Red Dead Redemption remains to this day one of the most well regarded, and masterfully crafted open-world titles. Rockstar Games have proven their expertise in creating memorable, character-driven landscapes that are vast, while being loaded with areas worth taking the time to explore and experience fully. With Red Dead Redemption 2 out later this year, we take a look at what made the first in the series such a defining title.
Note: Spoilers ahead for any who have not finished Red Dead Redemption
Red Dead Redemption’s main protagonist is John Marston, a former outlaw and gang member who is extorted by members of the federal government into hunting down the posse of his previous gang who left him for dead years ago. He must find and kill these men to keep safe his wife Abigail and son Jack, who have been kidnapped by the federal agents.
Killers, drunks, widows, guerilla outlaws, ranchers, beasts, and phantoms populate the world. Many side quests feature some of the strangest and most memorable interactions. Stranger missions were especially engrossing. Gathering flowers for a man’s wife who ends up being a rotting corpse in a chair, investigating disappearances of town folk that leads to a cannibal who you can choose to allow to eat his victim or save her, meeting a strange nameless man immune to death in every region of the game who remarks at your final meeting about being at a “good spot”, this later becomes John Marston’s final resting place.
The entire game features character interactions that stick, from strange side quests to major plot points that include members of John’s previous gang. Watching John Marston wrestle with the ideas of his morality and desire to keep his family safe is continually engrossing, and leads to amazing sequences of dialogue amidst the carnage and death that follows Marston throughout the story.
Music That Set The Stage
Many games attempt to accompany their landscapes with sweeping memorable tones, to help the player to feel the world as much as they witness it. Red Dead Redemption managed to do this in such a way that the thrill of seeing certain areas for the first time has always stuck out. Anyone who played this game will remember the first time they crossed the border into Mexico, riding in with this playing in the background.
This coupled with the robust orchestral sound of the other areas creates regions that become more palpable in your mind. I can still envision every beautifully crafted section of this game that I explored, hunting, riding in and blasting my way through outlaw gangs like a master gunslinger, and following found treasure that actually required knowledge of the game’s landmarks, no easy to follow points on the map for these.
A Painted Landscape That Paints A Picture
Many open-world titles include some beautiful regions, but not always ones that are as noteworthy or recognizable besides ones based closely off of real world locations. Despite taking place mostly in empty deserts, Red Dead Redemption managed to have large rocks that were easy to remember, let alone the small towns and cities populating the game.
Because of the difficulty of the previously mentioned treasure maps, knowing and learning the environment was a necessity to exploring the game to it’s fullest. Every area exploded with their own sense of character. This was compounded by the difference in characters for every new area as well making the three major sections of the game feel distinct and unique in their offerings.
A Spectacular Finite Ending
The gunplay and third-person shooting of Red Dead Redemption were a joy to play. Not only because the controls were tight and responsive, but the dead eye system allowing for slow motion shots and marking of targets for quick fire deaths, remained a fun and challenging experience throughout. This played a large part in the ultimate ending of John Marston. After tracking down all the members of his previous gang and ending their existence, John returns to his farm to spend time with his family. The game has the player doing most of these tasks, bonding with his son Jack as they hunt together and complete daily chores. These segments make the events that follow all the more amazing.
Edgar Ross, the agent who used John to do his bidding and rid the world of the outlaws he hates, as he sees them as from a time now gone for the west as industrialization starts to come to life, brings a large group of men to John’s farm to kill him and destroy the last outlaw of John’s former gang. Just watch below at the fitting, climactic end John Marston faces that the player gets to take part in.
The player gets to take their last shots as John is gunned down by the men who used him to do their killing. After spending so many hours hunting, killing, saving, riding, and finally living a simple life for a couple hours, John’s redemption lasts only a short time before he is gunned down. This is not the end though, the player takes control of Jack several years later and takes on the goal of avenging his father’s death. Once you find Edgar Ross, a final climactic duel ensues for one last time in Red Dead Redemption.
Red Dead Redemption takes itself to a full end, a story freed from the usual trappings of, go here to destroy the craziest, largest health pool villain in the game, and instead sees the player living out John’s nightmare as his many years of being a murderer catches up with him. The redemption comes from finding peace for his son in what was is still one of the best endings of a video game ever in my opinion.
One Of The Best DLC’s Ever Made
The last great thing Rockstar did for Red Dead Redemption was release its’ only large DLC which was titled Undead Nightmare. It was a perfect example of how to expertly reuse assets to make an old area feel new again. Undead Nightmare had you traversing the west as it is overrun by zombies and ghouls. You are given new weapons like a large blunderbuss and given the opportunity to ride mythical creatures like the four horses of the apocalypse and hunt down the famed Chupacabra. Undead Nightmare brought news characters and story missions to an already packed and wonderful game, I only wish more games would release content like this that sought to turn the game on its’ own head.
Later this fall, Rockstar Games is slated to release Red Dead Redemption 2, and after everything being so spectacularly memorable and well crafted in the first title, its’ sequel has a lot to live up to. Below is the first teaser trailer for Red Dead 2 and seems to point towards it being a prequel taking place when John was still a part of his outlaw gang.