On hampered enjoyment

Posted: December 10, 2010 in Musings
Tags: , , ,

Like many, I purchased Red Dead Redemption back in May, soon after it came out (my real priority was Alan Wake). Unlike many, I just can’t find the energy to finish it.

The problem isn’t the lush visuals, fantastic Western setting or even the wonderful exploration. The reason that I just can’t get together is because of its protagonist, John Marston.

Marston is a former outlaw, now settled down with a wife and child on a farm. However, the DAMN EVIL GOVERNMENT intrude in his life and threaten his family unless he goes out west and tracks down his former partners for them. It’s a simple enough motivation and it’s enough to convince me that Marston is a good man.

It’s soon after the opening couple of missions with the lovely Bonnie MacFarlane that things begin to go mammaries skyward, as Marston continually sides with a collection of absolute bastards in exchange for their help. Will they repay his kindness? Will they fuck. Everyone with eyes can see the plot ‘twists’ coming a mile off, making Marston a galloping retard in a rather fetching duster coat.

In order to gain access to the fort that Marston’s target Williamson is holed up in, you have to assist no less than three complete cock-ends. One is a grave robber/ corpse fucker who asks you to help him steal coffins before he’ll start aiding you. Another is a drunk Irish stereotype who attempts to GET YOU KILLED the first time you do something for him. The final dickhead is a roving conman, fleecing unsuspecting people of their monies in exchange for potions that don’t do anything for them. The best part is when he tells you to murder hundreds of pissed off customers while he makes his getaway.

What really made me want to punch Marston’s face off the planet is how he constantly moans about the fact that he doesn’t like killing, and the reason he left Williamson’s gang in the first place is because they started ‘unfairly killing people’. Yet he displays no such thoughts when asked to commit around a thousand murders in order to get inside the fort. If he just killed the conman, shot the Irish bloke in the arm after he was set up and completely ignored the grave robber, he could have been inside the fort in a couple of days. But, no, because he’s a ‘good guy’ and doesn’t kill people who don’t ‘deserve it.’

But it gets worse from there, as the story shifts to Mexico and Marston ends up working fo both the government and the revolutionaries in a civil war. This, naturally, has no consequences and the only decent part of this are the few short missions you complete with aging gunslinger Landon Ricketts, who is a fantastic character. After that’s done, however, he disappears and you end up slaughtering roughly half of Mexico.

Again proving that Marston is a massive twat, he somehow doesn’t realise that the corrupt, merciless, murderous, hateful Mexican government is going to set him up and try and kill him. It’s mind-boggling how this man has survived up until this point, given how many times he wanders into obvious traps and ambushes without thinking about it. Topping it all off is his sarcastic and condescending attitude towards anybody who he doesn’t feel lives up to his standards of proper parenting. It’s cheating to call it ‘morally grey’ because it just isn’t. It’s morally nothing – you aren’t forced to make a decision, you are told to go and slaughter and so you do, like a good little puppet, with absolutely no consequences.

It’s almost worth sitting through for the fantastic Northern landscape, with its lush forests, snow-covered vistas and truly epic bear fights (kill one and another turns up!), but you have to put up with Marston being, well, himself.

Maybe I’ll get around to finishing Red Dead Redemption one day. I’d like to play the Undead Nightmare add-on for it, but I dread to think what hypocritical bullshit Marston will wax about in that version.

  1. Jack says:

    Red Dead Redemption is a really weird game for doing so much right and so much wrong.

    The gunplay is awesome, the world is vast and beautiful…

    …but then the combat is repetitive and the world is *empty*.

    At least 70% of the missions have you working for complete twats, as you say. Fallout 3 contains plenty of dickhead characters – slavers, junkies, thieves, psychopaths, dictators – but at least you have the option of setting them on fire or shooting them in the head. That makes a world of difference.

    I feel it needed a script re-write. Most of the “supporting” characters (aside from the awesome Landon Ricketts, who channeled the spirit of Wild Bill Hickock from Deadwood) were repugnant trash. That works if the protagonist doesn’t take shit from them… but Marston does. It’s one thing to be blackmailed by the FBI, quite another to voluntarily burn down a Mexican village.

    The really weird aspect is how the optional side-quests – hunting, sharpshooting, gambling – are a lot more fun than the main quest line. I’ve never had so much fun hunting – sniping an elk as it nibbles on grass in a snowy forest clearing feels strangely epic.

    If the plot had been re-jigged completely – Bonnie McFarlane as the love interest… the Mexican campaign being a war against the fascist pricks culminating in an all-out Sergio Leone bloodbath… more of Evil Robert DeNiro in the closing act… it could have been phenomenal.

    As it was… a very mixed bag.

    You should finish the review after you’ve played the main game and done Undead Nightmare.

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