Red Dead Redemption Full Story And Character Recap
By Lucy James | @lucyjamesgames and Matt Espineli on
It's been the better part of a decade since the release of Rockstar's last Red Dead game, so you can certain be forgiven for forgetting some of the specifics of it story. With the release of Red Dead Redemption 2, we're finally now returning to Rockstar's take on the Old West. The title of the game suggests it's simply a sequel to its predecessor, but it in fact serves as both a prequel and companion piece to the original. That means there's never been a better to time to revisit the plot of 2010's excellent Red Dead Redemption. After all, you'll see many familiar faces in Red Dead Redemption 2, so it's a good opportunity to refresh yourself on the happenings with John Marston, Dutch, Bill Williamson, and all the rest.
If you haven't finished the original Red Dead Redemption, there are going to be major spoilers in the slides ahead. While it's not required to enjoy Red Dead Redemption 2, knowing the plot of the first game could potentially enhance your enjoyment of the sequel. That said, we highly recommend that you play Red Dead Redemption anyway. Did we not mention that it's excellent?
In this feature, we summarize all the major events, starting from protagonist John Marston's first attempt to reason with former ally Bill Williamson, and rolling right into his journey to Mexico and eventually his confrontation against Dutch Van der Linde.
Once you're finished reading up on the first game's story, be sure to check out our Red Dead 2 review. The game is adding a bunch of exciting new mechanics, so be sure to check out our in-depth feature showcasing them all. Though, if you're more intrigued about the game's development and some of its major inspirations and influences, you should read our feature discussing how previous Rockstar games, like Bully, Max Payne 3, and L.A. Noire, impacted its mechanics.
In the meantime, what's your favorite moment from Red Dead Redemption? And what are you excited about most in the upcoming sequel? Let us know in the comments below.
America In 1911
Red Dead Redemption takes place in 1911, and America is undergoing huge changes. The wild frontiers are being tamed by new technologies and the burgeoning ideals of "civilization", while the outlaws that once roamed free are slowly being snuffed out, one by one. And in Red Dead Redemption, you play as John Marston, a character whose story truly embodied those changing times.
Enter John Marston
After his parents died, John Marston grew up under the care of Dutch Van der Linde: a gang leader who revelled in the cruelty and brutality of the Old West. Marston rode alongside Dutch for years, but he was gravely wounded during a botched robbery, and the gang, who he called family, left him behind to die.
This acted as a wake-up call for John, so he took his wife Abigail, their young son Jack, and fellow gang member Uncle (no relation) to set up a ranch where they lived a quiet, honest life for five years.
That is, until the Bureau Of Investigation comes knocking. Ordered to clear out the remaining gangs and bring order to the land using any means necessary, its lead agent, Edgar Ross, decides to use John to find the people he needs. Ross has Abigail and Jack kidnapped and held to ransom: They'll be released if John assists the Bureau in tracking down former members of his old gang, starting with Bill Williamson.
Hunting Bill Williamson
John and Bill frequently butted heads while riding together in the gang, so it doesn't take long for their reunion at Fort Mercer to go sour. Despite John pleading with Bill to surrender, Bill has one of his men shoot John instead. Before he can bleed out, John is found by a local rancher: Bonnie MacFarlane.
A Friend In Bonnie
Bonnie pays for a doctor to treat Marston's wounds, and he does odd jobs around the ranch to repay the debt. But Bill Williamson, hearing that John survived his gunshot wound, sends some men to the MacFarlane Ranch to flush him out. John saves the ranch workers, but realizes that he'll need some assistance in tackling the heavily fortified Fort Mercer.
Building A Team
John gets involved with some of New Austin's more… colourful characters. They include snake oil salesman Nigel West Dickens, who points him towards Irish, a drunkard with a hookup to get John access to a Gatling Gun, and Seth, a grave robber slash treasure hunter who has "methods" to sneak into Fort Mercer.
John also assists the local US Marshal, Leigh Johnson, and his dimwitted deputies, but in doing so, captures one of Williamson's men. Williamson, in return, kidnaps Bonnie MacFarlane. After rescuing her, the time comes to take the fight to Bill.
Using West Dickens' armoured stagecoach, Irish's Gatling Gun, the Marshal's men and Seth's distractions, the ragtag gang storms the Fort, only to find that Williamson isn't there. He has fled to Mexico to seek aid from another ex-gang member, Javier Escuella.
Journey to Mexico
Beginning with one of the most iconic moments in modern gaming, the second act of Red Dead Redemption takes us South of the border into Mexico. In order to gain information on Williamson and Escuela's whereabouts, Marston must help Colonel Allende and Captain De Santa of the Mexican Army as they struggle to quash a rebellion lead by the charismatic and amourous “man of the people,” Abraham Reyes.
There's one issue, though; Marston isn't exactly loyal to the Mexican Army. He's there for one reason, and one reason only: to find Bill and Javier. So he ends up playing both sides, teaming up with not only Reyes and his paramour Luisa, but also legendary gunslinger Landon Ricketts.
Ricketts, incidentally, would be a perfect character to explore more in RDR2, especially as he was the lone survivor of a massacre in Blackwater in 1899--y'know, the same year the second game is set. A game that starts with an incident in Blackwater.
The End of Bill
Allende cottons on that John isn't necessarily in his corner, and orders his execution. The rebels arrive in the nick of time, and together, they kill Captain De Santa. They storm the Army stronghold of El Presidio and capture Escuela, before killing both Allende and John's mark, Bill Williamson. Sadly, Luisa dies during the attack, not that Reyes noticed. But with John's business in Mexico over, he heads back to America to meet with Edgar Ross and get his family back.
The Hunt For Dutch Van der Linde
Unfortunately, Ross refuses to release John's family until he tracks down and kills Dutch, who's making trouble after forming a new gang. This new gang is made up of young Native Americans, angry at the US Government for taking their land and livelihoods.
John works with Yale Professor and cocaine enthusiast Harold MacDougal, who is on sabbatical after some kind of cocaine-related meltdown in which he attacked a man. He's studying the Native Americans, and the Bureau enlisted his help in tracking down Dutch's new gang.
The Final "Duel"
While MacDougal is of some help, John finds a more reliable lead in the form of Nastas, a member of Dutch's gang who's working as an informant for Ross and the Bureau. After a cat and mouse game with Dutch, eventually John tracks down his hideout, and storms the place with the US Army.
John confronts Dutch, who realizes the world is changing and that he can't keep fighting it, so chooses to kill himself rather than be captured or killed by John.
Returning Home And False Promises
Believing that his journey is over, John finally goes home, and is reunited with his family. However, Ross doesn't keep his end of the promise. He brings members of the Bureau and the US Army to attack the Marston Ranch. Uncle is shot and killed. John makes sure that Abigail and Jack escape by horseback, before sacrificing himself.
Epilogue: Jack's Revenge
The game's epilogue takes place three years after John's last stand. Abigail has also died, and Jack, now on his own, decides to take his revenge on Ross. He tracks down the now-retired agent, who is living in a cabin near a lake with his wife. Jack confronts Ross and challenges him to a duel.
Looking To The Past In Red Dead Redemption 2
In Red Dead Redemption 2, we'll be getting a closer look at the early years of the Marston family as they rode with Dutch's gang. But will there be other familiar faces we should be looking out for? Well, we don't have long to wait; the game finally launches on October 26. For more Red Dead Redemption, make sure to tune into GameSpot every Friday for Quickdraw, our show all about the wild, wild, west. See you, space cowboy.