This week Rockstar Games announced their long-awaited sequel Red Dead Redemption 2, dropping tantalizing images and subjecting their Twitter followers to nigh unbearable levels of ecstatic tension.
So far the most revealing image released yet is their current background picture, showing a gang of rough, tough hombres, some of them with somewhat familiar faces.
Take a close look. Remind you of anybody?
Fans identify 3 gang members, including Red Dead Redemption protagonist John Marston
The above image has been circulating online and makes a pretty convincing case for the identities of almost half of the Mysterious Seven.
John Marston needs little introduction. He's the protagonist of Red Dead Redemption, a former outlaw trying to make good who is forced back into his gunslinging ways to save his family. Despite his past, John is a man of honor and eventually gives up his own life in a desperate last stand that gives his wife and son a chance to escape.
Dutch van der Linde the leader of this infamous gang. Ruthless and charismatic, Dutch was something of a visionary, justifying his crimes with a philosophy of anarchy and savage utopianism. Later in life, his own hypocrisy and powerlessness in the face of progress and the advent of modern civilization contributed to a descent into madness, leading Dutch to take his own life during a confrontation with Marston in Read Dead Redemption.
Bill Williamson is one of the main antagonists of Red Dead Redemption. A former member of Dutch's gang, this vicious and ambitious outlaw forms his own bandit faction without Dutch's idealistic pretensions. Bill terrorizes John and his allies, but meets his end (possibly at John's hands) during the course of the game.
So these three are all members of Dutch's gang, and the plot of Red Dead Redemption focussed on the legacy of the members of this group. The embodiment of the Darwinian, violent, anarchistic and individualistic ways of the Wild West, the former members of Dutch's old gang each struggled in different ways to adapt to the end of the Old West and the new way of life in the twentieth century.
Their appearance lends credence to the idea that Red Dead Redemption 2 will be a prequel, set in an even wilder west than its predecessor. It is, after all, the only way that these characters can show up in the game alive. A leaked map, showing an absence of railroads but the presence of rough settlements, backs this up.
There are also many practical reasons for setting Red Dead Redemption 2 earlier in the franchise's timeline. A key theme in the original Red Dead Redemption was the sunset of the Old West, the last days of the gunslinger hero/outlaw, and the rise of a more settled, organized way of life. The game's timeline ends around the beginning of World War 1, so if we want more Wild West sandbox action, the only way to go is backwards. Still, if these guesses are accurate and it is meant to be Dutch's old gang, where are Abigail and Javier?
What everyone wants to know is what this means for the potential playable characters in the upcoming Red Dead Redemption 2. Some cite the precedent of Grand Theft Auto 5, claiming that this ensemble means that there'll actually be multiple protagonists with interconnecting storylines.
It might be the case that Rockstar is trying this again, but on the other hand, GTA5 had just three protagonists, whereas having 7 main characters might spread the attention of the game too thin to be a viable concept for Red Dead Redemption 2.
John Marston has a LOT of devoted fans that are excited for the possibility of playing the rugged gunslinger again, but despite his appearance in the teasers there's a strong case against him being the protagonist of Red Dead Redemption 2. For one thing, Rockstar have never made a game which re-used the protagonist from a previous title. Also, Marston's story of redemption and confronting the demons of his past were already told in a very satisfying way in the previous game.
From an narrative perspective, there wouldn't be much tension or mystery in playing his younger self when we've already explored his destiny so thoroughly. Then there's the potential for the player to either spoil continuity in-game, or otherwise have few satisfying choices to make.
There are still 4 gang members unaccounted for in the teaser image, but the man front and center draws the most attention. Not only does he hold the center ground but he appears to be the leader and focal character, standing at least a head taller than all the others. This suggests he's the most important of the bunch, and a decent candidate for the upcoming protagonist of Red Dead Redemption 2's story.
Personally, although I'm excited to see members of Dutch's old gang out there, I'm hoping that the focus of the story will be on completely new characters, so that the narrative won't be too restricted by what we saw in Red Dead Redemption. With the trailer coming out this Thursday, it won't be long before we shed a little light on these shadow figures. Keep your eye on our overview page for the latest details.
Would you play John Marston again?