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Six Thoughts on Red Dead Redemption

A few days ago, I finished up the story missions for Red Dead Redemption. And I must say, I was impressed. It brought me back to my wide-eyed youth when I was first stunned by just how brilliant video games could be with Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas in 2004. It is a beautifully written, beautiful looking video game. Now, without further ado, here are my six thoughts on RDR. This post contains spoilers, so please read it at your own risk.

One: It’s one of the best video games I’ve played in a long, long time. Perhaps I’m gushing, but too me, RDR is the premier console game right now. Bar none. It’s my early pick for game of the year. I’ve seen the negative review videos on YouTube, like this one (where a kid calls reviews a game he purchased [somehow] after pledging never to buy a violent video game again and attempted to break his GTA IV disk in a previous video where he denounces all games except Madden.), and this one (where a greasy haired dude compares RDR to Just Cause 2, when Just Cause 2 doesn’t even take place in the same freaking millennium.) and I must say, they don’t hold much water. As far as I know, they’re trolls who are just looking for the video hits. In my honest opinion, Red Dead Redemption is one of the best games of the year, if not the best. Perhaps I’m biased, but everything seems great in the game. Gameplay, writing, graphics, missions, hell even the soundtrack is pretty good.

Two: It’s not as much like GTA as I expected. In Grand Theft Auto IV, I actually wanted to commit crimes in-game. Steal a Super GT, swerve onto the sidewalk, run over fifteen people leaving a Bean Machine, slam into a cop car, and have a four-star wanted level while NOOSE chases me from Algonquin to Broker and up to Bohan, and finally have my car explode as I cross into Alderney. In Red Dead Redemption, I didn’t want to commit any crimes.

Okay, so I may have shot a few people in Armadillo. Maybe I dragged a guy with my lasso from behind my horse. Who didn’t? But, for some reason, I didn’t pathologically want to steal every vehicle (horse or buggy) I passed, like I did in Grand Theft Auto. During the entire storyline of RDR, I had two horses. Two. I added another after the storyline was done. During the entire storyline of GTA IV, I had an estimated 150 cars, if not more. I hardly ever killed anyone who didn’t deserve it, or that the person who I was doing the mission for didn’t like.

Three: I actually felt like I was connected to the characters. I don’t know why, but after I finished up the missions for a likable character, like Landon Ricketts or the MacFarlanes, they always seemed to say something like “See you around, but probably not. Have a good life, buddy.” And I don’t know why, but I always felt a twinge of sadness whenever those cutscenes played. I attribute this mostly to the stellar writing in game. The writers did an excellent job making the characters as relatable as they could be in a game set in the Old West and giving each character their own personality and traits. And that’s exactly what I’m looking for in a video game.

Four: I actually wanted to do the storyline missions. In the Grand Theft Auto series, I did storyline missions randomly. After I got bored exploring the world, I’d do a few missions to unlock the next island. In RDR, I actually wanted to advance the storyline. Sure, the obligatory errand boy missions were downers, as were the early missions, which had you herding cows (?), lassoing horses and participating in races, which weren’t even available outside of those one or two missions.

But most of the missions featured a decent amount of gunplay, especially the ones in Mexico,
[spoiler intro=”Spoiler” title=”Describes a few missions”]where you’re either killing the Mexican Army for the Rebels, or killing the Rebels for the Mexican Army, and the last couple for the federal agents, where you wipe out Dutch’s gang using everything from your six-shooter to a Gatling gun in what seems like a medieval tank.[/spoiler]

In Grand Theft Auto, it’s usually like “Go here, and shoot these people who I don’t like.”

Five: The ending is sad and kind of sucks.
[spoiler intro=”Spoiler” title=”Describes the ending”]The final mission, The Last Enemy Shall be Destroyed, is one of the saddest endings I’ve ever experienced. It’s almost as depressing as the end of Soylent Green. The spoilers kick in right after this, so be prepared.

After fighting waves of of Army men, John, Jack and Abigail escape into their barn. After kissing his family goodbye and sending them off on a horse, John looks outside and sees a ton of Army dudes. The game switches into ‘Dead-Eye’ mode, and you have time to get off six shots from your revolver of choice before John goes down in a hail of bullets. A cutscene plays, which shows the federal agent, Edgar Ross, who took your family away and forced you to go on suicide missions to catch your former gang members, lighting a cigar and walking away. It then cuts too Jack and Abigail, standing over John’s body, crying.

This ending sucks for numerous reasons. You stop playing as John Marston. I can’t think of one other sandbox game where the protagonist dies at the end of the storyline (if you know one, please tell me in the comments). The suckiness of this ending is amplified because…[/spoiler]

[spoiler intro=”Six” title=”The final thought”]Six: I hate playing as Jack. Jack Marston is not on the same level as his father as a character. And his whiny voice is epically annoying. All kidding aside, Jack Marston isn’t a good character. As my kid sister said when she saw me playing as him “he’s scary”. Even John Marston and his weird scar looked better than Jack and his permanent scowl. John Marston had some pretty good dialog in game, like “People don’t forget. Nothing gets forgiven.” or “It’s you or me. And the way I see it, might as well be you.”. Jack’s is “Work you damn nag!” in a voice that I shed at the age of 12. This whole section may sound incredibly superficial, but if you look around the forums, Jack’s voice seems to be the main thing that people dislike about the game.[/spoiler]

Well, that, and the inability to swim.