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Experience Points .20: Red Dead Redemption

Jul 25 // Ben Davis
The desert life There really aren't enough games that go for the Wild Western setting, and probably no other game pulls it off quite as spectacularly as Red Dead Redemption. It's set in an area inspired by the Rio Grande Basin connecting Texas and Mexico, as well as the deserts and prairies of Arizona and New Mexico. It also takes place in a time of Wild West cowboys, horses, outlaws, gunslinging, and saloons, so it basically feels like playing a classic Spaghetti Western film. The desert vistas in this game are absolutely gorgeous. In fact, my favorite thing to do was just to ride around and look at all the different locations. The sandy expanses, the majestic rock formations, the fields of cacti and desert shrubs, the old Western-style towns and dilapidated structures, and those sunsets... my god. Every inch of this game is stunning. Sometimes I just sat around on top of my horse for a few minutes and marveled at the world around me. I've only been out West once in my life, when I was like five years old, so I didn't really get to appreciate it as much as I would have liked. I'd love to take a trip around that area again sometime, in part because Red Dead Redemption makes it look so beautiful. It's rare that a game makes me want to go out and see the world like this one did. Draw! Good old-fashioned duels are a staple of the Western genre, so it's no surprise they make an appearance here. I've been obsessed with Western duel scenes ever since I watched The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, which has quite possibly the most glorious duel ever filmed. Two men (or three, in the case of the film) standing at a distance, their hands readied above their guns, sweat rolling down their faces, waiting for the signal to draw their weapons to see who can shoot faster and become the victor... it's always such a thrilling scene to watch. The duels in Red Dead Redemption aren't quite as long and fancy as the ones from Sergio Leone's films, but they're still very satisfying. Some duels take place as a part of the story, but many occur randomly. Marston may be challenged to duels by outlaws just by walking through a town, or if he's caught cheating at poker, or even if he rudely knocks over a passing stranger. If he accepts the duel, then the standoff begins. The camera shows both participants before coming in close to focus on Marston's hand hovering above his holstered gun, and then time slows down as shots are fired. It's very cinematic, which makes it feel even more like an homage to its film inspirations. I also like that, in some cases, Marston can win by simply disarming his opponent rather than killing them. Doing so generates both honor and fame, while killing only generates fame. It makes me feel good to play as the virtuous Western hero sometimes, so I always tried to aim for my opponent's gun hand whenever possible. It's what the man with no name would have done (unless he's dueling against Angel Eyes, that is!). John Marston, with the rope, in the conservatory Speaking of being honorable, I particularly enjoyed the option of using the lasso to subdue foes. It's not always the best method, but I tried to use the lasso as often as possible, not only because it means I don't have to kill as many people, but it's also just really fun to use. Bad guys can be lassoed, hogtied, and lifted onto the back of Marston's horse to take them to jail kicking and screaming. It's a bit trickier to capture bounties this way, because the player often needs to act quickly before the criminal's pals appear to help him out. Plus it feels good knowing that it's possible to solve problems non-violently. I'm always pleased when games give me these kinds of options. Of course, if the player wants to be a bit more villainous with their lasso, that's also a possibility. Marston can lasso someone while on horseback and drag them along behind him to kill them, hold on to the rope with the lasso around their necks to choke them, lasso their horses to try and buck them off a cliff, or even go the old-fashioned dastardly route and hogtie someone and then leave them lying on the train tracks to meet their demise. All you need is a bit of creativity to turn the lasso into a deadly weapon. A horse with no name John Marston wouldn't get very far without a trusty steed, and luckily there are plenty of horses for him to choose from. While the horses in Red Dead Redemption may not be as memorable as, say, Epona or Agro, they still play a very important role as companions. The game provides Marston with his own horse early on, but it also allows him to steal other people's horses or even capture and tame