Honestly, I wasn’t really sure when to start or end this review. Because, much like Red Dead Redemption II, this thing could go on and on ad infinitum. Get on the horse. Get off the horse. Piss someone off and get shot. Shoot someone and get the entirety of a town’s law enforcement after you. Forever and ever, amen. I suppose this is the Rockstar ethos, and this is just the Old West version of it. The oldy-time GTA, if you will. It’s probably a thing that a lot of people love, given the popularity of these franchises. But I’m just not sure it’s for me. I enjoy being hemmed in to some extent, and in this world you’re kind of on your own, until you’re not.
And, yes, I’m aware I’m reviewing a video game from 2018 in 2023. But a good game is a good game, and graphics on my PS4 aren’t light years ahead of what they were five years ago. I don’t think I even need Red Dead Redemption’s graphics to be any better. They’re fine. I imagine AI has improved in that time, however. As is evidenced by my ability to stand at the top of a rooming house’s stairs piling up body after body as they come running willy-nilly to attack me. I think at one point I probably had 30 dudes stacked at the bottom of a staircase, the graphics just overwhelmed by the tangle of blurred, twitchy limbs. I eventually ran out of ammo and couldn’t stab my way out of things and died, but as a test of the game’s limits, it came up short. My horse also got stuck many a time kind of half way in a tree. Or a wagon I was driving once half-entered a wall and didn’t allow me to dismount or do anything, really. I’m pretty bad at video games, so most of the other quirks were probably user error, but there were definitely some instances where I meant to do one thing and ended up accidentally discharging my gun and bringing down the entirety of the law upon myself. Also, my upgrades to my horse didn’t really seem to make much of a difference. But, again, I kinda stink at video games.
I’m starting to conclude after playing these open world games — Days Gone being the last thing I played — that I’m just not a big fan. Or at least not creatively-minded enough to continue adventures that are seemingly so hard to figure out. I need the game to direct me. To tell me what my next goal is. And to have some sort of story that concludes in some satisfactory way. Or at least acts more like a movie than “real life.” And perhaps these loosely woven together adventures RDR sends you on (if you ask real nice) eventually conclude with some master stroke, but I don’t have to patience to mount my horse, yet again, ride into the countryside and save some random dude from jail. Just to have him ride off into the sunset to be met up with 27 adventures later. Maybe. And then I run over some villager with my horse by mistake and fuck up my entire program because I’m not good with a controller. Until, that is, I go to the post office, pay some money and make things all good again. It’s fun blowing away an entire train load of yokels, but fun has its price. Which is “real life,” but also not. And perhaps I’m not supposed to go rogue and shoot the shit out of bots, but the game also doesn’t dissuade you from doing so. There are built in measures in the game that say if what you’re doing make you more evil or more good (gooder?), but I never really got what that did for you. There are also stamina bars of several kinds, but I never really paid a whole lot of attention to those. And the game didn’t really seem to care. I fed my horse an apple every once in a while and maybe popped a piece of cocaine gum, but I never died of starvation or left the carcass of a horse by the side of the road. So, I ask, what’s the point of them?
So I galloped around, “talking” to people. Shooting stuff and going on missions. It never really seemed to get me any closer to anything. Even when I rustled the wagon someone wanted me to rustle. And freed some dude they wanted me to free. And took some kid fishing for his mom. And robbed such and such train. And I played for hours and hours. And just wasn’t seeing the results I was hoping for. I started to do the math and calculated I would have to get on and off my horse another 40,000 times to get to whatever the conclusion of this Old West story is supposed to be. Which, I imagine, involves my main character, Arthur Morgan, retiring to a farm somewhere to live out his life as a slightly right-wing “get off my land” curmudgeon. His politics aside, I just didn’t find much interesting about him or his band of gruff, vaguely libertarian brethren. I realize, I guess, that I’m just not much of a “Western” guy. Despite growing up in the West. If LA is the West. But, yeah, cooking stuff on the open range and depending on animals to get me places just isn’t that much of a thing for me.
I know people love this game. That’s the reason I ended up buying and playing it. I needed to see what all the fuss was about. And I get it. To an extent. The constant horse riding through pretty similar surroundings does get a but tedious. Looking at that damn map and realizing I’m going to be doing said horseback riding for many minutes before I even get to somewhere with some action can be a bit deflating. And the kind of limited range of the secondary and tertiary characters is disappointing. Did I have some fun shooting myself into or out of some raids? Sure. Were there some interesting scenarios in which I ended up dying multiple times? Of course. Did I probably ignore what I was supposed to do and just blow some dude’s head off half the time? I mean, that’s kind of what one does. And, yes, I’m not the best example of what Rockstar probably wants from its gamers, but what most find exciting and challenging, I tended to find a little bit dull and repetitive. There are just so many white dudes in the same hat you can murder in a day, amiright?