Red Dead Redemption 2 – In GTA V’s Shadow?

    Times sure have changed since the launch of Red Dead Redemption. Rockstar have gone from strength to strength since the launch of the critically acclaimed Western-themed open world title. The 360 and PS3 have been replaced and in their stead are the more powerful PS4 and Xbox One. Rockstar have also had huge success with GTA V, which continues to top charts, bring in huge amounts of money and is still a favourite among YouTube viewers.

    It’s this success that kind of has me worried for Red Dead Redemption 2. If Rockstar think they can turn Read Dead Redemption 2 into the same sort of blockbuster that GTA V was, I think they’re biting off more than they can chew.

    For a start the very setting of Red Dead Redemption, by its very nature, can’t be as varied or as outlandish as those seen in GTA games. With GTA V you can very quickly be in the middle of a busy city, surrounded by huge skyscrapers, then you can be on top of a mountain, surrounded by wilderness all before you end up in a quiet suburb, a rundown industrial estate or anything else that comes with having your game take place in a modern setting.

    Red Dead Redemption on the other hand can only play with a much less varied set of locations or it’ll run the risk of looking unrealistic. The original Red Dead Redemption managed to have some variety, with pine forests, some small towns (8 or 9 buildings), forts and of course a lot of desolate plains.

    Speaking of desolation, it’s hard not to think that Red Dead Redemption 2 will look absolutely barren in comparison to GTA V. By design the Red Dead Redemption world will have areas that simply aren’t populated by other people. This will work to generate a sense of isolation but will it play well to the YouTube crowd? How many videos have you seen where an overexcited YouTuber is screaming and shouting as they mow down a crowd of NPCs. This is simply not going to happen in the new Red Dead Redemption.

    It may seem like I’m being cynical by highlighting how popular GTA V has been thanks to the virality of the YouTube content that it’s been responsible for but this is the way of modern game marketing. Without all of those videos there’s no way that GTA V would have been as successful for as long as it has.

    Whilst people will undoubtedly stream and upload all sorts of Red Dead Redemption 2 content, it’s hard to see it taking off quite like GTA V has. The main issue is that Red Dead Redemption will unlikely have quite the same amount of toys to play with. There’ll be no fighter jets, no cars, no boats, no ramps, no motorbikes, etc. All of those videos you see of a team goofing about online aren’t likely to be replicated in Red Dead Redemption 2.

    Speaking of online, just what on Earth will Red Dead Redemption 2 offer in terms of online play? Whilst the first Red Dead did offer some rudimentary online play, allowing you to posse up and go on small scale missions, it’s hard to see how this will meet the modern gamer’s demands.

    Most gamers expect some kind of large persistent goal when jumping online, such as levelling up a character, building a safe house or unlocking cool new cars and weapons. Again, the setting of Red Dead Redemption 2 makes this more difficult to work thematically. There’s also the problem of just what game modes you can realistically expect. GTA V had such a variety of modes because it had such a variety of locations, vehicles and weaponry. Aside from protecting a fort together, robbing a bank or racing a horse, making a compelling online mode for Red Dead Redemption 2 is likely to be a tough task.

    All of this talk has focused on the online functionality but Red Dead Redemption 2 has a hurdle that no other Rockstar game has had to overcome before. Every time a new GTA game comes out, it’s always a clean slate of new characters and settings (excluding cameos for the most part).

    This is different – this is the sequel to one of the most critically acclaimed video game stories with one of the most beloved endings of all time. Rockstar have to absolutely nail the story and character of this game or they’re going to upset a lot of fans.

    So whilst I’m excited to see what Rockstar do I’m nervous as to how they’re going meet the existing fans’ expectations whilst creating something new that meets the needs of the modern gamer.

    It’s a near impossible task to meet the high standards and commercial success that GTA V has set whilst also maintaining the heart and soul of what made Red Dead Redemption so great.

    But if any developer is up to the task, it’s Rockstar. Let’s hope they knock it out of the prairie.

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