By Sam Coles:
Sometimes I have to look at my calendar and go “Where the hell has the decade gone”? Anyway the past decade we have had some truly beautiful gaming experiences, as well as a console generation transition which is coming to close this year. A lot of games are turning 10 years old this year and one of my favourite games of last generation falls into this camp, and I think you know what it is Red Dead Redemption. I know what you are going to say “Sam it turns 10 years old in May”, which you would be correct but to be crude about it I couldn’t keep it in my pants. Anyway let’s look at the decade legacy that is Red Dead Redemption.
Red Dead Redemption’s concept was first announced all the way back in 2005 at Sony’s E3, where it was titled “Wild West Project” which was nothing more than a tech demo to show the power of the PS3. However we wouldn’t get a proper reveal until early 2009! When the game was first announced I must have been 15 at the time in early 2009, at first me being a cynical teenager I thought of it as nothing more as Grand Theft Auto in the Wild West which it does share elements from that series but it separates itself from that series. However when it got more marketing in 2010 it began to interest me, so I did more research into the game and it was the first game I have ever pre-ordered and when release day came I couldn’t put it down.
What captivated me first was the narrative, stepping into the shoes of former outlaw John Marston he is being blackmailed by the federal government to track and hunt down his former allies. To make him do this they have kidnapped his wife and son, which makes John reluctantly accept the mission. What transpires is a tale of revenge, betrayal and tragedy which I will openly admit was the first video game narrative that I shed a tear at its ending.
What I like about the narrative are the contractions of what is right and wrong, because the government claim that they want to bring order to the dying days of the outlaw but on other hand their methods are no better than the criminals they are hunting. It’s great and John himself notices this and constantly provides commentary about it, as he knew what he did was wrong but he saw his gang as a Robin Hood type of outlaws as they stole from the rich and only killed those who deserved it, well initially if you have played Red Dead Redemption 2.
John Marston as a character also grabbed me because he puts on this tough exterior, where he threatens people with his fists or a gun to their forehead. However underneath all of the gruffness he is a sensitive soul, he is someone who is trying to rebuild and redeem (get it) his life. He knows what he has done in the past was wrong, but on the other hand he sometimes thinks it is the only way of life that he knows. Don’t get me wrong he solves most conflicts diplomatically, but there are moments where his rage and impulsive nature take over and he shoots people with even blinking. However as the story progresses he starts to calm down, especially when he is reunited with his family even if it is brief.
Now the open world and gameplay was something that we really didn’t see on consoles at the time, yes at its core the gameplay is what one would expect form third person action games. However coupled with the unique setting it comes together with this mix of shooter, role playing game and a faffing about simulator alright that last one is a bit of stretch but the possibilities were almost endless. The dynamic nature of the world with its wildlife systems was brand new to consoles at the time; the only game I can think of that even comes close is Far Cry 2. Animals would react to the player in an organic manner, where they would look up if they heard even a slight sound from you and run away (obviously) when you start shooting.
The world itself was something I had not seen before back in 2010, I mean yes I had put dozens of hours into Oblivion beforehand but Red Dead’s world felt more organic and believable. It’s a world I can just slowly explore for hours on end, as it slowly unfolds its secrets to me coupled with the ambient soundtrack which can be relaxing and eerie at the same time. To this day 10 years down the line the visuals look great, Rockstar by this point started to get into the grove of producing high quality visuals with their games and Red Dead Redemption to me is where it started. Character models still look decent, and the overall attention to detail in each environment still look fantastic.
Red Dead Redemption is a game that people will be discussing for the next 10, 20 or hell 30 years; it’s the combination of story and open world exploration that has stood the test of time. This truly deserves to be in the archives as one of the best games in video game history!