Before you jump to the bottom of the page and post a comment about how I’m an ignorant twat, let me preface this entire post with a statement: I enjoyed Red Dead Redemption. But that doesn’t mean it’s immune from my rage for all its failings. And let me tell you, it had a lot of shit that pissed me off.
Video games where you get to play as a cowboy are few and far between. I’m not sure why the western genre for games never really took off, but they can be a lot of fun. I suppose the mouth-breathers feel it’s more important to buy a new version of Madden every year, so developers are constantly tied up copying last year’s football garbage into a new game. That precludes them from making new games with western motifs.
I’ve always enjoyed the western genre of film. The Good The Bad and The Ugly, True Grit, and Tombstone, just to name a few, are movies I can watch over and over again. There’s just something exciting about getting to live vicariously through those gunslingers. Besides, the whole genre boils down to just being a badass. And how could anyone not like a film genre dedicated to badasses?
So, playing a video game western, there’s a short list of stuff I want to do:
- Kill people.
- Quick-draw showdowns.
- Rob people/banks.
- Hijack trains.
- Be a badass.
And here’s a list of stuff I don’t want to do:
- Herd cattle.
- Catch horses.
- Take care of a farm/ranch.
- Deliver corn.
- Hang out with an annoying kid.
- Scare away crows.
- Watch boring cutscenes of talking.
- Not have sex with prostitutes.
- Be a law-abiding citizen.
After a few annoying tutorial missions at the beginning of the game, which show you how to herd cattle and catch horses, Red Dead Redemption lets you get on with the gunslinging and killing. Great, right? You betcha. After 30 or so hours of gunning down bad guys, John Marston (the main character) has a final climactic battle with his old mentor, Dutch. After that, you are “treated” to one of the most horrible songs ever recorded, and Marston rides home to be reunited with his wife and son.
Oh wait, it’s not?
Nope. You get to the really fun stuff now which includes: herding cattle, catching horses, delivering corn, scaring away crows, hanging out with an annoying kid, and taking care of the day-to-day business of a farm. This happens for mission after mission. It’s an endless assault of the most boring shit imaginable. All the crap that I couldn’t wait to get past in the tutorial is now being forced upon me after spending the last 28 hours of gameplay shooting people. What? The? Fuck?
A parallel would be Clint Eastwood’s stellar film Unforgiven. He plays an outlaw who reformed and settled down to have a family. He temporarily leaves said family to go kill bad guys. The movie ends after a final climactic battle. The movie does not subject us to another half an hour of him returning home to till soil and catch pigs. That would be a terrible. It would ruin the entire narrative. It would be pointless and anti-climactic. Guess what? The same shit holds true for Red Dead Redemption.
I didn’t go through all those missions just to end up playing a really fancy farm simulator. If I wanted to do that, I would just play Farmville on Facebook. Not that I would ever do such a thing. So why the fuck would I want to do it with shiny Xbox 360 graphics? It was a terrible idea that was ultimately pointless, anti-climactic, and ruined the entire narrative.
The story of Red Dead Redemption was basically that of John Marston, former outlaw who had reformed his evil ways and settled down with a family. His family gets kidnapped by the FBI (don’t ask, obviously this makes no sense), and he is extorted into killing the members of his former gang so he can get his family back. After doing all that and returning home, the story is over. There shouldn’t be any more. And if you’re going to do more, you shouldn’t have it be all the boring shit that no one cares about.
I guarantee that nobody who played this game ever did any of the side missions that involved herding cattle or catching horses. That shit was boring as fuck and irritating as hell. It shouldn’t be in the game at all, let alone exist as a series of required missions after the killing has finished.
