Smile and Nod: I, John Marston

Russ Pitts

The Boss of You
May 1, 2006
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Smile and Nod: I, John Marston

A profound RPG experience isn't just possible in Red Dead Redemption, it's unavoidable.

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Yvl9921

Our Sweet Prince
Apr 4, 2009
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This article really made me think. I'd always seen realism as a sin in gaming (after playing and hating GTAIV and comparing it to Crackdown), but now that you mention it RDR really does show that realism not as bad as I made it out to be. A game just needs to either be consistently real (Red Dead) or consistently fake (Disgaea). For me, at least.
 

Generic_Dave

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Jul 15, 2009
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I have to wholehearted agree. As a role to play, Marston was one of the first characters that guided my actions, rather that the game guiding my actions. I constantly found myself trying my best to do what that dang cowboy would do.

I found myself grudgingly fighting for the Mexican army, even though I despised them. And I found Liza's story-line heartbreaking and was deeply affected by how it ended. I would say it was the first time I genuinely cared about a character's life. For me, NPCs are normally just targets.

It kind of forces you to play a role in an extremely subversive manner. Even little things like the character fobbing off the hookers because he has a wife at home. The nobility and determination of the character drags you into his role, while very much glossing over the fact that you can only play the pre-defined role. The bars are there, they are just well hidden.

When compared to something like [Prototype] that encouraged you to kill anything that moves, innocent or otherwise (those weapons were NOT designed with an eye to reducing collateral damage) but then tries to paint its character as a noble and torn wronged man.

Of all the games I've play I'd think only Bioshock was as engrossing and immersive an experience.
 

Jared

The British Paladin
Jul 14, 2009
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I did love the way they protrayed Marston, and how his character worked. He made me really feel I was in the wildwest. The mannerisms, motions, combat. It put me into the shoes of what it would be like to be in those times, and, I would try to act accordingly (be that an outlaw, or a man of justice ect.)

The way they paced his story is really well done too, it makes you want to press forward, to see his kid, his wife, and the way he lived
 

KEM10

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Oct 22, 2008
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I enjoyed the GTA IV tie in, they are narratives that are set in stone and you can only tweak them. The problem with your definition of "Role Playing" (or the industry's) is that because they have a designed beginning and end with certain chapters in between that you must hit, all of the Final Fantasy games are not role playing games.

To be completely honest, the only true role playing game would be The Sims since you can go on your adventure into the world and save the girl while killing the bad guy, or you could paint a picture instead and head off to work tomorrow.



Great article, may have to look again at the RDR prices.
 

AnAngryMoose

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Nov 12, 2009
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*Claps* Very well written. I played a noble Marston, one trying to redeem himself. Like you said, I was extremely tempted to piss about and shoot up a town, or rob the nearest store, but I didn't. While helping a man rescue his wife from being hanged I accidentally shot him and felt terrible for it. I did kept with the Ranch missions without pause though, wanting to see what happened, and then afterwards tied the last loose end as Jack by killing that government official. Afterwards I felt like I had nothing to do, sort of how Jack must have felt. I saw Jack as somewhat vengeful after his father was killed: inspired even by how is father tried to redeem himself. Afterwards I felt like I had nothing left to do, bar helping out strangers, which is when I succumbed to shooting random people. At one point I got so frustrated at this one guy beating me at poker that I got up from the table and shot him in the head.
 

Enigmers

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Red Dead Redemption is a great game for exactly the reasons you described. I prefer it to GTAIV because of how it puts you in a world in such a way that you begin to feel very attached to your surroundings - everything gets very familiar very quickly and you really do care for the various NPCs, or hate them for not understanding your situation. In GTAIV, the amount of freedom you have is too ridiculous to suspend your disbelief; it just doesn't feel as "epic" a game (and I do try to use the word "epic" sparingly).

Red Dead Redemption is by far one of the best games I've ever played.
 

scnj

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Nov 10, 2008
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I applauded Red Dead Redemption for being one of the only games I'd ever experienced that actually had a playable denouement. So many other games would have ended with John Marston finishing his mission, but this went one step further and was all the more satisfying for it.
 

Not-here-anymore

In brightest day...
Nov 18, 2009
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Now that you mention it, I did feel guided by the character. As John, I stayed on the straight and narrow, trying to atone for my past life, whilst throwing out stories that revealed how much I missed it, really.
As Jack, I felt it was inherently part of the character to be a little angrier, a little bit vengeful - I started breaking the law more often, I cheated at poker (well, I tried), I tied a bandana round my face and went achievement hunting...
It was definitely one of the best games I've ever played, and I'm glad I bought it on a whim when I saw it pre-owned (2 days after it came out)
 

Yvl9921

Our Sweet Prince
Apr 4, 2009
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KEM10 said:
I enjoyed the GTA IV tie in, they are narratives that are set in stone and you can only tweak them. The problem with your definition of "Role Playing" (or the industry's) is that because they have a designed beginning and end with certain chapters in between that you must hit, all of the Final Fantasy games are not role playing games.

To be completely honest, the only true role playing game would be The Sims since you can go on your adventure into the world and save the girl while killing the bad guy, or you could paint a picture instead and head off to work tomorrow.
That's the problem with Russ' definition - he's defining simulators, not RPGs. RPGs have always required stats and stat growth, usually in the form of level ups. It's not a complicated definition, people just get thrown off because they've apparently never heard of Dungeons and Dragons, or haven't connected it to the genre of today.
 

Captain Pancake

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I played it in a similar way. It was one of the most profound gaming experiences of my life, far more than just "Grand theft horse", as I once naively tweeted to you. It actually did feel like (And temporarily became) my life, I would see entire hours of my life pass by and wouldn't care. The characters had character, the story was gripping, I actually longed more for the atmosphere and the people I would meet more than the gun-fights, which were superbly designed anyway.

I don't think I'll experience anything like it in a long time.
 

