Red Dead Redemption (2010)

A Dying Breed

You don’t see a lot of “Western” games anymore, heck you very rarely seen them to begin with. Why? I don’t rightly know, but games like Gun.Smoke, Sunset Riders and Wild Guns were some of my favorites. I’ve always been a Western type of guy and Red Dead Redemption brings that fondness of the Old West to it’s ultimate conclusion (Other than the Sequel that came out 8 years later)

Red Dead Redemption is special, with it being made by Rockstar San Diego and that helped make games like Red Dead Revolver, Max Payne 3, LA Noire (sometimes in support roles) it was unlike any other game before. Sure there was some that tired, like GUN, but gun was kinda bland and not anywhere near as polished as Red Dead came to be.

The character John Marston is a typical man thrust unwillingly into a situation of confronting and bringing to justice an old “friend”. The gang he used to run with is now sought after by the government, and they roped you into doing their dirty work. You quickly get taken out while trying to capture an old gang partner, but luckily you get saved by a sweet rancher’s daughter. From there, it’s really kinda up to you on what you want to do. You ride to the near town and start being a cowboy and helping people with quests as you get money, ammo and learn clues on how to take your old partners down.

The open world nature of Red Dead plays perfectly with the dreams of riding out into the wild wilderness and camping under the stars. It brings you “into” the game in a way. Just exploring the huge vast wilderness of the game on horse back, and looking up at the, to this day, most impressive night sky any game has ever had, its jaw dropping. There is nothing like it in all of video games. The skyboxes made for this game are just incredible and should be on any gamers Bucket List.

The missions are varied enough and the side characters and “Strangers” you meet along the way all are extremely memorable. Even after playing it once when it came out, then the next time 8 years later right before the sequel came out, I remember almost every single character and major storyline, I came across. That has to say something about the writing, that it sticks with you nearly a decade later.

The “Strangers” you meet along the way are memorable in another way, as when I first played it I didn’t really understand some of the wrap up of some of their stories. The Strangers are more like mini-side quests that really put the Strange in Stranger. There are some unsatisfying endings to most of them, some just kinda end, or some leave you depressed or extremely creeped out. When I first played the game, I hated it as I felt no closure, but upon a second playthrough, I felt oddly at ease with the weird nature and unpleasantness, just like in life,somethings don’t wrap up with a nice neat little bow. It gets weird and we just walk away awkwardly.

The other events in the game happen sporadically and there are a handful of them, but they are quick and usually pretty easy and a fun distraction, from someone running up to you and having you retrieve a stolen wagon or horse, to waving you down and helping them with stopping a hanging or getting ambushed. With the honor system in play too, you can either do stuff that will help your rep, or if someone sees you kill someone in cold blood, you’ll get a bounty on your head. All these mechanics can stack on top of each other and become a bit to cumbersome or overwhelming at times. Trying to get to a mission marker, I accidently ran into a person on the street with my horse, a bounty was immediately placed on me and the cops were right there, they shot me dead instantly. To combat this, you have a bandana you can put on at any moment and will conceal your identity as not to hurt your honor and help with when you just want to murder some people, if you are just having one of those days.

The Duel system is fine but I feel like it doesn’t really give you a chance to learn it well enough and practice before you get confronted and have to do it in the game. You just are thrust into a dual, and it takes so long to set up and get going that it’s more of a hassle than anything else. If you don’t do it right in the split seconds that the dual takes place, you are dying, loading a save, walking over to the marker, having it fade out and in to the dual sequence, going through the countdown and then drawing… only to immediately fail again and start the process all over agian. I only did the duals that are required for the game’s storyline to advance or for the side quests and I did get the hang of it, but that was like the second to last one. I wanted to get good so I could shoot the gun out of someone’s hand or shoot their hat off, but it wasn’t what the game wanted from you in that moment.

I think the John Marston character is one that takes time to tell, and over the 26 hours of gameplay he really grows on you and you see some really excellent character development. They go out of their way to show you he is different from other game characters. You frequent plenty of saloons and brothels and this is a Rockstar game with prostitutes after all, so you’d think you could sleep with a hooker and kill her and get your money back, just like all other rockstar games…. But you can’t. You politely decline everyone’s advances by simply stating you are a married man. That stuck with me. You NEVER seen a character like that, not in movies, not in TV, and especially not in Video Games. When most games (especially Rockstar games) want to show you how envelope pushing they can be. It was a breath of fresh air and it was a nice reminder every time to show you “hey, this is actually a pretty decent dude”.

Sure, you ran in a gang and killed tons of people but you changed, and even now, you are only doing so because you are forced to by the government. Yes, you can play how you want and be a terrible person and kill basically everyone, but that’s on you and doesn’t reflect the game. Maybe its flawed, I mean of course it is, but that is what happens when you have  a finely crafted character and then give the player to obey or disobey what you want them to do, and then give them free will to do whatever they want