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Red Dead Redemption: City slickers need not apply

Actually, this game is great for city slickers and range riders alike. But still! The co-op missions come out tomorrow, so I thought it high time I weigh in on the game that made rdr cougar an internet meme.

I feel that I am more qualified than my counterparts Elrood and Tophat to discuss this game because I actually played Gun three years ago. Nobody else knows what that game was, but believe me when I say it shared a lot of similarities with RDR. I’m a big fan of sandbox games and running around on a horse brandishing a six-shooter is ridiculously appealing to me. That being said, buying RDR had not occurred to me until the Monday before launch. Elrood, Tophat and I were playing a little MW2 or Borderlands that night, I forget which, when a mutual friend joined our party exploding with excitement about the midnight release of RDR. The buzzword for the evening quickly became posse and in no time I was making plans to drive to Best Buy the next day. As I went to bed with thoughts of train robberies duels with my friends galloping through my head, the planets were aligning to ensure my disappointment.

The single player in Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto series is something I have been addicted to since I started running around Liberty City like a mad man blowing up everything I possibly could at a friend’s house. I expected no less fun from RDR. What I got was an amazing combination Oregon Trail, an online casino, oh, and a storyline that’s like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly with more dialog.

This crazy fool is trying to stab a bear with a knife

Oh yeah. This is going to end well.

If you’re old enough to remember the days of trekking west on an Apple IIe you may find it amusing that my classmates and I spent the majority of our time hunting in Oregon Trail. So much hunting. Looking back I don’t really remember how that worked sans mouse, but apparently you can try it in Firefox here. So to find myself once again in the western states armed with a rifle was very exciting. Except there are cougars and bears as big as that stupid Model T I’m not allowed to drive. Seriously. It’s of no use for transportation, why can’t I just drive it around Blackwater trying to run down the stray dogs?

At any rate, I spent a lot of time hunting and cheating at poker and I enjoyed it very much. I also tried to heard the buffalo into Blackwater, which is apparently impossible. I find it amusing that the programs actually did consider that someone would try this and therefore programmed the buffalo to stop about halfway down the cemetery fence by the old church on the north side of town. The mini games were a focus of mine because I’ve played enough Rockstar games to assume that once I get to the end of all the missions, the game becomes pointless and boring. I have completed about 75 percent of the story missions and am currently taking a break from them so I can unlock the Legend of the West outfit. I want to look cool in the final throes of battle.

The storyline itself is nothing inspired, though it does adhere to Rockstar’s bleak view of humanity. Every last person you meet in the game is either naive or deranged in one way or another, even the old guy that wants you to collect flowers for his wife. I will say the verdict is still out on the McFarland family. They might be OK. Seth on the other hand, is one of the most insane characters I’ve ever met in a Rockstar game and I’ve met some loons. Something about that big desert sun seems to rot everybody’s brain out here.

Seth finds his treasure

Don

The game is rated M for strong sexual content and of course violence. The sexual content part confused me because the main character, one John Marston, is a happily married man and does not partake of the women of the evening, plentiful as they may be. Then, as I was getting ready to pull out of Mexico and head back north I witness a completely unnecessary gratuitous cut scene and all became clear. So you have been forewarned, The Gates of El Presido begins with a very graphic and pointless cut scene. Now, sex in video games is a topic for another post, but when it comes out of left field and shows as much as this does, just let it be said I have no use for it.

The game also continues Rockstar’s long tradition of using stereotypes to fill out its character’s personalities. The missions themselves are a lot of fun and really everything you could hope for in a western. Lots of shoot ’em up action although at times they can be repetitive. When working out of Armadillo, for example, there’s a lot of “drive me here, oh crap there’s bad guys drive faster.”  But by the end of the game those seem a distant memory.

For those of you keeping score at home, you may have noticed  I’ve spent a lot of discussing the single player for a game I bought because of the multiplayer. Well, fact is Rockstar once again spent significantly more time on the single player and ruined the multiplayer. Anyone who has played the multiplayer on GTAIV can attest to the fact that it is merely a stripped down version of the single player. RDR is no different. Instead of including all the fun mini games like horseshoes and poker, and toys like the lasso or even random encounters and wanted posters, they just threw in a few death match and capture the flag games and left the everything else out. It’s lame. So very lame.

Imagine three strapping young cowboys named Elrood, Enosh and Tophat moseying along the plains driving a herd of cattle and home while huntin’ up some delicious bucks for dinner. This. This is the multiplayer I seek. It’s simple and laid back and very unRockstar, but to be fair, they did put the mechanisms in place for this in the single player. Or how about the posse riding down some notorious outlaw, hogtying him and dragging him back to town? It’s there, now let us do it. I imagine the argument against the inclusion of the lasso had a lot to do with the strong possibility of being in a public server and getting dragged behind a horse for 15 minutes. This concept sounds hilarious, and to cut down on the time spent tied up, there could be a simple suicide button that just respawns you away from the jerks who think its funny to ride up on somebody and drag them around.

The silver lining here is, Rockstar is releasing a free co-op missions pack on June 22, the day after this posts. Hopefully this will be a lot of fun and will include at least some of the elements described above. I guess we’ll find out tomorrow!

Also, am I glad I bought RDR? Yes. Am I glad I bought it instead of Alan Wake (Elrood reviews it here), which released the same day? Not particularly, no.

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7 Responses

  1. I’m actually going to defend the sex scene, in a spoiler free manner as possible. Like you said, there are precious few actually *GOOD* people in rock star games. The scene was intended to show that the dude involved, who is really one of your better “allies” throughout the entire game, is still sort of a scumbag, given the set of missions Luisa (sp?) gives you. I think Rockstar was just driving home that he’s flawed as well.

