Rockstar. Without question, one of the best game developers in the world.
After the literal ‘could not be any bigger if it tried’ success of GTA V due to its talented and humorful writing, excellent timing and fantastic sandbox gameplay, the die-hard-working creative minds over at Rockstar began gearing up their marketing campaign for one of the most anticipated titles in video game history.
The sequel to the game that many call, including myself, the best western game ever made. The first Red Dead Redemption holds up extremely well, having only experienced it a couple of years ago for the very first time through the magic of Xbox one backwards compatibility program. Oddly enough, I finished the story of Red Dead Redemption shortly before the reveal of Red Dead Redemption II. Through playing Red Dead Redemption, I realised that John Marston exists just as boldly as any other person you would meet in the real world, just as Bonnie McFarlane does, just as Bill Williamson does.
Its locations appeal to the genre stereotypes. Its gameplay addictive and responsive. The game still offers the second most complete and immersive cowboy dream you could ever hope to experience (second behind its freshly released younger sibling Red Dead II).
Red Dead Redemption II was an inevitable but still extremely exciting project on the release horizon for gamers everywhere, where it would eventually arrive into our hands when Rockstar deemed it to be ready. The reveal trailer contained incredibly beautiful environments, topped at the end with voice-over by a mysterious and unknown character, finishing with the view of a gang of horse riders riding swiftly into the wild west.
Although it was rumoured for many years that Red Dead Redemption II was in development across the various Rockstar studios, we all had our own ideas of what Red Dead II will be like. How it will play, how it will sound, which characters we’ll meet, and what locations we’ll be exploring.
Furthermore, we had ideas of what this concept of Red Dead II should be, i.e. how we should conceive of this project before seeing any real details. Estimating what the focus of the game will be, using Rockstar’s legacy as a focal-point all the way to their most recent history, i.e. GTA V, and what their likely goals and aspirations are when creating the future of open-world video games.
I thought that Red Dead II would be a familiar yet improved extension of Red Dead Redemption. I didn’t see any reason why it would be anything less, considering that I had completed the original only a few months before the reveal trailer of Red Dead II was put out into the world.
All I wanted was more of the first game; more content, better gameplay, better graphics and different characters. The natural development of any sequel following in the footsteps of its predecessor.
Excitement does not communicate my emotions I had days before the game was released. I saw this game as the one sole thing I desperately wanted to play in my spare time as my source of entertainment for the weeks and months to come.
It was the be all and end all – the one treat I had to myself after moving out with my girlfriend, having to buy furniture for an unfurnished flat, getting a new job just after graduating, and living in debt for months while we worked to pay back those kind enough to lend us money so we didn’t have to sit on camper chairs eating our dinner every night.
All I wanted, all I needed, for better and for worse, was to play the sequel to one of my favourite games, developed by one of the best game developers in the world, releasing five years after their previous game, which has literally become the biggest modern game in the world behind Tetris.
To immerse myself within this sphere of hype for the three weeks leading up to the launch of Red Dead Redemption II, I surrounded myself with other western mediums that were cheap and substantive. Spaghetti westerns and HBO dramas. 1930 classics and YouTube videos exploring the ‘other’ good western games.
Finally, though surprisingly quickly, Thursday 25th October was here. I occupied myself with plenty of work and chores so that my mind was distracted from thinking about playing what would likely be one of my favourite games of all time.
To hide myself from unnecessary spoilers, I had only watched the very first trailer for the game released back in 2016. Attempting to avoid any spoiler whilst queuing for the game launch at midnight at my local GAME was harder, though still a fairly successful endeavor all things considered.
Waiting in the cold air at 11pm on a Thursday night contemplating how sad picking up a game at midnight is, I somehow managed to arrive back home at 12am, copy in hand, with little to no details known about the game.
I didn’t know who you played as, where or when it was set, or who was in it. I hadn’t seen gameplay nor many screenshots. This was it. I finally held the game in my hand, swiftly but gently grabbing the disc and began installing what was unbeknown to me at the time, a one-and-a-half-hour-long venture. The installation, not the video game. The modern-day midnight launch apparently.
The game had finally installed. After browsing through the couple of menu screens, I began to play this long-awaited cowboy fantasy. And what a fantasy it swallows you in.
I could now go on and tell you all the small and big details I love about the game, and how Arthur Morgan is one of my favourite characters in fiction already. But I won’t.
Instead, I want to have a conversation about our impulsive and compulsive need to experience these beautiful video games almost as soon as they are made or finished, or even before then.
It is strange to realise that wanting Red Dead II quite severely was both a harmless treat which I felt I earned through my recent life changes, but also a fierce and troubling desire to play a video game more earnestly than to get enough sleep for the day of work ahead.
I’m not sure whether it is ‘right’ of me to want something that badly. Nor am I sure that it is ‘wrong’ to want to play a brand-new video game for a few hours after it launches. Even if those hours are fairly unsociable…
In a way, I feel bad for those who rush their experience with the game, because trust me, you won’t be getting another Rockstar game before 2021, if not 2022.
I guess I want to talk about our urges that seem to be driven by passion or love, or maybe even just capitalism and the idea of immediate consumerism.
Maybe I want to talk about how it’s sad that most gamers rush through an experience which they’ve been excited about for nearly ten years. Perhaps we should discuss both.
All I know for certain right now is that, for me, Red Dead Redemption II is incredible. I slowly but surely taste its greatness every night, just to try and make it last that little bit longer, in hope that I remember the experience for years to come with fondness that is oh so wonderful.