Johnnyallstar

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Feb 22, 2009
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I completely agree. In many ways it's like Grand Theft Auto, but supremely better in almost every way. The world felt more natural, more real, more genuine. I couldn't really get into the GTAIV world, but I immersed myself in RDR.

The only disappointments I really had with the game were the few things I found I couldn't do at any point, like hold up a train at any time. Sure I could go in and kill the people and take their money, but it's not the same.

RDR also had one of the most emotional moments I've ever experienced in gaming. Descending the mountain after dealing with Dutch, while hearing "Compass" by Jamie Lidell was fantastic. Perfectly captured the emotion of the moment, and since then it caused me to learn to play it on guitar. Singing it is a pain, though, Jamie has such a high voice.
 

Therumancer

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Nov 28, 2007
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I jump around games quite a bit, so I haven't finished RDR, but I will point out that I don't see why so many people act like that achievement is a big deal. I think the way most people go about it says more than the achievement itself and it's existance.

To put things into perspective, as many people point out pretty much all the women that you meet outside of towns are honey traps out to rob you, kill you, or both. There is no reason why you need to abduct a nun, a prostitute, or some innocent lady, and then murder her with a train.

Me? I got one of those encounters where the lady yells "help" near a wagon and then you get ambushed (including her going red). I just shot the dues, lassoed her, and engaged in a bit of frontier justice with the train. I mean she did try and kill "me" after all, right? I otherwise would have just shot her. There is no real bounty for turning in these general interlopers either, so it's not like you can put them in jail or whatever.

I suppose you can say it's a bit brutal, but hey, in that encounter she was the ringleader apparently.

You've also got the ladies who try and steal your horse, I've never used one of those, but again horse theft is a death penelty offense.


All told RDR is a good game, not sure if I agree with the role-playing arguements for the most part though. As I've said before what makes an RPG is the use of stats to resolve problems rather than the player's own abillities, and even if not the most difficult game out there, RDR is definatly an action game, that depends on the player's reaction time and abillities. I typically make the point that they very first RPGs had absolutly no plot or anything else, the appeal being mostly to wargamers who took nerd-like joy in having been able to create statistical engines to simulate individual battles rather than larger scale engagements. Adding plots and storylines and such came later, maybe not a lot later, but still down the pipe. Unless RDR goes stat based, it will never be an RPG unless you try and re-define what that is all about, since RPG in thise case does not use the term "role playing" in the sense of an actor playing a role or whatever, but in the terms that it's the abillity of the role/character to resolve events rather than that of the player.
 

dochmbi

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Sep 15, 2008
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Well written article, it really made me appreciate RDR even more. I was emotionally touched by the story, and now it seems even more profound.
 

pneuma08

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Sep 10, 2008
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I do not agree. For me, there was no temptation to go "off the rails" - yeah, I could shoot a random guy, but why? There is no reason for it, and in fact the game punishes you for it, and you get no benefit. Yeah, I could steal a horse, but I already have a better one that appears on command, and if I wanted a new one I could either go out and get one (which is not much more difficult, and more rewarding), or buy an instantly-reviving one at a store with my copious amounts of cash laying about (which is much easier but less rewarding). Yeah, I could start a fistfight in a bar, but everyone rushes over to fight me then and if I knock someone out they get back up in a matter of seconds. There was no real reason to break the law, no real reason to go hunting, no real reason to play any of the minigames, no real reason to go "off the rails". The game kind of falls apart because of this.

For me, the game simply didn't allow what I wanted to do with it. I couldn't go tell the Mexican Army to screw itself, I couldn't deny the strangers' request even though it is clear that I am being scammed, can't disarm a guy in a duel if he is meant to die - sure, I could ignore them, but then I had already agreed to help, and there's always that little note in my to-do list nagging at me.

No, I can't say that I felt I had played a significant part in John Marston's life.
 

tlozoot

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Enjoyed the article, and I feel the points you made on GTA4 are explroed further <url=http://designreboot.blogspot.com/2010/03/open-world-design-problems.html>here if anyone would like to read more about it (not an ad for me by the way, I just enjoy this design blog).

Picking up on something an above poster mention, my grievences with the game were how it seemed too authoritive in its sandbox approach. There just wasn't enough incentive to do the majority of what the game offered, and the missions were painfully linear. Go hunting and sell the meat? Why! I already have enough money because I don't actually need to buy anything. Steal a horse? I already have one I can call anywhere.

I felt the game lacked enough cohesive gameplay elements to make it truly excellent, although the narrative was the best I've experienced in a game in a long time.
 

subtlefuge

Lord Cromulent
May 21, 2010
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Yvl9921 said:
KEM10 said:
I enjoyed the GTA IV tie in, they are narratives that are set in stone and you can only tweak them. The problem with your definition of "Role Playing" (or the industry's) is that because they have a designed beginning and end with certain chapters in between that you must hit, all of the Final Fantasy games are not role playing games.

To be completely honest, the only true role playing game would be The Sims since you can go on your adventure into the world and save the girl while killing the bad guy, or you could paint a picture instead and head off to work tomorrow.
That's the problem with Russ' definition - he's defining simulators, not RPGs. RPGs have always required stats and stat growth, usually in the form of level ups. It's not a complicated definition, people just get thrown off because they've apparently never heard of Dungeons and Dragons, or haven't connected it to the genre of today.
Your own definition is also only half true. If RPGs required stat growth, then Legend of Zelda would not be considered an RPG. While you may personally believe that, you would have a hard time convincing very many people.
 

Derelict Frog

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Excellent article. Games like Red Dead Redemption truly show that video games can be just as profound and moving an entertainment medium as any other of the last few millennia.

Was it just me or was one segment near the end where Bonnie bids you a final farewell quite touching (the one where she melancholically watches you ride off with your wife, awkwardly shuffling her feet)?
 

