Thursday, October 17, 2013

Why I Love Red Dead Redemption

* Please note that this includes spoilers for the ending of Red Dead Redemption. *

Come on, that COVER! Amiright?

I have to admit that I seriously considered naming this blog entry "Why Red Dead Redemption is the Best Video Game Ever"...but after a bit of thought I realized that I'm in no way qualified to say such a thing. So while yes, *I* think it is the best video game ever, my limited video game experience (as compared to many others, I mean) makes me just a little bit hesitant to outright name it so.

ANYWAY. To be completely honest, before I got sucked in to RDR, the extent of my video game play was limited to original Nintendo, the Wii, and some random nights playing the Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers game with my friend on his XBox.

Steve bought RDR on a whim maybe two (or two and a half?) years ago, and until he started playing it I had never seen him so sucked in to a video game (though according to him it had definitely happened in the past).

Stranger missions FTW.

Soon enough, I got sucked into it as well. I'm still not really sure what it was that grabbed my attention, but I started watching him play it like I would watch a movie. And I was a very bad, err, back seat driver. Thankfully he was patient when I questioned his decisions, or asked what were probably pretty silly questions.

What really hooked me and made me want to play for myself, though, was the ending. Because oh. my. God., that ENDING. When Steve finally reached it and John Marston died, I don't think either one of us believed it. He went back and played John's final mission a second time, though, and Marston still died. At this point he was ready to believe that there was no way to keep the character alive - but *I* wasn't ready to believe that. I insisted that he try one more time - and of course, he died again. At this point I was seriously distraught. I'm still not quite sure why, but I'd gotten really freaking attached to John Marston! Eventually Steve had to Google the game ending to prove to me that yes, it was supposed to happen that way.

I've seen this ending probably half a dozen times now, and it still gets me all worked up.

Was I happy with that? No. But I think that is a big part of what made me go from simply being intrigued with the game to being, well, downright obsessed with it. And playing it myself only fueled that obsession, rather than quelling it.

Perhaps it's the fact that my mere presence spawns cougars and bears (no lie, one night I got attacked by 11 bears, at times several at once but literally without a breather/break between them - I had to throw the controller at Steve because I'm not, like, totally amazing at video games, and I was kind of overwhelmed).

Need I say more?

Okay, the cougars and bears probably aren't it ;)

In all seriousness, it's a combination of pretty freaking good graphics (please remember that the game is already close to 4 years old), of it being a sandbox game that gives you an amazing variety of terrain (including some damn picturesque vistas), and an absolutely amazing - and almost surprisingly deep - storyline. Sure, the dialogue is cheesy at times - but this is the 'old West'. But the Red Dead story gives you so much more than that - the enigmatic stranger, for instance, or the dynamic of the John/Bonnie relationship.

I will ship these two for life.

To dwell on John and Bonnie for just a moment, while their attraction to and respect and feelings for each other are very subtle, that's what really makes this an almost tragic story. John Marston is tied to his wife and son, and so far as we know he remains true to that relationship. Bonnie, for her part, respects his choice. It's sad and maddening and perfect and that's what leads me to my next point - that being, it's probably not the truth.

This idea is not something I came up with, but rather found in a random moment of Internet luck - and it honestly changed my entire perspective of the game and increased my love for it ten fold. The basic gist of this article about the 'real' John Marston is that the entirety of John Marston's story actually takes place in his son Jack's head.

I mean, think about it - we learn that Jack loves to read, learn that he loves adventure stories (particularly, from what I remember, cowboy adventures). Also, while it is possible to turn John Marston into an honorless "bad guy" as you play the game, that's certainly not what the general storyline and missions encourage you to do (and they also don't make it very easy to, say, go on murdering rampages, either).

The problem is, all of that makes John Marston seem like a near perfect man. Oh sure, he was once an outlaw, but his gang robbed from the rich and gave to the poor. And he even turned his back on that and decided to struggle as a small-time rancher so that he could give his wife and son a real 'family life'. Later, after the government spirits Abigail and Jack away in order to force John to do their bidding, he rides around helping those who can't help themselves while still completing the tasks necessary to earn freedom for himself and his family...and all the while, he remains true to his wife, despite the fact that he's almost constantly surrounded by whores or in the company of the aforementioned Bonnie MacFarlane.

I'd be skeptical too, Abigail.

Umm...yeah. I don't think so. I don't think so in today's world, and I really really don't think so in ye olde Wild West. (Okay, so RDR takes place at the tail end of the Wild West hay days, but still. Come on.) But that's the beauty of the idea that Jack either romanticized or outright fantasized his father's epic adventures and journey back home - you still get to enjoy honorable, chivalrous John Marston, and if you want, you can imagine all the things he really got into outside of his son's overactive imagination.

And in the end, you get to avenge him regardless.

All of that is why this is the game that remains either in the PS3 or on the TV stand right next to it, ready at a moment's notice for us to turn it on and lose ourselves in the Red Dead world.

(Oh, and yes, I'm already tapping my foot, waiting impatiently for Red Dead 2's [supposed] 2014 release.) Pin It

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