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pneuma08 avatar 4:55 PM on 06.15.2010  (server time)
The Emptiness of Red Dead Redemption

I have come to the conclusion that I don't like Red Dead Redemption.

That isn't to say I hate it per se. I did spend a good ~30 hours wandering around doing stuff, and I enjoyed the story twists and all. But, I dunno, it didn't feel like anything special. I should note that I didn't play the multiplayer at all, because my internet went down for a bit when I finished it, and by the time it got back up, I couldn't bring myself to try it. I was done with the game at that point.

Maybe I just don't like sandbox games. I've never really gotten into any GTA past 2 (and I must've been like 15 at the time). It all just seems devoid of meaning. Sure, I can go into a bar, get drunk, and wipe the floor with the (incredibly easy to manipulate) AI. I make a little progress towards an achievement, maybe pick up an outfit piece. But it doesn't really amount to much.

Maybe it was because it doesn't feel like me running around, but John Marsten, with his own code of ethics, personality, and so forth. This isn't my story, it's his, his mistakes and his hardships, and many times I felt detached from him. I don't want to help the people who are obviously betraying me, but there's only one way forward, and that's to get betrayed. And now that it's done, I don't feel compelled to go back and even pick up whatever achievements I may have missed. Maybe if I jumped into Free Roam from the start it would be different, but it feels like I'm not even there.

Maybe I don't care for the stories that Rockstar weaves. Sure, it has an interesting cast of varied characters, but they are of no consequence to Marsten and his quest, only a means to an end and left alone when all is said and done. Worse yet, I didn't feel for any of the amoral scumbags whose fun is the events surrounding them, with the exception of a couple of characters who simply aren't given closure. Even the ending just feels empty - lacking in all meaning, just consequences arisen from events, like watching something fall to the ground. It was devoid of emotion, and had no impact.

Maybe it's the third-person action gameplay. The action is too mindless: aim and shoot, that's all. You don't really worry about positioning because enemies will hit you if you aren't positioned just right (and there's no way to tell), and you will hit them regardless (except when the cursor doesn't line up with the shot, which happens occasionally). There isn't any way to interact with the world and the enemies aside from the various types of guns, either (excepting the lasso, which is a very specific non-battle tool). Occasionally they conveniently litter around explosive containers to shoot too, but those are less effective than regular gunfire, which makes them pretty useless. Even grenades have limited utility (and are less effective than gunfire). In fact, gunfire is the single easiest way to kill someone, and because I never had to worry about running out of bullets, ever, there was no reason to use much of anything else - beyond the desire to do something different.

Maybe because it's just so sterile when compared to the last few third-person shooter games I've played: Alan Wake and Mass Effect 2. I derive a lot of pleasure out of efficient use of limited resources, and Alan Wake has that in spades - 42 revolver shots disappear very quickly on Hard. Both of these games have a variety of different enemy types and situations that need different strategies to conquer as well. With a Krogan bearing down on you, you have to make a split decision on whether you can take down his armor fast enough to disable him with biotics or move from your position and into potentially lethal gunfire. Does this situation merit Cryo Ammo, or would that hinder me? There is no such intricacies in Red Dead, it alternates between shooting people behind rocks and shooting people on horseback, and everyone dies to the same bullets. There is something to be said about simplicity, but Red Dead isn't timeless, and it stopped being fun at some point.

All I know is I don't feel compelled to go back in the least. I've got unfinished business, too: I still have to skin some critters to level up my hunting challenge. And yet that sense of self-satisfaction I usually get for doing such mundane tasks isn't there. It just feels like my time is better spent elsewhere.

Red Dead was fun while it lasted, but it still wore out its welcome before the end credits. More than that, though, it just feels...empty. Like there was nothing I left out there in the desert, and nothing I took away from it - there was nothing of myself, no emotional impact, no memorable action sequences, no memorable events, no memorable decisions. Just emptiness.

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