There was a recent article here on Destructoid
which points out how games rarely introduce well developed female characters that have a friendly (platonic) relationship with the male protagonist.
The character of Bonnie McFarlane completely sidesteps this trend. She is not a sexpot who tramps around in a revealing outfit, but she is by no means unattractive. She dresses sort of like a tomboy but still manages to come off as very feminine. She is a strong, self-sufficient woman who expertly takes on many roles and responsibilities usually regulated to men; she is also portrayed as handling those duties more efficiently than her male counterparts. She earns John Marston’s (the protagonist) respect with her direct plainspoken no-nonsense manner, her adherence to principles and her strength. But she wins his friendship with her demonstrations of camaraderie and loyalty. Initially, she seems to be attracted to Marston, but she backs off and respects his space once he reveals that he is a married man. These and numerous others reasons indicate that Bonnie McFarlane is definitely one of the most deftly constructed female NPCs to appear in a videogame.
However, there is a moment in the game where the effort nearly comes crashing down. Bonnie is inevitably captured and reduced to the cliché ‘damsel-in-distress’ role. Fortunately, this is somewhat salvaged by some of her dialogue after she is rescued. Regardless, it is unfortunate that Rockstar felt the need to head towards such a predictable route, I was hoping they would turn the cliché on its head and have Bonnie rescue Marston.
Dead Eye Vision:
Not much to say here other than I felt this was a flawless implementation of bullet time. I was initially skeptical as the concept of bullet-time seemed to be out of place for a game set in the old west, but having the ability to shoot two or three enemies at once, or to skillfully blast the gun out of my opponents hand during a shoot-out did a lot to make me feel like the archetypical Western hero; think Clint Eastwood walking into a saloon and taking down an entire gang before they even get a chance to pull out their guns. It doesn’t necessarily remove all of the danger; you still have to think fast and can die if you act recklessly. Bullet-time in RDR makes the player feel like a total bad-ass without making him feel invincible.
Perhaps the best thing to come out of this game. Bill Elm and Woody Jackson of Rockstar perfectly nailed the feel of those old Ennio Morricone spaghetti western soundtracks. The quiet moments are fueled by discreet ambient sounds and the occasional sharp twang. Intense moments are complimented by music with enough propulsive energy to rival Elmer Bernstein’s Magnificent Seven theme. It’s much better than the soundtracks to the Wild Arms (a western themed JRPG) games, and considering that I absolutely love the music of Wild Arms, that’s saying a lot. (If you never heard anything by the old school movie composers I mentioned earlier, I posted some clips throughout the article of the aforementioned Magnificent Seven theme and Morricone’s theme to “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.” Check them out, you won’t regret it.)
That’s it for now you dog-meat faced buckaroos. In the next two installments of ‘Now Loading’ I’ll continue my discussion on Red Dead Redemption and focus on what I thought needed improvement (The Bad.) After that, in the third installment I’ll surprise you with my discussion of ‘The Ugly.’
If you scum sucking varmints have any comments, disagreements or questions I challenge you stop flappin’ your jaw and pull out your pistol pardna'. Or if you’re feeling especially nasty you can just leave a comment below.
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