nothing more.

The Gang

So why no PC port? Well it has been confirmed by Rockstar Games’ Kris Roberts, who was one of the lead developers on RDR that they never even considered a PC port. This article right here confirms this. In the worlds of the man himself…

“I don’t think there was ever an intention to have a PC version of Red Dead Redemption”

– Kris Roberts

Could it really be that simple, that Rockstar just never even wanted to do a PC port of RDR to begin with? It does make more sense than the code not working for a game that was coded on PCs right? But I think there could be another factor and perhaps the most important one when it comes to running a successful company like Rockstar… money. See, in the same article, Kris Roberts also mentions how he was surprised that they did a PC version of Grand Theft Auto V and how that game was only originally going to be for consoles.

As we all now know, GTA V was a big seller. In fact its the most successful piece of entertainment in history. Not just game, but most profitable and successful anything. And its still making money five years after its initial release thanks to the online mode. But at the time, Rockstar didn’t know just how popular it was going to be so didn’t want to risk a PC port. It was only after the unbelievable sales that the idea to port the game to PC came about. This is a theory that can also be found with Grand Theft Auto IV. Again, GTA IV was originally a console only game, but it sold well and so was later ported to PC after strong sales. So how does all of this relate to the lack of a PC port of RDR?

Compare Pic

Look, I love RDR, you love RDR, a lot of people love RDR. But there is one very simple fact and that is RDR  is not as popular as GTA which is Rockstar’s flagship franchise. Again GTA IV was only ported to PC after the impressive sales on console, same with GTA V. RDR only shifted a little over 14 million units, now selling 14 million is lot, of course it is. But compared to GTA IV‘s 25 million sales from before RDR was released? Well its just not good enough.

So I think its a combination of the fact that Rockstar never really considered a RDR PC port and the fact that the game under-performed (compared to the previous sales of GTA IV that is.) that Rockstar just didn’t see the point in a PC version. You have to bear in mind that a later port means pouring money back into development, optimizing,  advertising, packaging, distribution and the like, all of which costs some serious coin. But if the sales are not good enough, then why risk it? In short, if RDR had been as popular as GTA IV and sold as many copies, then it most probably would’ve been ported to the PC. So the next time someone says that there was no PC port of RDR because the code was a mess, just call them an idiot seeing as the game was coded on a PC. Its really nothing more than a popularity/money issue.

Original Image

So to answer the question of, will Red Dead Redemption II come To PC? I guess that depends on the sales. I’m sure Rockstar’s parent company Take-Two have sales targets in mind and if RDR II meets and even beats those targets then they’ll want to make more money from their product and a PC version would be on the cards. So if you want to see RDR II on PC, you’d better get your fingers crossed that it sells… a lot. But with the RDR name just not as popular as GTA, there’s a good chance that won’t happen.

Why The Most “Boring” Part Of Red Dead Redemption Is My Favourite

October is just around the corner and that means two big things. First, Halloween is almost here. Second, Red Dead Redemption II is now only four weeks away, fuck it lets say twenty eight days instead, sounds much closer. My fingers will be tired from all the typing I’ll be doing during the last couple of weeks of October covering all I have planned.

Original Image

RDR II is on the horizon and I can’t wait. This is a game I’ve been looking forward to ever since I finished the first game (yes I do know about Red Dead Revolver, but you know what I mean) eight years ago, before this sequel/prequel was even announced. Yet wait is exactly what I must do and to help pass the time, I’ve been enjoying the stunning world Rockstar gave us with the first Red Dead Redemption. Yup I have played though RDR again ahead of the release of the new game. The 4K update for the Xbox One X backward compatible version is sexy and for an eight year old game, it can easily hold it’s own against games released today.

Now there’s a hell of a lot of things I love about RDR, the setting of the Wild West, the well written and acted characters with both main and periphery ones being very memorable, the world itself is full of life. The game is packed of things to do from the main story missions to side quests and even random encounters. Fancy taking on some wanted bandits, maybe hang out in a saloon and play some poker or liar’s dice? Go hunting for wildlife or even treasure. Unlock new clothing items, weapons and horses. RDR is one well packaged game with a lot rammed into it, so it’s kind of hard to single out just one favourite part…but I think I’ve manged to narrow it down.

