Jan 18, 2011

Red Dead Redemption: The Mixed Bag

2010 has come and gone, and game of the year awards are being handed out left an right. Mass Effect 2, Red Dead Redemption, Starcraft 2, even Alan Wake was given some love. I have played all of them, and none of them pissed me off more than Red Dead Redemption. Now, I am not saying it didn't deserve the awards it has received nor the money it made. I am just saying for me the flaws of the game destroyed the game as a whole for me.

Red Dead Redemption is a prefect example of what is wrong with the gaming industry, and yet at the same time what is right with it. The game came out with a whimper of a marketing plan and still managed to slaughter in the sales world, proof that word of mouth is still in the driver seat of the industry. Everyone loved the graphics, the story was interesting, and it is such a genre piece that there isn't much room for competition.

The landscapes were what first caught me by surprise. The rolling sunsets of all of the John Wayne classics all rendered in gorgeous HD have very little to compare too. The only game I say comes close in lush digital environments is Uncharted 2, and from the looks of it, Uncharted 3 will raise the bar once more. But I digress.

The first thing I absolutely loathe about this game is the controls, specifically when riding a horse. We live in the digital age, yet Rockstar makes us regress back to pushing down a button every couple of seconds to maintain speed. Why can't I just push forward on my joystick? The horses also don't know how to move their neck left and right, which determines which direction they are going. Making a sharp turn is near impossible, so if you are chasing wild game and they veer off to the left or right, you are pretty much screwed.

Next on the list is the inventory system, which is basically just a glorified menu. It absolutely irks me that when you bring up your inventory, it takes up the entire screen and blocks your view of the great landscape visuals. There is also no way to track your individual challenges to level your character up though interesting gameplay elements such as forging, hunting,  and skinning.

Oh and skinning. Don't even get me started on that mess. Every time you kill an animal in order to gather its pelt you have to watch a shot cut scene that splashes some blood on the screen as John Marsden uses his knife to gather materials. Really nice touch. The first time. If you kill say, 6 animals and are collecting pelts to level up your aforementioned skills, you have to watch the cut scene 6 different times. Oh but there is a glitch where you can park your horse on top of the animal and then get off to skin it so you don't see the cut scene, but as mentioned earlier, steering your horse to where you want it to go is a pain to begin with. Oh, and this cut scene crap isn't just on the animals. Every bandit you kill you will want to search for items, but for that fort of 20 people you just took 25 minutes to kill, expect to take another 10 minutes running up to each body and watching a cut scene. All for maybe $100 of in game cash.

Marsden also controls like Niko Bellic, but with a cowboy hat. You know, unresponsive, clippy, has so many voice overs and animations the game takes forever to make a decision on which one to play. All the typical tricks of a Rockstar main character. Tons of personality with no thought process as to how it will play out.

All in all, Red Dead Redemption is a 21st century visual boon with 20th century clunky design set in the early 20th century.