Grab your oversize, flat-brimmed hat, rusty revolver and trusty steed, because we're having an old-fashioned Western showdown between the top reasons to be excited, and skeptical about, Red Dead Redemption 2.
Be it game design or corporate design, there are plenty of reasons to be both hyped and cautious about the sequel to Rockstar's beloved open-world Western. Now let's go rustle us up some cogent arguments for both.
Hyped: It's Rockstar
Rockstar Games has a bit of a knack for producing quality titles, in case you hadn't heard. Perhaps you recall the last Red Dead Redemption game? Or, more recently, the indie darling Grand Theft Auto V? No matter what game you look at on Rockstar's résumé, odds are it has a rabid fanbase and sales figures that'd make Kevin O'Leary blush. And there's a reason for that: even though people gobble up mainstream garbage in gaming all the time, they gravitate toward mainstream quality even more. Rockstar Games, with its hundreds of millions in funding and small army of supremely talented employees, always makes sure to deliver on the latter.
Not Hyped: It's Rockstar
Though highly competent in delivering quality products, Rockstar Games is also the video-game equivalent of Ajit Pai. This is the company that sells price-gouging, proprietary "Shark card" digital currency in GTA Online, and prices in-game items so high that buying the cards with real-world money is all but necessary. Rockstar is also the company that will permaban you from online multiplayer should you dare install single-player mods in your game.
Considering Rockstar has already made it clear that online functionality will be a big part of Red Dead Redemption 2, who's to say the developer won't commit these same war crimes twice? Mind you, the latter concern pertains primarily to PC, and since no PC port has been announced yet… well, there's no immediate reason to panic (but the forecast is stormy).
Hyped: The map is huge
New gameplay mechanics and design innovations are overrated. If you're a real gamer, you know it's all about the size of the product. Is it the biggest open world in the history of gaming? Is it the digital equivalent of the circumference of planet Earth? These are the only things that truly matter. Thankfully, Rockstar Games seems to be cooking up one big, big open world.
Not Hyped: The map is huge… and without cars
"It's not the size, but how you use it that matters." I bequeath this advice unto Rockstar Games, as it works on developing a massive open-world adventure set in a time before cars existed. If the sheer scope of this world means I'm going to be bored to tears trekking around on a horse at 20 miles per hour, what's the point? Trains better be a huge part of traversal, or this is going to end up being a game for punished LA commuters with Stockholm Syndrome.
Hyped: The Honor System
Back in Red Dead Redemption, there was an Honor system that judged you based on whether you were good or bad to in-game civilians and the world around you. The issue was, there were no real incentives to being a bad cowboy, which negated the entire point of making choices.
If Rockstar fine-tunes the Honor system to be less of a one-sided faux-feature than it was in Red Dead Redemption, perhaps we could have something interesting on our hands. Will Rockstar provide legitimate benefits for both sides of the honor coin, thereby providing real stakes to the gameplay and consequences for your interactions with NPCs? Will we see substantial positive aspects to being "low honor," unlike in the first game, so that we're incentivized to actually choose our morality out of preference rather than rational "this option gets me more candy" game logic? The possibilities are exciting.
Not Hyped: Cowboys didn't have honor, though
Frankly, this system sounds aggressively annoying if it's not implemented worlds' more effectively than it was in Red Dead Redemption. I don't want to be arbitrarily judged in my video- gaming free time all because I couldn't be bothered to babysit townspeople, "gather resources" (also known as the oldest playtime-padding trick in the developer handbook) for pointless errand quests or play nice 100 percent of the time.
This reminds me of The Amazing Spider-Man 2's hero-menace system, where unless you did a stupid open-world side mission every 3 minutes (literally), you'd start being hunted by an obnoxious task force. It was an absurd chore. Hopefully, Rockstar avoids that and actually evolves the honor system past the fake, two-dimensional "Good? Bad? A bit of both? Your choice!" dichotomy that's existed in video games for far too long (looking at you, Mass Effect).
Hyped: The story
It's well-known that Rockstar's got a knack for writing top-tier characters and stories to go with them. Here's a quote from a colleague of mine, Tom's Hardware editor Andrew Freedman: "RDR is still one of the best narratives I've played since it released. If [RDR2] comes close to par with that, I'll be happy." Hopefully things are as gritty, funny and morbidly cathartic as they always are in Rockstar games.
Not Hyped: The story that's not coming to PC, yet
Red Dead Redemption 2 is only scheduled to come to PS4 and Xbox One when it arrives on Oct. 26. However, Rockstar has seen the sales of GTA V's PC port, and you can bet your bottom dollar the company liked what it saw. This means that, barring the advent of the single biggest corporate blunder in gaming history, Red Dead Redemption 2 will eventually mosey on over to PC.
Still, it's always frustrating when Rockstar pretends like it's not coming over to your place, when you both know it'll traipse through the door at 11:30 p.m., giggling about how much Microsoft and Sony were eyeballing it at the bar (or should I say saloon?).
Hyped: It's a Western
When's the last time a game took you back to the good ole days of Andrew Jackson, cholera and chasing after tumbleweeds? What, you're saying you don't want to relive the Trail of Tears and rampant, lawless violence against the weak that occured back then? Well, too bad, 'cause Rockstar is going to give it to you.
On a serious note, it'll be nice to travel back to a time when all that existed was nature, your horse wheezing from having to haul your heavy behind around, and you, whistling some nice tunes while you prepared to gun down bandits. A pleasant change of pace indeed, given that the rest of the video-game medium is filled to the gills with sci-fi shooters, fantasy RPGs and a vast range of open-world games, all of which neglect the underused setting Red Dead Redemption calls home.
Not Hyped: Westerns died for a reason
Perhaps few games tackle the Wild West because, well, it's boring as hell. Rockstar's going to have a tough time spicing up a time that can be summarized by "ride horses, shoot janky guns, eat desert dust, tip your big hat at some painted ladies in taverns, then rinse and repeat." Hopefully, Rockstar brings its usual A-grade writing, so at least we have interesting characters and stories to distract from the (hypothetical) monotony of the core gameplay. Or maybe Rockstar will somehow reinvent the time period to be a blast. Anything's possible!
Credit: Rockstar Games