Yeehaw and so on and so forth.
Milo here, being a darn tootin’ sonuvagun.
Rockstar are pretty flippin’ good, ‘in’t they? Creators of such acclaimed games like Beaterator and Table Tennis, as well as a lil’ series called Grand Theft Auto, they have been at the forefront of the game industry and a phat target for militant mothers across the globe thanks to their trademark explicitness.
However, in all of their AK-wielding, coke-sniffing, hooker-killing gameography, one of their most revered games stood out of the pack. In repeater-wielding, opium-smoking, whore-killing Red Dead Redemption, the studio redefined what it meant to tell a story in a video game, making it one of the most beloved games of the past ten years.
Set in 1911, in the final days of the “wild west”, former outlaw-turned-amateur rancher John Marston is forced by evil government fellas to hunt down the remnants of his former gang, while his wife and son are being held hostage by the aforementioned evil government fellas. Dang, them government fellas sure are evil. Needless to say, it’s all very spaghetti westerny, with an abundance of horseplay, gunplay and fore– wait, no, that was a different game. I’M SO FUNNY.
The story feels more like an odyssey, with you traversing multiple locations and meeting many characters on your way to deal some just desserts. I feel like it really helps the submersion in the game, as you develop your own opinions of characters, showcasing Rockstar’s prowess for excellent story telling. Moreover, as you travel from town to town, you begin to become familiar with particular places, which could’ve really lended itself to a branching storyline. However, the closest thing we have to that is a morality system, which is almost as good.
As mentioned before, the characters littering this western landscape are colourful and memorable. However, I couldn’t name them all because I can’t remember (that was intentional, Reuben, before you hastly message me saying I contradicted myself). Those I can remember, for obvious reasons, is main protagonist John Marston, with his gruffled sensibilities and excellent way with the ladies. As main protagonists go, I couldn’t really see all the fuss around Mr. Marston, whether it was his similarity to Eastwood characters of old or something more arousing, but he wasn’t a bad bloke to spend a cowboy adventure with, even if he was a bit mean sometimes. Thanks to the semi-chaptered story of Red Dead, there were a variety of antagonists that were aching for a killin’. Some of the more notable ones include Edgar Ross, the main government dude who I had an overwhelming to punch in the mansack, Dutch Van Der Linde, the leader of your former gang who went coco puffs with a bunch of natives, as well as your old buddies Bill Williamson and Javier Escuella, who are on the top of your “Who should I kill today?” list. Some of the less notable ones are General Allende and his cronies, who become a regular asspain during your time south of the border.
In all in all in all in all, the story was rather good. Especially from someone who isn’t particularly that keen on the western genre, it did a good job in keeping me relatively hooked, despite there being some definite low points.
The gameplay was one of the more improvable points of the game for me, however. While not in any stretch of the imagination “bad” or even “disappointing”, it didn’t feel like it was doing anything new or special and, dare I say, felt a little bit on the bland side.
That being said, the widely varied mission types were the main high point of the game for me. Whether it was story mission, side quest, mini errand or whatever, I never felt like I was repeating myself at any point. The story missions were where the meaty meatiness of the game came out to play, with train robbing, mine invading and fort raiding being particular highlights for me. However, and SLIGHT FLIPPIN’ SPOILERS, BUT NOT THAT BAD, SO DON’T REALLY WORRY ABOUT IT, BUT WORRY ABOUT IT IF YOU WANT TO AVOID ANY AND ALL PLOT POINTS IN THE GAME, whenever the machine gun came out later in the game, I was saddened, thanks to the boring, difficult shooting that came with it, but that can be said for most games with a mounted gun.
The side quests were a rarer occasion, which can be a bit frustrating when you’re bored of the doing story stuff, but when they came about, they injected some much needed Rockstar comedy into the seriousness of the rest of the game. Much like the Flavor Flav to the story’s Chuck D. Some of the earlier ones were split up into sections that could only be unlocked by progressing the game, which I think was a good decision because it prevented completionists like myself from doing everything before getting to the third story mission.
The rest of the game was your standard open world filling fare, random encounters, which, admittedly, were pretty varied, various minigames, collectables, yada yada yada.
However, the gameplay itself did let me down a tad. Traversal across these beautiful landscapes was extremely tedious after the forth horseride, leading me to put off long distance journeys, and, while you could use a coach service for fast travel, being stuck in the middle of the Texan desert doesn’t attract many lifts. The combat was slightly better, however, and did, at times, have me on the edge of my beanbag. Gunfighting is the name of the game (it’s actually Red Dead Redemption, but, y’know) so you can expect bullets to be flyin’ and suckas to be dyin’. To be fair, this game has that in abundance, as well as a plethora of shooty shooters. The aiming and satisfaction of killing are perfectly matched, making you feel like a bonafide gunslinger, rather than some wingding with a revolver. However, horseback combat, like traversal, was a bit lacklustre, with shots seeming ineffective and ruining that eagle eye facade you have on your feet.
Graphically, for it’s time, this is something to behold. While it has nothing on the spectacular, cinematic visuals sported by today’s games, for a game that is six years old, it’s mightily impressive how clean the whole experience is, while also retaining the atmosphere from those aforementioned spaghetti westerns. Needless to say, it perfectly captured the essence of the wild, wild west and it did make me wanna have a Leone marathon.
The soundtrack was yet another mixed bag for me, being both an atmospheric high point and a bit too scarce. While we all know that that song in that scene is pretty much perfect and we’ve established that in so many articles, youtube videos and bathroom scrawlings over the years, the rest of the soundtrack was pretty much non-existant, leading to my end-to-end journeys being remarkably quiet. This could intentional, as to extend that isolated atmosphere to new highs, leaving you with whistle of the wind and trotting of your horse. Nevertheless, I was still a bit bloody bored. How terrible, I’m so classless.
Overall, you can see why Red Dead Redemption has given so many critics and gamers powerboners thanks to its stellar atmosphere and emotionally gripping story, as well as the flowing amount of content. However, gameplay-wise, I felt a little bit shortchanged, with any horse related dealings being a frustrating affair and the polarising soundtrack. Maybe they’ll fix that in the sequel though and maybe I’m just being a bit bloody picky, I dunno.
Lots of hugs, kisses and lacerations