Well, despite the rumours building, the reputed remake or remaster of 2010’s epic Wild West adventure Red Dead Redemption is apparently dead in the water, with insiders claiming Rockstar are putting all their efforts into Grand Theft Auto VI going forward. Rumours had recently resurfaced thanks to a magazine who, after claiming conclusively late last year to have insider information regarding a remaster already being in the works, were at it again after spotting that Red Dead Redemption and its zombified standalone expansion Undead Nightmare are slated for delisting across digital storefronts. Obviously, this was prior to leaked info allegedly from within Rockstar that Red Dead’s revision, alongside a GTA IV remake, are shelved.
Still, Rockstar Mag’s revelation likely wasn’t hearsay; it is worth pointing out the same thing happened last year with Grand Theft Auto; prior to the remastered Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition’s official announcement, digital downloads of GTA III, Vice City, and San Andreas were removed from sale. It’s a shame the Definite Edition faired so poorly as, according to insiders, this is the principal reason Rockstar are abandoning any remakes and remasters in the pipeline. Publishers, and Rockstar parent company, Take-Two Interactive always said that the likelihood of any future remakes from Rockstar’s back catalogue hinged on the commercial and critical performance of the GTA remasters.
Take-Two also claim to have eight remakes and remasters in the works though. In fact, they’ve twenty-four titles new and old upcoming via both of their subsidiary developers Rockstar Games and 2K. Surely, out of those eight remakes and remasters, Red Dead Redemption was in there? And, surely, there’s still scope for Rockstar to develop a successful Red Dead Redemption remake, despite the poorly received GTA Definite Edition remasters. Now, far be it for the goal of this feature to endlessly indulge in rumour mongering, but with these projects reportedly not cancelled – at least at time of writing – but merely postponed until after GTA VI’s release, there’s still hope a Red Dead remake will see the light of day.
After all, since its release to Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in 2010, the game has rightly garnered a cult following. It’s a multi-faceted narrative, with protagonist John Marston’s voyaging across fading remnants of the American frontier during a period of social and technological change; its narrative steps feel exceedingly prescient even today twelve years later. Red Dead Redemption fearlessly explores divisive themes of mistrust and violence, alongside a story which underlines the futility of revenge. Those who have played will be hard pressed not to resonate with at least one aspect of John’s journey. Plus, the game’s depictions of Western USA and Mexico are visually stunning, richly supported by dynamic events and immense weather cycles, and complimented by an incredible soundtrack. As an immersive feast for the senses, Red Dead Redemption still holds up remarkably well.
It could be argued then that a complete remake might’ve been overkill anyway. If the game still looks incredible, then surely a facelift and fresh lick of paint would be enough to satiate the appetite for a revamped version on modern hardware. That being said, a recently surfaced unofficial fan-made Unreal Engine 5 remake trailer is superb, highlighting just how much intricate detail can be gleamed from such a vast landscape. How a game plays is more important than its graphics, of course, but this Unreal Engine 5 video demonstrates the potential.
And sticking with visual fidelity as a reason to go down the remake route, it is well documented that last year’s Grand Theft Auto remasters were a technical shambles. Granted, they by-and-large looked better than ever, but the shoddiness of its updated character models, mismatched upscaled textures, and questionable art direction are just the pick of a shopping list’s worth of issues. Should Rockstar ever revisit the shelved Red Dead Redemption revision, then a concern for a remaster would be that the issues hampering GTA’s Definite Edition would crop up again. Sure, the Grand Theft Auto remasters were handled by developer Grove Street Games, with Rockstar handling publishing. But with pockets as infinitely deep as Rockstar’s the budget to deliver supremely developed remasters was there, and it is befuddling how such lacklustre representations of these iconic titles made it past quality control. This absolutely cannot happen with any remaster of Red Dead Redemption. Player goodwill only stretches so far; plenty would refuse to pre-order any Red Dead Redemption remaster, instead shrewdly waiting to see how it’s received once released. If it plays great on day one, people will buy it. Rockstar just needs to make it and make it well.
So, as just mentioned, budget isn’t a concern for Rockstar Games. They’ve more money than a small country, and with a highly skilled, global workforce they have the means to completely rebuild Red Dead Redemption from the ground up alongside working on other titles. In short, and at the risk of sounding super-entitled: they’ve no excuse but to plough their resources into a remake, rather than remaster.
And despite Red Dead Redemption’s reputation as one of the best games ever created, long standing at the summit of Metacritic review scores, there are aspects of it which Rockstar could redevelop by way of improvement. As a signpost on where to begin we only need to look at Red Dead Redemption 2’s incredible world building, with its ability to tie disparate narrative threads into an engrossing overarching tapestry. Seriously, Red Dead Redemption’s prequel features so many unique and interesting stories, with intriguing side characters and happenstance discoverable just off the beaten path. Such breadth of NPC design isn’t simply a means to pad out play time or avoid repetition for the player. No, it actively contributes to the believability of the world; Red Dead Redemption’s rugged frontiers, scorching deserts, and verdant prairies, imbued with themes of social upheaval are arguably as significant a character as John Marston, Bill Williamson, or Bonnie MacFarlane. Its forced evolution is a central narrative element that can be further explored by harnessing the deeper morality system in Red Dead Redemption 2.
As an aside, the inability for John Marston to enact any semblance of real-world change no matter what he did could be interpreted as a shortcoming. It’s as if the player is on a one-way train track akin to the locomotive scything through New Austin; choice is an illusion, the journey and destination are always the same. 2018’s prequel featured a deeper morality system, influencing plot points by way of player honour, with dialogue options and mission outcomes directly affected by how the player is perceived by others. This system would be well worth implementing into a Red Dead Redemption remake.
Furthermore, the game’s combat mechanics went through a process of refinement for the second game, with the trademark Dead Eye targeting system supported by new mechanics like the ability to dual-wield weaponry as well as use a bow. Red Dead Redemption’s gunplay is admittedly a tad clunky – it’s never been Rockstar’s strong point after all – but with gunfights a central occurrence in the outlaw lifestyle it’d make sense to incorporate Red Dead Redemption 2’s superior gunplay to any remake. It’d presumably be harder, if not impossible, to include were the game remastered as opposed to a complete remake.
One thing’s for sure, for a company of such magnitude Rockstar Games are remarkably tight-lipped on their upcoming projects. So, whilst there is no official confirmation that a Red Dead Redemption remake has been shelved – it is only rumours at the time of writing– it seems likely they’ll be funnelling resources into GTA VI’s development for the foreseeable.
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