Red Dead Redemption 2 made its debut trailer a year and a half ago, and in that time we've gotten exactly two videos. They're excellent world- and character-building trailers, no doubt about it. But, y'know, I've been waiting for RDR 2 from the very moment I finished RDR 1.
America, 1899. The end of the wild west era has begun as lawmen hunt down the last remaining outlaw gangs. Those who will not surrender or succumb are killed.
After a robbery goes badly wrong in the western town of Blackwater, Arthur Morgan and the Van der Linde gang are forced to flee. With federal agents and the best bounty hunters in the nation massing on their heels, the gang must rob, steal and fight their way across the rugged heartland of America in order to survive. As deepening internal divisions threaten to tear the gang apart, Arthur must make a choice between his own ideals and loyalty to the gang who raised him.
This trailer, trailer #3, is the story. The story of the nefarious gang riding with Dutch van der Linde. Interestingly it's also about man's (each individual man's) discovery of fire and its uses—be it fire-swallowing entertainers, or fire from the barrel of a gun, or folks sitting around a campfire telling tall tales, passing along oral histories and traditions. And it's also about a cult status that Van der Linde is building around himself, like that of a pastor overseeing his flock. It already feels like the last days of Dutch's gang; like the end of the world is nearly upon them. This may be a more convincing story about cults than the recent Far Cry 5 ever hoped to be.
In the video, things open up on a misty morning with the seven members of the Van der Linde gang pulling a train heist. "Listen to me," says the leader. "We don't want to kill any of you. But trust me, we will."
"This whole thing is pretty much done," as the camera cuts to main character, Arthur Morgan. "We're more ghosts than people." He's resigned, a heavy sigh in his voice. He sees the end. He's already figured out how this story ends.
Then a caption fades into view, saying, "By 1899, the West had nearly been tamed." That places Red Dead Redemption 2 firmly 12 years before the events of Red Dead Redemption 1.
Then a cut to the gang making a getaway on horseback, with somebody saying, "You have got to keep the faith. They will not crush us."
The caption continues, "The age of gunslingers and outlaws had almost passed into myth." This makes it clear that the Wild Wild West is still on its last legs, still in its dying days, despite RDR 2 being a prequel.
Sitting around a campfire, an old codger in the gang sings the praises of gang leader, Dutch van der Linde. The old guy says, "Good old Dutch. My best friend. You know how we met? A pair of hucksters trying to rob each other. Back in '78 or thereabouts." This establishes the man, the myth, and the legend of Van der Linde himself. And a gang-life/extended-family-dynamic reaching back further than the gang's newer members.
There's plenty more dialogue. Also, hit pause at the 1:41 mark. You might happen to see a younger John Marston, protagonist of the first Red Dead Redemption, with a knife up to his face. And from the looks of things, the fresh stitches indicate this isn't his first knife fight—and it probably won't be his last.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is out October 26 on PS4 and Xbox One.