Howdy, everyone! Today, we’ll be taking a look at one of gaming’s most prestigious series: Red Dead. Spanning three games, an online mode, and DLC, this franchise is a hallmark of the industry. Let’s see where it all began and how it evolved into the series we know today. So get on your horse, grab those lassos, giddy on up, and let’s go full-steam ahead!
What is Red Dead?
Red Dead is a video game franchise created by Rockstar Games and Take-Two Interactive. It’s from the same studio behind the Grand Theft Auto series, which it shares many similarities with. Both feature open-world gameplay, as well as third-person shooting and live environments. What separates the two is that Red Dead is Western-themed, with all the games taking place during the American Frontier. The games also focus on narrative more than GTA, but still let players have free range of what to do. While the games focus on single-player, multiplayer is available.
A well-known feature of the games is Dead Eye, which allows the player to slow time to make accurate shots at enemies with their weapon. This would end with a sequence of the damage dealt to the targets.
Red Dead Revolver
Originally a Capcom title, Red Dead Revolver is an odd one. The game follows Red Harlow, a bounty hunter, as he hunts for his parent’s murderer. The gameplay was third-person and had shooting and a linear story. However, it was not open-world, like future installments would be. Interestingly enough, the game introduced Dead Eye, which became a series staple. The game’s studio, Angel Studios, was bought by Take-Two and Rockstar Studios in 2000. The studio, which became Rockstar San Diego, had the game, despite it being unplayable. The team liked the concept so much that they continued development on it and acquired the rights from Capcom.
Red Dead Revolver released for PlayStation 2 and Xbox on May 4th, 2004. The game received mostly positive responses from critics, which cited the strong story and soundtrack but weirdly short levels. Many forget the game’s existence, as it never got much attention after its release.
However, it wasn’t until E3 2005 that Rockstar gave a tease of a future installment.
Red Dead Redemption
In 2009, Rockstar announced the sequel to Red Dead Revolver, named Red Dead Redemption. As protagonist John Marston, you are tasked by the government to hunt down three of your old gang members in exchange for your wife and son. Now with open-world gameplay, players experience the tail-end of the American Frontier and explore fictional American and Mexican states. The game features an Honor system, which will change depending on your actions. Committing robberies and crimes will decrease your Honor while aiding others and bringing bounties alive will increase it. These actions can net you discounts at stores or close them off to you. Also in the game is the bounty system. Similar to GTA’s star system, if you commit a crime, the police and bounty hunters will hunt you unless you escape, take them on, or pay your bounty off.
The game released on May 18th, 2010 to Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 after a few delays. Upon launch, many critics and audiences hailed the game as the best of the decade. Almost all of its qualities were lauded, like Woody Jackson’s original soundtrack (the first in Rockstar history) and Rob Wiethoff’s performance as John Marston. There were some critiques in terms of character actions and game controls, but weren’t too severe. Red Dead Redemption received numerous accolades, with Game Developers Choice Awards and Spike Video Game Awards giving the title Game of the Year (nominees included Mass Effect 2 and Call of Duty: Black Ops). The game was even nominated for Game of the Decade in 2012 for Spike Video Game Awards but lost to Half-Life 2.
Later in 2010, Rockstar decided to have a little fun and release a standalone expansion to the game. This time, it’s got some bite.
Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare
A DLC to Red Dead Redemption, Undead Nightmare follows a similar plot. This time, John has to find a cure for the zombie outbreak that has infected his wife and son. Players will fight zombies and mythical creatures like unicorns and Sasquatch, as well as ride on undead horses. All of the cast and crew returned to create the game, making it feel more like a part of Red Dead Redemption rather than a spin-off, despite it not being canon. The game maintains the Western themes but adds a zombie flick flair to it.
Released on October 26th, 2010 (just in time for Halloween), it was well-received by critics. While heavy on fetch quests, the humor the DLC brought was delightful and welcoming to fans of the base game. Many applauded Rockstar for managing to embrace references and memes without coming off cringy, as well as not going too satirical. Undead Nightmare snagged a few awards, including Best DLC at Spike Video Game Awards. Like Red Dead Redemption, some claim the DLC is the best to be released, yet the base game is preferred.
Rockstar shifted gears to Grand Theft Auto V, which released in 2013, and became the second highest-selling game of all time. With its success, many believed the company would focus on creating the next GTA, leaving Red Dead in the dust. Behind the scenes, however, was a different story.
Red Dead Redemption 2
Revealed in October 2016, Red Dead Redemption 2 (also formatted as Red Dead Redemption II) was the return of the acclaimed franchise. What made the game unique was that, despite the 2, it was a prequel and not a sequel. The game puts you in the boots of Van der Linde senior member Arthur Morgan. You, alongside a memorable gang of outlaws, face other gangs and the government as they try to survive an ever-changing Wild West in 1889. All of the gameplay mechanics from previous titles are present and expanded upon. The world is twice the size of Red Dead Redemption and more unique, with bustling cities and small towns galore. New features such as train robbery, dialogue trees, cores, and weapon health further the realism the game wanted.
Red Dead Redemption 2 launched on October 26th, 2018 on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 to critical fanfare. It was lauded for its gameplay, graphics, and realism. Many noted the insane attention to detail in the world, from its realistic NPCs to the weather system. With a 97 on Metacritic, it is currently the seventh-highest-ranking video game of all time. For Xbox One and PlayStation 4, it is the highest-rated game on both consoles. Much like its predecessor, the acting, most notably Roger Clark as Arthur Morgan, and music, once again by Woody Jackson, received high praise. Major news outlets such as GameSpot and Vulture named the game their Game of the Year. At the 2018 Game Awards, it was up for eight categories, including Game of the Year, and walked home with four (Best Score/Music, Best Audio Design, Best Narrative, and Best Performance for Roger Clark).
There is, as far as we know, no new Red Dead game in the works. Currently, the team at Rockstar is working on Grand Theft Auto VI. It may be some time before we score another game. However, Rockstar has announced a port of Red Dead Redemption + Undead Nightmare that will launch on PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch on August 17th. The game will cost $49.99, with a physical release coming out on October 13th.
Well, it’s time to ride off into the sunset. Have you played any of the Red Dead games? Which one is your favorite? Do you think there will be another game? Let me know in the comments and leave a like if you enjoyed the article. Until next time, outlaws!