Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Red Dead Remption

If you don't want to know more about Red Dead Redemption, then stop reading until you're ready to see this stuff.

I just finished the "plot" game-line of Rockstar's Red Dead Redemption. Now, I know a few of you will gasp and tsk at me for playing one of Rockstar's games, but it's not the only one I've played. I even enjoyed, to a degree, their Grand Theft Auto series. But Redemption completely blew me away.

Gameplay wise it was awesome. The story is linear and easily understandable, yet also easy to identify with. It did tend toward the violent, but the old west was a violent time and place, with bad languish and worse people. The only difference between it and most of other noir westerns out there is it actually show the violence. The fight system seems like a close relative of GTA, and there's nothing wrong with that. The menus are easily navigable, making items easily used, while not detracting from the immersion. And there is that, in spades.

Graphics are expectedly awesome. How cool would it be to go back only 30 years ago and show die-hard Pong players a modern game. I think it would scare them, to be honest. Or they would want to know what movie it was we were watching. And THEN they would be frightened to learn that it was a video game. Or, better yet, pull that trick on one of the skeptics that claimed video games to be a passing fad. The game "world" is rendered beautifully. It ranges from high, snow capped peaks to low, Mexican arroyos. And everything in between. Deserts, plains, rolling farm land, river bottom, pine forest, everything. There are several, well rendered and believable animal species, all living in their respective ecosystems. And you can hunt them, too, whenever you want, for extra achievements.

The story, ah the story. It follows John Marshton, an outlaw turned good. You are trying to save your family from an unnamed government agency that is holding them hostage so you will hunt down your former gang members. So, you're caught between the twin titans of organized crime and evil government, and you've got to survive. Eventually John finishes off his old gang leader, the last of the criminals you have to hunt down, and goes back to his family, where there are a half dozen or so missions that are no more violent than herding your cows or taking your son hunting. You find out here that your wife is in the same boat as you, she's a former "working girl" trying to make good by you. And your son is in the pangs of puberty trying to deal with both of his parents turbid pasts. And then the "Agency" comes to hunt you down, being the last one that really knows what went on while being under their direct control. John Marshton dies, saving his family, and the story begins following a teenage Jack (Johns' son). A cut scene shows that several years have passed and now Abigail, John's wife, is buried next to him on the hill overlooking their farm. At this point, Jack stands up, now grown, and wearing his dad's hat and guns. He steps into the saddle and rides off. From here, the only part of the central plot left is to hunt down the agent responsible for your father's death. You beat him in a dual and ride off. They did it in such a way as to really pull you in. Your character through most of the game was a BAD man, but he's trying to make good. And you really identify with him. He REALLY loves his wife and son, and nothing will sway him from that. At one point you are saved by a pretty, spinster-rancher woman named Bonnie, and in the course of your adventures, she makes it known that she's interested in you. You more than politely decline and make it clear that you're married and will stay that way. It's one of the few times you really have no choice in the game. John Marshton is faithful. Period. The game is "open sandbox" type, and for the most part you can do what you want. Most of the side missions have you picking a side. Do you help the law by bringing the fleeing criminal down, or do you help the criminal by ambushing the lawmen? Do you earn A LOT of money by carrying out the contract on the life of a prominent voice in the temperance movement, or do you earn nothing and warn the orator of the contract on him? Not to mention you can just do free play and go hunting (or something), or just decide to go midevil and massacre an entire town. For the most part it's up to you, and the level of graphic violence tends to follow personal choices of the player.

I do have to make a note on the music. Wow, just wow. The composers decided that in order to keep the noir western feel of the game and story, they would only write in the key of A minor with 130 beats per minute. It sounds restricting, but man, they did wonders with the music. there was one part, about a third of the way through the main story line that you find yourself in Mexico. Newly arrived, it's night, it's raining, and you're alone in a foreign land. You start riding towards a place where you can sleep (and save the game) thinking that it's another boring ride across the desert when the first song with actual lyrics cuts in. It's entitled "Far Away" and sung by a talented artist named Jose Gonzalez, and wow. Just wow. It's all I can say. "At that point I almost believed that my name was John," to quote a commenter on one of the YouTube videos for the song. I don't have to say I bought the soundtrack, too. I rarely do that for MOVIES, and this is a video game. I'm listening to it as I write.

All in all, it was a great game, and those don't come around too often. It's one of the few that I'll actually play to completion, not just to the end of the main story line. I already have a good hat, now all I need is an old duster....

While it is a great game, I would not recommend it for kids.

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