Red Dead Redemption 2 has been available for just over a week, giving players ample amount of time to experience the 60-plus hours of storyline content, in addition to the side-missions and countless other things to do in the vast, wide-open frontier. With so much to do in the game, it would be easy to overlook the overarching story. Luckily, Red Dead Redemption 2 features a familiar, yet compelling story of the rough life that was led by most in the wild west.
Red Dead Redemption 2 takes place in 1899; roughly twelve years before the original Red Dead Redemption. Players take on the role of outlaw gang member, Arthur Morgan, who is the right-hand man for the gang’s leader, Dutch van der Linde. The gang is on the run through the snowy mountains following a ferry heist in the town of Blackwater that went terribly wrong. Once the group finds a place to wait out the storm, they have to work together to gather resources - such as food - and survive the elements. Arthur, being one of the more experienced members, is tasked with rescuing John Marston who is near death on a nearby mountain peak.
Eventually, the snow melts enough for the gang to move to a more permanent area just outside the town of Valentine. In order to fund the move (and their continued survival), the gang stages a train heist, robbing wealthy oil baron, Leviticus Cornwall. Following the robbery, Cornwall hires the Pinkerton Detective Agency to apprehend the outlaws, causing the group to remain ever vigilant and untrusting of outsiders. Gang leader, Dutch, continually exclaims that the group is due for just one more major heist, but as the game goes on and Dutch’s decisions become less thought out, Arthur begins to question his intentions and overall leadership, in addition to some of Dutch’s newly-recruited members, such as crazed wildcard, Micah Bell.
At one point, Morgan is confronted by Agents Milton and Ross - two of the agents from the Pinkerton Detective Agency - who insist on any information regarding the Van Der Linde gang. Morgan denies any knowledge of the gang’s whereabouts, but the agents make it clear that they don’t believe him and indicate that they’ll be back in touch.
A bloody shootout through the streets of Valentine forces the group to move on, leading to the discovery of a considerable amount of gold possessed by the dueling Gray and Braithwaite families in the town of Rhodes. The gang works to play both families in an effort to eventually obtain the gold, but wind up getting played themselves, with John Marston’s son, Jack, getting kidnapped. Jack is eventually rescued, but the gang gets double-crossed in the process, causing Dutch to decline even more in his thoughtfulness and strategy. He plans a bank heist that doesn’t go at all as planned, resulting in Marston being captured, as well as the deaths of two of the more high-profile characters of the gang, including Dutch’s best friend. In an attempt to escape the law (and everyone else who wants them dead) the gang hops a ride on a tanker ship headed to Cuba.
Upon arriving on the island of Guarma, the gang once again finds themselves in the midst of a civil war. This time, the battle is between the island’s plantation owners and the slaves working in the fields. Taking arms up against the plantation owners, the gang helps progress the revolution for the slaves’ cause, before heading back to mainland America.
The time away did not do much for the group of outlaws, as they almost immediately run into trouble, primarily due to Dutch’s terrible decisions in taking on ever-increasingly dangerous heists. To make matters worse, Morgan catches tuberculosis and is given a grim prognosis. He saves Marston (again), but that is when the group truly begins to dissolve.
Dutch goes rogue and murders Leviticus Cornwall. In the process, he also incites a war between the surrounding Native American tribe and the United States Army in order to steal some valuable bonds, resulting in a bloody massacre with casualties on both sides. Dutch and Morgan find the bonds, but get ambushed as they escape. Dutch abandons Morgan, who is eventually caught and nearly killed, before being rescued. Morgan finally breaks his allegiance with Dutch when he refuses to rescue Marston’s girlfriend, Abigail, who gets kidnapped by Agent Milton.
Morgan kills Milton and rescues Abigail, while learning that Micah Bell is a mole for the Pinkerton Detective Agency. Around the same time, the gang continues to dissolve as uneasiness with Dutch’s leadership causes members to leave the gang. Morgan convinces Marston to leave as well, and restart a new life with his family, but not before confronting Dutch about Bell being a mole. Not believing him, Dutch and the remaining members of the Van Der Linde gang turn on Arthur, but the fight is interrupted when Agent Ross shows up with a group of Pinkertons to take out what’s left of the gang. Dutch finally realizes that Bell is a traitor, and leaves him and Morgan to battle it out. Morgan accepts that his time is near and convinces Marston to finally escape as Morgan confronts Bell. Unfortunately, Morgan, weak from his tuberculosis, loses the fight.
Fast forward to roughly 1908. John Marston buys a plot of land for he, Abigail, and Jack to live on as a ranch. Some of the former gang members help Marston build up the ranch, while offering him ways of paying off his debts. During his work, he stumbles upon information that leads him to Bell’s whereabouts. Marston finds Bell and Dutch together. The trio points their guns in a standoff, ending with Dutch surprisingly shooting Bell, leaving Marston with the killing blow. Dutch leaves without another word, letting Marston find the gang’s hidden stash, which Marston uses to pay off his loans and live in peace.
Of course, we all know what comes next, as Red Dead Redemption 2 is the prequel to the original 2010 game. A mid-credits scene ties the two games in perfectly, showing Agents Ross and Fordham finding Marston’s family ranch.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is a western tale as old as time, filled with gunslinging-action, horseback exploration, greed, loyalty, and the overall treachery of the old west. Fans of the genre will not want to miss this game; a clear, heavy favorite for 2018’s Game of the Year.