Since Grand Theft Auto III came out in 2001, nearly every Rockstar game has been given the midnight launch treatment, with droves of fans eager to explore the studio’s next masterpiece. Rockstar has cultivated a unique identity, propelled by the success of its flagship Grand Theft Auto series but sharpened and cultivated with cult classics like Bully, L.A. Noire and The Warriors.
It’s no surprise then that every Rockstar game is mulled over, speculated on, and eagerly anticipated. It also goes without saying that each new game improves upon the last.
However, Grand Theft Auto V wasn’t without faults of its own. From a disappointing main storyline with forgettable villains to a sloppy multiplayer debut, Rockstar stumbled a bit coming out of the gates. What lessons can Rockstar learn from GTA V, and how will it improve Red Dead Redemption 2? Let’s take a look..
GTA V’s gun-handling was, simply put, a disaster. While the game offered three aim settings—Traditional GTA, Assisted Aim, and Free Aim—aiming was still inconsistent and bizarre, with no persistent reticle to rely on. Free Aim made the game more immersive and challenging, but equal parts frustrating. Traditional GTA mode on the other hand made combat a breeze, allowing the player to snap onto enemy targets and quickly align a headshot.
It felt like a step back for Rockstar, given that 2010’s Max Payne 3 was a textbook third person shooter.
Red Dead Redemption 2 will likely improve on GTA V’s combat in multiple ways. Better physics, a polished weapon wheel, more evasive maneuvers, and the return of Dead Eye should soothe the pain of bad combat blues.
An Intriguing Story
Rockstar is known for telling a good story, whether it’s the rags-to-riches rise of Vice City’s Tommy Vercetti, or the harrowing quest for vengeance and absolution that drove Max Payne 3. With Grand Theft Auto V, Rockstar catered to the biggest audience possible, giving nearly everyone a character they could relate to.
As a result, many fans felt the GTA V story wasn’t up to par with previous Rockstar games. For one thing, the “villains” were half-baked, nothing more than some crooked federal agents and a shady billionaire. It’s classic GTA social commentary dressed as snark, but it never quite hits a homerun.
Depending on your preference, the inclusion of multiple endings was either a clever addition or a storytelling mistake. Would Red Dead Redemption be just as memorable if Marston was able to change his fate?
It’s likely Red Dead Redemption 2 will be narrower in focus than GTA V, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. After all, simple stories tend to be more memorable in the end. Quests will be tighter in their focus, exploring why our characters fight and what they’re fighting for. The Western genre is ripe for exploring moral ambiguity, territorial disputes, legendary figures and the rise of America.
A Better World
Even in 2017 when blockbuster open-world games are a dime a dozen, Grand Theft Auto V still has one of the most believable open-worlds created. Los Santos is so rich with detail and character that fans are still finding secrets, easter eggs, new cheat codes and other oddities tucked away in the game’s world.
But a lot of that space was also wasted potential. Take the ocean, which received a massive graphics overhaul for current gen systems that added more aquatic flora and fauna. Besides collecting nuclear waste and the occasional mission, not much warranted exploring the murky ocean bottom. For other players, the lack of explorable interiors and terrain variety felt like a missed opportunity.
Last year a leaked image of what could be Red Dead Redemption 2’s map made the rounds—and it looks big. Bigger than anything Rockstar has made before. Now, big doesn’t necessarily mean better, and we’re suspect of the leak’s authenticity, but that doesn’t change our opinion on the matter. Rockstar has had plenty of time to not only familiarize itself with current-gen hardware, but to perfect how open-worlds impact gameplay, drive stories, and lend themselves to dynamic quests. The map in RDR2 will be impressive. With far less buildings than GTA V, we’re hoping for detailed interiors and a variety of safe houses to choose from across the wide expanse.
An Eclectic Cast of Characters
It’s hard to top the madness and camaraderie of GTA V’s Franklin, Michael and Trevor, but if anyone can do it, it’s Rockstar. What worked so well in GTA V is that each character made a significant amount of personal progress throughout the story. They weren’t merely static from beginning to end—their morals evolved, their language and behavior changed, and by the end characters you once enjoyed (or disliked) may have flipped. People change, and so should our video game protagonists.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is rumoured to be a prequel, and there’s speculation that as many as seven playable characters will be included. This likely includes our pal John Marston, but it’s probable there’ll be brand new characters besides John, Dutch and Bill Williamson. Either way, the realism that was portrayed in GTA V’s characters ensures a great deal of personal growth is to be expected, a welcome feature in Rockstar games.
A Cohesive Multiplayer Experience
For some, the inclusion of Grand Theft Auto Online with GTA V was worrying. Fans felt that the single-player story suffered as a result (and indeed, Rockstar teased additional single-player DLC that never surfaced). It felt like a departure for the studio known for its groundbreaking single-player narratives. And many players noticed it was broken on launch—Rockstar promised collaborative Heist missions but it took more than a year to finally add them to GTA Online.
That being said, Grand Theft Auto Online is a formidable multiplayer experience, and Red Dead Redemption 2 will take everything Rockstar has learned to make it better. Rockstar needs to consider everything that irked fans with GTA Online, namely an unbalanced economy, glitches and hackers (which also plagued RDR’s online mode), repetitive missions and a poor party system (which RDR’s posse mode actually handled very well).
At the same time, Rockstar must improve on the formula that made GTA Online so addicting. In many ways, Los Santos became a private (if hostile) getaway, where players could gain status, spend money on flashy cars, clothes, and apartments, and rise to the rank of CEO or build a colossal motorcycle gang from the ground up. It was empowering, and it’s brought people back for three years and counting. Can Red Dead Redemption 2 do the same?
It’s hard to say what, exactly, Red Dead Redemption 2 will be like. So far there’s not much information besides a quick 1-minute trailer. But what is easy to say is that Rockstar continues to improve its formula with each game, and Red Dead Redemption 2 won’t be the exception.