Living in the Wild West, Now

After he had his second shot of rum at the bar, John Marston exits the saloon. He walks past the locals, some of whom say “Howdy” to you. John gets on the back of your horse, and rides toward the nearby town of Armadillo. He wants to meet up with the sheriff there, who told him that he can help John find some outlaws he is looking for. John Marston used to be a part of their gang, but have since left that life, and is now tasked by the government with capturing his former partners. While on horseback, John sees a deer galloping amidst the nearby cactuses. He shoots the creature, gets off your horse, and skins it – he knows that he can sell that deer hide for some money later on. In Armadillo, a local challenges Marston to a duel. He accepts the challenge, much to the dismay of his – now dead – opponent. He proceeds to enter the Sheriff’s Office.

If the above paragraph sounds like it was taken straight out of a western film, you are not far off the track. In fact, it describes a possible chain of events in the 2010 video game Red Dead Redemption. In Red Dead, players control John Marston. Yet it’s highly likely that the exact sequence described above has never appeared on the TV screens of the 12.5 million people who own the game. Because Red Dead Redemption is an “open world” game, where you get to choose whatever you want do and whenever you want to do it, none of the above ever has to happen.

(Picture: Rockstar Games)

Red Dead Redemption is set in 1911, and players can explore the two American counties of New Austin and West Elizabeth, as well as the Mexican state of Nuevo Paraiso. If you have never heard of these places, it is because they only exist within the fictional world of Red Dead. Yet, they could not feel more real. The game’s world is a vast area, with wildly varying geography, towns, settlements, flora and fauna. The unprecedented attention to detail is evident from the get-go, and it seems every little part of the world had received special attention and polish. No two towns look the same (including the abandoned ghost towns). The people in the towns go about their work, whether it is a gentleman operating a general store, or a lady of the night waiting for a customer near a saloon.

Unlike in many linear games out there, in Red Dead Redemption the player never feels that they are being held on a leash. The amount of activities you can do seems endless. You can play a game within the game; card games, such as poker or blackjack; or games like arm-wrestling or throwing horseshoes. You can watch original cartoon shorts at the cinema. You can read authentic looking newspapers. You can hunt and skin animals. You can drink, duel, break horses, herd cattle, capture bounties, or sit down at a campfire, and listen to people exchange stories. Or you can just follow the game’s storyline, which will take you through most of the above possibilities, with a brilliantly written script and great voice acting. The game has awe-inspiring graphics, and every little detail helps evoke the western genre, including the music, the setting, the characters, and the plot.

Red Dead Redemption’s developer, Rockstar Games, is well known for making high-quality video games, many of which are open world games. 2008’s Grand Theft Auto IV was a critically acclaimed achievement, although in an area that Rockstar has visited a number of times: recreating a living-breathing modern-day American city. However, with the Wild West approach, the developer broke new ground, making a product that the gaming industry can proudly showcase to the world as one of its finest achievements to date.

–sd

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