Burningsok

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subtlefuge said:
Yvl9921 said:
KEM10 said:
I enjoyed the GTA IV tie in, they are narratives that are set in stone and you can only tweak them. The problem with your definition of "Role Playing" (or the industry's) is that because they have a designed beginning and end with certain chapters in between that you must hit, all of the Final Fantasy games are not role playing games.

To be completely honest, the only true role playing game would be The Sims since you can go on your adventure into the world and save the girl while killing the bad guy, or you could paint a picture instead and head off to work tomorrow.
That's the problem with Russ' definition - he's defining simulators, not RPGs. RPGs have always required stats and stat growth, usually in the form of level ups. It's not a complicated definition, people just get thrown off because they've apparently never heard of Dungeons and Dragons, or haven't connected it to the genre of today.
Your own definition is also only half true. If RPGs required stat growth, then Legend of Zelda would not be considered an RPG. While you may personally believe that, you would have a hard time convincing very many people.
An RPG is based on how you play your character. In RDR the protagonis's character has already been laid out for you. John Marston is a middle aged cowboy who was once an outlaw but years later has decided to turn a new leaf and try and redeem himself. All this has been set in stone, and you can't change his destiny. The reason this game can be considered an RPG is because you can decide if John Marston will fulfill his destiny or not. You can go off on your own and be the outlaw that he once was. You have control of what he does. You can be the law abiding citizen, or the lawless bandit. Games like Devil May Cry have a protagonist that not only has the character part set in stone but the actions as well. As Dante you will fight demons and you will fight your brother. In RDR you don't have to do each mission if you don't want to. Your adventures are what you make it. The story having a definite beginning and ending is probably the only thing that makes this a non-RPG game, and the fact that the character you play already has some qualities set in stone.
 

Argonnosi

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Jul 23, 2010
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Couldn't disagree more with this article. The only thing, in fact, that you got right about this game (other than the base description of the events) is that it is not an RPG. Now listen close, 'cause this is important. RPGs aren't about stat advancement, they're about the ability to make choices that define and alter your character, the story, and the world around you. Mind, by that definition the FF games aren't RPGs, but they aren't, so I'm okay with that.

I've been table-top role-playing for some 12 years now, and as I am able to get more consistent access to my preferred hobby and gaming style, the more I have come to despise these games that claim to be an RPG or have RPG elements. The only element that actually matters is choice! All we get with the FF, GTA, and RDR is a chance to watch a movie with some game-play elements thrown in to make sure that you are still paying attention.

Now that I'm done with that little rant: 1) You can't stand around on a moving train and shoot stuff, and 2) if a posse is gathered to run you down, you're not going to jail to spend time, you're going to be lynched, shot down, or taken to a jail where, later, you will be hung right and proper. Very much game over. So, you want to talk about suspension of disbelief being broken, just as much will be broken here as in GTA4. More, in fact, because the world, otherwise, does feel very "real," so every time something that just shouldn't happen does, it becomes all the more jarring.

Also, Zero Punctuation is right. This is a bad game. In fact, all of the GTA games tend to be, but this one even more so. As a game, RDR is actually two games. First and foremost, you have the missions and the story, which has a very distinctive tone and characterization. Then you have the free-roaming game, where you can go anywhere, do anything, and kill anybody (so long as it isn't anything that will alter the story, 'cause your not allowed to do that).

The problem with this is that what you do in free-roam often is completely at odds with what you do in the missions, especially if any sense of tension is being created by the plot, and then you go off and kill buffalos for three hours. And, time just stands still? Mind, this, and similar complaints, aren't just aimed at RDR individually. They are a problem that is endemic to most games that attempt to create a "non-linear" or "open" world. A game where you are stuck on the rails, going from level 1 to level x, where you beat the final boss, may not have the openness of the other games, but it doesn't have any pretense to options that don't exist, and it does have the advantage of consistency.
 

KEM10

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Yvl9921 said:
KEM10 said:
I enjoyed the GTA IV tie in, they are narratives that are set in stone and you can only tweak them. The problem with your definition of "Role Playing" (or the industry's) is that because they have a designed beginning and end with certain chapters in between that you must hit, all of the Final Fantasy games are not role playing games.

To be completely honest, the only true role playing game would be The Sims since you can go on your adventure into the world and save the girl while killing the bad guy, or you could paint a picture instead and head off to work tomorrow.
That's the problem with Russ' definition - he's defining simulators, not RPGs. RPGs have always required stats and stat growth, usually in the form of level ups. It's not a complicated definition, people just get thrown off because they've apparently never heard of Dungeons and Dragons, or haven't connected it to the genre of today.
I actually enjoy the new idea. I have played a few (read way too many) tabletops and the main thing I enjoyed about them was the ability to shape your character to your liking and make her unique. Bioware does a great job with this, but my Cloud and your Cloud will be the exact same except for, maybe, some different abilities or equipment.
 

carpathic

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I sometimes wonder if it is the freedom that is so attractive in Sandbox games. I mean, in the west we live in repressive societies. Safe, but oppressive, and I sometimes think that we long for the freedom offered by these games.
 

Grahfb

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Am I the only one that thought the ending to RDR left a lot to be desired? Here I am, having played the entire game as John Marston, an awesome bad ass, then I'm forced into the role of his incredibly annoying son, who takes revenge for his father by shooting an old man in the face. An old man who has already lived out his life, for all intents and purposes, and probably would have died in a month anyway. I don't consider that a very satisfying ending to the story at all.
 

mjc0961

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Nov 30, 2009
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Very good read, and I really have to agree. John was a pretty good character in a pretty good game. Like many others commenting, I tried to be as noble as possible as well: there was one part where I spend so long messing around trying to get my lasso to work so I could hogtie and capture a guy, that an NPC I was with ended up shooting that guy just as I realized the game was forcing me to execute him and was beginning to draw my pistol.

However, all that about how great John is really makes the part after the story a bit disappointing for me.
Jack is pretty much a blank slate. I guess that is a bit of a help with the whole deal about John's character, and being able to run off and go after whatever you still need to do (such as the hogtying a woman and leaving her to be run over by a train) without worrying about John, but for me... I just don't give a shit about Jack.

