After a series of teases that bordered on the torturous, Grand Theft Auto-creator Rockstar Games has finally revealed the next installment of its Western epic. The debut trailer for Red Dead Redemption 2, due out Fall 2017, is brief, but no less evocative for it. This has been something of a theme this week, as Rockstar has built toward this reveal.
On Sunday morning, Rockstar sent gamers into conniptions by simply changing the background color of its social media images. Thanks to its cred and massive success with GTA, Rockstar is one of the few companies that can get away with flashing a little ankle and still generating as many new stories as a Kardashian robbery. The simple color change – to red – sent a very specific signal to Rockstar's audience, which has been starved for another hit of the cowboy saga since Red Dead Redemption's launch in 2010.
Rockstar followed on Monday morning with a piece of art showing the silhouette of a cowboy posse seven strong standing against a blood red horizon. This confirmed that some sort of Red Dead follow-up was on the way. Intrepid internet sleuths compared hat outlines and old Red Dead concept art for clues. By Tuesday, Rockstar had relieved our collective misery with a title reveal – Red Dead Redemption 2 – and a few details that confirmed a new online mode. Now, we actually have a trailer, and it's a minute and change of mood music, trains, and bison.
"Listen to me. When the time comes, you've gotta run and don't look back," says an unknown, world weary voice over the most dramatic shot in the teaser: a burning oilfield. "This is over." (Shades of There Will Be Blood? We hope so.) Then we cut to a posse of seven, no doubt those that graced the early teaser image, riding over the plains.
So what else stood out? What looks to be a 2.35:1 cinematic aspect ratio for the image (as opposed to the standard 16:9 for games) – no doubt a nod to the classic Westerns shot on 70mm film, most recently seen in Tarantino's Hateful Eight. We saw two figures in a canoe cruising down a river, a flock of vultures fighting over scraps with a scraggly dog, and a herd of bison roaming the plain as a train chugs past. There were glimpses of civilization – there's at least a general store called Worth's in this frontier – but the teaser focused mainly on the wild. We can say for sure, at this point, that Red Dead Redemption 2 will feature big skies, stunning vistas, and a life that looks rougher than two weeks of cowboy stubble.