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AwesomeExMachina avatar 10:30 AM on 05.28.2010  (server time)
Shortblog: Mi nombre es John Marston

Don't try and fake it. Right now, while reading this, you're thinking about playing Red Dead Redemption. It's alright, you're not alone.

But, for a moment, let's just talk about it. No, no. Don't worry. No spoilers here. The game's story is a whole different... well, uh... story. So let's not get into that here. Instead, what I want to get on is the game's difficulty settings.

A friend and I were having an amicable discussion about our choices in the game the other day. Basically, he was calling me a pussy and I was calling him Fun Hilter. The Hitler who hates fun.

You see, our argument was settled around the difficulty settings, which don't actually affect the game like most others do but instead change your targeting system. For those two people somehow not playing Red Dead or for anyone unaware there was an option to change, I'll explain. Casual targeting locks onto enemy characters and remains stuck to them as long as you hold down the aim button. Normal snaps to the enemy character, but does not remain locked on if the reticule is moved. Expert removes any assisted targeting what-so-ever. Now that you know, you can probably discern why my friend was questioning my manlyness.

I picked Normal.

I not only choose this setting knowingly, but specifically went back down to Normal after playing on Expert for some time. It's pretty easy to see the logic behind my friends argument, as willingly returning to a setting wherein the game assists the player with shooting sounds pretty wussy to most. But I didn't do it because I wanted to auto-pilot through the chapters or even because I needed the help. I was doing just fine on Expert, with only a unfortunate few deaths under my belt.

What it came down to was that playing on Expert didn't make me feel like I was John Marston. I didn't feel like the battle-hardened, semi-reformed criminal, gun-afficianado badass. I felt more like me with a gun. AKA clumsy. Now, don't be confused. These bad guys were dying by the hundreds. But it wasn't very impressive along the way. It was the same notion that drove me to re-do sections of combat in Splinter Cell Conviction that, though ultimately successful, didn't go smoothly. Sure, I'd neutralized all the enemies, but in the process I'd taken a few bullets and ran straight into lit rooms in a panic with my night-vision on. That didn't feel very Sam Fisher, so I would give the section another go.

It's irrefutable that switching the difficulty to Normal does make the game marginally easier, yes. But more importantly, it made John Marston function like he should function. When John draws his gun, it is a deliberate act. The fraction of a second it takes to remove from his holster, he means to point it at someone who is asking for it. Not slowly rotate the camera and put four shots into the broad side of a barn first. John is not able to lock-on like some sort of inhuman cyborg, but he is certainly more than capable to point his firearm at someone who needs to die with ease.

That's what I get out of aim-assist targeting. It bridges that gap from someone like John Marston's inherent ability to handle a fire-arm even in the most chaotic moments to myself, whose proudest moment of hand-eye coordination was this one time I caught both pieces of toast as they popped out of the toaster.

And it's just damn fun to have that confidence to roll into a room and blast someone away with the revolver like John was born to do.

What about you guys? Am I alone on this? How does everyone else play? Is Expert the only way to play or do you agree that Normal lets you add that John Marston gun-slinging veterancy without making the game too easy in the process?

And I think we can all agree that aim-assist in Multiplayer sucks huge balls.

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