So I’ve just finished a wonderful game that I’m sure will soon be regarded as a modern classic.
Red Dead Redemption excels in so many ways that it’s hard to know where to begin, but for me the game’s magic lies in the way Rockstar have set their sights on (and for me achieved) surpassing the film industry at their own game. With each new Rockstar release they get closer to mastering cinematic concepts such as spectacle, storytelling, atmosphere and emotion. To me Red Dead Redemption is a further proof that video gaming is in the business of seriously disrupting traditional cinema and TV.
There’s no film licence tie-in going on in Red Dead Redemption, instead it uses EVERY classic western ever made as its starting point, then proceeds to ensure that you, as the character John Marston, are able to live out every memorable moment you can think of from those films (and you’ll remember far more than you may think!). It does this in a range of obvious, and sometimes extraordinarily subtle ways.. like the moment you run into the hopeless con-artist Mr. Nigel West Dickens, or the numerous times when you mount your horse and start moving only to pause for a moment while you take in the incredible vistas laid out before you. There’s a real passion and love for the subject matter on display here that could have turned the game into a sloppy cowboy pastiche, but the developers have actually shown a great deal of restraint and respect and it never feels like a by-the numbers-affair.
The acting is extremely well done and the story is mature, well paced and builds nicely to the end – there are also some decent twists and turns that mean there’s never a dull moment. And the gameplay is well judged – gunfights are often short and brutal, sliding into cover in the midst of a shootout never gets old, and the dead eye system that slows down time to allow for sharp shooting enables you to become the super-human crack shot you always suspected yourself to be.
It’s not all perfect however, I was never entirely convinced as to why Marston should choose to take on so many jobs from the dodgy individuals he encounters along the way, and sometime the lonely trails between settlements feel far busier than they have any right to.. but these are just reflections of the fact that this is not a film, but a game, and games need to deliver entertainment and activity at all times. The more you inhabit the world and more of a gunslinger you become the better the game becomes at delivering you those priceless movie moments.. but unlike cinema it’s you that’s living them out.. superb.