Grand Theft Horses

Rockstar has crafted the best western game yet in Red Dead Redemption, but it’s reliance on the Grand Theft Auto formula both help and hinder it. Like their other titles, you are immediately blown away by the deep and ambitious game world they have put you in. More then any other open world game, it just feels real. Rockstar continues improving their previous efforts, to get closer to something that can be truly transcendent. They also fall into the same mission-based trappings that can feel like a chore with the same tired, shock-value satire on humanity that can temper your enthusiasm.
The Good
  • Gunplay is satisfying. Lots of weapons to play with that feel different.
  • Stunning world to explore — a landmark or beautiful vista in every direction.
  • Side activities actually worth your time. Collecting bounties, poker, dice, horseshoes, treasure hunting, gun duels and tracking dangerous animals like grizzly bears and cougars, are decent diversions this time around.
  • Some of the most memorable moments I have experienced this year in games: Looking down the mountain and seeing the little town of Armadillo. Driving cattle to McFarlane ranch in a night time lightning storm. Traveling in Mexico for the first time as “Far Away” plays. Standing over a rain-soaked tomestone.
  • Great animations with some of the most realistic fall downs, stumbles and deaths I have seen.
  • The world is populated with over thirty different species of animal to make it seem more alive. Each area of the game is home to its own specific kind of wildlife and all the creatures in the game behave differently to you.
  • Likable main character with a surprisingly, complex relationship with three strong women and his son. The main characters in Red Dead are never one-note typical gaming fare.
  • Ambitious and interesting multiplayer. Taking a cue for GTA IV, Rockstar continues pushing multiplayer in different directions. I enjoy Free Roam. Riding solo or with your own posse over the entire game world with other players living in it, is just cool.
  • Sound and graphics are excellent: The ambient sounds. Morricone-inspired soundtrack. Top-notch voice acting.
    Detailed facial features. The sunrise and sunsets.

The Bad

  • Still no instant save or mission restarts. Why am I miles away and have to ride to a  location all over again when I die? Even if it takes a couple of minutes, it continues to frustrate all that play RockStar games. To their credit their are checkpoints in bigger missions, but that’s not enough for such a long game.
  • Tapping a button to run happens too often. Like 90% of the time you are on foot!
  • Uses the GTA formula to the letter. You can track almost every activity to something comparable in Liberty City. That feels lazy.
  • GPS in a western? Cab coach rides? Instant travel campsites?  These gamey-fixes reiterates flaws in their game design and save system. It also breaks the illusion of the realistic world it creates. I prefer using the many landmarks and maps already in game to get around, and not staring at the minimap in the left corner.
  • The annoying chatter of characters as you travel to destinations. Rockstar can’t even be strong and silent in the old west. Your dialogue is not that great, okay? Be quiet.
  • Screen soaked with blood every time you skin an animal to earn money. This animation gets old fast.
  • Tedium will set in when going through the missions. Go here, then travel there, it almost lost me in Mexico and I’m sure it will leave many missing out on the great final act.

The Ugly
A hooker getting stabbed in every town. A cannibal-eating mad man. People are either assholes or crazy. The old west and today can be a cruel place, but Rockstar characters are often too unsavory or over the top. It comes off more juvenile, then mature. Funny, only to a point. We get your morose parody on the human condition. The way you overdo it, takes away any cleverness or  questions of morality you are trying to muster. It’s shock value, with no impact. Grow up a little and be smarter. Your games are more deserving then that. This is a cash-in formula that pays off more than a Hollywood Blockbuster. The audience will always be there, but will Rockstar ever develop a conscious to break out of it?

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One Response to Grand Theft Horses

  1. Pingback: My Top Ten Games for 2010 « Off Stony Point

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