Red Dead Redemption Re-Release – What is Going on?

Rockstar has finally revealed what it's cooking with Red Dead Redemption. That it's not a remaster or remake is the least of its problems.

Posted By | On 10th, Aug. 2023

Red Dead Redemption Re-Release – What is Going on?

Throughout its illustrious history, I’ve gone from somewhat amazed to battle at all the alley-oops that Rockstar Games – and its parent company, Take-Two Interactive – ultimately fail to capitalize on. Grand Theft Auto fans wouldn’t mind a remaster of the HD trilogy? Better release Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition based on Grove Street Games’ mobile titles and give no proper time or budget to ensure its quality.

Red Dead Redemption 2 is releasing after years of development and garnering positive pre-release hype for its narrative, attention to detail and visual fidelity? Better add Red Dead Online, even though a more popular competitor with more content already exists in Grand Theft Auto Online. Then put the former on maintenance mode for the sake of Grand Theft Auto 6 without providing any meaty final update for the remaining players.

We then come to Red Dead Redemption. For those unaware, rumors circulated last year that a remake/remaster of the first title was in development alongside a PS5 and Xbox Series X/S upgrade for Red Dead Redemption 2. Insider Tez2 reported that this remaster was ultimately shelved due to the poor critical reception to the GTA Trilogy Definitive Edition and the resources required for Grand Theft Auto 6’s development.

Ultimately, it was a shame, but Rockstar seemingly chose to focus on the future. It learned its lesson and wouldn’t release any more subpar remasters. GG, no ree, everyone goes home happy.

However, in June this year, Red Dead Redemption was rated in South Korea, which re-fueled speculation of a remaster. As Rockstar updated its Social Club trophies, its official website also received references to what seemed to be a new version. Rumors also claimed that a remaster would be announced in August. With Nintendo Switch seemingly added to the site, some anticipated it would receive a port for the platform closer to the original release in terms of visual fidelity.

Everyone else would enjoy the remaster with its native current-gen support, including PC gamers who never even experienced the original. We’d finally experience John Marston’s emotional journey in glorious 4K or even 60 FPS. Right? Right?

Red Dead Redemption - PS4_05

Well, Rockstar finally announced Red Dead Redemption for digital release on August 17th for PS4 and Nintendo Switch (physical versions are available in October). No PC or PS5, though it assured backwards compatible support for the latter. Xbox platforms? Why, it’s already available there. The Xbox 360 version is backwards compatible with the Xbox One, which is thus playable on Xbox Series X/S without 60 FPS, 120 FPS or any other optimizations that current-gen players would enjoy.

Best of all? It’s retailing for $49.99, with the only confirmed new feature being support for additional languages. That’s right – just $10 less than titles like Baldur’s Gate 3 (or Red Dead Redemption 2 if you’d prefer). What a steal! For Rockstar and Take-Two, that is. For everyone else, it’s highway robbery, plain and simple.

A peek at the PS4 screenshots does indicate slight improvements to the lighting and resolution over the original. The Nintendo Switch version, while not as crisp, also seems to be a slight improvement. Of course, those are screenshots. If you saw the trailer – which showcased only cutscenes and no raw gameplay, a classic Rockstar marketing move – you’d be hard-pressed to see any differences.

While the superb Undead Nightmare expansion and Game of the Year Edition content are included, there is no multiplayer, which is a shame, given how fun the original was.

Make no mistake – both experiences together are worth experiencing for $49.99. The problem is they released that exact content (actually much more, given how much of the DLC focuses on expanding multiplayer) for the same price back in October 2011. You can get it now for $28.99 on Xbox 360 and $17.92 on PS3 via Amazon, though the latter is a no-go since it’s not backwards compatible on the PS4, which is a whole other mess.

Red Dead Redemption - PS4_02

Even if you could blame fans for getting over-excited from rumors and expecting more, the whole deal smacks of Rockstar doing the bare minimum to re-release a classic for a quick cash grab. And even then, PC players get shafted. Maybe it’s revenge for all those Grand Theft Auto 5 mods and fan remakes of older titles. We may never know.

On top of all this, we’re not even sure how the PS4 and Nintendo Switch versions will perform. They’re handled by Double Eleven, a studio that acts in more of a supporting role and has worked on titles like Minecraft Dungeons, the console versions of Rust, and, er, Crackdown 3. While not as small of a studio as Grove Street Games, we won’t know how the ports fare until they’re out.

To be fair – because we are fair, even as Rockstar seemingly fights tooth and nail to be the opposite – Red Dead Redemption on PS4 and Nintendo Switch could be an improvement over the original in terms of performance and fidelity. It currently doesn’t look to be, but let’s pretend.

The fact that Rockstar hasn’t provided direct comparisons, outlined specific visual improvements, or even mentioned an improved frame rate and resolution is all you need to know about how much of a jump they really are. That it’s revealing so little, even as the ports launch next week, indicates that it learned no lessons from the GTA Trilogy fiasco.

Red Dead Redemption - PS4_06

It’s worth looking back on Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick’s statement from March 2021. Asked about remasters, he infamously said, “We actually take the time to do the very best job we can making the title different for the new release for the new technology that we’re launching it on.” Zelnick added that the publisher’s remastered titles “typically do so well” because of the commitment to quality.

Remember that this was before the disastrous release of GTA: The Trilogy – Definitive Edition or even the current-gen versions of Grand Theft Auto 5 (which also received mixed reactions from fans for their lacklustre improvements). The solution now, it seems, is to not remaster games at all and re-release them as is. Money is money to big video game publishers, after all.

I’m not going to tell those who didn’t play the original when it was first released in 2010 to curb their enthusiasm, though I would say to hold off until the technical state of both ports can be verified. After all, Red Dead Redemption is one of the best games ever. It was a major shift from Red Dead Revolver and even Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto series, with a different narrative tone, a slower and more meditative pace, and fresh new activities in a gorgeous open world.

Playing that on the go with the Nintendo Switch is great. All criticism is towards Rockstar and Take-Two for doing the bare minimum to bring these classics to a contemporary, knowing they can get away with it, just like with the GTA Trilogy. None of this will matter once the hype cycle for Grand Theft Auto 6 gets rolling, but it’s indicative of the long-term approach to classic franchises, which continues to lean as close as possible to earning a quick buck from fans and little else.

Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.

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