As we reach the dizzying heights of number 2 on our 2010 countdown, we come to the bit that caused the longest debate. We always knew which 2 games we loved the most last year, but it took over an hour of heated debate to come to the ultimate conclusion… Red Dead Redemption is our runner-up…
The Wild West is a sadly underused setting for video games, but Red Dead Redemption proved it can be the backdrop of a great game. Set in the sprawling open world of cowboy America and Mexico, and built in the GTA 4 engine, the story follows outlaw John Marston as he tries to outrun his past and save his family. With Rockstar’s trademark attention to detail, the game tells its highly engrossing tale with a host of hilariously weird and disgusting characters, and tonnes of optional tasks that can be a fun diversion from the main story every once in a while. There was an entire ecosystem of wild animals to hunt, including many varieties of tamable horses, which could all be broken in and ridden.
This game had me fully engrossed from start to finish. The pacing of the story, which unfolds gradually leading you to new areas, felt familiar to anyone who has played a GTA game before, yet simultaneously refreshing thanks to the wholly original setting. Galloping across Mexico as the sun rises above the red dusty mountains is breathtaking, and the first time I climbed to the peak of the highest mountain in Tall Trees, and saw the view I felt quite proud of the journey I’d taken Marston on. We’d been through a lot together… when I reached the game’s glorious end segment, which I absolutely will say nothing about other than express how masterful it was, I knew I had played one of the best games of the year.
Rockstar are amazing. They have a bad name in the press thanks to ill-informed parents and malicious news reporters out for an easy headline, but they should be recognized for the phenomenal game developers that they are. Lets not forget they practically invented the open-world genre, and Red Dead Redemption is one of the best story driven open world games ever made.
Undead Nightmare is possibly the greatest bit of DLC ever made, too.
The last wild west themed game I had my hands on before Red Dead Redemption was Call of Juarez II: Bound in Blood. It had cowboys, injuns, arrows, guns, explosions, horses, wagons, exploding gun wagons, injuns firing arrows and rifles from horses, gun totin’ cowboys exploding. But sadly, that was about it. Sure, it was a solid first person shooter, but at the end of the day all I really wanted out of a wild west game was the freedom to wander the wilds of the treacherous, deadly wastes and farmlands as a lovable scoundrel of a cowboy. Enter, Red Dead Redemption, the bestest ever wild west game ever.. EVER! Seriously, I mean, who these days still really finds cowboys and injuns cool? Like, properly cool. Probably not many people! In truth, I’ve never even really been that interested. The films always seem to just be the same sort of thing, ever since the days gone by where legends like Clint Eastwood made their mark as the cool, collected, suave anti-hero characters who love to be bad yet always come out as the good guys in the end. Those days may be gathering dust now, with the odd exception, but when RDR was announced and I saw that very first trailer, I was just blown away. It was a wild west, free roaming, gun toting, animal hunting, bandit roping, bounty collecting, steam train chasing, damsel saving, wild bear skinning, horse race winning epic.. that you could play! And damn did it actually look cool. I mean, what an brilliant concept. For a starter, a game that included all such things and involved going wherever you liked, whenever you pleased, now that was a wild west game I wanted to be a bloody part of.
Sure, GTA did these things for years, but – and maybe this is just me – the constant driving around cities, shooting drug dealers, picking up hookers, and doing bizarre jobs for typical Mafia-type guys with names like ‘Tony’ really started to feel a little stagnant by the time Red Dead Redemption came out. This was such a refreshing change! A bold move, to take an engine that made such an outstanding game as GTA IV, and to apply it something as daring and unconventional to the mainstream video game market as a frigging wild west game.
The gameplay was nothing short of a dream to behold, with the controls for every action you wanted all made fluid and accessible, the graphics astonishingly beautiful to admire, with physics and characters to make the world feel so real and believable, and a story that never once ceased to keep me hooked from start to finish. My only gripes whatsoever with the game were trivial yet incredibly frustrating, yet entirely down to bugs or connection issues. The first, and possibly most infuriating bug ever known to the gaming completionist, was that despite my keen commitment to find and collect everything, complete every mission, perform every task, skin every animal, and do bloody anything that was needed of me, my completion score for the entire game never, and I mean NEVER EVER went past 99.9%. What. A. Shit. Still though, maybe it served me right for trying so damn hard on something so unbelievably time consuming. The only other issue I had was with the multiplayer connection issues, where I would somehow be booted out of almost any public game I ever tried to connect to at random, as if my connection simply didn’t get on with the connections of other random players.
Niggles aside though, Red Dead Redemption will go down as one of my most favourite video games ever, because with so much to do, see, and experience, it was simply unforgettable.