If it ain’t broke (Red Dead Redemption mini-review)



During the hype buildup of the past few months, I was too busy drooling over the gorgeous visuals and lavish attention to detail to stop and question, ‘Is this actually going to be something new and unique from Rockstar?’. I guess that’s a good thing I didn’t think of it, it saves me from feeling like a fool once I play it and realize it’s the same old thing.

Red Dead Redemption is simply the latest iteration of the Grand Theft Auto series, to be brutally honest we should just re-name this “Grand Theft Auto: Cowboys & Mexicans”. Rockstar has not tried to reinvent the wheel with this game.

Everything you love from the old GTA games is here, the formula is perfectly intact, it’s just this time out there’s Tumbleweeds everywhere.

You can still rob people of their vehicles, only this time the vehicles have hooves.  Break the law and the law will chase you until you evade them long enough, only instead of cops in squad cars its deputies on horseback. There’s still a myriad of activities aside from the central story, only instead of spray painting walls you’re hunting wabbits, and instead of driving around looking for fares in a cab, your rustling cattle.

Everything plays out the same. Head to a destination, begin cut scene that briefly explains the point of the mission. Receive further instructions on the way to the mission location, complete mission, resume wandering. Each contact you meet has the typical 4-7 missions you complete before they’ll help you in whatever way they’re supposed to. Around the 5-6 mission, you’ll be introduced to a new contact just in time to run out of quests for the other one, and the cycle continues.


Let me say this right here and now: nothing is wrong with any of that. I’ve been playing GTA games since the start, and I’ve loved everyone more than the last (with the noted exception of the last one, GTA 4. The main character was boring and the driving was infuriating, but otherwise it seemed a stellar game, however those two flaws were unforgiveable).

Back to Red Dead Redemption, even though the driving point of the story has been done countless times before (retired tough guy on one last mission), it’s still entertaining. All the old west stereotypes are there. Limitless tough guys, shrewd poker players, kooky old drunks, right down to the awkward ‘educated city folk made to look like buffoons because they’re fish out of water’. The storyline is only ‘ok’, but let’s face it, you’re not playing it for the story (even though GTA stories are arguably better than most). Heck, this game is so well-crafted I’m actually enjoying rustling cattle and breaking-in wild horses. I mean I missed the ‘western entertainment generation’, I’m a sci-fi kid. With the noted exception of Unforgiven and a couple of others, I’ve never been terribly into the manly men of Westerns. But I’ll damned if this game doesn’t make me want to own a pair of chaps and make a racket when I walk around with my spurs on.

One final word, about the violence. A noted observation, while it’s still possible to murder unsuspecting elderly and prostitutes and take their money, it doesn’t seem to be the point anymore. Maybe it’s just me, maybe the novelty of beating some innocent bystander to death has worn off, but it seems to me like less of an emphasis is on that this time. Not to restrict those that want to do it, your certainly free to, however it’s more undesirable this time out, I’ve barely even thought of doing it until I wasn’t playing and already on the Skytrain to work. Rockstar is going with the whole progressive-Goodguy/Badguy-evolution-(that’s very popular lately, especially with Fallout 3 and Mass Effect 2) that-plays-out over-the-course-of-the-game-and-I’m-sure-has-ramifications-on- the-very-cinematic-finale. Maybe it’s because I’m trying to be such an upstanding member of the community, I’m sure next time I play it I’ll try harder to be a real scoundrel and beat more prostitutes. Maybe. Interestingly as well, this isn’t right in the middle of the wild west period, but sometime towards the end of it.  I’m still in the early stages of the game, but I haven’t seen one ‘injun’ anywhere. Now, the minority of choice seems to be the Mexicans and their unrest to the south. I wonder if this was done on purpose, given the current climate in the United States?

I’m completely hooked, which isn’t something I say often, I’ve been less and less interested in video games these past couple of years, but I’m back on board with this.
Maybe the next GTA game will be something like Grand Theft Auto: Back to the Future, and I can clothesline people off their hover boards and curb-stomp robot hookers. Boy that’d be something.


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