The Red Dead Redemption Journal: Day 9


I thought that this would be a three journal series on Red Dead Redemption, but as it turns out, the Wild West isn’t that big of a place, so here I am on Day 9 with not much else left to do.

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy my time with the game, and don’t think it was worth the money. I did, and I do (err, hardly any game is REALLY worth $60, but you get the idea), and it was a great experience with a new genre of game I’d rarely ventured into before.

As it turns out, the Wild West is a pretty awesome place, especially when it’s imagined by Rockstar. I was consistently blown away by the landscape of the game, which encompasses all the coolest parts of the Old West. There are the dusty border towns where random sociopaths want to dual you on the streets. There’s Mexico, where the government is constantly battling rebels trying to overthrow it. And there’s the New Frontier, full of Indians and bears waiting to eat you. The bears, not the Indians.



Rockstar really has captured the essence of the West, or at least what I imagine the essence of the West would be like. This is especially true of John Marston, one of the most likable leads I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing as. Though he’s an outlaw who has killed hundreds of people by the end of the game, he’s generally a pretty decent guy, and it was a great time getting to know him.

As for the game itself? Well, I certainly had fun, but it all flew by a bit fast for me. I believe I only died about two times ever, once was before I learned how to use medicine on the fly, the other was because I was blindsided by a rather stealthy cougar.

The problem with the game’s difficulty curve lies in the targeting system. In Mexico, I found a gun called a “Bolt-Action Rifle” that nearly every soldier down there used. If you’re within 200 yards of your target, you will kill them in one shot with it. This is fine in itself, but the problem is, with Red Dead’s auto aim system, I could quite literally kill an entire field of enemies in under ten seconds from cover. Pop and shoot, pop and shoot, and repeat ad nauseam. They never had a chance.


Miss? You won’t miss.

The same goes for horseback chases. Police chases in Grand Theft Auto are often a harrowing affair, with cops pelting your car with bullets and constantly trying to ram you off the road. Not so in Red Dead. At most you have four men chasing you, all who can be dispatched by one auto-aimed bullet from that aforementioned rifle. But it’s not just that gun, practically ever weapon you find will kill a target in one or two shots, the only real difference between them is if it takes 1 second, .75 seconds, or .5 seconds.

I eventually gave up on the whole “find the best horse” thing, as I barely ever noticed a difference between any of them. My final judgment was, the fatter the ass on the horse, the faster it was, because of all the muscles back there, and I think the different classes have something to do with color. But really, horses are pretty disposable, thought I was a bit sad when my white stallion who had been with me for a while got mauled by a bear near the end of the game. I really think having only one or two set horses (and the ability to name them) would have gone a long way for creating another character to care about in the game.

The story of Red Dead is good, not great. You’re trying to find three men you used to be in a gang with. The first I was given the option to shoot in the leg and put in jail, the second I also shot in the leg, but the game apparently wanted him dead because he died instantly of that wound. The last? Well, you’ll just have to wait and see about that one.


He’s just a decent guy, forced to kill five hundred people so he can find three more. 

Each mission follows pretty much the same set-up, whether you ‘re working for a doctor, a sheriff, a Mexican general or a government agent. They’ll help you find your guy if you blow up a train, slaughter a legion of soldiers or raid some bandit camp. A hundred bodies later, they might give you a loose piece of info that furthers your quest, but it seems like you had to do an awful lot of shit for it. Marsten’s “aw shucks I’m just trying to stop shootin’ folk and be a rancher” shtick he brings up before and during every mission gets old after about the two hundredth pour soul you’ve capped in the head while yelling “I’m just doin’ this for my family!”

The missions are diverse, but since combat is relatively the same throughout, it often doesn’t seem like that. There are side missions yes, from random strangers you run across in your travels, but they’re so easy, they’re more like cutscenes than actual gameplay events. Some you literally just have to go and talk to a person who pops up in three different places on the map, and your mission is complete. Sometimes they can be gratifying however, like when I bought a Chinese slave his freedom by capturing a beautiful white stallion for his douchebag owner. After he freed the slave, it really felt good to then lasso him off the back of it, hogtie him and keep the horse for myself. That’s why I was sad when a bear ate him.

I also spent plenty of time amusing myself with the various challenges the game presents, among them survivalism, sharpshooting, animal hunting, and treasure finding. I never did get past stage one of the treasure hunting (you want me to find one tree with a noose on it in this whole damn world?) but the others I took pretty seriously. But after reaching the higher stages of the challenges, the tasks just became exhausting (disarm six men without reloading? I can’t even find six men to all point guns at me at the same time), so I’m throwing in the towel.


“Where’s that damn treasure motherf****er!”

I’m going to talk a little bit about the end of the game, which I found to be the most brilliant part of it, so if you’re not quite there yet, cover your ears and skip down until you see bold text telling you to look again.

