Sunday, May 30, 2010

Video Game Assessment: Red Dead Redemption (2010)

Red Dead Redemption is an open-world sandbox game developed by Rockstar Games, known for their wonderful Grand Theft Auto series which I have never played and have no desire to play. Red Dead Redemption is a game set in the final years (around 1911) of the wild west of gunslingers and cowboys. The railroad is coming in and nothing can stop the road to modernity that comes from the railroads. This game sets a record for two things for me. The first is enjoyment. I've never played a game set in the wild west that was as fun as this game and I really liked playing Red Dead Revolver and GUN. The game is a spiritual successor to Red Dead Revolver, pretty much better in every way than it, and more like GUN in content, except that GUN only lasts five hours if you're lucky and has a pretty good storyline, whereas Red Dead Redemption lasts at least 20-25 hours, and has a bit of a weak story. The second is that this game gave me so many headaches, I can't even begin to count them. I'm not sure if it was the realistic environments, something always happening, or the lack of a truly coherent storyline, but this game was headache central for me.

Let me say the the plot to this game is pretty weak all around. John Marston (the player character)starts off the game getting on a train and going to a little crapsack town called Armadillo. He then goes almost directly to confront an old friend of his and is shot for the trouble. The rest of the game goes to show how John Marston has gotten in the middle of a government man and the outlaws of the Old West. The government man wants to pave the road of modernity over the "wild" west, and the outlaws like it just the way it is, lawless and harsh. The game encompasses a lot of areas, from a generic west setting that shows gangs harassing a noble ranch, to the Mexican Revolution and all the psychotics in Mexico at the time, to the mountainous west that seems much tamer in its people, but also much wilder in its climate. The plot is fairly weak, but the characters you meet in the first part of the game at least, come off as the best part of the main plot. Each one of the characters seem to have their own personalities and it's fun to see the quirky west done in a video game medium. The latter two-thirds of the game really holds little interest for me. There are some neat characters and settings, but the feeling doesn't quite live up to what one would desire it to be. The Mexico campaign especially feels more like a political statement (Although I'm not sure what they're trying to say.) than an actual main story plot. It comes off as silly and a little contrived, which doesn't make the game better in my opinion.

Since once the story is done, all the other main characters disappear and die, the game has a very empty feeling to it in the end. It's a sandbox with nobody to talk to and nothing to really do but kill a town or two, kill some buffalo, kill some bunnies, and throw yourself off of a cliff.

Maybe it's just me, but I really have an issue with these sandbox games full of a lot of nothing. I'd rather have good characters and plots than a fully opened game that gives me a headache. Now that I've gotten that off of my chest, I actually did have fun riding around the realistic landscape on my horse for long periods of time. It was fun to just ride and shoot things that got in my way. But it also got old pretty quickly.

Anyway, I did like the game. I thought it was fun for the most part, but I kind of wished the plot was stronger and the characters existed out of the main plot, but those are little gripes to a genuinely good wild west game that will keep you entertained for hours.

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