Red Dead Online is now available for everyone to play. As players fret over the economy and wonder what shape the game will take, I’m mostly thinking about how much I hope to see one key feature from Red Dead Redemption’s multiplayer make a comeback: standoffs.
While Red Dead Redemption’s multiplayer was always more about wandering the open world with your friends, there were a variety of competitive gameplay modes where players could show off their gunslinging. These matches always opened with a standoff. In team-based modes, the two sides would face each other and draw their guns once the match started. For free-for-all modes, everyone was arranged in a circle and could freely aim their weapon before the match. These were tense moments that quickly exploded into daring displays of gunplay and sudden death. Sadly, as of the moment, they are missing in Red Dead Online.
Standoffs might seem like a crass little bit of violence, but they fit nicely with Red Dead Redemption’s tone. They evoked obvious film influences like The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, Once Upon a Time In the West, and even Sam Raimi’s hyper-stylized gunslinger The Quick and the Dead. Whereas Red Dead Redemption’s story delivered a memorable, if sometimes uneven, tragedy, the multiplayer leaned heavily into its inspiration to capture the feel of iconic gun duels. Showdowns started off matches with flair, successfully distilling Red Dead Redemption’s stylistic goals. I sorely feel their absence in Red Dead Online.
It’s entirely possible that these moments will be implemented, but it’s hard to say what Rockstar might want to Red Dead Online to be in terms of tone. Red Dead Redemption 2 is a self-serious game that wants to tell stories of broken men in a fading time, and it does so with an extreme devotion to verisimilitude. Maybe showdowns don’t fit into the framework, even in the game’s fast-paced and chaotic online mode. Whatever the case, I miss the intensity of standoffs and the lineage they pointed to. Maybe once the grind for gold bars is fixed, we can get these explosive face-offs again.