Or maybe I'm just annoyed with his somewhat grating voice and stupid phrases. Stop yelling at the horse to "work ya damn nag" every minute, and nobody cares that your pa knew Landon Rickets.

But again, very nice read. It made me appreciate the way the game ends a bit more.
 

Kilgorn

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This article is exactly what i was thinking the entire time i played the game, that it was so immersive because it was believable, thanks to the setting. The story was so well told that you wanted to add your personal decisions to John Marston's profile, and perhaps take away some of John's personality for your own profile in real life.

Also, I got 100% because I had to continue John's legacy with Jack.
 

TheBluesader

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Russ Pitts said:
Smile and Nod: I, John Marston

A profound RPG experience isn't just possible in Red Dead Redemption, it's unavoidable.

Read Full Article
I think an important thing to keep in mind about RDR is how often you can die. Especially after you do terrible, terrible things. Sure, your stats remain unchanged by your death. But when you die, you respawn at the last save point - many times BEFORE you did the terrible things you did to get achievements or just to have some nasty fun. While this is a standard aspect of games, it also has an interesting impact on the story. Sure, John kidnapped a woman, let a train explode her, and then killed half a dozen people trying to get away with it. But then he got killed.

But oh wait, no he didn't! Because suddenly he's back to the point BEFORE he acted like a sociopath. Now you can certainly go back and do the same terrible things again, and avoid getting killed. But why would you? You've already gone through that. It doesn't matter that John himself no longer has those memories. Only you do, and they're your problem.

This almost makes the game an "all possible worlds" simulator. You can go out and see what will happen if John is terrible. But then you can get John killed, he goes back in time a few minutes, and now he's not terrible again.

I guess this doesn't do anything for people who think the narrative and gameplay are morally inconsistent. But if you pay attention only to the "real" John - the John as he keeps respawning - both aspects can be completely consistent.

As long as you don't make John a terrible person and survive it, at any rate.
 

Nostalgia Ripoff

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When I played RDR, I had John be a noble man who shot to kill only when he had to. Even in duels I just aimed for the opponents shooting hand. And when he died, it had an impact. I did all that work for that bastard, Edgar Ross, and he took it all away. It made it much more satisfying when
Jack shot Ross. I also had him so pissed that he killed his family too. I mean, Ross took his family, he's out for revenge. Granted, it didn't impact the end of that side quest, but it helped portray the Jack I wanted.
After John died I tried to make Jack out as a psychotic, driven towards crime because of his parents' death. After all, Jack is a different person from John.
 

Wickedaffix

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Yvl9921 said:
That's the problem with Russ' definition - he's defining simulators, not RPGs. RPGs have always required stats and stat growth, usually in the form of level ups. It's not a complicated definition, people just get thrown off because they've apparently never heard of Dungeons and Dragons, or haven't connected it to the genre of today.
It's really hard to argue Simulators vs RPGs.

I really don't believe RPGs are based around stat growth, even if you went as far as pen and paper rpg. Your experience playing the game doesn't revolve around how hard your mace die roll is nor any form of RPG imo but around the character itself.

And I believe that's his interpretation as well, And as such I agree with him. The Game was more linear then most Free-roam or modern RPGs(i.e Mass Effect) leaving less of an option of personal character development. Which made the "role playing" experience more defined if you will. Compared to Mass Effect that allowed much more personalization I just felt like I was playing a story as I made it up, well as playing RDR I had a defined character with clear characteristics, goals, ideology. So I felt much more in character the way I played it.

but of course, each his own
 

wulfy42

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First I want to say that the article was excellently written and enjoyable to read.

I'm a bit conflicted by RDR though and don't totally agree with many of Russ's points. I didn't feel a sense of realism at all throughout many parts of the game. I for instance decided to go crazy early on and shoot the heck out of tons of people, grabbing money as they came to collect my bounty etc. I had a blast killing em heh but the cost to get rid of my bounty was insane. I did a mission though and as part of it I got a free pass that cleared my name *poof* like that.

That just didn't seem realistic to me. I mean I killed tons of people with plenty of witnesses, robbed banks, shot tons of law enforcement and suddenly nobody is after me anymore because of a pardon? If that happened in the old west I'm sure there would still be plenty of people waiting to shoot you in the back pardon or not.

Then there was game mechanic issues. Riding a horse into a river = instant death. Yes, the horse won't let your run off a cliff, but it's happy to jump right into a river and drown when leaving town!! Sadly when it was night and raining I could not always see where the river/bridge was and that happened more then once while chasing someone.

I think what Russ is describing is a story that really pulled him in, but that isn't really a roleplaying experience. The game does a good job of making you feel like you are John and making you identify with him (to a point) but it does not really like you DEFINE him. Russ mentioned you could add flair, shoot birds etc. Thats all true but none of it impacted the events of the game. You could control your fame etc...which is probably the largest roleplaying part of the game. Sadly you could not upgrade equipment much and there was little to no change in how the character played through the game no matter what you did.

Finally while it's understandable the combat was just super unrealistic. Take the river ride to Mexico.....I mean there is no freaking way that would ever play out that way lol. John kills thousands like Russ says but honestly it's even more unrealistic then GTA in my opinion.

Some of the equipment like the bandana etc let you mitigate the penalty you get from actions you commit and other things allowed you to manipulate the system and get away with just about anything you wanted. As a sandbox game I think RDR was fairly sucessful. I think the story was superior to most other sandbox games but that only really works once. Multiplayer is enjoyable but has its flaws. I think it's worth owning, and a decent over all game, but it is not one of my favorites or even probably in my top 100 games list at this point. I'm glad Russ enjoyed it and I envy his great writing style, but I think it is just a semi-decent sandbox game with a above average story.
 

