Monday, 26 August 2013

My PS3 Highlights #4: Red Dead Redemption

"People don't forget. Nothing is forgiven"

With the fourth incarnation of the PlayStation due to hit stores this holiday season, I thought it was a good time to reflect upon some of my own most cherished and memorable gaming experiences with the PlayStation 3

Each entry into this brand new column will give you my thoughts on some of my favourite PS3 games and the enjoyable and grabbing gaming experiences they have brought me. 

After covering classics such as Uncharted 2 and Batman: Arkham City so far, Part #4 is all about Rockstars highly-acclaimed Western epic, Red Dead Redemption

Whoever said the Western is a dead genre has obviously never picked up a console controller and played Red Dead Redemption

Set in 1911 at the tail end of the Old West, Red Dead Redemption is possibly one of the most well-rounded and defining PS3 games I have ever played.

Following the tortured tale of John Marston, the game is not a by-the-book gun-and-run shooter set in the 'ol West. Oh no. The narrative in Redemption is tightly crafted into a distinct three act structure and deals with themes such as industrialisation, loyalty, revenge, family and of course, the titular redemption.

All of the genre conventions are laid out right from the off; our hero (if you can call him a hero), John Marston, rides the locomotive into town and picks up the trail of the man who betrayed him, Bill Williamson. 

After confronting Bill and being left for dead, John is slowly nursed back health by kind-hearted ranch girl Bonnie and before long, John is riding his way across the West, into Mexico and the Rocky Mountains on the trail of Williamson and the rest of his gang.

Essentially the only open-world Western for this console generation, RDR is in my opinion one of the most re-playable and engrossing games you can get your hands on. The story is up there with the likes of The Last of Us and Mass Effect 2 in terms of depth of character development. 

Marston isn't your angelic hero who has a clean conscience; the guy used to be a villain who robbed and killed as he damn well pleased. Much like many quintessential Westerns, there is no clear black and white division between good and evil; Marston might be fighting for good but his past comes back to haunt him constantly. After all, nothing is forgiven.

The ending is touching stuff, especially after we've followed the character for so long. But, it entirely in keeping with the genre and kudos to Rockstar for not playing it safe. 

Okay, serious stuff aside. Let's focus on the real great stuff you can get up to in RDR. Let's face it, we all know the first thing you do when you ride into Armadillo for the first time is get into a fight with someone. Or duel them. Or shoot off their hat. Or straight-up shoot them in the face. Be honest, we all went there.

The number of horses of mine that were mauled to death by bears or cougars bordered on absurdity but they have a way of sneaking up on you - watch out for it!

From hijacking trains to robbing safes, there's plenty of less than heroic activities you can pursue in Red Dead Redemption; of course, it's all optional. If you want to be a hero then good on you, work on that Honor rating. If you want to be a villain? Away you go, have your fun!

Whether you want to pursue some extra curricular hunting (collecting bear pelts, coyote skins) or just some old-fashioned mucking around (holding up a shopkeeper, hog-tying a innocent to the train tracks), there isn't any shortage of extra game-play you can get out of RDR - there is hours of fun you can have across a gigantic open-world that stretches from the snowy forests in West Elizabeth to the sweltering sands of Escalera.

There is also tons of memorable characters you can meet along the way, 95% of them ripped straight from classic Western cinema; from U.S. Marshall Leigh Johnson to the ageing gunslinger Landon Ricketts, Rockstar have poured authenticity into every corner of this game.

Personally, I love the soundtrack on this game to death. Jose Gonzalez's moving track 'Far Away' was written especially for the game and it perfectly captures the tone and setting. 

Not just that, but Rockstar took the time to craft an entirely separate (non-canon) DLC called Undead Nightmare that added zombies into the mix. And you can never get enough zombies in something.

Red Dead Redemption isn't a game you can visit just the once and never revisit; the multiple layers and divergent story-lines demand multiple plays. Not just for fans of the Western, Red Dead Redemption is one of the best games of this generation. And the best part is, you can probably buy it for less than $20 nowadays.

What are your thoughts on Red Dead Redemption? What are some of your most memorable PS3 games? Are you going to be investing into the PS4 on launch day? Leave me a comment below! Next up in PS3 Highlights: Mass Effect 2

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