Support Dom, click to buy via us...
Red Dead Redemption is a pulsating vision of another era that stuck in my mind even when I wasn't playing. I was expecting the GTA play style, but not the way it unsettled my comfortable modern life.
If I wasn't appreciative of my life prior to Red Dead Redemption, then I certainly was after playing it. The tale of John Marston and the world in which he inhabits made my everyday problems seem trivial. I usually love games that stay with me perpetually when I'm not playing - Red Dead certainly did that, but at times its apparitions and questions were a bit too unsettling.
My biggest decision in any given day might be deciding on what I going to wear, eat or buy. Marston however would have to decide who he was going to kill, how he was going to do it and whether he would survive. All that on top of deciding what he was going to wear, eat and buy.
As well-represented as the brutality of all this was, I wondered how true to Wild West life it was. Thanks to the mechanics and conveniences of video game design, John Marston's real-life counterparts would have been jealous of his abilities. They, unlike him, couldn't travel instantaneously between destinations, spontaneously heal fatal bullet wounds. Most particularly though they couldn't slow down-shoot outs and target enemies with pinpoint accuracy. They would've been envious of Mr. John Marston - I certainly was.
Underlying these gaming devices, Red Dead's Wild West still had the odour of being a terrifying and fickle place. People would switch allegiances more often than they would change clothes (quite literally), and violations and violence against women was just as a common - with the former often conducted on street corners in a most matter-of-fact manner.
Red Dead Redemption provided me a glimpse of a difficult life that stayed with me for weeks. Emotions, strategies and plans all took a long time for me to process - and I loved it for that richness.
Through this vividly depraved world walks the most impressive element of the game - characters as merciless as they are convincing. Witnessing this treacherous tale unfold through these men and women was moving in a whole handful of ways. And law enforcement, something I take granted, was a luxury. Crime in Marston's world, unlike ours, was the rule and not the exception.
All this malevolence though, served to highlight those of a better nature. Even John Marston, a self-confessed killer and ex-gang member, was inclined to help those in need. But unlike him I was willingly violent towards fellow criminals - especially those with particularly selfish agendas. Their stories would usually come to an end by the way of my trigger.
The time between these moments, of which were usually spent travelling on horseback, were by far the most unpredictable. If I didn't have my wits about me, my precious horse could, and usually would, be stolen by a 'helpless' passerby. On a better day, I'd find myself assisting vulnerable girls, intervening in unwarranted hangings and lending a helping hand to the already lacklustre law enforcement. There was never a shortage of things to do.
Even in this world that pandered to my modern gaming sensibilities, Red Dead Redemption provided me a glimpse of a difficult life that stayed with me for weeks. It was vivid while I played it, but also between-times it stuck in my head. Sometimes I felt like I thought more about the game when I wasn't playing it than I did when in the saddle. Emotions, strategies and plans all took a long time for me to process - and I loved it for that richness.
More than the city-dwellers I played in GTA, Red Dead tapped into my emotions and made me face my own frailties and failures in a way I wasn't expecting.
It also taught me that Wild West violence was more than a means to an end - it was a form of communication. If words failed as a means of expression, a bloody nose wouldn't be too far behind. And in this there felt to me to be a strange honesty that uncovered my indirect conversations with friends and family. How much simpler would life be if I just cut through my crap and told people what I thought - even if I didn't actually hit them.
For all that - as much as the vista, the sunsets and tumbleweed - Rockstar's Red Dead Redemption is an impressive delivery of much more than Grand Theft Auto in the wild west. More than the city-dwellers I played in GTA, Red Dead tapped into my emotions and made me face my own frailties and failures in a way I wasn't expecting.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: