Red Dead Redemption – Review

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I had heard so many great things about Red Dead Redemption that it was inevitable that I would play it. This isn’t the kind of game that just slips by you. That is partly why I’m so surprised just how little I liked the game.  In fact I couldn’t bring myself to finish it after I struggled into Mexico and found the things I disliked didn’t get any better and the things I liked just weren’t compelling enough to keep playing.  This is one of those games that I wanted to want to play it more, but for a few major reasons I just didn’t.

First let me say that there are beautiful vistas in this game and if you are looking for a game to relax you, you could just ride around the countryside for hours just watching the world pass by.  The audio is very much like an old western, which I think is fine for this kind of game, and evokes a certain nostalgia one might have for old western movies.  I don’t have that nostalgia and I think it’s the major reason why I didn’t like this game as much as most reviewers.  I never played, nor did I want to play, cowboys and indians as a child; I never watched Bonanza (that I recall) or John Wayne movies; there was never a time when I wished I were in the late 1800s.  I think some people secretly wish they were in a simpler time, where you settled disputes with guns, poker, or liquor.  Personally I think I would be bored out of my head living in that time.

My lack of interest in the old west could have been put aside if I actually enjoyed the game play, but unfortunately I found it tremendously frustrating.  The biggest problem with everything I wanted to do in the game was the controls.  I was constantly yelling at the tv because the horse wouldn’t go faster, or he’d get stuck in front of a waist high fence, or walk into a wall.  When driving a stage coach (which is often forced on you by the main storyline) you almost always have to shoot attackers.  So you are trying to control a coach around narrow roads, look at the minimap for directions where to go, watch that you don’t over-stimulate your horses, spin your view around and shoot several moving targets.  I didn’t mind the shooting on the rare occasions when I rode shotgun, it’s just too much hassle to try shooting 6 guys while your horses slow down and run up a hill crashing the coach and failing the mission.

The shooting system was also very frustrating, it would track your target which was nice, but only if you first moved the center of the screen near your target, otherwise you were just aiming at the ground or the sky like an idiot while the bad guys shot you with amazing aim.  Perhaps I didn’t make enough use of the dead eye system, but it seemed to work differently every time I tried it, and half the time I just wasted it.

The cover system also bugged me in the same way most cover systems do, you don’t stick to it when you want to, you stay stuck to it after you want to leave, and it’s not easy to get a clear shot because the cover gets in your way.  Add to the normal problems that often when you pop out of cover Marston will run back towards the camera which messes with the controls.

There are a lot of side missions, points of interest, and mini games in Red Dead Redemption which could make this game last a long time.  That is if any of it was compelling in the slightest to me.  I did the first two optional mission and it was terrible and I felt like I was forcing myself into playing this game longer than I needed to, so I decided to only work on the main storyline so I could see this supposedly great story play out.  I played a few games of poker and tried out a few of the other mini games, but ultimately if I wanted to play those games I could find better versions of them somewhere else.  I had a few duels and saved a few damsels in distress (for some reason it’s perfectly acceptable to shoot someone for trying to have sex with a prostitute).  I really had no vested interest in the people of these little backwater towns so these held little interest for me.

There are a lot of cut-scenes in the game, and most of them are decently done and tell some kind of story, but unfortunately they are almost always followed by “get on your horse, ride alongside this person, while they chat you up like a prom date”.  I swear the people of the old west were the chattiest people ever, and they did it all while at a fast gallop on a horse, having converstations as if they were having Sunday tea.

I believe I played about half-way through the game, did a few missions in Mexico, but I can’t even be bothered to put the game back in to see how many hours I spent playing it (over 10 I’m sure) so I’m fairly certain I’ve experienced enough of this game to know it’s not going to change dramatically and become something I enjoy anytime soon.  I never played a lot of Grand Theft Auto, so I don’t know if being an open world game subtracted anything from my potential enjoyment.

I think it’s safe to say I didn’t like this game, and I can’t say I would have enjoyed it any more if the controls were different, or if the side misions were any more compelling, but it certainly didn’t help that they weren’t.

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