Rockstar explains why Red Dead Redemption 2 has a single protagonist

Red Dead Redemption 2 still doesn’t have a PC release date, or even an announcement, but that doesn’t mean we can’t soak up every little detail in preparation for the day it inevitably happens. After all, you don’t want to be the only one who doesn’t know about Arthur Morgan, the Van der Linde gang or how you can flirt with horses. To keep us clued up, Rockstar’s revealed more about the setting, gang and why you’ll only be able to play as a single character. 

Amid its many tricks, Grand Theft Auto 5 also divided its narrative into three interweaving threads with a trio of distinct characters. You could finish up a car chase as Franklin and then switch to Trevor, who you might find sleeping off a rough night, on a bridge, without his clothes. It was great, but Rockstar set a different goal for Red Dead Redemption 2’s story. 

"Switching characters made sense and was a lot of fun in Grand Theft Auto V," Josh Bass, art director at Rockstar San Diego, told The Hollywood Reporter. "Sticking with a single character felt more appropriate for the structure and narrative of a Western. Arthur lives with and fights alongside the other members of the Van der Linde gang, and they are a group of fully realized characters with relationships to each other and to Arthur, but this is Arthur’s story and we are placing players firmly in Arthur’s boots as he and the gang deal with a rapidly changing world. We think people will really love the feeling of being in the gang. It isn’t like anything we’ve done before."

Despite the focus on Morgan, there will still be plenty of room to explore other characters, in particular the Van der Linde gang, of which he’s a member. And of course there’s all the other inhabitants of the declining West. 

"We’re trying to create a world where everything is more cohesive, so that both the player’s actions and the way the world reacts to your actions feel consistent no matter what you do or where you do it," said Bass. "It’s persistent and alive, but also more deliberate and intimate in ways which makes sense for a world where you were still mostly getting around by horse or on foot. You can exchange stories with a barman in a saloon, talk yourself out of trouble with a local lawman, hijack a train or simply rummage through the drawers of an old homestead hoping to find cash or just some food to help the gang survive—and seamlessly transition between these things in ways that are both fun and in keeping with Arthur as a character."

Bass also discussed the narrative; one which sees the gang in its heyday, before it dissolved and ex-member John Marston hunted down its founder, Dutch van der Linde, in the previous game. 

"Dutch’s presence loomed over the original Red Dead Redemption, and his influence on events was a big inspiration for the setting and direction of Red Dead Redemption 2. We all wanted to know more about him and the gang—what was it like riding in that gang? What led them to the events of the original game? What happened to them along the way?" 

Playing as an enforcer for the gang, players will hang out with Marston and Van der Linde, back when they were at the top of their game and still family. “Dutch has given his life some much‐needed purpose, and the gang has served as the one positive and constant in Arthur’s life,” explains Bass. 

Red Dead Redemption 2 is due out on consoles on October 26. 

Fraser Brown
Online Editor

Fraser is the UK online editor and has actually met The Internet in person. With over a decade of experience, he's been around the block a few times, serving as a freelancer, news editor and prolific reviewer. Strategy games have been a 30-year-long obsession, from tiny RTSs to sprawling political sims, and he never turns down the chance to rave about Total War or Crusader Kings. He's also been known to set up shop in the latest MMO and likes to wind down with an endlessly deep, systemic RPG. These days, when he's not editing, he can usually be found writing features that are 1,000 words too long or talking about his dog.