2010 Sucked: If Red Dead Redemption was Game of the Year

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[For his Musing, Xzyliac shares his frustration and disappointment with the gaming community’s positive reaction to Red Dead Redemption, and how he feels graphics are getting more attention and praise than gameplay. Disagree? Want to post your own Musing on this month’s topic? Head on over to the community blogs and write one up! — JRo]

Allow me a soapbox and I’ll give you a sermon. Allow me a choir and I’ll give you a concert. Allow me a stage and I’ll give you a show.

Ask me what sucked in 2010 and I’ll talk your ear off about Red Dead Redemption.

For all intents and purposes, Red Dead Redemption became the community favorite in 2010 (not of Destructoid specifically, but in general amongst gamers). Something that I guess doesn’t mean much now that everyone is off the year end high, but it still really bothers me. RDR was not a bad game per se — I think the few who know my opinion of RDR have developed that thought. No, I don’t think RDR was bad. It was okay. It had mediocre gameplay that inched itself past passable with some great presentation. The game looked pretty all around and had some really wonderful characters. John Marston and Bonnie MacFarlane are probably two of my favorites in recent memory (although Marston’s actor could’ve used some work or editing or something). The writing was good, while the whole final quarter really just broke any and all pacing the story had.

Long story short: it was decent.

And somehow this game became the unofficial official Game of the Year. Now you and I can tussle all day about RDR’s presentation and plot. Maybe you thought Rob Wiethoff, Marston’s voice, was a great actor. Most people do. For me, I was really bothered by how he would sound neutral one second and then just jump into rage mode with no middle ground. He’d be all like this AND THEN SUDDENLY HE’S FUCKING CRAZY! He only has two modes. Like Denzel Washington. But I’m willing to admit that’s subjective to a point. And maybe you thought the whole last quarter (the epilogue, basically) was great. I thought it just broke everything but maybe it’s because I was more into the mission of killing off Marston’s buddies than I was about Marston himself. I felt like coming out of fucking nowhere and suddenly asking me to care about Marston when the writers never gave me reason to care about him before was bullshit. The plot never asked you to care about Marston, only his mission. After that the game needed to end.

But none of that is what bothers me, really.

What bothers me is while I can scuffle with anyone on the details of the presentation in RDR what I’ve found is almost universally accepted is the statement that RDR’s gameplay was merely passable. And it was. It consisted of friggin’ fetch quest and vanilla shoot-outs. And then once Dead Eye is introduced all strategy and challenge is thrown out the window. It’s really so-so. And few disagree. That’s the thing. The so called “Game of the Year” is a game where the actual fucking game part is not even compelling. It’s lukewarm and passable.

But it’s pretty.

Seriously community? Seriously? Is that what it takes? Now I’ll be the first to say that Red Dead Redemption is gorgeous and whether you like the story or not it is presented with a style that can rival most Hollywood films. That said, that’s all the game is. It’s just style. Where is the substance? Where’s the part where the actual gameplay carries its own weight? Is that all it takes to be the Game of the Year? Look pretty and have a decent story?

I guess it worked for Uncharted 2.

More importantly it definitely highlights the trend of big budget pretty games that do nothing in the way of creativity. Which I’m okay with, honestly I am, if the game is entertaining. The game Red Dead Redemption is not entertaining. It’s the cutscenes, it’s every time I got to put down the controller, that’s when I found myself enjoying the game. Whenever I was playing the game it was boring as balls. As a friend put it “Yeah, but I really wanted to see what happened next.” WHO CARES!? In the case of RDR, all you’re saying is you wanted to get through it to see the next cutscene. Sounds like chores to me.

Now, let’s talk about Mass Effect 2.

ME2 might be my GOTY, and I know that sounds like borderline hypocrisy but allow me to justify myself. Honestly, I thought Mass Effect 2 had great gameplay. Was it the most innovative or creative? Hell no. But it was entertaining. It was tight and fluid. It went beyond working, it was fun. And while ME2 was also another big budget prettied up game that pushed style in your face, at least it made an attempt to make that cinema and story a part of the experience. The story was an integral part of the gameplay. It wasn’t just solely there to look pretty. It was as much an element of gameplay as it was eye candy.

Now I don’t wanna be “that” guy. Not everything needs to be original.

In 2009 my GOTY was Arkham Asylum. Arkham Asylum was not the most creative or innovative game in 2009, but what it was fluid and fun. That’s what I’m looking for. RDR was not that. It was vanilla, it was dull, it worked and it did only that. I don’t want to look like the guy who needs everything to be unique and innovative but it lacked any depth or substance to back up the style it had.

Which sucks because 2010 had tons of great games that were also great games.

Mass Effect 2, Rock Band 3, Alan Wake, Game Dev Story – all fantastic games with great gameplay, and that’s just the very top of the surface. It goes so much deeper. So many games which were so much more compelling as games that it’s bothersome to see the trend of style over substance continue to sweep through the press and the community. Is that really all it takes? C’mon guys.

So in closing, RDR made 2010 suck.

Well okay, not really. That’s a bit dramatic. But it did make the end of 2010 suck. In such a great year, I definitely thought we’d all find ourselves embracing some better games as games than RDR, because that’s what the Game of the Year should be. It should take into account the gameplay first before ogling pretty pixels and well written…writing. If RDR is to represent the best of the best in 2010 than 2010 must’ve really sucked.

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