DJDarque

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subtlefuge said:
Yvl9921 said:
KEM10 said:
I enjoyed the GTA IV tie in, they are narratives that are set in stone and you can only tweak them. The problem with your definition of "Role Playing" (or the industry's) is that because they have a designed beginning and end with certain chapters in between that you must hit, all of the Final Fantasy games are not role playing games.

To be completely honest, the only true role playing game would be The Sims since you can go on your adventure into the world and save the girl while killing the bad guy, or you could paint a picture instead and head off to work tomorrow.
That's the problem with Russ' definition - he's defining simulators, not RPGs. RPGs have always required stats and stat growth, usually in the form of level ups. It's not a complicated definition, people just get thrown off because they've apparently never heard of Dungeons and Dragons, or haven't connected it to the genre of today.
Your own definition is also only half true. If RPGs required stat growth, then Legend of Zelda would not be considered an RPG. While you may personally believe that, you would have a hard time convincing very many people.
Personally, I think the "definitions" of an RPG and a simulator are kind of backwards. An RPG always requiring stats to me sounds more like a simulator. I mean with that you're basically comparing one set of stats to another and seeing which one comes out on top; pinning numbers against numbers, that's what simulators do. Compare one set of data to other sets of similar data to determine the most likely outcomes.

Also, I think the definition of a RPG involves literally what the name itself implies: role-playing. You are stepping into this characters shoes and playing their role in the game's story. I think any game that has you playing as someone you are not and has you doing things you wouldn't normally be able to do, or ever be able to do, could on some level be considered a role-playing game.

I'm not saying the two have to be mutually exclusive and in the majority of the cases they aren't. Almost all of what people would consider to be a RPG also include elements of simulation, just as some simulators include elements of role-playing. RDR may be considered a sand-box or an open world game, but if the people who played it felt like they were a part of this character (myself included), then by all means it is also an RPG.

You might not agree with me, but I just thought I'd put my two cents in on the matter. I also thought RDR was a very profound experience.

Squaseghost said:
I shed a multitude of manly tears through all of the end sequences of RDR.
Agreed.
 

The_ModeRazor

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Nice article.
I just wish they released the game on the PC :( .
Let's hope they'll port it... and better than GTA IV (same engine, they probably learnt from last time).
 

Corpse XxX

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Generic_Dave said:
I have to wholehearted agree. As a role to play, Marston was one of the first characters that guided my actions, rather that the game guiding my actions. I constantly found myself trying my best to do what that dang cowboy would do.

I found myself grudgingly fighting for the Mexican army, even though I despised them. And I found Liza's story-line heartbreaking and was deeply affected by how it ended. I would say it was the first time I genuinely cared about a character's life. For me, NPCs are normally just targets.

It kind of forces you to play a role in an extremely subversive manner. Even little things like the character fobbing off the hookers because he has a wife at home. The nobility and determination of the character drags you into his role, while very much glossing over the fact that you can only play the pre-defined role. The bars are there, they are just well hidden.

When compared to something like [Prototype] that encouraged you to kill anything that moves, innocent or otherwise (those weapons were NOT designed with an eye to reducing collateral damage) but then tries to paint its character as a noble and torn wronged man.

Of all the games I've play I'd think only Bioshock was as engrossing and immersive an experience.
Well said, i wholeheartedly agree..

I was really sad when John died at the end, why did the stupid flocker have to run out of the barn into a hail of bulletts?? What was he thinking? I could have easily killed them in normal matters if he had decided to stay in the barn..

Was real annoying to play as his son afterwards, Jack, with his puny little voice.. You cant be gangstah when sounding like that..
It kinda made me not want to play the game after this cause it was not the character i had come to know and care bout..
 

Russ Pitts

The Boss of You
May 1, 2006
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The main problem with RDR is that there is no Redemption. The game ends with the cheapest possible conclusion that might make for tragedy, but offers ultimately nothing more than a cheap FU to the player with no satisfactory resolution to any of the threads that the game left hanging outside of a lame newspaper article that can be read if the player chooses to.
 
Mar 30, 2010
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Very good article, highlighting exactly why I like Red Dead Redemption. On my playthrough of it, my John Marston was as noble as the day is long, who never succumbed to the life he had left behind. But my Jack Marston is everything his father didn't want him to be, an out of control maniac, a rabid cur the law has yet to put down. In a bizarre sense, this makes the ending of the game even more poignant, as all of my John's hard work and self-restraint is completely (and tragically) undone by a now vengeful and hate-filled son. My John's legacy to the world is exactly the legacy he fought for so long to avoid, and I can't help but think that's the way it should be.
 

Jaqen Hghar

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The only thing I disagree with this article, is what is written about his family. I felt that John and Jack had a good relationship. A more real father-son relationship than what I have seen in other games. John and Abigail also loved each other, quite clearly. Which made it all so much sadder at the end. This is the best game I have played in a long long time, and I don't think any game have stirred such emotions. I feel sorry for those who do not play it, because they are missing out on a classic on par with the good old western movies.
 

Celtic_Kerr

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Amazing article. Very deep, profound, and indepth in many different ways. The ending actually broke my heart a little bit to watch. I played the game twice, once as an absolute saint, where I never shot and killed a civilian or did anything wrong, and the other time when I had gotten the $500,000 bounty almost right off the bat.

They both simply felt natural, and on the second playthrough, I dreaded finishing because I knew the end of the game was coming, along with the inevitable tragedy.
 

Snowden's Secret

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An excellent read. I too only tend to play as an honourable John Marston, although the only time I have shot at lawmen was because of mistaken identity. However I didn't really feel much for his family, apart from maybe Rufus the dog.
 

garfoldsomeoneelse

Charming, But Stupid
Mar 22, 2009
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I'm so glad that I'm not the only one who saw all of this in the game. For a while, I was worried that I had my head up my ass and was turning into one of those weird people that clings onto an above-average game and proclaims it to be the best experience ever made (since not too many seemed to be really impressed, for whatever insane reason), but yeah, RDR was everything I was hoping to get from GTA:IV, plus a f*ckton more. I'd go so far as to say that John Marston has replaced Captain MacMillan as my all-time favorite vidya character.
 

