Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Top 50 Video Games: Number 8

Platform: Xbox 360
Absurdly Specific Genre: Grand Theft Auto with Horses*
Difficulty: 3 (this might be the easiest video game I've ever truly loved)
Beaten: Yes (to the true ending)

The cliche goes that this is Grand Theft Auto with horses. That's how the game was sold to me and part of the reason I avoided it for as long as I did, truthfully. I liked each Grand theft Auto game that I played, but only to a certain point. I didn't feel the need to rehash that formula with horses.

...then he kills the dudes and gets Don Salvatore's drug money back. I'VE PLAYED THIS GAME BEFORE, DAMMIT.
Turns out the byline was a little bit off on this one.

For as lauded as Niko Bellic's character was, I never felt a lot of pull toward him, and after a while, Grand Theft Auto IV stalled in the same "beat prostitutes senseless and steal cars and evade police" game that every other GTA game had. John Marston is different.

Make no mistake, Red Dead Redemption is a game that intends to break your heart. What surprised me at first was how much the game made me care about the characters. When Bonnie gets you back on your feet, you care about her when local ruffians start shit with her. Marston goes from merely being the anti-hero protagonist to a tragic figure you can't help but wish good toward.  You actually care about his quest to get his wife and son back. Sure, you're willing to do some pretty shady things to facilitate that, but as opposed to every other game of its ilk, it feels strangely necessary. John Martson will be reunited with his family, and he won't let anything - including his conscience - get in the way of that goal.

Gameplay is, in and of itself, extremely entertaining. There's seemingly no limit to the mischief (and semi-honest fun) you can get into when riding the open range. The randomized events that happen from time to time keep the world feeling alive and vital. Horse riding itself feels a little cludgy at first, but quickly becomes second nature (especially once you get an actual decent horse).

I've already discussed my two favorite moments (here and here) in the 'moments' list, but there's truthfully dozens that could be brought up - the sun showing up as you clear the final hill on the path to Blackwater (that was mostly luck, it happened to be evening when I made that trip for the first time), the way you can whistle for your horse when a thief tries to steal it (causing your horse to buck the would-be thief off), playing poker, the way the music starts back up on your ride back to your ranch.

John Marston is just a cinematic kind of dude.
This game achieves more than I could have possibly expected. The characters are top notch, the music is excellent, the story is gutting, but wonderful. This is far from being "Grand Theft Auto with horses". his is the type of game Grand Theft Auto should be aspiring to take a page from.

No comments:

Post a Comment