Confession-time again: I never finished Red Dead Redemption. Even worse, I can’t think of a decent excuse why I let this one fall to the wayside.
I think I was burned out on the detail.
Much like Rockstar’s GTA 4, there are plenty of distractions available for your in-game character, although (thankfully) you won’t have an annoying family member constantly sending your telegrams, asking if you’d like to enjoy a game of horseshoes after a few drinks at the local bar. The minigames were rather compelling and well-executed. I wasted more than a couple of hours on the in-game poker tables, and I also devoted my time to several horseshoe matches in an attempt to master the perfect throw.
I also refused to fast travel. Given a world the size and scope of Redemption, I was putting in a good chunk of time spurring my horse doggedly across barren landscapes, rocky passes, snowy mountains and Mexican towns. It was a stubborn attitude, but I really, really wanted to get my money’s worth out of the title.
Eventually, I got tired of looking at a horse’s arse for hours on end, and I decided to “take a break”. A bounty hunter’s tale in the Wild West was exiled to the confines of my CD wallet, and forgotten.
I was dusting off the PS3 in anticipation for The Last of Us, and happened across my copy of Red Dead Redemption. I was in the mood for some sandbox action, and decided to fire it back up.
(Who else experiences the problem of disorientation after restarting an old save game? When I started up my previous playthrough, I woke up in Mexico, wearing a raggedy poncho, with a fistful of dollars and a pouch full of cougar meat. It was like the start of a bad movie.)
For a game that’s now a few years old, the amount of polish and fine-tuning that has gone into the game is still evident, and impressive. The vistas and landscapes are absolutely stunning: there is nothing like riding your mount into the sunset on your way to a mission. The Euphoria engine is also home to possibly the best death-animation-while-riding-on-horseback I’ve ever seen.
Rockstar still knows how to produce a great cutscene, as well, and the storyline is backed by a varied cast of characters brimming with personality that blend into the game’s mood wonderfully. It was a good tale, and I’ve noted that plenty of people enjoyed the ending. I’ll refrain from dropping spoilers, but I can say that I don’t agree that the closing moments of the game were particularly well paced. It was more of a shock than a gradual build up. It didn’t lend itself to the sense of tension throughout the game, which was generated by Marston’s hunt for his old gang with his family’s life in the balance.
I’m also looking forward to seeing the next iteration of the game engine, especially when it comes to combat. When it works, it works well: Marston snaps in and out of cover with ease while taking out his enemies without a problem. At other times, Marston charges his horse into a tree at full speed, absorbs several rifle rounds, and then struggles to navigate around a few rocks before biting dirt.
Issues aside, I’m glad I finished what I started. Redemption stands the test of time admirably, and it holds up extremely well for any newcomers. It’s still visually appealing, has some fantastic production values, and it has all the in-game poker you can poke a repeating rifle at.