Games You Should Care About is an ongoing feature where we pick out the best and highest artistically valued games and present them to you, an audience that might not have heard of them before, in a short essay. This edition, we take a look at Rockstar’s epic wild-west game, Red Dead Redemption.
Rockstar Games created a name for itself with it’s violent and gritty Grand Theft Auto series. But it wasn’t the violence nor the grit that attracted millions of players to the universe of GTA, no, it was the completely explorable world and the story that took place in it. Giving their players the choice between exploring a massive open-world or following a fantastic linear story has always been Rockstar’s strong suit, and in 2010, Rockstar proved they could translate the formula to a new setting, with the wild-west based Red Dead Redemption.
Set in the early 1900s, Red Dead follows outlaw-turned-family-man John Marston, as he attemptes to hunt down his former gang for the government in exchange for his family. Despite this interesting premise that’s backed by terrific writing and voice-acting, Rockstar stumbles multiple times throughout the game’s story mode, especially during the sequences in Mexico, which lasts far longer than it should and drags the game’s pacing to a standstill. You’d think that having the safety of his family dangling over his head would give Marston a sense of urgency, but you never really get that sense from Marston, who seems contempt with hunting and killing time in bars. But still, Redemption takes Marston and the player to interesting places, and the writing and voice acting is so strong that it almost makes up for the pacing problems. There are surprising moments of emotional impact in the game as well, which isn’t something we see often enough in the game.
You control Marston through a third person perspective, with the camera trailing five or so feet behind him. As one would expect from a wild-west game, you shoot a ton of people, and as someone who has played a Rockstar game before w0uld expect, the gunplay works great. The shooting controls are responsive and intuitive, and the simple act of shooting a gun feels visceral and impactful, thanks to a terrific animation system on the enemies that makes each impact feel real. A system that allows Marston to take cover is serviceable, but doesn’t work as well as some of it’s contemporaries, but overall, the combat in Redemption is one of it’s strong points.
I already mentioned the voice acting and writing, but I feel like I should bring it up again. Rockstar’s writers have created some brilliant characters that represent humanity at it’s worst, best, and weirdest. From an Irish drunk to a necrophiliac to a exhausted sheriff, every character you meet on your mission is entertaining and interesting, and they are played by some of the most talented voice actors in the industry. The non-playable cinematics are great, as well, featuring some great cinematography and directing. Honestly, this game is worth buying just for the bits where you aren’t playing it.
Although I guess saying that would be a disservice to the game’s best feature, it’s open world. The wild-west world Rockstar forged here is an absolute triumpth, creating a fantastic sense of place and reality, while looking gorgeous while doing it. The world feels like a real place, with random characters interacting with each other even when Marston is out of sight. It’s massive, as well, and becomes completely open to the player which wouldn’t be that huge of a deal if not for how gorgeous the environment looks. Seriously, at some points the landscapes in this game look like a photograph, it just looks that good.
It’s just fun to mess around in the world, as well. The desert landscape of Redemption is just begging for you to explore it, and rewards you for doing so with interesting landmarks and side-missions. But, if you are in a hurry, you can fast travel between towns or commandeer a horse. The horse controls surprisingly well, and the rhythm based minigame to maintain it’s speed is very fun, and the fast traveling between towns works well enough. But really, I don’t think you’ll want to fast travel, because the world of Red Dead is just that fun and beckoning.
Red Dead is a perfect example of what video games can be. It has a fantastic story, with sharp writing and strong characters, but on top of that it has what feels like a living, breathing world that is an absolute joy to inhabit. Some gameplay issues prevail, which sadly take away from the experience a bit, but Redemption is still completely worth playing. Check the game out on the Xbox 360 or Playstation 3.
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