My anticipation for this game reached nuclear levels. Here's proof: Yesterday morning I discovered a beefy packaged from Rockstar Games on my doorstep and I tore it open like it a 5year old on x-mas morning. Inside I found both copies of the game, gamblers dice bound in leather, black 'Eradicator' soap, deadmans playing cards and a super-short Red Dead Redemption shirt--I nearly fainted. Felt very fortunate.
So yes, clearly I was hyped for an experience of a life time. This excitement mostly stemmed from my love for the open-world genre, GTA4 as a whole and Rockstar's pedigree. Additionally I felt that we, as gamers, have had very little opportunity to experience a compelling western game and this was our most likely our best shot.
So there I was, the game had finished installing itself, I was sitting at the menu system and I was ready to see what Rockstar San Diego had spent so much time (4 years i beleive) working on. My initial impression after playing for about an hour? Frustration. It started with:The Horse
I was pissed off and fairly disappointed with one of the most important mechanics in the game--the horse riding. It handled horribly. I tolerated it through the tutorial mission where you race against Bonnie (btw thanks for the paragraph of tutorial text while riding a speeding horse on a twisty road Rockstar--great idea!) through the ranch, but it lead to my horse squirreling out of control and me saying "WTF is going on here!" I failed the race 3 times because my damn horse was getting stuck on fences and trees. I kept pulling back on the left-stick to slow the horse down instead of hitting the RB, I mean what sense does that make? Additionally I hated the fact that you have to mash the A button to race forward because, now, my right thumb was too busy to let me look around with the right stick.
But I stayed with it and after a few hours I really started to become comfortable with it. I think this is partially my fault and partially Rockstars. For some reason I expected this horse to handle like Zeldas Epona or the horse in Assassin's Creed, and the fact that it didn’t really annoyed me. What took me a bit to realize is that Rockstar really wants to make a horse riding mechanic that is their own and isn’t like the cars in Vice City, but more like the cars in GTA4. This is to say the horses handled more realistically.
I'll not forget the moment I felt like I mastered horse riding controls. I was walking through Armadillo at night and some bandits came riding through town screaming, laughing, yelling as they fired off their 6-shooters into the night’s sky. It wasn’t until they passed me by that I saw an innocent woman screaming for help as she was violently dragged behind them. I quickly called for my horse (love this), jumped on her back, spun around and quickly rode after the scumbags to save her. The chase ended about a mile out of town as I took potshots at them. Suddenly I remembered the Dead Aim system and quickly initiated it! I ended up killing all 4 of the men, with head shots no less. When the effect wore off I watched in amusement as all 4 bandits fell off their horses flopping to the dusty ground. One actually still had a foot stuck in one of the horses’ stirrups and the startled horse dragged his body alongside as it took off. I Looked around at the bodies and felt like a total badass. It was just one of those moments where all the games systems came together beautifully.
So it was a payoff for sticking with the game but I don’t know how many other people are willing to go through the same initial feelings as I and press on.Graphics
This game is gritty, dirty, raw and I like it. It can be a little bland to looking at first—especially if you're not seeing it at the right time of day--but there are such subtle details in the environment and animations that make this game really stand out. I do think that the frame rate can dip down too often (X360) at times--particularly during some cutscenes and horse riding events--but it’s not really enough to have a lasting negative effect.
The characters I've encountered so far are, of course considering Rockstars track record, filled to the brim with personality. No one does this stuff like Rockstar. There is always seriousness at the core of Rockstars narratives, but there is a certain levity that some outrageous and wacky characters bring and RDR is no excpetion. I know that these can feel a little long to some--perhaps because they just want to get to the action, and who can blame them--but I do feel like Rockstar is really good at getting to their point quickly without tediously long or overelaborate cutscenes.Music
I love the music and soundtrack--it's perfect. It's dusty, it's spaghetti, it's got additude and its sets the mood.Side Stuff & Notes
I love the side stuff. Poker is really fun, and a great way to make money. Five-finger filet is harder than I thought it would be, but man, Horse shoes it the most difficult (I haven’t won a single game hehe).
The treasure hunting is rad. I like that it forces clues on to you as you must explore and think about the whereabouts. Its not just an "X" marks the spot.
Last night I chased a Stallion around and when I finally gave up be stopped to eat...ON a train track. Out of curiosity I waited to see what would happen when a train approaches. Would the horse notice and run away? Would it end up a chunk mess? Well, lets just say that there was a LOT of blood involved.
So I think this game--with it's slow plot progression and awkward horse riding mechanic--is a bit of a slow burn, but it does appear that it's going to pay off. We'll see if this game has legs.