wild horses whenever he wants. If a strong-looking stallion is spotted in the wild, Marston can use his lasso to reign it in and then jump on its back to try and tame it. This was my favorite method of finding horses. I tend to go for the solid white or solid black horses, which seemed to be kind of rare and challenging to tame, but they're just so impressive-looking. I liked to pretend I was riding around on Shadowfax or one of the Black Riders' horses. Many players probably go through a lot of different horses during their playthrough, but I usually tried to keep my horses as long as possible. They tended to be more trustworthy and stronger the longer I kept them around, and I also couldn't help but feel a sense of connection with my horse friends after a while. I hated to see them get hurt, especially the ones I captured in the wild since so much work went into finding them and gaining their trust. For something that could easily be seen as a disposable item within the game, Red Dead Redemption sure did a fantastic job of making the horses feel alive and full of personality, something more than just a mode of transportation. Gambling man While the story and free-roam play of Red Dead Redemption was phenomenal, I also just could not get enough of the mini-games. Poker, liar's dice, five finger fillet, horseshoes, arm wrestling, blackjack... I spent so much time playing all of these games in each of the settlements, trying to master them and win money. They're all really fun and impressively fleshed out. While I probably spent the most time playing poker, my best game was definitely liar's dice. I'd actually never heard of it before playing Red Dead Redemption, but I quickly mastered it and raked in the cash. Horseshoes, on the other hand, was definitely not my game. I was terrible at aiming correctly, but it was still fun to learn. Five finger fillet was also enjoyable simply because I would never want to try it in real life. I value my own hands, thank you very much, but I don't mind the risk of butchering Marston's body parts. Although it is kind of strange how his hands seem to be just fine even if he accidentally stabs himself repeatedly with a knife. I messed up so much that I'm surprised he still had fingers! A grizzly encounter There is almost nothing more terrifying than hearing the snarl of a cougar while Marston is roaming the wilderness in Red Dead Redemption. Cougars are fast and powerful, they can easily kill in one or two strikes, and they're very difficult to detect due to their tan color which blends in well with the sandy desert environment. Usually, the player won't know a cougar is near until they hear the loud, ferocious snarling. The sound always stopped me dead in my tracks, as I desperately tried to search for the location of the animal before it was too late. Then when they pounce, it's a strenuous fight to the death as I try to avoid their attacks and get a few shots in as they're running around. Even when I was being careful, they mauled me to death on more than one occasion. The cougars are no joke! But even the cougars pale in comparison to the grizzly bears. The bears make a loud growling sound as well, but more often than not, I would see the bear before I heard it. I would just be minding my own business in the woods, then turn around and BAM... there's a big old grizzly bear bounding straight toward me! It scared me every single time, and sometimes I'd even have to pause the game for a bit just to take a breather before confronting the animal. The bears in Red Dead Redemption are arguably even more dangerous than the cougars. Sure, they're slower, but they're so powerful and difficult to take down that I found them to be way more frightening. And usually, once I killed one bear, two or three more would come running out of nowhere to avenge their friend. It was almost certain death once I found myself surrounded by multiple bears. Chill out, bears! I can only handle so much bear at once! Past Experience Points .01: The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask.02: Shadow of the Colossus.03: EarthBound.04: Catherine.05: Demon's Souls.06: No More Heroes.07: Paper Mario.08: Persona 4.09: Final Fantasy IX.10: Mega Man Legends.11: Rayman Origins.12: Metal Slug 3.13: Animal Crossing.14: Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King.15: Super Mario Sunshine.16: Final Fantasy VII.17: Nier.18: Chrono Trigger.19: Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
Red Dead Redemption photo
John Marston! Remember the name!
Experience Points is a series in which I highlight some of the most memorable things about a particular game. These can include anything from a specific scene or moment, a character, a weapon or item, a level or location, a p...