Which brings me to my next point. You can choose to be good or bad, sort of. But you really are forced to be good. If you do bad shit like steal peoples’ horses or kill people indiscriminantly, you become a wanted man and it becomes impossible to do anything. That’s fine, I suppose, but it really just shoehorns you into being good. So, the things I want to do become difficult, like: robbing people/banks, hijacking trains, and killing people. Sure, you do get to kill people, but only during missions. Sometimes there are missions where you know who you have to kill, and if you go ahead and kill them before the scripted time you are supposed to, the mission fails. What the fuck is that bullshit? And what about all the prostitutes in the game? They are constantly after you to purchase their services, and sometimes when you save them they offer a freebie. John Marston always politely refuses, saying he’s married…to a former prostitute. Well, if you get to be amoral shooting people in the face, then why can’t you be amoral and go around cheating? Marston’s moral compass doesn’t offer much consistency. Besides, if you can pick up hookers in Grand Theft Auto IV, then why can’t you do it in this game, too? You could even catch a nasty case of Syphilis, just for an added touch of realism. And as an aside, the cutscenes that play before each mission are really fucking long. Way way way too long. By the time I reached the 300 farming missions, I didn’t have the patience to watch these insufferably long cutscenes any more. I just skipped them all. The game didn’t lose any enjoyability.
Of course, I kept on playing because I knew there had to be another real mission coming. They couldn’t just end the game with a bunch of farming bullshit. Finally, after a punishing 600 farming missions, the final mission comes. The FBI decides that for all your hard effort, they are going to betray you. They send in the Army, and you single-handedly gun everyone down. Your wife and kid escape, but you get trapped by a rather small contingent of bad guys. You are forced into a quick-draw and no matter what you do, you get killed.
Fuck that shit!
Oh wait, it’s not?
Nope. Remember that really fucking annoying kid from the 800 farming missions? Well, now you get to play as him. John Marston’s son Jack just turned 18 and he is out for revenge. Apparently, the legal age for revenge in the U.S. is 18. His voice is so shrill it’s ear-shattering. Every time he talked, I wanted to punch a hole in my TV. The true final mission of the game is to hunt down the FBI leader and kill him. It’s relatively short, so at this point I was just playing the game to get it over with. All enjoyment had been jettisoned long ago amidst the 1200 farming missions. Once you find the final bad guy and kill him, the game ends for the third time.
Sort of. Well, now you can free-roam around the game and complete side missions to your heart’s content. So, if you didn’t get enough cattle herding and horse catching the first time around, you can do that some more.
But you know what? I don’t want to fucking play as Jack Marston. He’s a whiny bitch. I couldn’t stand every second of the game you were forced to be alongside him, and I sure as hell don’t want to play as him now. I played the entire game as John Marston, I don’t want to finish it as Jack. That would be like playing through all of Super Mario Brothers as Mario, then dying when you face Bowser, and eventually returning to kill Bowser while playing as Toad. No one wants to play as Toad. Toad sucks.
The ending was typical bait-and-switch bullshit. It was a craptastic ending on par with anything Shyamy Shyamalan could dream up. No thanks, I don’t want to see the character I invested so much time in die at the very end. Fuck all that noise, Rockstar Games. After killing thousands of bad guys, single-handedly winning the Mexican Revolution, and absorbing millions of rounds of ammunition into his body, there’s no way a handful of dudes is going to kill John Marston. The game creators were going for something sad/profound like the ending of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, but instead what they got was hokey shit like the ending of Buried. You know, a “twist” ending that is only there for shock value, does nothing to help the story, and just generally pisses off the audience.
Taking a look back at my two lists, the first list, of things I want to do in a western, I got to do 3 out of 5. The other list, stuff I don’t want to do in a western, I did 9 out of 9. That sucks. Listen up, video game industry. Next time you make a western genre game, make sure you can play through the entire game as an outlaw. And don’t make all the boring farming shit mandatory. No one wants to play through 3500 farming missions. Not even Farmville players could stomach that.
My recommendation for everyone who hasn’t played Red Dead Redemption is this: After you kill Dutch and return home, stop playing the game immediately and start playing the expansion pack, Undead Nightmare. That’s where you get to kill hoards of zombies. That was really fun.
The Game Overall – Good
The Game’s Ending – Shitty
Undead Nightmare – Good