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Red Dead Redemption (#110 of 3)

The Red Dead Redemption II Launch Trailer Is Here, In All Its Western Glory

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The Red Dead Redemption 2 Launch Trailer Is Here, In All Its Western Glory

Rockstar Games

The Red Dead Redemption 2 Launch Trailer Is Here, In All Its Western Glory

Currently, Red Dead Redemption sits as our number two greatest game of all time, so there’s more than a little chomping at the bit in the lead up to the release of its prequel, Red Dead Redemption II, on October 26. To help tide things over—or perhaps to refocus attention away from questions about Rockstar’s “100-hour-week” labor practices—there’s a new minute-long trailer designed to sell the game’s cinematic and western bona fides.

A Vision of the Past, and Future Red Dead Redemption

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A Vision of the Past, and Future: Red Dead Redemption
A Vision of the Past, and Future: Red Dead Redemption

Developed by Grand Theft Auto masterminds Rockstar Games, Red Dead Redemption is the game GTA always wanted to be. This pseudo-sequel to 2004’s Red Dead Revolver—a functional if underwhelming third-person western saga—thrusts you into a roam-all-you-want Old West sandbox environment, allowing you the freedom to concentrate on the storyline’s primary missions or simply gallop about the vast plains, dusty deserts, and Mexican mountains, collecting rare herbs, hunting wild animals, and rescuing whatever damsel in distress you might happen upon along the way. Far less limiting than GTA’s urban metropolises, which—because so much of those cities’ interior spaces were inaccessible—always felt constructed out of paper houses, Red Dead Redemption’s settings are fully, thrillingly alive, their functioning ecosystems, sudden dramatic occurrences, and operative economy all helping to create a sense of participating in a universe that operates independent of (rather than revolves around) you. To spend time in this adventure’s locales is to feel a part of a wider world. And, consequently, to catch a glimpse at gaming’s immersive potential.

As with its GTA predecessors, Red Dead Redemption is at once upfront about its cinematic influences and yet not beholden to them, using its myriad frames of reference to produce something both familiar and unique. You platy as John Marston, a former outlaw who’s compelled in 1911 by the federal government—under threat to his family—to visit New Austin (a Texas stand-in) to track down and kill former criminal mate Bill Williamson. It’s a task that goes awry at outset, thus compelling you to get Marston back on his feet and prepare for a siege on Williams’s fort compound. If that basic setup sounds similar to countless classic and revisionist westerns, that’s no accident, as allusions abound throughout Red Dead Redemption’s lengthy campaign. As always, though, Rockstar doesn’t name-check so much as simply tip the cap to its favorite celluloid ancestors, from Once Upon a Time in the West (and its depiction of encroaching modernity sounding the old guard’s death knell) and The Wild Bunch (especially during the game’s later Mexican Civil War sequences) to, in the name of a budding oil community, There Will Be Blood.