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Saddlin’ Up With Red Dead Redemption

Before I shoot, let’s just get one thing straight, partner. I’m not entirely certain why it has taken me this long to begin Red Dead Redemption; I guess I just had my hands full at the time of its release. Perhaps Super Mario Galaxy 2 was the culprit; maybe my sudden whim to complete The Orange Box is to blame. I don’t know. The point is that I’ve owned Red Dead Redemption for 6 weeks now and I’ve only just set foot in Mexico. It may seem crazy to some people, but the urge to put my cowboy boots on didn’t kick in till a few days ago. Within this time however, I’ve learnt that inside its Wild West exterior lies a vengeful, merciless beast that is aware of my oblivious attitude towards it. And in the matter of just a few hours, it caught up with me, hungry for retribution. Now it’s making me pay for my bounty, as it’ll consume about 6 weeks of my life. Revenge is quite bitter, indeed, but there’s also an uncanny distinctive taste of sweetness to it.

Although I say that, my beginning bite into Red Dead Redemption didn’t lock like Grand Theft Auto IV’s did. The game begins with the protagonist (John Marston) acting diligently on a train, keeping low while listening to peoples’ conversations. At a first glance, it doesn’t seem like a Rockstar game. It’s very civilised, well kept and completely different to Niko Bellic’s opening departure. Sooner or later though, the legacy of Grand Theft Auto begins to shine, as you help peers to get closer to the central objective and the main mechanics are introduced. Somewhat clumsy however, I must admit. Red Dead Redemption’s attitude to learning is throwing you into the sea, telling you how to swim and then expecting you to flawlessly swim back, as if you’ve suddenly been transformed into Neptune, King of the Sea. Of course, this is no problem in missions where checkpoints are thrown around like suitcases on a Ryanair flight, but when you’re traversing round on your ‘todd’ and random people start murmuring things to you, followed by a black box appearing to show your available options for the situation and they’re all shooting you in the face, while your still trying to figure out why the Dead Eye gimmick isn’t working because you’ve still got a piece of rope equipped; that is when it becomes an issue.

Some of you will have my eyes out for insinuating Red Dead Redemption isn’t perfect, but the truth is I’ve played the game for hours now and I still don’t feel ‘comfortable’ with the game layout. That said, I’m probably used to Grand Theft Auto IV’s spoon-feeding frenzy due to playing as an immigrant everyone assumed had the mental age of an eight year old. Whereas this game puts you in the boots of a profound, highly skilled cowboy and everyone thinks you could bring the Moon down if you shot in its general direction. I suppose that just illustrates the differences between the two franchises, they both carry similar traits, but just because you didn’t like Grand Theft Auto IV, doesn’t mean you won’t like Red Dead Redemption or vice versa.

Despite what I’ve said however, and that Grand Theft Auto is the most loved singer in the Rockstar group, there are some ways Red Dead Redemption is superior. Predominantly, the over world – its an absolute masterpiece of technical design. Sometimes when you’re galloping away on the peak of a cliff, while the golden sunset gradually starts to dim and small animals are running alongside the road majestically in the distance, you can’t help but be amazed. The atmosphere is just so beautifully crafted, everything is structured perfectly and the size of it all just screams exploration. Red Dead Redemption is bursting with life; the essence of the ol’ west has never been better captured onto a medium. I never feel the need to just continuously repeat the cycle of going from mission-to-mission, there’s always something that the game has up its sleeve waiting for me. It’s obscurely engrossing and its difficult to muster everything the West has to offer, if there ever is a 3rd instalment of the series, I’d honestly struggle to think about what else could possibly be added. The Wild West has been such a wasted opportunity from a videogame perspective, until Red Dead Redemption of course, it’s the ultimate justification of the genre and there’s truly nothing like it. It’s such an inspiration, I just had to write something about it, or actually do something other than playing it.

I’d love to go on about Red Dead Redemption more, but this was meant to be just some brief first impressions (for some to reflect on and for others to become tantalized). To conclude, regardless of its glitches, the odd dull moments and some strange presentational choices, Red Dead Redemption is an excellent game and it’s something that you’re really missing out on if you haven’t played (or started for that matter) yet.

For more on Red Dead Redemption, read Platform Nation’s fine review.

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