It could be another decade before we see another Red Dead Redemption game. Video games take a long time to make, especially Rockstar video games, and we have GTA6 next on the Rockstar slate, so our next trip back to the Wild West could be a long way off. It’s been eight years between RDR and RDR2, and the development time is only getting longer, so expect the years to hit double digits before RDR3 launches. However and whenever that happens, we need more Charles.
Leaving aside the time it will take to do so, Red Dead Redemption is in a sticky spot. With the two previous contenders for Best Game of the Decade, expectations are bound to be high, but it’s hard to see where the game goes next. RDR2 was a prequel, but after both games kicked ass killing their tracks, you want to go back further because another new protagonist is something we’ve done and done before. A prequel where we play as young Arthur, young John, or even swapping between the two at different points in the story might work – their past together shapes their relationship in RDR2 after all. But then you ask Roger Clark and Rob Wiethoff to go back to Arthur and John, with actors ten years older and characters at least ten years younger. That doesn’t seem like a solution, especially since Clark and Wiethoff provide performance capture rather than just vocals, meaning they would not only need to look young, but also move youthfully.
Even if we’re generous and say filming begins in two years – an incredibly generous estimate – you’re asking stars who will be 45 and 47 respectively to play 20-year-olds. It’s not fat. With Rockstar’s attention to detail, I can’t imagine the looming gap between cast and characters will go over very well, and with the popularity of the original cast, recasting seems out of the question.
Therefore, if we’re going to look forward rather than backward, it can’t be Arthur or John due to the noticeable handicap that they’re dead instead. Sadie Adler might be an obvious choice, teaming up with John in RDR2’s final mission, growing the most through RDR2, and unscathed from the events of RDR. While she’s not dead, she’s a woman, and that means she’s nearly dead as far as triple-A games go. I know we’ve had more female leads lately, but they always seem to be seen as a risk, and with Red Dead such a profitable series, would the board be willing to take a risk, even if they don’t not just play with house money, but own the whole house? Unfortunately, this seems doubtful.
This is where Charles comes in. Like Sadie, he’s untouched by the events of RDR and provides one of the most compelling portrayals in RDR2. Half black, half Native American, Charles is an outsider wherever he goes. Charles is quiet and reserved, but his calm waters run deep. The most thoughtful character in the game, he offers an equally rounded persona to the dubious and remorseful Arthur of the second half of RDR2. We see Charles’ story in bursts, and always as an observer looking within, often only appearing at the most violent moments to gamify his journey. Ironically, playing like him would make it less of a game as we could live in Charles’ shoes even during the slower, more serene moments between bloodshed.
Charles and Sadie together aren’t out of the question either – in fact, if we’re ever going to play as Sadie, a split protagonist system seems like the most likely option. In Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, the female Eivor is the canon option (as confirmed by follow-up comics), but the majority of the marketing revolved around the male option. Most of the cutscene mocap was also done by Magnus Bruun rather than his female counterpart Cecilie Stenspil. If you want to play as Sadie, I bet you’ll have to do it in unison with Charles.
Red Dead Redemption 3 doesn’t have a clear path forward, but if you said before release that RDR2 would be a prequel with an entirely new character who constantly bickered with John Marston and then died in tragic circumstances, I’d suggest that Rockstar was missing the point of what made RDR so great and running out of ideas. Either way, RDR3 is my most anticipated game on the distant horizon, but right now I can’t think of a better game than the one that revolves around Charles Smith. Except maybe a turn around Sadie Adler.
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