Odin Sphere Leifthrasir photo
Odin Sphere Leifthrasir

Atlus localizing Odin Sphere HD remake in 2016


Vague, but I'll take it
Jul 24
// Kyle MacGregor
Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir is coming to the Americas sometime next year, Atlus confirmed today. The high-definition remake of Vanillaware's gorgeous PlayStation 2 role-playing game was unveiled earlier this week. On top of...
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Disney Infinity

You can vote for the next Disney Infinity character, please pick Darkwing Duck


Let's get dangerous
Jul 24
// Chris Carter
Disney is allowing people to vote for the next Disney Infinity character, and the process is as easy as clicking on a picture. You can't just write-in anyone you want though, as they've narrowed down the vote to just 20 ...
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Journey stories

What's your most memorable Journey moment?


Teach your children well
Jul 23
// Jordan Devore
Journey has been out on PlayStation 4 for a couple of days. No surprises here: it's stunning. I didn't intend to beat it again so soon, but the game's seamless online co-op dug its hooks into me. I couldn't let my anonymous b...
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Madden tricks

Madden 16 screenshots lie about Marshawn Lynch dick-grabbing mechanic


I'm just here so I don't get fined
Jul 23
// Steven Hansen
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Life is Strange

Life is Strange Episode Four will debut on July 28


One more episode to go
Jul 23
// Chris Carter
Square Enix has revealed the release date for the fourth episode of Life is Strange, titled Dark Room-- July 28. The above video is a teaser of sorts, but it does contain spoilers, so be warned. The episode is allegedly taki...
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Pro Evolution Soccer

PES 2016 will run at 1080p on Xbox One


PES 2015 was 720p
Jul 23
// Vikki Blake
Konami has confirmed that Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 will run at 1080p on Xbox One. Despite its predecessor PES 2015 running at 1080p on PlayStation 4 last year, its Xbox One sibling could only muster 720p.  Now, it ...
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Destiny

Destiny players kill Gorgons in VoG raid, must be witches in real life


I don't even
Jul 23
// Vikki Blake
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Dragon Quest Builders

Don't write off Dragon Quest Builders just yet


Interest rising
Jul 22
// Jordan Devore
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MGO photo
MGO

Metal Gear Online gear customization doesn't affect stats


Though it affects visibility
Jul 22
// Steven Hansen
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Odin Sphere photo
Odin Sphere

The Odin Sphere remake will have a 'Classic Mode' for purists


New mid-bosses
Jul 22
// Chris Carter
Odin Sphere: Leifdrasir is in the works for the PS3, PS4, and Vita, and it will be an HD remake of the original PS2 classic. As such, it will include a "Classic Mode" that will preserve the experience. Vanillaware is adding ...
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Life is Strange

Life is Strange Episode Four is probably imminent, but not definitely


Achievement lists are telling
Jul 21
// Brett Makedonski
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$150 photo
$150

Celebrate Journey on PS4 with a pretty, limited run statue


$150
Jul 21
// Steven Hansen
Journey looks great on PS4. This statue does, too. But Journey on PS4 is free if you own it on PS3 ($15 otherwise), which I do, while this statue is $150, so I'm going to celebrate Journey on PS4 by maybe playing it on PS4 at some point. You are free to celebrate by buying the statue, or really whatever form of worship you prefer. Light a candle, maybe.
Game of Thrones screens photo
Game of Thrones screens

Game of Thrones: A Nest of Vipers screenshots, we have some


Hisssss
Jul 21
// Darren Nakamura
Another episode of Game of Thrones: A Telltale Game Series, another batch of screens I took while playing through for review. This batch seems especially small, for two reasons. For one, I was less diligent about taking scree...

