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Burying The Past One Man At A Time – Thoughts On Red Dead Redemption

June 30, 2010

After roughly 30 hours of gun-totin’, horse-wranglin’, Liar’s Dice playin’ fun on the Xbox360, I’m finally finished with Red Dead Redemption. Even so, I can’t say I’m entirely enamored with it, though I did enjoy myself quite a bit.

We've got a whole big fat world to see.

Admittedly, my anticipation for this game diminished somewhat when I heard someone I know describe it as “Grand Theft Auto with horses”. Nothing against GTA, but it just wasn’t my thing. What eventually wore me down in that game was the repetitive content and the aggravation involved whenever you failed a mission and had to drive back clear across town from where you respawned in order to redo it.

After a glowing review from Blue Kae, however, I decided I had to give RDR a try.

Thankfully, it had none of the things that made me feel so irritated with GTA. Nevertheless, I can understand the comparisons. Despite the setting, many of the mechanics remained very similar, and in some ways, that familiarity helped me jump right into the game. Mid-mission save points are also a godsend, and while some elements of the game still felt repetitive, I felt RDR provided a much better mix of activities and mission objectives.

The open-world concept is also intact, and players can choose to plow on through the main quests with John Marston or take him on a detour through a town to play some Black Jack, rescue damsels in distress, or help strangers complete various tasks. I loved the freedom and flexibility to do things at your own pace, and the ability to explore the beauty of the American frontier while experimenting with different actions to see how the in-game populace will react to your shenanigans. There are some consequences of gaining or losing a certain amount of honor or fame, and sometimes they can surprise you.

Playing John Marston was also very different from playing the protagonists of the GTA games. Here’s a man who has walked away from his life as an outlaw, and now going to great lengths to save his family. You’re still forced to do some pretty douchey things, but as some have already noted, it’s easier to sympathize with Marston because his intentions are honorable.

This was mostly why, as I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, I played my John Marston as a gentleman, leading to conservative gameplay as a result. It suffices to say, I always like to play “in character”, but at some point I did decide to loosen up a little, and by the VERY end of the game, I was a downright jerk. There’s another reason for this, but it has to do with the ending of the story, and there’s not going to be any spoilers here. However, I will say this: Anjin was right about his praise for the ending of RDR. I felt the pacing of the game took a bit of the poignancy out of it though, but nonetheless, I agree that it’s one that stays with you.

Now that I've been enlightened, this Jinx shirt makes me LOL.

When all is said and done, I did very much enjoy being a cowboy. After a friend of mine told me about the “poncho outfit” I’d be unlocking once I got to Mexico, I put it on and wore it every chance I got, walking around feeling like Clint Eastwood from A Fistful of Dollars. I reveled in driving cattle, breaking horses, dueling challengers, and hunting coyote. The one thing I didn’t do a lot was hit up the card-and-dice tables at the local saloons. I don’t much like gambling with my hard earned money, in-game or in life.

By the way, I have not done any of the co-op play, but if anyone is interested in trying it out with me, let me know.

9 comments

  1. Sounds like it was a lot of fun. I was looking at DA:O at GameStop yesterday afternoon, along with Soul Caliber IV. Didn’t end up getting either.


    • RDR definitely had its moments. The only complaints I have is the slight repetitiveness and the awkward pacing that the game has at some points. Otherwise, the gameplay was great and so was everything else.

      Why didn’t you pick up DA:O, if you don’t mind me asking? I personally loved that game (it’s become one of my favorites of all time) but I know it’s not for everyone. It’s intensely heavy on story, so some might find that boring, and it’s also very dark, even in its humor. I enjoy that kind of grittiness, but it’s definitely not a feel good game.


  2. Thanks for no spoilers, I’m still only 7-ish hours into RDR thanks to my new addiction to LOTRO /sigh

    I am curious, what about GTA (you didn’t say which one, is it safe to assume 4?) irritated you so, but was more tolerable in RDR? Unless it’s the travel times. I’ve been stuck on (what I think is) the final mission in GTA4 for well over a year now. I got farther along than I ever have last week but I still fail and start to fail-point is about 20-30 minutes a pop between driving, cinematics (which I skip now) and shooting my way through Pegorino’s goons. By the time I have to repeat it, I look at the clock and decide against it. Maybe I’ll try the next day; maybe I’ll try the next month.

    While both Niko and John are “bad guys” with a checkered past trying to make things right, but Marston is, to me, much more easily identifiable with and from the get-go seems to give the player the choice to go to the law/outlaw side (perhaps with a gentle nudge towards the “good” side?) whereas even if I play Niko to his fullest good guy potential, he’s still a bit of a prick.

    I do think every MMO fan especially owes it to themselves to play the best of these sandboxy/narrative games, however. We can gush about our MMO’s but not a single one of them has ever come close to building a world that seems as alive (NPC-wise) as GTA 3 & 4, Red Dead Redemption, Crackdown, and a few others. MMO worlds are dead, or at best most resemble a mannequin world, compared to these gems.


    • Travel times were indeed a pain in the ass in GTA4 (that was the only GTA game I’ve actually tried to play “seriously”, I played all the other ones only to see how much damage I could cause, not to get through the game, but more on that later). I liked it so much better in RDR where you can buy a map which allows fast travel or save from your camp.

      Niko was also just such a tool, and I felt as I was playing that he associated himself with his idiot cousin and other lowlifes by choice. Marston was forced to do a lot of unsavory things too, but I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t go to great lengths to save their family, so at least I can respect that.

      There were other small, insignificant things about GTA4 that made me dislike it. They’re mostly personal reasons, but they added up and affected my experience nonetheless. For example, driving. I hated the controls and car chase missions always made me swear up a storm. Controlling a horse was much better, and the wild west is big and open enough that you’re not slamming into some idiot npc who slows you down every time you turn a sharp corner.

      I also have the tendency to feel unfocused in GTA games. Like I said, I like to play “in character”…when I start a game knowing I’m a thug, I’m going to think and act like a thug. Instead of following the mission, I spend hours upon hours acting like a jerk instead, testing out the best ways to run over people, jacking every other nice car I see, etc. It’s a ton of fun, but ultimately gets me nowhere. That’s what I mean when I said GTA4 was the first GTA game I’ve attempted to play seriously. All the other times, I’ve mostly just horsed around.

      And I agree with what you said about these kinds of games feeling alive NPC-wise. It’s what I enjoy most about these kinds of games too, which is why I was interested in APB when people compared it to GTA, but turns out the “alive-ness” wasn’t really what they meant though.


  3. yes! the poncho!

    once you kill your first mexican while wearing it, you never take it off again.

    until the end, when doucheness occurs.


    • LOL…I also had a strong preference for the elegant suit, once I unlocked it. The duster was cool too, that always makes me feel like a badass. Did you know I killed the Megaton sheriff in Fallout 3 just for his duster outfit? Hahaha.


      • lol, that is so wrong. he was a decent guy.

        although i slaughtered the entire town to get my human kill totals up for the achievement.


  4. Oh dammit, now that you’ve mentioned stuff about the ending, I really have to get around to finishing this game! I’ve only just gotten past the Mexico chapter (yes, I’m slow that way), since I haven’t had the time to play the past few days.

    OOH, I’m game for some co-op! Most of my friends are playing RDR on PS3, I don’t really have anyone to have some 360 co-op fun with. :|


    • Nah, don’t worry, that’s not slow. It’s a pretty long game, took me almost two weeks to finish it, plugging away at it an hour or two a day!



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