Red Dead Redemption 2: Trailers, release date, gameplay, plot details, bonus content and more

Rockstar's Western epic is days away from release. Here's a quick rundown of everything we know about the hotly anticipated sequel.

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Originally hailing from Troy, Ohio, Ry Crist is a writer, a text-based adventure connoisseur, a lover of terrible movies and an enthusiastic yet mediocre cook. A CNET editor since 2013, Ry's beats include smart home tech, lighting, appliances, broadband and home networking.
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Ry Crist
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Rockstar Games

It's been eight years since Rockstar released Red Dead Redemption, an open-world, story-based action-adventure game set in the Wild West for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Most gamers consider it to be a modern masterpiece, and some (myself included) even herald it as one of the best games ever made.

That's why people are so excited for Red Dead Redemption 2, the long-awaited follow-up that's finally set to arrive for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One gamers later this week. First announced in October of 2016, the sequel is pitched as "an attempt to capture this pivotal moment when the age of outlaws was ending and the modern world was born." You can sample some in-game footage to see it for yourself by clicking here, or watching the video below:

The footage shows us our protagonist (more on him in just a bit) trekking his way through the frontier, through forests and swamps and dusty desert landscapes and into danger at every turn. You'll explore the story as part of a band of outlaws filled with some familiar faces, and your choices come with consequences -- and implications as to just how honorable your hero truly is.

New mechanics include unique, breed-specific temperaments for the different horses in the game, which should help make choosing between a Kentucky Saddler and a Hungarian Half-bred a more meaningful decision. On top of that, expect your horse to be a more meaningful sidekick thanks to new permadeath mechanics and a trust factor that'll level up your horse with new abilities the longer you take care of it and keep it safe.

The prequel to Rockstar's Western epic arrives on consoles Oct. 26.

Rockstar Games

You'll also be able to foster relationship dynamics with the individual members of your gang, which seems like an interesting way to inject some humanity in between the brawls and shootouts. Rockstar is also promising improved shooting mechanics with realistic, gun-specific recoil -- so your double-action revolver is going to feel noticeably different than your Henry repeater or your bolt action rifle when you fire it.

So can Red Dead 2 live up to the hype? Time will tell (and some of us have our concerns) -- for now, here's a rundown of what we know about the game, along with a quick history of the series to help get you caught up.

What's Red Dead Redemption all about?

Developed by Rockstar Games -- the studio behind marquee franchises such as Grand Theft Auto and Max Payne -- the original Red Dead Redemption was an open-world Wild West epic set in 1911. Consisting primarily of a single-player, action-adventure campaign, the game cast you as John Marston, a complex and conflicted former outlaw forced to hunt down his old crew after the government takes his wife and son hostage.

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Among other things, the original Red Dead Redemption was celebrated for its story and characters, its stunning, open-world vistas, and its refined shooting mechanics. Expect more of the same in Red Dead 2.

Rockstar Games

The game was developed using the same engine as Grand Theft Auto 4, and it borrowed the same basic story-driven mission structure of that game. As you gallop your way through the gorgeous open world, you encounter a wide cast of memorable characters, many of whom enlist you on tasks and missions that help move the plot forward. Along the way, you're free to explore, hunt wildlife, trade with the locals, rob one of the horse-drawn carriages traversing the wilderness, visit the saloon for a quick game of Liar's Dice and countless other open-world opportunities.

As video games go, Red Dead Redemption was notable for the vast landscapes and breathtaking vistas of its map, which takes you through a surprisingly diverse mix of Western-influenced settings -- everything from dusty ghost towns and Mexican mesas to serene prairies and snowy mountain trails populated with lumbering grizzlies. This writer has many fond memories of evenings spent exploring the terrain on a trusty steed, often chasing a blazing sunset over the horizon on my way to the next story mission. It was Westworld sans the dystopic existentialism (more shotguns, fewer shoguns).

Also notable: The game's shooting mechanics, which represented a significant step forward from what Rockstar fans were used to in the Grand Theft Auto franchise at that point. Gamers still enjoy that Red Dead approach to gunslinging today, as Rockstar incorporated much of it into future hits like Grand Theft Auto 5.

Watch this: Red Dead Redemption 2 debut trailer

Where does Red Dead 2 pick up? Is Marston back?

The Red Dead Redemption sequel is actually a prequel that takes place 12 years before the events of the first game. Though eagle-eyed viewers will spot him sitting with his family around the gang's campfire in the gameplay footage video up at the top of this post, John Marston doesn't feature in any of the trailers -- instead, our hero is a new character named Arthur Morgan, a debt collector for the Van der Linde gang. 