As I said, there is a lot to like about RDR from its main story to its numerous side quests. The humor that is peppered throughout the game is brilliant and compliments the well written characters perfectly. Sometimes you forget you are playing a gritty Wild West game when you have characters providing comedy like Nigel West Dickens, Seth Briars or that Irish guy, I forget his name…

Red Dead Redemption Irish

But its not the humor of RDR that is my favourite part. Nor is it the varied side-quests like having to collect a bunch of flowers for a dead woman or helping a stranger build a flying machine. My favourite part is not even the lead character of John Marston even though I thought he was an utterly charming and engrossing character to play as from start to finish – one of my favourite gaming protagonists ever. Maybe its the map with its beautiful locales and vistas that just make you stop what you are doing and look around, admire your surroundings? Nope. Could it be the weather effects in the game, how you can see storm clouds slowly building the bright blue sky before a torrent of rain hits you forming puddles on the ground as lighting comes crashing down, still the best weather effects in a game so far…not that either. I do love how the game is loaded with dozens up on dozens of tiny little details and random events/encounters so you never see the same thing over and over – but there’s a part I love even more. You may think its the fact you play as hardened outlaw, robber and murderer John Marston who takes time out of his busy schedule of being an all round badass to stop, pick some wild flowers and exclaim “you little beauty!”.

Basically my point is that RDR is full of moments both big and small that could be my favourite and selecting just one moment is next to impossible. Yet after replaying through the game recently…again, I have managed to pin down the one part where it hit me that RDR was more then just a game, it was an experience. I’m going to get into SPOILERS from this point onward as I cover the end of the game, so if you’ve still not played and finished RDR then stop reading now and go play it.

Red Dead Redemption Fine Spot

So if you’ve finished the game, then you know what happens at the end and how its one of the most emotional and impactful game endings ever. The climax is both a major downer and a brilliant resolve at the same time…yet its not the very end of John Marston’s journey, but more a case of the ending and everything that leads up to in the last hour or so.

I was talking to someone about the final few missions of RDR after Dutch is dead and you go back to your ranch. They said that part is the most dull and boring of the whole game. I respectfully disagreed as those last handful of missions are by far my favourite part. Allow me to explain why and maybe paint a picture along the way too of my first time experiencing the ending with a quick recap and my view of that final stretch of RDR.

Red Dead Redemption Edgar

So the basic plot of RDR is that you playing as John Marston is under control by the government who are holding John’s wife and son as collateral to force him to track down and kill his old gang members. After tracking down the final member, Dutch the old gang leader, the government allows John to return to his wife, Abigail and son, Jack on his ranch. Its that moment after Dutch is dead when the best part of the game begins.

See, John is now free from his governmental ties and rides back to his ranch and to his family. One of the few vocal tunes kicks in (Compass by Jamie Lidell) as you make the journey home riding on your horse through the Tall Trees and onto the Great Plains areas, the song wells up as you get closer to Beecher’s Hope, your ranch and your family. After his long action and violence packed adventure, John is back home and he takes to tending to his homestead. Doing a run to MacFarlane ranch to drop off supplies along with his slightly jealous wife, Abigail. He rounds up some cattle with the help of his cantankerous old uncle, scares birds away from his corn silo. John swears never to return to that outlaw life now he is free and plans on spending the rest of his days by Abigail and Jack’s side making a life as a farmer. He finally has his redemption.

Red Dead Redemption John and Dutch

Everything is perfect…but that’s when it hits you that you’re still playing the game. Surely it should’ve ended a while back when John first got back to his family directly after Dutch’s death. John has been freed from his government ties, he’s back home with his wife and son, happy ending, roll credits, job’s a good un’.

Only the credits haven’t rolled. So why are you still playing, you have finished the game, you have done what the government asked and are now free? Why are you doing these mundane tasks after several dozen hours of action and excitement? From mowing down Mexican rebels with a Gatling gun on the back of a train, taking out bandits and their gangs to getting involved in mass shootouts…oh and collecting wild flowers while exclaiming “you little beauty!”. Its been non-stop action and adventure for the best part of fifty plus hours and now you’re a farmer?

Hitchcock

Its often said that Alfred Hitchcock was the master of cinematic tension and suspense. Well Rockstar are the gaming equivalent. While playing those last few “boring” missions, it was perfectly clear it was not quite over despite the fact you fulfilled your governmental duties and tracked down your former gang members. Something was amiss, you didn’t fully know exactly what it was the first time playing…but something was not right, you could feel it. There was a sense of unease and discomfort. With the sun glaring down on Beecher’s Hope while birds tweeted away in the background as Rufus the dog patrolled his territory happily barking away. It was peaceful and quiet – the calm before the storm and the longer these “boring” missions continued, the more tense and suspenseful the wait became.