Russ Pitts

The Boss of You
May 1, 2006
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Derelict Frog said:
Was it just me or was one segment near the end where Bonnie bids you a final farewell quite touching (the one where she melancholically watches you ride off with your wife, awkwardly shuffling her feet)?
No, it was not just you. I thought that was one of the most touching and genuine moments ever depicted in a videogame.
 

CarlsonAndPeeters

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I think the ending of Red Dead Redemption is very interesting when you consider the three main characters: Marston, Ross, and Dutch.

Marston believes (perhaps naively) that he can redeem himself for his past sins. He works for the government to try and get his family back. If you play the game honorably, he really is turning his life around. If you play it dishonorably, you see he can't really change. But either way, he is trying, and after killing Dutch, who was your friend, you feel he really has redeemed himself in some way.

Ross does not believe that anybody should be forgiven. In Ross's mind, Marston gave up his life long ago, and so it is Ross's duty to finish him off. Ross has no problem manipulating Marston because he sees him as less of a person. And then he betrays him to fulfill his vision of what is right, and then he gets medals. In this way you see that Ross is the true villain--traitorous, cruel, and destructive--but his actions are based in his belief in the law, a law that isn't ready to apply out west.

Dutch understands the situation best of all. He sees that Ross is evil, that Marston is being used, and that they will never be forgiven. Although he is violent and insane, his words ring true. In the end, everything that he predicted comes to pass. The law wins and the west comes to an end. In the meantime, all that Marston succeeded in doing as killing an old friend.
 

DJDarque

Words
Aug 24, 2009
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NpPro93 said:
I think the ending of Red Dead Redemption is very interesting when you consider the three main characters: Marston, Ross, and Dutch.

Marston believes (perhaps naively) that he can redeem himself for his past sins. He works for the government to try and get his family back. If you play the game honorably, he really is turning his life around. If you play it dishonorably, you see he can't really change. But either way, he is trying, and after killing Dutch, who was your friend, you feel he really has redeemed himself in some way.

Ross does not believe that anybody should be forgiven. In Ross's mind, Marston gave up his life long ago, and so it is Ross's duty to finish him off. Ross has no problem manipulating Marston because he sees him as less of a person. And then he betrays him to fulfill his vision of what is right, and then he gets medals. In this way you see that Ross is the true villain--traitorous, cruel, and destructive--but his actions are based in his belief in the law, a law that isn't ready to apply out west.

Dutch understands the situation best of all. He sees that Ross is evil, that Marston is being used, and that they will never be forgiven. Although he is violent and insane, his words ring true. In the end, everything that he predicted comes to pass. The law wins and the west comes to an end. In the meantime, all that Marston succeeded in doing as killing an old friend.
Good point. Well said.
 

Tode33

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Oct 23, 2008
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Corpse XxX said:
Generic_Dave said:
I have to wholehearted agree. As a role to play, Marston was one of the first characters that guided my actions, rather that the game guiding my actions. I constantly found myself trying my best to do what that dang cowboy would do.

I found myself grudgingly fighting for the Mexican army, even though I despised them. And I found Liza's story-line heartbreaking and was deeply affected by how it ended. I would say it was the first time I genuinely cared about a character's life. For me, NPCs are normally just targets.

It kind of forces you to play a role in an extremely subversive manner. Even little things like the character fobbing off the hookers because he has a wife at home. The nobility and determination of the character drags you into his role, while very much glossing over the fact that you can only play the pre-defined role. The bars are there, they are just well hidden.

When compared to something like [Prototype] that encouraged you to kill anything that moves, innocent or otherwise (those weapons were NOT designed with an eye to reducing collateral damage) but then tries to paint its character as a noble and torn wronged man.

Of all the games I've play I'd think only Bioshock was as engrossing and immersive an experience.
Well said, i wholeheartedly agree..

I was really sad when John died at the end, why did the stupid flocker have to run out of the barn into a hail of bulletts?? What was he thinking? I could have easily killed them in normal matters if he had decided to stay in the barn..

Was real annoying to play as his son afterwards, Jack, with his puny little voice.. You cant be gangstah when sounding like that..
It kinda made me not want to play the game after this cause it was not the character i had come to know and care bout..
While I agree with you that Jacks voice was terrible compared to what we were used to. I think you may have missed the point on John walking out into a hail of bullets. He understood that the govt would never let him alone and he would always be hunted. By sacrificing himself like that, he saved his wife and son from a lifetime on the run and more importantly tried to save his son from becoming like him.
I actually had a hard time finishing this game because of that, John never wanted his son to become him, yet the only way to actually finish the game, is to take the first step down that road.
 

DayDark

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RDR made me think about how I'm gonna be as a father. It grabs you on a deep level.
 

Russ Pitts

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May 1, 2006
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TheBluesader said:
Russ Pitts said:
Smile and Nod: I, John Marston

A profound RPG experience isn't just possible in Red Dead Redemption, it's unavoidable.

Read Full Article
I think an important thing to keep in mind about RDR is how often you can die. Especially after you do terrible, terrible things. Sure, your stats remain unchanged by your death. But when you die, you respawn at the last save point - many times BEFORE you did the terrible things you did to get achievements or just to have some nasty fun. While this is a standard aspect of games, it also has an interesting impact on the story. Sure, John kidnapped a woman, let a train explode her, and then killed half a dozen people trying to get away with it. But then he got killed.

But oh wait, no he didn't! Because suddenly he's back to the point BEFORE he acted like a sociopath. Now you can certainly go back and do the same terrible things again, and avoid getting killed. But why would you? You've already gone through that. It doesn't matter that John himself no longer has those memories. Only you do, and they're your problem.

This almost makes the game an "all possible worlds" simulator. You can go out and see what will happen if John is terrible. But then you can get John killed, he goes back in time a few minutes, and now he's not terrible again.

