Delayed Responsibility

I Shouldn't Be Gaming Right Now… But I Am!

Impressions: Red Dead Redemption

Posted by deckard47 on May 20, 2010

Red Dead Redemption

Well, this is a fairly straightforward post, obviously. I bought two games. I’ll talk about Read Dead Redemption first, just because.

I’ve been getting more and more annoyed by all of the reviews talking about “what Rockstar’s done,” and this new “Rockstar developed game.” There’s no doubt in my mind that the corporate overlords in New York came in at various points and game this game the flavor and airs that come with a Rockstar Title. That’s what they do. It makes them oodles of money, thanks to all of those funny, funny jokes (that’s a link to the “Dastardly” achievement, which players get for tying a woman up and leaving her in front of a train).

This is also a Rockstar San Diego game. They are their own development team, and however awful and constricted their workplace has been, they did their own work and made their own game. These are the people who, a long time ago, made the Midtown Madness games (on PC, before the series went to shit on the Hexbox). That’s actually really weird. Anyway.

RDR is obviously a “Rockstar Game.” It’s also obviously a game made by a team that knows a thing or two more than the GTA IV team. The shooting isn’t crap. The cover isn’t crap. The horses handle better than the cars ever did. You can save anywhere, mostly! Marston doesn’t handle like a bathtub on centuries-old wheels. No one’s talked to me about Teeties! Really, it’s a bright new world, and I kind of dig it.

It’s a slow, ponderous open world, and it feels just right. I don’t want to jet around like Rico or Alec Mason. I don’t want to insta-travel, or at least not often. More than Just Cause 2, even, this is a world I like wandering around. Even when I don’t find wildlife to hunt or instanced quests or bandits, the world is beautiful and character-ful enough that I’m not yet bored with it. I’m pleased with the game’s economy so far: ammo and money are everywhere (bandits, mostly), but so far, prices are high enough that I never have more than a few dollars on me after a trip to town.

Fighting, hunting, and running away from wildlife is more fun than I thought it would be. They’re hard to shoot, and they drop valuable pelts and skins. Combat is a measured, solid affair: it takes a while to properly kill or contain each batch of desperadoes, and reloading, Dead Eye (bullet time), and corpse looting all slow down combat. Combat encounters are either concluded instantly (thanks to perfect Dead Eye use) or slowly. The latter occurred when I chased down a group of bandits in a long canyon. It took about half an hour, but it felt like just the right amount of time for such a mission. I haven’t died yet in combat, so I don’t know if GTA IV‘s hideously spaced checkpoints have made a return. Honestly, the combat is easy enough (and fun enough) that I might not mind.

That’s the good stuff.

What’s not so great? The cutscenes and expository sections do the game, its story, and its writing a great disservice. Don’t get me wrong: the writing isn’t brilliant. The dialog and acting do, however, set an appropriate mood, and I haven’t encountered too many cringe-worthy story turns yet. It’s a serviceable Western, a story of loyalty, old and new friendships, and journeys home. I like Bonnie McFarlane, Armadillo’s Sheriff is entertaining enough, and John Marston is gruff, if bland. The problem arises in the absolutely interminable cutscenes and driving sequences. Cutscenes in this game last anywhere from 2 minutes to 10 minutes. Some are entertaining, some are boring, but all of them are too long. The periods where I sit, watching cowboys talk, never seem to end. This isn’t how you engage players: don’t take away my ability to do things for minutes and minutes on end.

The long horseback conversations (identical to the long car trip conversations en route to missions in GTA IV) are almost as bad. They’re glorified cutscenes. Marston and his chosen companion talk about the job ahead, their lives, or how they know each other. Luckily, if you ever have to repeat a mission, the dialogue will change. It makes a boring, frequent process slightly less boring. It never excuses these long, protracted sequences. I’d rather watch a cutscene, if I’m just going to be riding along a set path anyway.

So, it’s quite fun, if a little longwinded at (all) times. It’s also beautiful (really, the draw distance, level of detail, and quality of animation are all excellent) and wonderfully scored. The core and sound effects are great, with bullets, animals, and everyday sounds coming out just right, while the music feels just as whimsical, lonesome, and Morricone-like as one could hope for.

Alan Wake is (pretty obviously) an entirely different beast, but I’ll get to that in the next post


4 Responses to “Impressions: Red Dead Redemption”

  1. “It’s a slow, ponderous open world, and it feels just right.”

    That is exactly how I feel about it so far. I, too, have rarely used quick travel as just galloping across the plains feels so… right.

    I disagree about the cutscenes, though. Well, in part. They are quite long, and seem to be unskippable (unless I am missing something) which is unforgivable. Personally, I am a big fan of the long rides while talking about the characters in the same way I was a fan of the long drives of GTA4. Yes, they are just glorified cutscenes, but by allowing the player to have at least some control while the characters talk allows the characters to build up relationships through player-actions other than just shooting. But yeah, certainly not for everyone.

    Checkpoints are still pretty horrible, if not actually worse than GTA4. You do notrespawninthe nearest hospital/house, but the last place you saved the game… as I found out after a night’s sleep in Thieves landing before crossing to the other side of the map andfalling off a cliff >_>.

    • deckard47 said

      Sorry it took me so long to respond.

      I do like riding around, but the real reason I never fast travel is because it takes an age to get in and out of that shitty Camp menu. That’s really awful: it’s up there with the Rest mechanic in The Witcher for most pointlessly onerous Save/Sleep mechanic in a game. It needs to be patched out or some shit, not that they’ll do it.

      I wouldn’t mind the riding “cutscenes” if A) I could skip them, or B) Marston wasn’t a childish caricature of The Man With No Name. Every other character believes strongly in something, but turns out to be (Surprise!) a cynic and egotist, while Marston’s staunch refusal to voice any opinion (aside from his “I’m a man who wants to want the things he wants to want” MINDBOMB) telegraphs one thing to me: if you’re going to track in obvious, clumsy cliché with every single word in your script, you’d best have good enough writers and actors. Rockstar has neither.

      Oh, and the checkpoints might be annoying, but what’s worse is that cowboys (and horses!) can’t swim. Touching water means death, and a Long load. Inexcusable.

  2. Ashelia said

    I just saw this now, because I am very bad at stalking people I follow on Twitter off of Twitter apparently. So, yes, twenty days behind I offer: I agree. A lot. The horse conversations are something I forgot to write about on Hellmode’s ‘coverage,’ but they were incredibly awful for the most part. I liked the one with Bonnie and Marston, because he started to explain himself a little more, but the other ones made me angry enough to ride ahead of my companion so I didn’t have to hear his sad exchange with Marston’s equally bland reply.

    Now, go write about Alan Wake.

    • deckard47 said

      That’s how it was for me. At first I was interested to hear their conversations but then I realized that every single conversation followed this path: Part 1 – Person talks, explains their view on things (men, guns, ladies, death, Mexico, etc.). Part 2 – Marston grunts noncommittally. Part 3 – Person uses different words to say the same thing they said in Part 1. Part 4 – Marston makes uncertain sound. Part 5 – Person repeats Part 3. Part 6 – Marston says “I’m not sure about that.” Part 7 – Person again repeats Part 3.

      If the ride isn’t over by then, they’d just rinse and repeat with (again!) exciting new words.

      Every time I saw a carriage I cried, anticipating pressing that A button and skipping _everything_.

      And it sucked that Bonnie and Marston couldn’t have more real person conversations. That would have been something.

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