As beautiful and serene those last handful of missions were, there was an underlying wave of anxiety. You didn’t want to see what happened next as you knew it was gong to be bad, you wanted John to be happy with Abigail and Jack, he’d more than earned it over the course of the game. You wanted him to make it as a farmer as “boring” as it sounds. I suppose you could turn your console off now and leave John on his farm with his family. But of course, you had to see the real ending. So you continued to play, herd that cattle and take them out to pasture, teach your son how to use a gun and take him hunting, kill a pack of wolves to sell their meat at a local store, break-in some wild horses. More “boring” missions followed as that niggle of negativity at the back of your head kept eating away. Something was going to happen, you were sure of it – you just didn’t know what or when.

And then it does happen, suddenly the ranch is attacked by the army under orders from the same government folk you have been working for the whole game. They want to cut all ties and that means John and his entire family must die. All hell breaks loose and that peaceful serenity of the farmer’s life is shattered as the bullets fly. John’s cantankerous old uncle is killed in the gunfight and this just spurs him on to fight back harder to save Abigail and Jack. The bastards even killed Rufus the dog who got caught in the crossfire. But there was a glimmer of hope as the numbers thinned out, the army were loosing the fight. This is it, take out the army, the crooked government officials, John can get on with his life and live happily with his family, roll credits…only that’s not what happens.

Rockstar decided to stick the knife in and give it a twist instead. With the initial wave of attackers dead and their bodies scattered around your ranch, John gathers up his wife and son and heads to the barn to get some horses – time to make a run for it. John sends Abigail and Jack away while he stays on to fend off any stragglers and as he opens the barn doors, the slow-mo Dead Eye game mechanic kicks in giving you the chance to target and kill every last one of the bastards – only that is just another Rockstar ploy, another twist of that knife, a ray of false hope specifically designed to purposefully give you a heart racing moment of blood and vengeance that John will never get. You try frantically to target each and every one of those corrupt officials. Only its just not possible, no matter how many times you reload that mission and try. The game is designed to show the inevitable end of John Marston…

Red Dead Redemption Johns Death

It a bloody and brutal end too as John is gunned down by a couple of dozen army and government suits. He falls to his knees and wheezes as his last breath leaves his body before succumbing to the dozens of bullet holes. Its a slow and agonising death. Rockstar don’t make the end of John Marston an easy watch, they want to to feel the pain. You’ve just spend the entire game playing as John, got to know him as a character, got to know his life and even fell in love with him a bit…and now he’s dead and you’re going to watch.

All that time doing those “boring” missions was a build up to exactly this, the grand finale. They were meant to be “boring” to lull you into a false sense of security, to give you a little ray of hope that everything was going to be okay. And when you think that’s it, no more, its over and you’ve seen the worst. The game then makes you control his son, Jack and forces you to go back to the ranch and see John lying in a pool of his own blood as Abigail and Jack look over the dead, blood soaked body.

This is punishment, punishment for enjoying the game and for enjoying John Marston as a character. I mean after all, he was an outlaw, a thief and a killer. John Marston was a bad guy looking for a little redemption and he didn’t get it. The whole thing, those last few missions and John’s death, they are one and the same and you can’t have one without the other.

That is my favourite part of RDR, not just the finality of John’s fate but also those “boring” missions before as without them, the ending wouldn’t have had the same level of impact. If after dealing with Dutch, John returned home and it was a happy ending or if on your return to the ranch, the army instantly attacked – the ending wouldn’t have had the same level of impact. You needed those “boring” missions to juxtapose against the bloody and violent resolve. That’s why the “boring” part of RDR is my favourite. Its Rockstar’s Hitchcock moment and one that master of suspense would’ve been envious of. Well played Rockstar, well played indeed.

The climax of RDR is one of the hardest, most uncomfortable and yet most satisfying endings to a game ever. A finality I think that will be hard to top. It’ll be interesting to see what Rockstar have planned for RDR II, with it being a prequel we know a lot of what will happen and who will survive given the story of this game, so there will be a certain lack of surprise.

Can they catch lightning in the bottle twice and deliver an equally or even better resolve with the new game? Either way, RDR II has some pretty huge cowboy boots to fill.

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.

Duo.jpg

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?

Horse

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…