I guess this doesn't do anything for people who think the narrative and gameplay are morally inconsistent. But if you pay attention only to the "real" John - the John as he keeps respawning - both aspects can be completely consistent.

As long as you don't make John a terrible person and survive it, at any rate.
I have to be honest with you, I've been playing videogames for so long that I don't think it even registers for me anymore when a character dies. It's just such an inherent part of the experience that it neither adds to nor subtracts form the experience. It's just a part of it. I imagine playing any Lara Croft game would be impossible without that remove.

Perhaps it's for a similar reason that RDR was so monumentally impressive as a sandbox game. Since, in previous sandbox games, you've had to take the disconnect between the narrative and the inter-mission action as a given, it's refreshing to finally play one in which it all really melds as a single experience.
 

Russ Pitts

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May 1, 2006
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Tode333 said:
I actually had a hard time finishing this game because of that, John never wanted his son to become him, yet the only way to actually finish the game, is to take the first step down that road.
Yeah, that hit me harder than any game has ever hit me. Such a powerful ending.
 

SangRahl

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I have to agree with the article. The feeling of being "forced" into completing certain actions occured only a few times, and when the accompanying narratives came to a conclusion, it lost the "puppet strings" and I was generally left with a bit more insight into Marston's depth of character. (The only point where I felt like I was being forced out of character was in Mexico, with a few of the Mexican Army missions.)

While I don't have a single "Greatest Game of ALL TIME", RDR holds a place in the upper eschelons of my Mount Olympus of favored games.

My first playthrough I walked the straight-and-narrow line, and favored my repeater over my six. Heck, I even tied and carried that insane woman back to the inn after handing her my sole medicine bottle.

I did stray from the path once or twice... (Okay, maybe a few times more than that. Heheheh.) The first time was one of those "stagecoach harlot"s. In fact, my first encounter with one of them, ever. I barely survived the attack (I hadn't figured out that Dead Eye wasn't something unlocked through gameplay, so I was horrendously outmatched) and when I found her kneeling there, I was JUST about to put a bullet through her skull when I remembered hearing a rumor of an odd Trophy. So, I hogtied her and dropped her on the tracks south of Armadillo. (The bloody train took its time showing up, though...)

After the story completed, I grew too annoyed with Jack's grating voice and even-more-grating comments. "Move, you hag.", or whatever it was that he says when you're pushing a full gallop got on my nerves in less than 3 minutes. Even before I found the Marshal's wife, I wanted to take a willow switch to the little pissant. Guess you can take someone off of the farm, but never take the farm out of him. (edit: in this, I mean ME... not him) You don't treat a horse, ESPECIALLY a well-bred mount, like that. If I could have put up with him, I'd have gone the route of using him as the "dark side" of RDR gameplay. Instead, I started a second playthrough and proceeded to raise hell (and my bounty) whenever the whim took me. Like back with that crazy-woman whose faith was killing her... I simply perforated her skull to put her out of her own misery. Sure, I failed the mission, but I've already done the whole "100% Completion" thing, anyways. I even kept that old man's shack for myself, as most towns weren't too keen on my sticking around for long.
 

Russ Pitts

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When "Deadman's Gun" played at the end, I did cry a bit. Manly tears, but still.
 

Gethsemani_v1legacy

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SpiderJerusalem said:
The main problem with RDR is that there is no Redemption. The game ends with the cheapest possible conclusion that might make for tragedy, but offers ultimately nothing more than a cheap FU to the player with no satisfactory resolution to any of the threads that the game left hanging outside of a lame newspaper article that can be read if the player chooses to.
Only, there is a Redemption. It is the most classical of all redemptions in litterature even. By dying, John Marston redeems himself from his previous life as an outlaw. It is not a redemption in the eyes of the government, his family or the bureau but before God. By stepping out of the barn and accepting what is coming to him, John is redeemed. To me at least, that seemed like the very obvious reference in the title.
 

Woodsey

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subtlefuge said:
Your own definition is also only half true. If RPGs required stat growth, then Legend of Zelda would not be considered an RPG. While you may personally believe that, you would have a hard time convincing very many people.
Who in the hell things Zelda is an RPG?

It's an action-adventure; there's not a single RPG element in it.

OT: Although not as bad as Niko Bellic, Marston is still rather conflictingly written and - mostly in Mexico - a massive hypocrite.

The guy's got no qualms about shooting either the rebels or the soldiers, yet he lets the leaders of each push him around forever before telling them how it is - and this is the guy that's so impatient he snaps at Uncle every 5 seconds for being a bit old.

Then there's the treat of women by each leader. You can see throughout that Marston's respectful of women - he has a massive *****-fit when the Mexican girl gets shot, and he's very polite/respectful to Bonnie - yet when the rebel and military leaders get ready to rape a couple of peasants (and on more than one occassion) he ignores it and lets them use him some more.

I dunno, R* are now getting so much praise for their story and characters when they can't write a protagonist consistently or have a story that's paced well.
 

subtlefuge

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May 21, 2010
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Woodsey said:
subtlefuge said:
Your own definition is also only half true. If RPGs required stat growth, then Legend of Zelda would not be considered an RPG. While you may personally believe that, you would have a hard time convincing very many people.
Who in the hell things Zelda is an RPG?

It's an action-adventure; there's not a single RPG element in it.

OT: Although not as bad as Niko Bellic, Marston is still rather conflictingly written and - mostly in Mexico - a massive hypocrite.

The guy's got no qualms about shooting either the rebels or the soldiers, yet he lets the leaders of each push him around forever before telling them how it is - and this is the guy that's so impatient he snaps at Uncle every 5 seconds for being a bit old.

Then there's the treat of women by each leader. You can see throughout that Marston's respectful of women - he has a massive *****-fit when the Mexican girl gets shot, and he's very polite/respectful to Bonnie - yet when the rebel and military leaders get ready to rape a couple of peasants (and on more than one occassion) he ignores it and lets them use him some more.

