Will John Marston ride again in Red Dead Redemption 2? Check out these character theories

Red Dead Redemption 2 is officially coming next year, but Rockstar's keeping us in suspense as to what the game is actually about until the first trailer debuts on Thursday. Thankfully, we're not completely in the dark. Myself and many others have set about dissecting the first image for the game to determine the identities of its seven central characters, and we've got some pretty compelling theories to share.

1. John Marston

This looks quite a bit like John Marston, semi-reformed outlaw and hero of Red Dead Redemption. He's got a similar hat, nose, and facial hair, and he's turned so you can only see the unscarred side of his face. But, spoiler alert, John dies near the end of his game. If this is John Marston, Red Dead Redemption 2 either takes place before his death (likely during his original outlaw days) or it's a parallel story that doesn't adhere to the events of the original. Sort of like how Clint Eastwood was pretty much the same character in A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, but the films weren't narratively connected.

2. Jack Swift

The bowler hat, coat, and facial hair of this particular gentleman match up pretty closely with Jack Swift. He appeared in Red Dead Revolver as one of protagonist Red Harlow's allies and also was playable in Red Dead Redemption's non-canonical online mode (if you got his DLC pack). Could Red Dead Redemption 2 star an ensemble cast of previous Red Dead characters?

3. Dutch van der Linde

The third one from the left isn't much easier to single out. He's the best armed of the bunch, with a pair of revolvers at his hips and a rifle slung over his shoulder, and he has a killer mustache. For those reasons I tentatively pronounce him Dutch van der Linde, the leader of John Marston's old gang of scoundrels. Him and John still have plenty of unfinished business to take care of.

4. Red Harlow

The man standing tall in the middle looks like another new character. He actually has a similar square-jawed look as Red Harlow, the protagonist of Red Dead Revolver, but he lacks the diagonal scars on his cheeks. Whoever he is, his relative dearth of wrinkles make him look like the youngest of the bunch.

5. Bill Williamson

Here's the real home run. From the hat with the folded up brim to the beady eyes to the big, bushy beard, this guy is a dead ringer for Bill Williamson. He was John Marston's former partner-in-crime and your first target in Red Dead Redemption. There's likely some significance to the fact that he's the only one whose eye you can see, pointed right at the young'un. Bill's a craven backstabber so I wouldn't trust him in this new story, either.

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6. Landon Ricketts

And here's another strong link, as spotted by NeoGAF user xHunter. The second fellow from the right looks an awful lot like Landon Ricketts, the legendary gunslinger John Marston meets while pursuing his old gang in Mexico. This makes a straight-up prequel focusing on Dutch's gang seem even less likely... unless both Landon and John just happened to forget about working with each other before.

7. Shadow Wolf

I can't quite tell if it's just shading or if the man on the right has a close-cropped mohawk. But the fact that he's the only one not wearing a hat, and what little we can see of his face, are enough for me to give the tentative nod to Shadow Wolf. Another Red Dead Revolver character, Shadow Wolf was Red's cousin and most trusted companion. Though the depiction here does indicate he's hung up his signature tomahawk for a revolver and sawed-off shotgun.

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Connor Sheridan

I got a BA in journalism from Central Michigan University - though the best education I received there was from CM Life, its student-run newspaper. Long before that, I started pursuing my degree in video games by bugging my older brother to let me play Zelda on the Super Nintendo. I've previously been a news intern for GameSpot, a news writer for CVG, and now I'm a staff writer here at GamesRadar.