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This Isn’t the Red Dead We Wanted

The original Red Dead Redemption is making its return – and I kind of wish it wasn’t.

That’s not entirely fair. It’s fantastic that the barebones remaster of the original game is coming to PlayStation 4 and Switch. The fantastic Xbox backwards compatible version is good enough that it makes sense to re-release the game where it isn’t available. PC could use some love, but there we go.

Still, it leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. No sooner than I had finished talking about remasters we need, Rockstar monkey paws itself into being the subject of another article about the state of its legacy releases.

For those who haven’t played them, Red Dead Redemption 2 acts as a prequel to Red Dead Redemption. It builds new stories and characters that should be vitally important in the original game, but aren’t because they didn’t exist at release. It takes personalities that were previously two-dimensional and weak, and turns them into fully-fledged companions. And this re-release is going to do nothing to fix that disconnect. That will be especially jarring for those who never played the original and will now get the chance to do so.

To add insult to injury, the PlayStation version is for the PS4. But, it is noted multiple times, it will be playable on PS5 via backwards compatibility. It is 2023. There shouldn’t be PS4-only releases anymore.

Remaking Red Dead

I’ve written before about the potential for a Red Dead remake. And there really is one. On top of that, much of the original game’s map is in the sequel. Does that make it easy to recreate? No, but it makes it easier. If the will was there, it would sell. Although to be fair, the sequel did only sell 55m units, so I can understand why Rockstar is being cautious.

A remaster with no changes will maximise profits. And that’s not just a dig at the $50 price tag. It’s effectively a port with a higher resolution. That takes time and effort, no doubt. But it is still only a port with higher resolution. They will likely sell almost as many copies as they would if it were a remake. And they’ll probably get far less negativity than surrounded the GTA Trilogy.

“You want to call out our poor remaster? NO RED DEAD FOR YOU.”

But for the last 100 or so words of today’s article, let’s take a brief moment to think about what might have been.

A Red Dead Redemption remake could fix the characterisation issues that now exist because the sequel did such a good job at making you care about these people.

It would have updated the gameplay to make it more in-line with more recent Rockstar titles.

There would have been an excuse to go back into Red Dead Redemption 2, and possible Red Dead Online (not that fans have been happy with that for a long time).

And it would have created another starting point for the inevitable third game, whatever that will end up being. I hope it’ll go even further back, showing us Dutch and Arthur when they were younger. And if they do, it’ll show the strangeness of Dutch’s behaviour and the abscence of Arthur from the original game even more.

I won’t be playing the remaster. It dropped from my list entirely when it was officially announced. Access is never a bad thing – but is this the best they could do?


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blank Mat Growcott has been a long-time member of the gaming press. He's written two books and a web series, and doesn't have nearly enough time to play the games he writes about.

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Twitter: @matgrowcott