A century old experience has never felt so fresh

Last night, I finished off what I consider to be my favorite video game of 2010, Red Dead Redemption. As I plugged away at those final moments, I felt a hint of sadness not only because of the content being fed to my eyes but also because the experience was finally coming to an end. Note: Below, there will be plenty of spoilers.

My first experience with Red Dead Redemption came at the Penny Arcade Expo back in 2009 when I was first shown the game in an eyes-on demonstration. At this point, the game was still in the alpha stage and was missing several key elements in the game. Even at this point, I was incredibly impressed simply due to the outstanding detail that the developers had put in the game. Not only did the world look like the old west, it felt real, it felt like this place actually existed at some point.

From that demonstration on, I was pretty much sold. However, the game suffered several delays afterwards and I almost completely forgot it existed up until April of this year when I heard it was coming out in May. “Fat chance” I said to myself. At this time, I plunked down a pre-order at GameStop.com just so I wouldn’t forget to grab it when it came out. This was the only “Limited Edition” available, which meant it came with a code to download the OST. Now all I had to do was wait.

As release crept nearer and nearer, I became more and more excited. While I kept myself from checking out videos and screenshots, the simple thought that the game was releasing soon left me very excited.

Finally, the day of release came and I anticipated the arrival of the UPS truck to deliver my game. As soon as it did arrive, I tore open the game and immediately began to play.

Red Dead Redemption only starts off with a small niblet of story, in that the only bit that’s understood is that John Marston is an outlaw in the old west and is looking to change his ways for good and get back to be with his family. It took me a long time, but eventually I came to understand that this is the “Redemption” portion of the title. The entire premise is that Marston is looking to redeem himself.

While I may have been intrigued by the game, I initially was a bit reluctant to open up to the characters. I really did not understand why Marston was completing the tasks he was told to complete. Missions near the start of the game mainly included killing a single person, capturing bounties and the like. While I did enjoy these missions, they don’t reveal much about Marston except for that he was sent by the government to help and to kill his former clan-mate Bill Richardson.

As the story progresses, I began to learn more about Marston and his past. Marston does not really care who he has to kill or manipulate to get what he wants. Not being the literate type, Marston tends to rely on the former to get what he wants. So there you have it: Most of the game is spent hunting down Bill Richardson and his cronies.

Along the way, you do run into an old snake oil salesmen and other characters such as Sheriff Johnson, and complete various missions for them before heading to Mexico where it’s rumored that Richardson is hiding.

The first step into Mexico (along with the first thunderstorm) is when I realized how well the game’s sound design shines. As you trot along into Mexico, you’re greeted with the sounds of “Far Away” by Jose Gonzalez. When this initially happened, I stopped as to allow the chills to run up my spine. I don’t believe I had much choice, however.

In Mexico, you come to find other American outlaws such as Landon Ricketts and Abraham Reyes; the latter of which wants to form a group of rebels to overthrow the Mexican government. While helping these men out, Marston is given frequent nudges by the government that as long as he finds Richardson and kills him that he will see his family again soon enough.

Once Richardson and his partner Escuella are disposed of, I had assumed the game would be over at this point. What more could happen? The main enemies have been disposed of, and naturally this is where any game would end. Wrong was I, as the real enemy had yet to be revealed.

Edgar Ross, as it turns out, is the real enemy and is behind most of Marston’s troubles. Now that Richardson is dead, Ross isn’t done toying with Marston and holds his family hostage until Marston can kill Dutch, another former clan member. After Dutch conveniently offs himself, we find out the kind of man that Marston really is, along with where his true intentions lie.

Marston finally comes home to his wife Abigail and son Jack to find his ranch in ruins, and spends a decent amount of time getting things back in order while teaching Jack to hunt. Marston believes that his troubles may be over, that he truly has his life back.

At this point is when I came to realize that Marston is a true anti-hero. While he may not be a great man, or a man with many talents to offer, he has realized his mistakes and wants nothing more but to rectify them and live the rest of his life in peace.

“Redemption” however, came too late, as the army eventually rolls up to the Marston ranch where subsequently Marston dies a rather gruesome death.

As I watched the final cutscene, I was overcome with emotion. Clearly, this was the pinnacle of the experiences I felt in 2010.

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Talor Berthelson

Talor Berthelson is an established games writer who uses TheWesker.com to share other interests with the internet.

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