Game 99: Red Dead Redemption
Red Dead Redemption is one of the most immersive games I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing. It has wonderful aesthetics, beautiful environments, and an amazing sense of flow. The game is beautiful from top to bottom and has some amazing writing and fantastic characters.
The game starts off by plopping you right in the old west at a time where everyone can tell that things are changing and that the famous west is being tamed. The game drops you in the beautiful sandbox that has everything you could want from a game with this setting. You can play poker in a saloon, you can go bounty hunting, you can lasso and break in horses, you can go hunting wildlife, and of course, you can go after the backstabber that put Mr. Marston in the awful predicament he’s in.
Let me take a minute to talk about John Marston. John Marston is everything you want in your protagonist. He’s got an interesting and dark past, he’s polite when he’s shown politeness and he’s aggressive when he’s done taking any of your shit. He gets done what needs getting done, but isn’t above helping those in need along the way as long as it means that in the end he attains his goal of rescuing his family. Plus he has an absolutely killer fashion sense and some sweet scars. In short he is the perfect man to follow in this story and setting and almost nothing you can make him do seems too far out of character. A nice touch is that there are hookers everywhere. Well, that’s not the nice touch, the nice touch is that they will walk up to you and ask if you’re lonely that night or something along those lines, but the game doesn’t let you respond for player choice, but instead just has John politely tell them that his wife wouldn’t like that very much. It removes a bit of player freedom but it’s something that you don’t really notice but really lets his character shine in even the smallest ways. Also, for someone who doesn’t like politics, John sure ends up getting wrapped up in conversations about them around every corner.
After spending a while in the stereotypical old west, you finally have a climactic assault of the enemy fort before being told that now you need to go to Mexico instead and need to deal with another guy too. If I were in John’s shoes I would be pretty annoyed (which he appropriately was), but as a player I was all excited because I thought that would be the end of the game and I didn’t want it to end. Luckily, Rockstar San Diego knows what the player want and gives you essentially three major parts of the game and each segment could really have been an entire game all on its own, the old west, Mexico, and Little House on the Prairie. Okay, that’s not entirely fair, but I’ll get to the last third in a bit.
So you head into Mexico and upon first entering, the landscape stretches before you and one of the most beautiful and frission-inducing songs that could possibly play as you ride through the first time starts up making it one of the most memorable moments for me. In Mexico, John gets wrapped up in a conflict between the current rulers and the rebels trying to overthrow the regime and he ends up working with both sides for a while so he can get information but they all seem to be squeezing the most they can get out of John before giving him anything in return, and John does get properly annoyed. After the variety of the missions in the first third, all the cover-based combat gets a bit dull after a while in the later parts of Mexico. There is still variety though, and the new characters you meet, work with, and see to their many untimely demises are wonderfully written and have fantastic dialogue with John about the revolution and politics all the while completely ignoring how freakin’ sweet that archway in the distance is and how we should totally drive under that.
After John finishes his business in Mexico, he then goes to the great plains to get his wife and family back and here’s where things get interesting. You have to go to the town of Blackwater to talk to the government agents, but this town is way different from the battered dusty towns you’ve left behind. This town has paved roads, well built and sturdy buildings, and even proper cars driving through. It just seems so out of place with what you’ve experienced before, but as you continue you realize that really, it’s you that’s out of place. This is what the world will become and you’re stuck in the past. It’s one of those things that’s just so damn brilliant.
The environments become so brilliant in this third of the game. They vary from wide open plains to the city and even to snowy mountains really giving the sense of a colossal world despite the fact that nothing is more than a 5 minute horse ride away barring distractions such as roadside robberies that get you killed for looking at them too funny. The missions get back some of their creativity at this point and a new slew of characters is introduced including a very memorable professor studying the “savages” and one of the native Americans himself. These characters have the best conversations with the Indian talking about how pretty much all their problems are the white man’s fault and the professor being incredibly blind to the fact that he is being incredibly racist.
When all seems said and done in the end, the game continues anyways on John’s farm which leads to my Little House on the Prairie jab earlier. The missions become more maintaining your home as a newly free man. They allow for you to really get a glimpse of the life that John keeps talking that he’s fighting for in the rest of the game. It seems like it’s challenging for him but in different ways. It is the life he wanted, but that just makes the ending that much better.
Without spoiling anything, the ending is powerful, beautiful, and perfect for both story and gameplay and really shows just how clever Rockstar is and how much work they really did put into the game. The ending is so damn awesome and is the kind of stuff that will keep you talking about how great this game is long after you put down the controller.
The game isn’t perfect with the difficulty being very low, the sandbox feeling pretty linear as far as sandboxes go, the compass feeling ripped right from GTA throwing off the aesthetics (I can be petty), and the game desperately needing a button that maintains your horse at speed when not following someone, but if you get me going on this game it will be a few hours before I actually complain about anything.
If you like westerns at all and you like gaming you need to play this. Hell, even if you don’t you still probably should play this because it is so. damn. awesome.