After you kill the final gang member (or rather, he kind of does the job for you), I thought the game would be over after I rode to my family’s ranch in Great Plains. But not so. What lay there was an entire set of missions that I in no way was expecting. These missions were easy, they were herding cattle, shooting crows, or hunting elk with your son, but there was something very gratifying about them, like a cooldown jog after a sprint. I was even emotionally stricken during one mission where my son went out to hunt a bear by himself to prove that he was a man to me. That little shit! How dare he make his mother and I worry like that!

I ended up forming a real attachment to my family in that time period, but of course, Rockstar doesn’t allow happy endings. But unlike GTA IV’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t finale, there was only one result here. The government betrayed poor John Marston, and after getting his family out safe, he goes down in a blaze of glory. I’ve rarely ever felt literal fear in a game before, but when I opened my barn doors to find a dozen rifles pointed at me, and the game put me in Dead Eye mode for a few seconds to cap as many as possible, I was overwhelmed. There were two many, even for John Marston, level nine sharpshooter. I was gunned down, and my son and wife returned to find my broken body.

But then the game does something brilliant. Knowing closed endings are the bane of open world games (see Fallout 3), there’s a heartbreaking scene where John Marston’s son Jack grows up before our eyes, taking his father’s hat and guns and living the life his father had. That’s right, the rest of the game you’re playing as Jack, who is his father’s son, other than his teenage voice. It’s a great twist, and I almost teared up when I killed my first animal and as Jack was skinning it, he said “Just like you taught me pa!”

Update: I just found the “final” final mission thanks to you guys, which actually makes the credits roll after completion and is meant to give “closure” I suppose, as Jack hunts down and kills the agent responsible for his pa’s death. I actually wish they had just left that out, and made things more open ended, as that seems like it could have been the entire plot of the next game. I was really looking forward to Red Dead Revenge.


This is a great game, no doubt about it. It’s pretty easy, which means it goes by pretty quick, but the ride is a blast, with gorgeous landscapes and horseback gunfights never really getting old. The story is a bit repetitive, but the brilliantly planned ending makes up for all that. In a stretch of time where there hasn’t been a game worth buying in months, Red Dead Redemption is nothing short of a godsend, and I hope that Rockstar devotes a large amount of effort toward another sequel in this series someday soon.

4 out of 5 stars


Until next time

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  1. Should the spoiler warning not be prior to the spoilers, not after? It is a good game, but I find it getting a bit dull at the 10 hour mark. Thankfully there was just that barn incident at the MacFarlane Ranch, and the next mission was great. Looking forward to the rest.

  2. “the other was because I was blindsided by a rather stealthy cougar.” — Happened to me once. That was one hell of a night.

    Also, on the “games that have scared you”. How about Bioshock 1 and 2? That shit freaked my ass out in parts.

  3. That tree with the noose on it? It’s maybe 15 seconds from that first small town Armadillo at a place called Hanging Rock… which I rode by at least 3 dozen times during my play and don’t know how you never passed it. Here’s the fun part though, though I’ve told you where it is, good luck finding the treasure because i spent 15 minutes before giving up as I couldn’t find the correct amount of blasted rocks and cactus it indicated.

  4. Auto Aiming does make the game to easy. That’s why you turn it off. Nothing is more satisfying then galloping full speed and landing a bullet between the eyes of a chasing bandit without using dead eye or auto aim.

    Do you not play multi-player? There is a great challenge playing on the hardcore setting because no one can use auto-aim. Its all based on skills. Without taking a head shot you can survive a very long time. This leads to great moments of taking on the entire team by yourself and actually succeeding! I’ve never felt like more of a digital bad ass then when I have played this game.

    Also, I have to give props to Rockstar, the multi-player as a whole is very easy to use and for the most part glitch free. I can jump online, see my friends playing and instantly join their game. Once you are in a posse with people its very easy to move between matches and the load times are extremely fast. Also, the showdown at the beginning of the match is awesome!

    FYI: Loosing at poker is a great way to drag out the single player experience. High stake poker is VERY hard, almost unfair at times.

  5. I agree the game was great fun and I found the tragic ending pretty awesome. It seemed the game was building up to it as every stranger you helped seemed to screw you over or meet their own terrible end.

    Treasure hunting was actually pretty rewarding, the first one was a pain in the ass because even if you realize it’s supposed to be a the Hanging Rock it takes forever to find because the map is terrible. I found the rest of the maps, with the exception of one (in mexico) to be pretty straight forward and easy to locate.

    I’m wondering if this game is going to get the GTA DLC treatment where they release what are essentially stand alone games as DLC. Surely they could do something with Jack in the aftermath but even if they are saving him for a true sequel there are plenty of other tales and characters that would work well in this setting.

  6. I am not a hard core gamer so I guess that’s why I am taking my time with Red Dead. the story missions where going by pretty fast so I decided to slow down the game and work on the side quests from time to time. I know basically what happens, in the game but that’s ok, I am loving the visuals and the multi-player arena. I still have a little over half of the game left and look forward to starting up the game whenever I can. I have even stopped playing my other favorites for now, until I finish this one. I feel like I am in an old western movie as the anti-hero. It is fantastic to me in every way. looking forward to download-able content and hopefully extra episodes in the future. this one is well worth the price of admission for me.

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