Saturday, June 5, 2010

This is America

Ironically (or perhaps not) the last time I remember signing onto Xbox Live and seeing practically my entire friends list engaged in the same game was Grand Theft Auto IV. That was, of course, until May 18th, 2010 when Red Dead Redemption came out. While I held off for about a week while I worked through Alan Wake, I have recently finished John Marston’s story and think it’s time I got my thoughts regarding this game down on paper . . . er, computer. Whatever, you know what I mean.

So the first thing that I noticed about Red Dead Redemption was that, yes, all the jokes about this being Grand Theft Cowboy seemed appropriate. The controls appeared to be practically identical to its spiritual predecessor. For a moment, it was downright confusing trying to figure out why Niko Bellic looked so strange but it wasn’t long before the streets of Liberty City were forgotten in favor of the dust-filled thoroughfares of New Austin.

It is New Austin itself that perhaps separates Red Dead Redemption from Grand Theft Auto IV more than anything else. Liberty City had beauty and certainly a grand scale but it doesn’t come close to being alive like New Austin; I found myself surprised by mini-missions and strangers requesting aid far, far more than I did in GTA IV. From the more in-depth quests that have you trekking all over the map for certain supplies to rushing to the aid of a man who is about to be unjustly hanged to helping a woman defend herself from a pack of coyotes. Not to mention the different challenges that will have you testing your skills as a hunter and horticulturist. To quote Lynsey, who knew that part of taming the wild west was collecting flowers?

It is these side quests that not only give the world of Red Dead Redemption a pulse but also make exploring much more exciting and fun, especially when you consider that the main story is a bit slow to begin. It isn’t long however before things really get rolling for Mr. John Marston.

Blackmailed by the federal government into hunting down the members of his old gang, John begins the long journey of locating these men – in America and Mexico, though deserts and snow-capped mountains – so that he may be reunited with his family. As you work your way through the world the main quests you complete and the random missions you finish will add to (or take away from) your honor and fame. Stop a man from stabbing a prostitute and gain honor, randomly shoot a passerby in the street and lose it as well as gain a personal bounty to be paid off at the nearest city.

Despite how you choose to play Mr. Marston there are certain things about him that you cannot change, most notably his loyalty to his wife. It seems strange to say this but when I found out that John wouldn't patronize the local whores I was surprised and oddly pleased. To find out that Rockstar would take away one of the more infamous aspects of their Grand Theft Auto series for the sake of character development was pretty damn cool to me. As a result, I genuinely came to like John Marston. I saw him as a good guy. I didn’t want anything to happen to him or his family. For someone who’s keen on character development, this was a big, big plus for me.

While the other characters you encounter aren’t always as memorable they certainly aren’t arbitrary; traveling salesmen, gravediggers, corrupt politicians, revolutionaries, and lawmen are abundant and all have their motivations and, of course, tasks that John can complete for their assistance. The “errand boy” feel of GTA IV is still very much alive in Red Dead Redemption and I would certainly caution anyone who quickly tires of being told what to do to consider that the bulk of your encounters play out this way.

Other than the slightly repetitive nature of the tasks, I find that there is little to be said in the way of faults with this game. The only other issue I can honestly think of is that riding around in the massive world can get a little tiresome but the use of fast travel which can be employed at any time via your campsite negates any real annoyance with it.

This is without question a game that you get your moneys worth out of. When you’ve wrapped up the main quest (which takes around 30 hours) there are still hours and hours and hours of multiplayer which has shocked me so far in it’s variety and downright enjoyment. It is, without question, leaps and bounds better than the sorry excuse for multiplayer that came with Grand Theft Auto IV.

So to wrap things up, I’m sure nothing I’ve said here comes as a shock. Red Dead Redemption has been incredibly well received by both gamers and critics. I suppose the point of this was just to toss my hat into the ring and express my adoration for this epic journey though the wild west.

Thank you kindly, Rockstar.

1 comment:

  1. Just started playing through it and I'm enjoying it! The slow pace doesn't bother me yet [though it might soon].

    Some of the weird glitches are annoying, and at times I have no idea who is working for the law, and that the guy running is actually a bandit so shoot him [or in my case, back into him on accident with your horse's butt and kill him].

    I love Mr. Marston. And I'm only a few hours in.