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27 June 2010 @ 04:45 pm
Looking for (Red Dead) Redemption  
Red Dead Redemption is easily, far and away, the most impressive video game I have ever had the pleasure of playing.

Fan-made video using Ennio Morricone's "Ecstasy of Gold"

I had never heard of this game before its release, but I have played the Grand Theft Auto series (by the same company, Rockstar) and thought they were pretty meh after the initial thrills. I had, in my mind, the firm belief that RDR would be "GTA on horses".

I wasn't far wrong, but I wasn't exactly right either. Red Dead Redemption's protagonist is an outlaw all right, but unlike GTA's criminal anti-heros, John Marston is an outlaw looking for redemption. As a result, the game's focus is taken away from "create as much mayhem as possible" (although later in the game you can do that if you want) and placed on the storyline. Story-wise, the game takes all the tropes of old westerns and mashes them up. John Marston is an ex-outlaw who has been forced by the federal government to hunt down his old gang. I'm not a fan of westerns, but I know enough to recognise tropes when I sees 'em.

My first impression of the game, however, was of the graphics, and was THAT a real eye-opener. I was treated to a scene of a riverboat out of the 1900s that I could have sworn was real, if not for the too-sharp edges of the models. I was literally stunned by the sheer detail and realism. The scenery of the sweeping prairies was breathtaking. I actually stood John Marston on a pier and watched the sunrise. There were changes in weather - sunny skies, cloudy skies, rain, thunderstorms. Puddles formed on roads. It was all quite brilliant.

Then there was the animation. I still can't quite believe they managed to make a HORSE into the main mode of transport. My mind boggles at the thought of what must have gone into that. Animal motion capture, animating getting on and off the horse, turning it, getting it to rear and jump fences, walk, trot, canter, gallop - I just can't get over it. And if you watch the above video closely, you can clearly see the illusion of the muscles bunching under the horse's skin (around the 2:30 mark). That just about blew my mind. I LOVED jumping on a horse and racing off.

And there were other animals too - cattle, bears, deer, elk, wolves, eagles, crows...

Everything else - sound effects, voice acting etc. - all came together beautifully to create a truly immersive world - a lost world of a wild America, largely untouched by humans. The philosphy espoused in the game is very relevant as well. Rockstar have always included political commentary in their games, but this game is one big political and social commentary. It's all very intriguing. The many varied characters you meet in the game all have their own opinion about things. Some of these people can be very disturbing, but I suppose it was meant to be an attempt to be realistic about how people trying to make their way in the wild west could have gone crazy.

The only reason why I call this game the most IMPRESSIVE game, though, and not the BEST game, is because of its rather disappointing ending. It probably would have made a great ending for a movie, but for a game, I felt it was a little disappointing. Of course, seems that there are plenty out there who disagree. Different strokes there.

If you haven't played this game and you'd like to see more, here is a 30min movie made entirely within the Red Dead Redemption game world, summarising the first 1/3 of the game. It's mostly cutscenes, with the gameplay merely hinted at with different camera angles. But it's Red Dead Redemption in a nutshell, and not even the best parts.

Maarikamaarikaaa on June 27th, 2010 01:44 pm (UTC)
Ah! I saw this game's trailer/demo the other day. It certainly does look impressive. Video games have come a long way graphics-wise, and they all kind of seem movie-like these days.
Auriondauriond on June 28th, 2010 11:46 am (UTC)
I know, and I love the direction they're taking. :3