Review: Game of Thrones: A Telltale Game Series: A Nest of Vipers

Jul 21 // Darren Nakamura
Game of Thrones - A Telltale Game Series: A Nest of Vipers (Android, iOS, Mac, PC [reviewed], PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: Telltale GamesPublisher: Telltale GamesReleased: July 21, 2015MSRP: $4.99 (episode), $29.99 (season)Rig: AMD Phenom II X2 555 @ 3.2 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, Windows 7 64-bit [Editor's note: there will be no major spoilers present for the episode reviewed here, but events in previous episodes may be discussed.] Throughout the series, Asher and Mira have been the more interesting characters to follow, the former for his action and wit and the latter for her suspense and guile. Ethan and Rodrik at Ironrath have been fine as central characters, but haven't stood out. Gared's exploits at The Wall and beyond have easily been the least exciting thus far. A Nest of Vipers shakes up that split, if only a little. Asher still stands at the top with scenes dense with action and dialogue choices that feel important. He and his partner Beskha find themselves in a fighting pit in Meereen, seeking combatants to follow them back to Westeros. During this sequence, the stakes are high and it genuinely seems like failure is possible, forcing Asher to return home without any extra aid. One other point for Asher is Telltale's injection of humor into his lines. Though Game of Thrones takes an entirely different tack than Tales from the Borderlands, the little pockets of comedy help to break up the oppressively somber tone of the episode. One line in particular had me audibly chuckling, which I think is a first for this series. [embed]296123:59553:0[/embed] Mira's sections, on the other hand, lacked a lot of the punch they have had in past episodes. Where the coronation ceremony scene in Sons of Winter left me feeling smart for having successfully navigated and manipulated King's Landing politics, both of Mira's major scenes here just had me along for the ride. The first scene is one with Cersei and the second features Tyrion in his cell, locked up and awaiting trial for the incident at Joffrey's wedding. Perhaps because she was playing opposite two of the strongest personalities in Westeros, Mira didn't seem to do anything important or have much of an impact. This episode does set up for one final showdown with Cersei, in what sounds like it might be a life-or-death situation. Gared's journey toward the nebulous North Grove continues, and how it can possibly help House Forrester so many miles south is still a mystery. That said, it's finally getting to the point where Gared feels important again. The first four episodes were spent putting him in place, first getting him to The Wall, then getting him north of it. Now he actually gets to do something. Of all the intertwined stories, Gared's feels the most hopeful at this point. He's in a pretty sticky situation, but it's difficult to imagine a scenario where he doesn't make it out to at least play his part in the grand scheme during the finale. Everybody else in House Forrester might die and the clan might be wiped from the map, but he's going to get to the dang North Grove. Next time. The crux of the story still lies in Ironrath, with Rodrik dealing with the fallout from the last episode. It's a little disappointing; all of the clever politicking from Episode Four is essentially nullified by the traitor. Where it previously seemed like a peaceful resolution could be possible, it's now clear that this story can only end with bloodshed. That isn't to say Rodrik's sections were bad; there were still plenty of interesting decisions to make along the way. They may not all have a major effect on where things end up, but a few appeared to have serious immediate consequences and a few others appeared to affect how the final episode will shake out. This episode culminates with a particularly emotionally impactful finale, the kind Telltale has steeled us for with series like The Walking Dead. It's difficult to discuss without going too far into spoiler territory, but I can say that I was thinking about the last scene hours after I played through it the first time. It could go down as the most memorable section for the entire series. It's strange. Detailing all of A Nest of Vipers' parts makes it sound about average, if not even a little disappointing compared to the previous episode. But this one ends up working well as a cohesive unit, even if some pieces fall flat. This episode has its highs and its lows, but it still leaves an unforgettable impression. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Game of Thrones review photo
Now we're getting somewhere
Anyone following my exploits as House Forrester in Telltale's slice of A Song of Ice and Fire will know that the first four episodes have been a lot of setup for the main event. While only one episode felt like filler (The Lo...

