Huge warning!!!! SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS. I will be covering parts of the story and the ending so please don’t read on if you don’t want the story line spoiled for you…….you have been warned! I rolled credits after many many hours of game play and stand at 86% total completion. Here’s why it’s my game of the year:
Initial Gripes Accepted
I gave my first impressions of the games a couple of months ago. At the time I listed a few things that bugged me. Dated game play mechanics, awkward menus and clunky movements alas don’t improve the longer you play however my feelings on slow pacing and lack of decent fast travel have changed. The more I played, the more I accepted and adapted to the game. The pacing is very much deliberate and allows for a more compelling story. Travelling around the world without skipping leads to so many joyous moments and unexpected encounters. I can forgive them wanting you immersed the whole time.
Rockstar go to great lengths to slow you down as a player so that you don’t rush through the story line…….and for me it works. It allows us to spend so much time with Arthur and makes his story arc all the more compelling/tragic as the narrative unfolds.
This is truly excellent writing. I played the game as a hero which is how I play most games. This was ill-fitting in the first few chapters of the game as Arthur and his gang do truly horrible things in direct contrast to how I wanted to play. Again, this seems deliberate. Rockstar have a specific story they want to tell and it’s brilliant. Linear sounds like a dirty word in most cases but when the writing and the reveals are this good it’s hard to complain. They wanted to tell a deliberate tale and stuck to it. An amazing accomplishment when you tie in over 60 hours of game play and hundreds of NPCs, side quests and missions. A game where everything around you is a distraction yet somehow it manages to maintain it’s tone and never con-volutes the main story. Nothing detracts from the story of Arthur Morgan and the big plot points carry huge weight after spending so long in this world.
So lets just get it out there. I now like Arthur Morgan more than I liked John Marston! This is something I never thought I’d say. John is much beloved from the first game and many consider him to be one of the most liked protagonists in any game. Arthur Morgan is more fleshed out in every way. His story arc is compelling and he’s played with sincerity. He is a bad man who tries to do good things and leave the world a slightly better place before he passes. His collapsing and discovery that he has TB is heart wrenching and expertly acted out. Knowing his own fate is sealed, he tries desperately to do good and help get the gang away from Dutch and hopefully on to a better path. He wants John, Abigail & Jack to have a normal life and not to live and die by the gun.
My ending for Arthur was with his morality up at the highest level. Watching him pass his hat to John and telling him to leave was devastating to say the least. His death on the mountain with the sun rise shining across his face felt heart wrenching but a good send off nonetheless to one of the most well written characters I’ve ever seen.
Epilogue – Fan Service
Ending the game with Arthur on the side of the mountain would have been enough but Rockstar took it much further. You might accuse them of copying their previous game’s story beats but I think they can be forgiven for this due to the sheer work they’ve put in.
I, like many others who played the first game, thought John’s send off was one of the most memorable moments in gaming. But I also found playing as Jack afterwards to be extremely unsatisfying and a gut punch to players after going through so much. We just wanted the option to continue as John! It didn’t really matter to us if it didn’t fit the story….Jack just sucked!
To get to continue on after Arthur’s passing as John Marston is awesome. Not only that but the sneaky buggers have hidden Red Dead Redemption One’s map down in the corner which opens up after chapter 6. Being able to visit all the familiar haunts from the first game is truly remarkable and shows the confidence the game developers have. Seeing MacFarlane ranch after so many years in glorious hd left me slack jawed and it felt surreal. These insane developers must have gone through blood sweat and tears and it’s all a tip of the hat to the fans. Top marks!
Definitely worth a mention is Sadie. She is both powerful and broken at the same time. A complex sidekick that stands out from everyone else. I found her progression to be compelling to watch and her journey for revenge felt right. Losing her husband and taking up the gun has empowered her but also stripped her of her humanity which she seems all too aware of. I really want to see what happens next for Sadie. It’s a shame in my opinion that Rockstar didn’t opt to make her the playable character at the epilogue instead of John. I think she paired better with Arthur and it would have felt more natural to be controlling her as she sought out Micah for revenge. But that is a small gripe. I actually hope they might be saving the end of Sadie’s story for DLC or perhaps even make her the protagonist in Red Dead 3. Sounds like a long shot but I do feel she was written well enough to carry her own in a future installment.
The World of Red Dead
The last thing I want to mention is the world itself. Nothing like this have ever been achieved in a video game. I have heard lots of people disliking the game for it’s pacing or dated game mechanics but I have never heard anyone say anything negative about the world design. It’s simply staggering and stunning and unlike anything we’ve seen before. The attention to detail is immense and the world feels alive and natural. Cause and effect play out in natural ways and it really feels like you inhabit this place where your actions will cause realistic responses. I can and have spent hours just wandering around and still find new surprises or new wildlife or new beautiful vistas to stop me in my tracks. The bar has now been raised considerably for open world games! I think the only developers likely to meet or surpass Red Dead are Rockstar themselves. They are on another level to everyone else!
So is it my game of the year?? Yes yes and yes! It might even be my game of the decade. I understand it’s not for everyone but I found the payoff for the time invested to be totally worth it.
In a year that has seen Web Swingers, Gunslingers & God killers…….Red Dead reigns supreme!!
So what was your game of the year? Would you like to see Sadie or Charles get their own spin-off? What happened to Karen? Is Arthur secretly Jack’s real father? Has anyone found Gavin???
Let me know in the comments below!