Red Dead Redemption
General Phil Sheridan was once famously quoted as saying: “If I owned Hell and Texas I’d rent out Texas and live in Hell.” He also once said: “The only good Indian is a dead Indian”, meaning his comments should be taken with a pinch of salt, but his views on the crime-ridden plains of the American Frontier are telling.
The original Red Dead Revolver did its best to infuse the setting with all the chaos and bloodshed you would expect. The Sergio Leone and Spaghetti Western influences of the late-Sixties and early- Seventies were telling in the main character’s Clint Eastwood jaw and flapping poncho, and the constant gunfights went some way to giving the game’s bulletriddled environments the deadly nature hinted at by Sheridan.
This sequel aims to take things one step further, however, utilising Rockstar Games’s sandbox talents and taking the series into open-world territory. Playing as outlawturned- repentant-lawman John Marston, you’ll explore a massive, rural environment, pocked with border towns and small settlements hidden amid sprawling prairies and protruding mountains. Interweaving plotlines, unique characters and violent gunfights will unify the vast expanse of Western terrain.
Yet while such sequels as Call Of Juarez: Bound In Blood are tackling the Wild West in a time of civil war, and most similar videogames deal in such tired clichés as swinging saloon doors and hookers named Miss Kitty, Red Dead Redemption appears to be taking an altogether more interesting approach. The game will take place during the turn of the 20th Century, a time when the lawless nature of the badlands was beginning to fall away, the expanding reach of American government and the Industrial Age slowly tearing down the free-for-all chaos that was once the status quo.
The death of the ‘Wild’ West is an exciting and potentially romantic idea when you consider that most games of the same setting have striven to be little more than out-and-out shooters. There’s a definite sense of beauty to be found in the setup: the last remnants of a fading way of life holding on to an age that is slowly slipping into history.
We’ll have to keep our fingers crossed that such themes will be injected into the narrative and dialogue, as it will certainly result in a much more engrossing game. For now we can only go by screenshots, and they at least hint at a game world that’s as much about eking character from the beautiful landscape as it is about gunplay and rootin’ tootin’ action. Portrayed on the silver screen, the Wild West is more than just a frame for the events of the film – it has soul, an austere beauty that resonates with the viewer. If games based in the Wild West have just one failure it’s that their representations of the American plains offer little more than recognisable topography – the sense of grandeur somewhat lost in the videogame translation.
Now with more powerful hardware at its disposal, Rockstar has spared no expense in evoking a sense of place from the rolling hills and grasslands of the American wilderness. The developer is rightfully renowned for its aptitude for characterisation, and if it can inject the same level of verisimilitude into the open world depicted here as it did into Liberty City, this could be something truly special.
So, could Red Dead Redemption be the first Western epic videogame? It’s not unfeasible – and if anyone has the ability to pull off such a large-scale undertaking it’s Rockstar. The lawless lands of the West during the turn of the century is an attractive setting; one that will provide both scope for interesting narrative and a starkly evocative landscape upon which to paint it. if the California-based developer realises its lofty ambitions, it’s a sentiment that definitely won’t be shared by gamers.