Thursday, May 20, 2010

Red Dead Addicted

With environments so expansive and unbelievably natural, Hollywood quality writing and voice acting, and some of the best mechanics/physics I've seen in a first person shooter, Red Dead Redemption is easily the best game I've played since Fallout 3. In some ways, they are very similar games. You roam desolate land, you build alliances with somewhat morally questionable characters, you try not to get your face shattered by flying lead..
But Rockstar Games gives you more than highly rendered graphics and gritty gun fights. As with their previous franchise (Grand Theft Auto), they comment on current issues of racism, entrepreneurialism, revenge, Federal intervention, and everything else that makes America one of the most backwards nations in the world. This game is as sophisticated as a novel, but far more immersive. I sat for an hour or two and completely forgot I was playing a game.
Ethical choices abound. Players are compelled, or at least goody two-shoes me was, to help strangers in need when you come upon them in the desert. And I felt genuinely awful for mistakenly gunning down a Deputy to be later pursued by the Sheriff he worked under. Characters like the golem inspired, grave robbing Seth will make you hate yourself for helping him while laughing your way to each mission. The guy is just that fucking weird.

There's nothing groundbreaking in this game. Rockstar didn't rewrite the rules. They did however make a massively beautiful and believable world that mirrors the complicated political and social issues of today. And like all good art, you can't shift your eyes away. Just don't let the power get to that dizzy head of yours. Moral and ethical choices sculpt your experience in Red Dead Redemption, as the title suggests. How fully you redeem yourself is completely up to you.

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