Column: My Favourite Games Part VI: Red Dead Redemption

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I can’t imagine I need to put too much in an introductory paragraph for this game. Made by Rockstar Games, and released roughly between Grand Theft Auto IV and GTAV, Red Dead Redemption is an open world, wild-western-themed third person this “Grand Theft Auto with horses” game. It has sold over 12 million copies and has an average Metacritic score of 95. And that is because the game, and everything about it, is absolutely fantastic.

Players take control of John Marston, one of the last of a dying breed of cowboy in a fictional southern America and Mexico in the early 1900s. The game looked absolutely fantastic, and is one of very few examples where the large, desolate areas work in conjunction with the plot to create a real sense of adventure (and fear, at night). There were wild animals roaming the lands, including from rabbits and cougars and bears (oh my!), all of which could be hunted to obtain pelts, which in turn could be used for upgrades or to sell for money.

The game sounded fantastic, too, in terms of voice acting and ambient noises. Animals growled with ferocity and revolvers and rifles cracked menacingly. The soundtrack was fantastic, including numerous moments where the it was the songs in the background that made this one of my favourite games. Entering Mexico for the first time, at roughly the half way point of the game (minor spoilers in the video, if for some reason you have not played this game) will forever be burned into my memory as one of the best moments from any game I have played.

The combat in the game was similar to the Max Payne series, with bullet time available, allowing the player to mark several targets and then fan the hammer and take out multiple targets in a matter of seconds. Enemies responded accordingly when shot in limbs, and dropped guns if shot in the hand. The player could also utilise their lasso to capture enemies alive (or leave them lying around a cougar den, or on a train track, or just execute them, or drag them behind your horse… man, players could be real dicks).

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The vistas of New Mexico are breathtaking.

The game’s story is almost infamous these days for it’s twists and turns, including an ending that really dragged the mood of the previous hundred hours down. No, not THAT part of the ending, but the final moment before the credits roll really cements this as a though provoking, depressing game.

As amazing as the base game was, RDR also featured one of, if not THE best downloadable content additions of all time, in form of the Undead Nightmare expansion. This took place near the end of the main game, before diverting wildly into an alternate timeline where zombies and ghouls roamed the lands. Simply traveling from town to town became a real challenge, and defending towns from legions of undead was one of the highlights of my entire time playing the game.

Apparently, as of now in 2015 there are plans for a sequel to be developed. I don’t know how I feel about that, as I was very happy with the game’s world and story as it currently stands, and I think a sequel may retroactively ruin some of the appeal that this game had, but I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.

I played this for the first time in 2010, upon it’s release, and I have played it through several times since. Even though I know the story, I still grow attached to the characters, and even though I know the way the world works, I still get caught off guard when a cougar rips my horse to shreds from the underbrush. I imagine most people that play games have played this game, and I don’t think I am alone when I say it is one of the best games ever made.

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