There’s no doubt in my mind that open ended, sandbox worlds have become the staple of the gaming world. While tightly wound level based titles can occasionally offer a more complete narrative when done right, players want choice. This has been made obvious by several franchises over the years, though none more so than Grand Theft Auto. Rockstar has perfected the free to roam experience by giving players massive, sprawling cityscapes to explore. So when the developer decided to leave the concrete jungle and hitch a wagon ride to the wild west, gamers across the world drooled at the possibilities.
Almost three years later, Red Dead Redemption alone has sold over twelve million units. It won several “Game of the Year” awards and reviewers praised its graphics, musical scores, and voice acting. The move out to the frontier was so massively successful that Rockstar has already dropped subtle hints of another installment in the Red Dead franchise for the next generation of consoles!
There have been no clues as to how the developer plans to continue the narrative. Although, there are plenty of opportunities in the story to see a divergence from the main timeline. Perhaps a spinoff, alternate history, or gap filler. It’s doubtful we’ll be seeing Rockstar pickup where they left off, since John Marsten, the protagonist of Redemption, was obliterated a la Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. That is unless the writers weave their wizard magic into rebirthing Marsten and call the next chapter Red Dead Revival. Which honestly doesn’t sound half bad.
Regardless, it’s worth playing to get an idea of why you should be excited for the future. Seriously. If you haven’t picked this up, go out and get it right now. I’ll wait.
I’ve got plenty to keep me occupied while I wait.
Now that you’ve had it out with the local wildlife, rounded up a few bandits, robbed a few trains, and ultimately earned those scars, you understand why I’m hyped for a successor to Redemption. There is something almost primal in the way this title plays out versus its sister series, GTA. Even a guy like myself, who normally has no interest in the old American West, couldn’t help but feel a surge of excitement the first time I was given a steed, a lasso, and a rifle and told to go wherever my heart desired.
I think most people would agree that it’s human nature to want to explore. Where all sandbox worlds do give the player that ability, the feeling of reward is ultimately lost in the urban chaos of most modern settings. In Red Dead, you exist in a world that is raw and mostly untouched. When you explore, there really is a justifiable sense of accomplishment every time ride over a hill and gaze upon virgin landscape. The settlements are so few and far between that leaving town is not just some minor road trip. It’s a journey. And that’s what a next-gen Redemption should expand upon.
Albeit a journey with less Michael Bay.
Assuming the writers have a story locked down that is on par with the original, the only way to enrich the Red Dead experience is to really focus in on the subtleties of adventure and exploration. Despite not having any information on next-gen system specs, it’s a safe bet that there will be a planet’s worth of resources at the developer’s disposal to craft an open world game that does not sacrifice detail for quantity.
Right off the bat we can expect a vast graphical improvement. Redemption hosted arguably the most impressive, realistic, environments this generation and the character models were equally as stunning. The protagonist’s appearance fit his voice and attitude flawlessly, but the facial animations left a little to be desired. After L.A. Noire, it’s clear Rockstar knows their way around MotionScan technology so I don’t believe it would be too much to ask for that level of realistic expression be present in the next title.
The honor system was a great, if not familiar inclusion. Players had the option to either be a hero or an outlaw. Your status was based on points awarded for various deeds and your methods for executing them. If you were challenged to a duel, for example, shooting your opponent’s weapon from their hands would net you positive honor while outright killing them would cause bystanders to shy away from you in fear. This sort of mechanic is not new. There are plenty of titles that utilize similar systems but few realize their full potential. Let’s take it a few steps further. If my honor sunk low enough, could I start my own gang? Perhaps build a hideout of my own and hire outlaws that could be dispatched to rob banks and trains? On the other hand, with enough positive honor would the townsfolk ask me to become their full time law enforcer?
“Maybe I should have gone with the premium henchmen package…”
This brings me to another feature that I would love to see in a Read Dead title. Skyrim’s Hearthfire DLC demonstrated how easy it was to include a building construction system in an open world game. With more processing power at hand, the addition of a mechanic that would allow players to erect full settlements is entirely feasible. After all, this franchise occurs during a time period centered on settlers expanding west. So let the player be a part of that experience.
Assassin’s Creed 3 touched a little on what I’m getting at here, but all of the buildings, upgrades, NPCs, and even the settlement were pre-selected. Just imagine how immersive and personal it would be to leave all of these options open to the player. To pick your own spot in the world to construct a town complete with saloons, inns, workshops, a jail, and walls to protect the frontiersmen living in your budding homestead from bandit raids. People tend to feel a little more attached to things they have designed and built from the ground up. There is so much opportunity here; it would be criminal not to capitalize on its potential.
A lot of great IPs are up on the table that could be tied to the first year, if not the launch, of the next generation console. However, a Red Dead Redemption sequel is all we’ll need to really see what next-gen is capable of. Keep it locked here, cowboys and cowgirls. You can expect us to round up all the information on the next Red Dead as soon as its put to pasture. Bad puns aside.