Red Dead Retrospective: What You Need To Know Before Playing RDR2

If you don’t have time to replay it, we’ve got you covered

Red Dead Redemption 2 is still a ways off, meaning everyone still has plenty of time to replay the previous title for a quick recap on what happened in the previous installment.

Seeing as there has just been a flurry of sales across countless retailers and that Red Dead Redemption has now been made available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and even PC in various forms, no one really has any excuse not to play this much-praised classic.

Unless you don’t have time for it of course.

We’ve all been there, with our backlog piling up more and more and our free time dwindling, leaving less time for gaming. Sure, you could replay that game you really liked, but there are 20 (or 120, in some cases) games in your Steam library that you haven’t even ever installed, let alone played and finished. With that shadow looming over you, you couldn’t possibly enjoy replaying Red Dead Redemption the same way you did back in the day.

That said, if you haven’t ever played the original RDR but are anticipating the sequel, you really have no excuse.

If you’re looking for a quick recap on the events of Red Dead Redemption look no further. This post will serve as a primer for the upcoming title, getting you up to speed on anything you should know before diving into the sequel. Since RDR2 is shaping up to be a prequel (while not confirmed, the released promo art, as well as RDR’s plot make this pretty much the only possibility), you won’t have trouble understanding the plot without this info, however it will definitely make things more enjoyable being able to connect the dots with “Aha!” moments while playing.

Be warned that there are major spoilers ahead for the plot of Red Dead Redemption. If you haven’t played it yet and don’t want the experience ruined, feel free to alt+f4 into safety.

The story of the original Redemption is set in 1911 during the final stretch of the American Old West era. A large influx of settlers and technological advances have already changed the region significantly compared to the typical romanticized vision of what the Wild West is supposed to be like, and this “end of an era” theme is central to the plot.

John Marston, a reformed outlaw, is plucked out of his calm and peaceful family life by agents of the Bureau of Investigation. They kidnapped his wife and son as leverage, forcing him to help them track down his former gang members who have decided to stick with the life of crime. In exchange he gets a full pardon and the freedom of his family.

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Edgar Ross, one of the agents who accompanies Marston to the town of Blackwater, tasks him with tracking down and either capturing or killing one of his former partners, Bill Williamson. The outlaw is entrenched in Fort Mercer and John is wounded when he rides out to meet with him. After being patched up by some well-meaning ranchers Marston recovers to continue his hunt. Unfortunately, Williamson has it out for him and burns down the ranch where he was cared for.

When Marston recruits some local help to take down Williamson, he learns upon breaching the fort that he and another one of John’s targets have fled to Nuevo Paraiso. Pursuing them, John comes across Colonel Allende who is fighting against a group of rebels led by Abraham Reyes. Initially, John teams up with the Colonel who promises to help him kill the former gang members, but ends up betraying him. After this, John joins the rebels, helps them defeat the Colonel’s forces, and kills Williamson. The other target, Escuela, can either be killed or captured.

Upon returning to Blackwater to report on his success, Edgar Ross now sends John after the leader of the former gang, Dutch van der Linde. Dutch had joined up with a hostile tribe of native Americans in the region and formed a new gang. Eventually, Marston corners his former leader in Cochinay, where Dutch commits suicide rather than be captured. As promised, John is reunited with his family.

Following a few short missions about regular day-to-day activities just to drive home the whole “you’re happy, you have the life you want” feeling, John’s Uncle warns the family that a group of armed agents and soldiers are approaching, with Edgar Ross among them. John and Uncle defend the farm, costing Uncle his life. Marston tells his wife and son to escape while he holds off the attackers. In this “no-win” scenario, John is eventually killed no matter how long the player actually manages to hold out.

While the game technically ends here, there is a ‘real’ ending which is shown in a post-ending side quest. Now playing as John’s grown up son, Jack, players track down Edgar Ross. Ross and Jack duel, resulting in the death of Edgar. The game ends with Jack accepting his new role as an outlaw, even though this was a life his father wanted him to avoid.

With the end of the Wild West era and the death of John Marston tying up all loose ends of Red Dead Redemption, pretty much the only possible way RDR2’s story could unfold would be as a prequel. It would likely detail the exploits of Dutch’s gang, including Marston, before they disbanded.

What kind of a storyline are you hoping to see in Red Dead Redemption 2?

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