In the quest to find the greatest game of this console generation, I scoured my game library trying to find the one game that blew me away, one that leaped over boundaries, and really set itself apart from other games. The pool was impressive and mighty competitive. Metal Gear Solid 4 easily jumped to the top, Fallout 3 is my favorite RPG ever, and then there was the unsung hero or villain of the FPS genre, depending on how you want to look at it, the one that started it all, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Although each game deserves the spotlight, only one can be the “best”, and that’s why I’ve chosen Rockstar’s journey back in time with Red Dead Redemption.
If you would have told me eight years ago that I would claim that a video game taking place in the wild west would be the greatest game for this console generation, I probably would have scoffed in your face. I’m apparently rude like that. So how does a spaghetti western snag top honors? I know the throngs of fans could give you hundreds of answers, and everyone one of them would be for different reasons. That’s because Rockstar Games made a game that was so immense and so immersive, the game practically ran itself in the background. It was like living in the old west, only without the smells and you were a badass gunfighter not some weak adult of the 21st century who doesn’t know how to function without a keypad.
Rockstar put you in the boots of John Marston, a retired outlaw out for revenge and well, redemption. See what I did there? I know, I know, you’re saying it wasn’t all revenge, but hunting down his old crew in which they ended on poor terms, inherently brings up some feelings of revenge. You learn that Marston wants this life put behind him, wants what’s best for his family, his wife and young son Jack. And with that, one of the greatest stories in video games followed.
Red Dead Redemption has an open world spanning across the border of two countries, the fictitious states of the US and Mexico. The world is alive with wildlife, ranchers, and townsfolk, all being affected by an incoming industrial revolution. The train is constantly running, outlaws are robbing stagecoaches, the people of Mexico are revolting, animals continue to wander, and the townsfolk live their lives as tailors, general store clerks, and other shady characters trying to help you part with your hard earned cash.
Speaking about the world being alive reminds me of a story that I tell everyone who’s curious about Red Dead Redemption. I was somewhere on the US side of the border riding horseback along one of the many rough paths. I can’t remember the exact details of my travels, but I know I was just riding at a slow trot, gathering in the sunset, the wind, the sounds, and imagining smells, when I heard strange shuffling and heavy breathing around me. I stopped and looked for where the snorting noise was coming from, and when the culprit finally popped up it was this cute little skunk now traveling along the path I currently was on. I sat and watched it for a bit, still trying to immerse myself into game as much as possible when, bam!, a fox comes out of the brush, snatches the skunk in it’s jaws and runs off! I couldn’t believe it, I just witnessed a murder! An animal hunting…in a game! I couldn’t believe that the developers had the piece of mind to create a food chain infrastructure. I was stuck there, sitting on my horse with my jaw open in awe of what had just occurred. That’s just one of many amazing stories I can pull out of my time playing RDR.
There is so much to do in Red Dead Redemption that at times it could easily feel overwhelming. Besides following your main storyline you could stop and help a citizen in need, hunt innocent and deadly game, break horses, collect bounties for fugitives, watch over townships at night, search for buried treasure, or just sit and play poker. You can do anything, or just as easily do nothing, and still feel like you’re doing something. I’ll also mention that one of the hunting challenges has you kill a bear with just your knife, it was quite terrifying.
And then there’s the DLC.
The most DLC you will ever get for your money, Read Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare let you cover the entire RDR world, only this time it’s infested with zombies. A whole new storyline awaited you, new mythical creatures needed to be hunted, and five mystical beasts needed to be broken. *SPOILER!* ONE’S A UNICORN!!! Holy bajesus I nearly pissed my pants when I broke and rode the majestic unicorn. A beautiful rainbow glows behind when you gallop and butterflies flutter around you when you were stopped. Never in a game have I been so excited to just ride a horse. And yes the zombie missions were cool too.
Everything is fluid and gives you a sense of purpose. You can’t help but enjoy everything you do and everything you see. The game just engulfs all of your senses. I don’t know how else to describe it. There are so many reasons as to why I feel Red Dead Redemption is the greatest game of this console generation and I didn’t even scratch the surface of it’s gigantic multiplayer, one complete with posses and a leveling system. If you’ve every question RDR because it was a western, I implore you to look past the dust and lack of baths, and snag yourself a copy and start playing one of the most engrossing games of this generation.