Okay, so I don’t do this very often… but sometimes I get moved. And boy, have I been moved.
This is a video games review. Yes, I know I often review films on here, but I’ve tried to stay away form video games for several reasons – not least of which is the fact that living in Korea has taken me completely out of the loop when it comes to new releases. Normally, by the time I discover a game, half the known world is already trading it in for the sequel (as happened with Left 4 Dead…)
But this game… well… I guess it’s a little misleading to call this piece a review, because it is, more accurately, a long-winded and emphatic plea for you to go out, buy this game, and join the rest of the world in basking in the joy of perfection. Or almost perfection. Which is close enough for me. If perfection were the centre of a city, this game would be the plush apartment that you got for a reasonable rate that allows you to walk into perfection every night. You could open your windows and smell perfection. That’s how close it is. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
First of all, a little background: Way back in 2004, a video games company called Rockstar Games (you may have heard of them, they did something called GTA… it’s about stealing cars or some shit…) decided that they had had their fill of the ‘big, bad city’ and all of it’s psycho inhabitants, and they went back to their (cultural) routes. Using the same ‘sandbox’ mentality that made the GTA series so popular, they created a ‘Western’ video game. That game was ‘Red Dead Revolver’, for the PS2. Here’s the trailer for those who missed it:
It was, at best, okay. The controls were clunky, the story was short, and the game world was kinda small for a sandbox. It also lacked the random-wanderings freedom of the other Rockstar games.
For a short while, these sandbox westerns seemed to be the new vogue… Neversoft and Activision responded to RD Revolver with ‘Gun’… in my opinion a much better game if only for the addition of more freedom when it came to the storyline… and the fact that you could now play poker in the saloons!! ha!
Again though, the graphics were not exactly high-spec, and as it always was back in the BM (Before Multiplayer) years, a woefully short main story made the game very, very short-lived.
After RD Revolver and Gun, the sandbox western seemed to die. A few ‘pretenders’ came along (Yes, Call of Juarez, I’m looking at you…) but no great successes ever popped up in my radar. Which saddened me. Because as much fun as running around a city with a rocket launcher in your pocket can be, somehow riding a horse into town, walking into a sallon, and calling ‘DRAW!’ just fulfilled a small part of my wish-fulfillment that no amount of car-jacking and prostitute bashing can match. I guess, like many others out there, I never got over the phase of playing Cowboys and Indians.
But then I heard about a new game. Following VERY closely on the heels of the MAD success of GTAIV, Rockstar were returning to their cowboy ways… but they promised it bigger, harder and longer than before (“That’s What She Said!” -Little voice in Jay’s mind. ) Boy, did they deliver…
Rockstar’s ‘Red Dead Redemption’ (hereafter referred to as ‘The Game’, in the same way that Sherlock Holmes refers to Irene Adler as ‘The Woman’) is, as I said before, ALMOST perfect. So, let’s start with the negative shall we??
So, things have come very very far since Red Dead Revolver… in the game the controls are… well… still shit to be honest. Riding a horse feels natural and wonderful… it’s stopping the bastards that I have issue with. And please, PLEASE Rockstar, when you release the inevitable sequel (Possibly Red Dead Revolution?? Red Dead Rectum? Red Dead Reaction?) can we have our hero RUN by default and ‘press a button to walk’? K, please, thanks.
Other than that… erm… I’m struggling…
See? Do you see how close this game comes to perfection? In terms of storyline, this could be straight out of a Hollywood script-writers loose-leaf folder… (and I can only DREAM of a movie conversion, seeing as how the western is cool again). You play John Marston, a man with a dark past, trying to go straight and live the good life with his wife and kid. But shadowy government agents kidnap your family and send you out on the trail, on the hunt for your old gang… the deal is simple: deliver their heads, get your life back. But things are never that easy. If this sounds familair, that’s because it has shades of ‘Unforgiven’, ‘The Searchers’ and ‘The Wild Bunch’… in fact, many was the moment during this game when I stopped and thought… “Wait, isn’t this from ‘x’ western??” At times, I even forgot I was playing a game, as I just sat back, followed my mini-map, and enjoyed the lush scenery roll by…
Seriously… Don’t believe me?? Take a look at this:
Tell me that isn’t EPIC. Look at that scenery!! There are moments in this game when you literally just have to stop and take it all in, and this was one of them! And what about the music?? Perfect right? In all honesty, Rockstar games are the only video games I have ever gone out and sought the soundtracks for – I recently made the comparison to Tarantino on my fb page – just as he has an amazing ear for the perfect track to suit a scene, so Rockstar match events and action in the game to an awesome and ever-changing soundtrack. And I’m not just talking the score – they actually got Jose Gonzalez (he of ‘Heartbreak’ and many other plinky plinky soppy guitar songs fame) to write a NEW track for the soundtrack. And he wasn’t the only one. Ever hear of Ashtar Command? No? Neither had I, until I finished the single-player campaign and discovered this gem:
AWESOME. And trust me, when you finish the game, you’ll get it.
Even the multiplayer is breathtaking. You play in exactly the same ‘mega-expansive’ map that the single-player campaign appears in. The lobby is a free-roaming, multiplayer version of the world of the game. Complete with challenges, animals, tasks, gang hideouts and annoying twats who sit on top of towers in the towns with a sniper rifle and giggle as they blow the head off each and every player who rides within range… or is that just me? Anyway… you get the idea… finishing this game is impossible. Even if you do manage to get 100% completion on the single player and reach the giddy heights of ‘Legend’ in mulitplayer, you still aren’t done. With today’s age of ‘Downloadable Content’ things just keep getting better…
And so we come to the real reason I’m writing this. Yes, the music is awesome. Yes, the graphics are gobsmackingly beautiful. Yes, the storyline is put together like a classic Eastwood western. But you know what’s missing? Zombies.
Thank you Rockstar Games, for making my life a little brighter with this GEM of a game.
And if you haven’t got it yet, slap yourself in the face, then go and buy it. Now.
I leave you with two things:
1) A short montage of images, together with another original song (I actually think this is a remix of a previously released song), this time by Jamie Lidell (again, I’ve never heard of him either…) Enjoy.
2) You may think that I am overstating the ‘cinematic’ pleasure and joy of this game… but I’m not. And neither is John Hilcoat (Director of ‘The Proposition’ and ‘The Road’). He loved the cinematic feel and the rolling vistas so much, he made a short film, completely digital, to tie in with the game. Here it is…