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Alongside Messi

Women's national team players grace FIFA 16 cover


Alongside Messi
Jul 20
// Steven Hansen
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Kojima

A Ground Zeroes mission foretold the Kojima and Konami split


And Konami's reaction
Jul 20
// Brett Makedonski
"You might be able to erase the markings, but the memories will never disappear." That's what a Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes mission had to say about scrubbing away the logos for all the Metal Gear games. In h...
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Atlus

That Atlus x Vanillaware game is Odin Sphere on PS3, PS4, and Vita


I'm in
Jul 20
// Chris Carter
[Update: check out the new trailer!] A short time ago Atlus and Vanillaware were teasing a special project, and now, they have confirmed that it's none other than Odin Sphere: Leifdrasir -- a new port for PS3, PS4,...
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PSN flash sale

PSN weekend flash sale discounts sci-fi games


These deals are out of this world!
Jul 18
// Kyle MacGregor
Sony is hosting a science fiction-themed flash sale on PlayStation Network this weekend. Here are some of the deals that caught my eye: Jamestown+ ($4.80) Resonance of Fate ($5) Metal Gear Rising - Ultimate Edition ($7....
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BioShock sweater

Hold on, that's what BioShock's protagonist looks like?!


(I skipped Burial at Sea ep. 2)
Jul 17
// Jordan Devore
I had this mental image of BioShock protagonist Jack as a normal, non-sweater-wearing guy. That's gone now, and it's never coming back.
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Read me, senpai

Gust's anthropmorphic book girl RPG Atelier Sophie gets fuller trailer


PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Vita
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Gust announced Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book for PS3, PS4, and Vita last month and has since expanded on that first trailer, not that you need a trailer to tell you what to expect from the 15th Atelier in as many years.
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Evamon

Monster Hunter adds Neon Genesis Evangelion characters, armor


Evamon
Jul 17
// Steven Hansen
Monster Hunter continues its quest to cross over with everything. Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate has been getting regular, free DLC including Animal Crossing, Devil May Cry, and Final Fantasy nods. Japan's Monster Hunter Frontier...
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Gearbox

Furious 4 became Battleborn, but Gearbox plans for a new Brothers in Arms


Like Duke Nukem, it will continue
Jul 17
// Steven Hansen
"Has Gearbox Software dropped Brothers in Arms: Furious 4?" Jordan asked over three years ago. Yes. Furious 4 dropped the Brothers in Arms brand and then morphed into a new game entirely, Battleborn. Hot on the heels of Randy...
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Destiny

Bungie nerfs Gjallarhorn, tweaks our favourite Destiny Exotics


How am I gonna get through PoE 35 now?
Jul 17
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Bungie has messed with our weapons, you guys. In a long update ("I hope you’re wearing your reading pants"), Destiny's sandbox designer, Jon Weisnewski, has detailed the various tweaks made to base weapons, as well as a...
Destiny photo
Destiny

Bungie plucked its newest community manager from the Destiny subreddit


Straight from the community
Jul 16
// Brett Makedonski
The creator of the subreddit for Destiny has leveraged his message board helpfulness into a paying gig at Bungie. The Destiny developer has hired a new community manager, and it went straight to a leader in one of the ga...
Game of Thrones trailer photo
Game of Thrones trailer

Telltale's Game of Thrones Episode Five: A Nest of Vipers trailer ramps up


The calm before the storm (of swords)
Jul 16
// Darren Nakamura
From that trailer, A Nest of Vipers seems like a perfect title for this episode. The question is: which character is in the nest? Asher finds himself in a pit fight (presumably to the death), Gared is north of The Wall in Wi...
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Deadpool

Deadpool is inexplicably back on Steam after it was removed a year ago


Ok, I'll take it
Jul 16
// Chris Carter
I was pleasantly surprised by High Moon's Deadpool game. Sure it wasn't the most polished action game, but it was mostly true to the character, and was a decent enough little romp. Then... it was gone. One day it just va...
Game of Thrones photo
Game of Thrones

Episode 5 of Game of Thrones will drop later this month


Here, look at some pretty pictures
Jul 16
// Vikki Blake
The fifth installment of Telltale's Game of Thrones series, A Nest of Vipers, will be released later this month. Good news if you've been growing impatient, particularly as we're already halfway through July. Yay. The confirm...
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PSN fighting sale

Fighting games galore in this PlayStation Network sale


Also, TowerFall!
Jul 15
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NHL 16

NHL 16 video shows off the literal small steps the game's taking


On Frozen Pond
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