Fans familiar with the series will recognize that as Marston's old crew, and Josh Bass, art director at Rockstar San Diego and director of art at Rockstar North confirms to The Hollywood Reporter that we'll be learning a lot more about them in Red Dead 2 -- including titular leader Dutch Van der Linde, who served as one of the primary antagonists of the first game.

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Along with lots of new characters, expect to see a few familiar faces in Red Dead Redemption 2.

Rockstar Games

"In Red Dead Redemption 2 you get to see that gang, including Marston, at the peak of their notoriety and at the very moment things begin to fall apart," Bass tells THR. The trailer footage we've seen so far shows that we'll be seeing other familiar faces, too, including the seedy outlaw Bill Williamson, Marston's initial target from the first game.

As for new hero Arthur Morgan, Bass calls him Dutch's "most trusted enforcer," and describes the deep-seeded loyalties he feels towards Dutch, loyalties that will likely color much of the plot.

"Adopted into the gang by Dutch when he was a young boy, Arthur considers the gang to be his family — Dutch has given his life some much‐needed purpose, and the gang has served as the one positive and constant in Arthur's life," Bass says, going on to add, "Through Arthur's eyes, you see events begin to take a toll on the gang as they are forced to flee across America, while at the same time, Dutch's hold on the gang begins to slip."

That said, don't expect to play as different characters in the gang, a la the multi-protagonist approach of Grand Theft Auto 5.

"They are a group of fully realized characters with relationships to each other and to Arthur," Bass says, "but this is Arthur's story and we are placing players firmly in Arthur's boots as he and the gang deal with a rapidly changing world."

It's also worth noting that this will actually be the third game in the Red Dead franchise. The first, 2004's Red Dead Revolver, was initially developed by Angel Studios before Rockstar acquired the company and released the game. Red Dead Revolver is more of a spiritual predecessor to the Redemption games than anything else, though some of the themes and mechanics, like Quickdraw, which lets you slow time and highlight multiple targets for a rapid multishot strike, have carried over.

When does it come out, and how can I play it?

After initially pitching a fall 2017 release, Rockstar pushed Red Dead Redemption 2's release back to Oct. 26, 2018. Just a few days to go!

The game will launch on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles at a base price of $60 (£50 or AU$69), but it's still unclear if we'll  ever be able to play it on computers. The original never made it to PC, but recent triple-A titles from Rockstar, like GTA 5 and LA Noire, have. A PC port is something that fans are clamoring for (there's even a petition on change.org that's getting close to its 75,000-signature goal), but with Rockstar largely a no-show at E3, don't expect any news about a PC port before the game's release.

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RDR2 will come in both Special and Ultimate editions, each with a physical map of the game's terrain and its own set of in-game bonus content. A third Collector's Box option doesn't include the game itself, but instead offers a mix of memorabilia. (Click here to see detail.)


Something else worth knowing: Rockstar is also releasing the game in both "Special" and "Ultimate" editions for $80 and $100, respectively. Each one packages the game with distinct bonus content (click the image to the right to see what's included). There's also a third "Collector's" edition that doesn't include the game itself, but instead serves as a sort of loot crate filled with even more game-related goodies. The cost for that? Also $100.

On top of that, the extras you get will differ depending on whether you buy the game in its physical or digital form. For instance, people who preorder the digital version will receive extra funds when they start their adventure, along with a digital map leading to even more loot in the game. On the other hand, fans who buy a physical copy of the Ultimate edition will receive a nifty souvenir in the form of a physical map of the game's terrain, along with a classy, steel-book case.

In other words, there isn't any way to get everything with a single purchase, which some superfans find pretty frustrating. It also appears that PlayStation gamers will get some form of exclusive bonus content that won't be available on Xbox, but neither Rockstar nor Sony have released any details. Stay tuned on that front.

I'll also be curious to hear about Rockstar's plans for post-launch content -- the first game ultimately got a standalone, zombie-themed offshoot adventure called Undead Nightmare, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if we see something similar, or even a follow-up zombie prequel. 

In addition to the single-player campaign, the original Red Dead Redemption also featured an online multiplayer mode that let you get into shootouts with your friends. It looks like that's the plan this time around as well, but we don't know the full mechanics of how it will work. Just a hunch, but I'm guessing that it'll include a fresh, Western spin on heists, a popular collaborative challenge from GTA Online. There could be a variety of multiplayer modes this time around, too -- for instance, with the recent explosion of battle royale games such as Fortnite and Player Unknown's Battlegrounds, an online, last-man-standing-style shootout could be a fun inclusion, too.

  • Want more Red Dead Redemption 2? Head to our sister sites GameSpot and Giant Bomb for in-depth coverage as the game's release draws near.

Red Dead Redemption 2: The CNET review

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