    • I disagree. They made that point when he forgot Luisa’s name and discussed his other lovers. The fact is, I’m still not sure if what I saw was consensual or not. Judging by how the Mexican general was treating women I certainly couldn’t rule it out and her reaction didn’t really give me any clues. I just felt the scene was completely unnecessary and over the top. Even for a Rockstar title.

  2. Ok spoiler type things ahead for the Mexico storyline, DEAL WITH IT INTERNET.

    I agree that you got the idea from the conversations and him forgetting Luisa’s name, but to have Marston actually witness him doing the horizontal mombo with somebody else was really more of a showcase for Marston’s reaction than anything Reyes was doing.

    You can tell part of Marston wants to blow this guys head off, part of him doesn’t really care, and most of him just wants to get the hell out of Mexico. I could feel his frustration and resignation when he just pretty much ignored what was going on and demanded information about the men he was tracking. It reminded me of one of the Landon Ricketts missions, where you have to rescue the guys sister from the gang. As Marston said “this mans problems pain me, but they are not my own.” John has just resigned himself to the fact that he’s going to have to work with people like Reyes or even De Santa to get where he needs to be, and if he becomes hung up on the moral ground of what he’s doing, his quest will end in failure. We knew about Reyes, but we learned something about Marston and I think that is the value of the scene.

    I thought it was pretty clear the sex was between two consenting adults. Not to over-analyze….but to over analyze, I think it was a great juxtaposition between Reyes and Col. Allende roles in life. Reyes is charming and can give rousing speeches, thus enticing men and women alike to do his bidding (be it rebelling or having sex with him). But, as Marston’s conversations with Reyes near the end of the Mexico questline show, Reyes has no plan for ruling Mexico or any idea how to lead a government proper. Allende has the opposite problem. Nobody likes him, he earns respect through fear and he takes what he wants, including women. They never show him raping a woman, I think THAT is what would be too much for a Rockstar game, but it is very clearly implied that he does so on a regular basis. I would theorize that Reye’s Mexico would actually be a worse place to live than Allende’s. Not because Reyes would become a brutal dictator, but because he would be incapable of efficiently running a system of government. The men are two extremes, when what is needed for Mexico is something in the middle. Someone who is impassioned and appeals to the people (Reyes) but who also knows how to wield power, when to use it (tough government decisions) and when to not (kidnapping and abusing women).

    • Marston’s reaction may very well have been the crux of the issue but I’d never know it due to the graphic nature of the scene. Marston really wasn’t something I was focused on at that point because I was too busy recoiling in horror. Maybe I’m still too innocent and naive but recoil I did. If the intent was to learn something more about Marston, the camera should have been focused on Marston with merely implied sexually content. This sort of thing has been done tastefully in movies for years. But then again Rockstar is not known for doing anything tastefully.
      In fact, on the box it says its rated M for strong sexually content, I’m almost wondering if they threw that scene in just to ensure they got the M rating. Because a Rockstar game without an M rating is like the high school bad boy driving a minivan to class. He’s got a reputation to uphold.

  3. I like how this we’re doing this in comments instead of actually talking since we know each other, but hey it’s interesting! Internet people jump in!

    I almost feel like we watched different sex scenes. Youtube now thinks I’m a pervert because I watched it again. Its graphic sure, but the only naughty portion you actually see is the woman topless. It clearly shows Reyes humping her, then stopping as soon as he realizes Marston walked in. It isn’t something I would want children to see, but as a point of reference, I don’t think it was any more graphic than the sex scene in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and to come back to the video game world, there is more (and more clearly shown) nudity in God of War 3.

    I don’t think there’s any way this wouldn’t have earned an M even with this scene removed. Far more disturbing to me was the early mission in which you find a mutilated body hanging in a farm house, I’m sure that gets an M alone, minus the cursing and shooting people in the face.

    I actually feel that RDR is more tasteful than any of the GTA games. If you play RDR as a “good” guy Marston is actually sort of noble, albeit with the checkered past. For most missions anybody you kill is a lawless bandit or tried to kill you first. This obviously changes if you play as an “evil” character and just rob and murder at random, but I feel like there is a choice there. Even if you played as nice as possible in GTA4, you were still murdering innocent people and stealing their stuff. RDR feels much more reserved to me than past Rock Star games, which actually makes violence (and bit of sex that spawned this discussion) have a bigger impact.

    • After beating the game I would agree that RDR is more tasteful than GTA. Marston clearly has a set of principals. He’s no saint, but the principals are there.
      I went back and watched the scene myself, and in fact there is a very brief hint of “Life of Brian” style nudity. But that’s neither here, nor there.
      To me it simply comes down to the fact that it was not immediately apparent to me that the woman was a willing participant. I will admit that my tolerance for violence is much higher than my tolerance for graphic sex and we could start a whole nother debate as to the merits of those standards, but I feel that gratuitous sex has a greater emotional impact than gratuitous violence.
      For me the scene was over the top, and had the woman seemed to be clearly consenting maybe it wouldn’t have been. I still think it could have been done more tastefully with shadows on the wall or something along those lines.
      That’s the nice thing about the world, we are all free to our opinions. It just so happens that mine are right more often than not ;^)

  4. […] Dead Redemption. It was spawned by a conversation that I had with Enosh in the comment section of his RDR review. I just recently finished the game and really feel like some of the things it explores in the […]

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