I dunno, R* are now getting so much praise for their story and characters when they can't write a protagonist consistently or have a story that's paced well.
Whoa whoa calm down. Allow me to explain my statement.

The Legend of Zelda [insert game name here]: Players name their character and embark on a journey in a fantasy world. They perform quests and sidequests with a major emphasis on exploration and puzzle solving. They acquire weapons, equipment, and upgrades that scale upwards with pacing and allow them to deal with increasing threats. There are traditional dungeons. There is a major emphasis on character interaction and storyline. There is buying and selling of equipment. Players increase their stats...

I can understand arguing that all of this does not constitute a RPG, but the idea that it could be isn't so far fetched.
 

Dr. Danger

Let's Talk Lobotomy
Dec 24, 2008
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Four pages to tell us repeatedly that Red Dead Redemption is realistic?

I agree entirely* but that could have been cut in half.

* Except the horse bit. Mine ran off several mountains, with and without me.
 

Embz

Pony Wrangler
Mar 17, 2010
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This is one of the most touching stories in a game I have ever come across. I felt genuinely connected to the main character and was devastated at the end. I doubt we will see a game as profoundly moving as this again for a long time.
 

OceanRunner

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Mar 18, 2009
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One of the best game articles I've read. RDR's ending is one of the most emotionaly intense I've ever played. As John is getting his family to ride out of the ranch, you can tell he has no intention of joining them. He's prepared to face a brutal gunning, to buy his family time to get to safety. The tension is palpable as he takes a last deep breath before steping out to face an impossible battle and commit his last, heroic act. The feeling jumps up a notch as dead-eye kicks in. You know you have no chance of winning, but you're determined to take as many of Edgars men with you. It's moving to know that John was defient to his enemies and loyal to his family to the very end. It's sobering to see his family grieve at his body and the "Remember my family" epilogue mission provides a fitting sense of closure. A definite contender for Game Of The Year.
 

Synthemesk

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No matter if it's an RPG or not, RDR made me care for the playable character so much more than any of the 'real' RPGs I played before. I found it very satisfying to play the predefined John Marston and try to act according to how he is portrayed in the cutscenes. I really felt sad and angry when he was killed. Dragon Age or Mass Effect in comparison didn't make me feel attached to any of my party members in a similar way.
 

PhunkyPhazon

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There's one little thing I have to disagree with. (Otherwise, I feel this article is spot-on) While Marston certainly isn't above doing outlaw-ish things, I never get the impression he would ever want to rob a bank or kill people just for fun. He's completely focused on keeping all that in the past no matter what. If Marston feels disgusted watching the way Allende treats women, how am I supposed to believe he'd ever be comfortable assaulting a hooker or tying a girl to railroad tracks?

That, and he's just so polite all the time. (Except when he's talking to someone he doesn't like) It kinda feels like he's meant to be on the straight and narrow, which is why I've never purposely done a crime during my entire playthrough. But now that I'm Jack, however...time to have some fun >:D

pneuma08 said:
For me, the game simply didn't allow what I wanted to do with it. I couldn't go tell the Mexican Army to screw itself, I couldn't deny the strangers' request even though it is clear that I am being scammed, can't disarm a guy in a duel if he is meant to die - sure, I could ignore them, but then I had already agreed to help, and there's always that little note in my to-do list nagging at me.
I also have to agree with this. Take that stranger mission with the cannibal. It was so flippin' obvious I was being tricked. Come on Marston, you're seriously going to believe the crazy old hermit over the well-groomed man who keeps screaming "Don't take me back there, he wants to eat me!" If the game had let me, I would have untied him and put a bullet in the old man's head right then and there.

Though I also like that the game is realistic in the sense that you don't always win. After that mission, I felt bad for the child and lady who got eaten. I would have loved to save them, but there was nothing I could do for them anymore.
 

dls182

Viva La Squir
Jun 15, 2009
167
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Brilliant article Russ.

Red Dead Redemption wrapped me up in it's story and world more than any game I have played. The way the characters were created, the way the world slowly unfolded before your eyes... It was incredible.
And the ending.... I've never had such strong feelings for a character in a game. It was a very emotional moment.

If story telling in games continues to build on this new benchmark, I have high, high hopes for the future of video games
 

TPiddy

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Aug 28, 2009
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NpPro93 said:
I think the ending of Red Dead Redemption is very interesting when you consider the three main characters: Marston, Ross, and Dutch.

Marston believes (perhaps naively) that he can redeem himself for his past sins. He works for the government to try and get his family back. If you play the game honorably, he really is turning his life around. If you play it dishonorably, you see he can't really change. But either way, he is trying, and after killing Dutch, who was your friend, you feel he really has redeemed himself in some way.

Ross does not believe that anybody should be forgiven. In Ross's mind, Marston gave up his life long ago, and so it is Ross's duty to finish him off. Ross has no problem manipulating Marston because he sees him as less of a person. And then he betrays him to fulfill his vision of what is right, and then he gets medals. In this way you see that Ross is the true villain--traitorous, cruel, and destructive--but his actions are based in his belief in the law, a law that isn't ready to apply out west.

Dutch understands the situation best of all. He sees that Ross is evil, that Marston is being used, and that they will never be forgiven. Although he is violent and insane, his words ring true. In the end, everything that he predicted comes to pass. The law wins and the west comes to an end. In the meantime, all that Marston succeeded in doing as killing an old friend.
Absolutely this. Part way through I was hoping there would be a quest where John smartens up and tortures Ross for the location of his family members. You just HAD to know that they would come for John too.

I also loved that Jack basically became his father, in spite of John's efforts to prevent that. My favourite part was the banter between Bonnie and Abigail though. That whole mission was awkward to say the least :).

I liked the medicine dealer, Irish and even the side characters you meet like the guy who asks you to get flowers for his dead wife, California, and the guy who wanted to fly. If it weren't for Mass Effect 2 coming out this year RDR would be my game of the year.