Monday, June 14, 2010

Red Dead Redemp---HEY! Get back here!

Howdy, fellow video gamers!

What's that? You...oh. I see. Okay. I'm still gonna talk about it, though.

It all started with the purchase of a recently released video game that perhaps even you have heard of: Red Dead Redemption. The game, made by famous and infamous developer Rockstar Games, puts you into the digital boots of a digital man named John Marston.

I could go into the story, but I'm not. I'm also not going to talk about the gloriously free, open-ended gameplay and "sandbox" style level design that allows you to see a mountain in the distance, start running, and eventually (holy crap, it wasn't just a picture of a mountain!) climb it, but I'm not. I could even talk about all hookers and shooting and violence in the game. But I'm not. Because I'm sure all the paranoid parents with stupid kids have told you all about it.

I guess you can see which side of the fence I'm on when it comes to "mature" content in video games. I figure if you didn't bother teaching your kid the difference between real life and sweaty button-punching, then you deserve to have him turn out weird. If you forbid him to play a game and he gets a hold of it anyway and manages to play through it without you finding out, then he's outsmarted you. And you should be proud of him for that.

The videogame nerd sites had multiple orgasms about the game's depth and how "fully realized" the world is. Just chock fulla minor characters, this world, all dynamically generated on-the-fly, along with an entire ecosystem of animals! And all of this goes through a day-night cycle with dynamic weather!

Poppycock. I'll admit that the weather effects and lighting are pretty darn impressive. But except for the cutscenes, all the human characters in the game are animated like retarded marionettes. Occasionally you'll catch one moving in a somewhat realistic manner, but I guarantee that if you watch them long enough, you'll see all the corners Rockstar cut to keep the game under budget. When the physics system twitches, it's like the puppeteer sneezed, sending the marionette flailing around like a startled hamster.

Oh, and all the fantastic realism you see along the side of the road during your travels on horseback? Why, you'll actually believe you're in the Old West, on accounta all the Old Westy things you see happening out there! A fully-realized world with endless opportunity for interaction!

Spoiler alert! Here, "endless" means "four".

You'll see four things happening out on the plains: a lone man standing in the middle of nowhere shooting at birds, a lone man being shot at by two or three others, a lone man being chased by coyotes, or a lone sheriff who needs help recapturing escaped prisoners.


Why is that man just standing in the middle of the moonlit desert shooting at owls? Why the hell would he or anyone else be willing to pay you ten dollars if you can shoot four owls in 30 seconds? What did they ever do to him? That man just really hates birds, I guess. Maybe one of them touched his wife.

And the guy being attacked by coyotes? If you shoot them, he will be so grateful, he'll pay you five bucks for saving his ass. A little bit poorer but a whole lot wiser, the man will then happily wander off into the desert, where he will almost immediately be set upon by more coyotes. An attentive gunslinger could probably make a good living shadowing this particularly stupid and tasty individual.

I dunno. Maybe that is realistic? I wasn't around back then.

The gunfights also end with the survivor(s) wandering off into the desert to be attacked by coyotes. Probably because they didn't have any bullets left to shoot at the owls.

So it's not realistic.

But here's the thing: that's the best part. This is why I love this game! The main narrative be damned. The best part of this game is the unintentionally funny things that happen all the time when you see it bonking its head against the wall of finite technology resources.

Picture a dusty little town in the sun-drenched plains of New Mexico. Picture all the wooden buildings with their hanging gas lamps and horses hitched to the rails out front. There's the saloon with its bat-wing doors, the general store, the town doctor, the train station. It's late afternoon, and the shadows are stretched long over the hoof-pounded dust of the main street. Men lean against the walls of the saloon, under canopies, their faces shaded by their hats. The horses swat flies with their tails, their pointed ears swiveling. It's a peaceful evening in one of the hundreds of little towns in the Old West.

But wait! Here comes a crazy man! He leaps from the roof of the saloon and lands with a grunt in the middle of the road. He jumps to his feet and breaks into a run, moving from standstill to full-out sprint faster than humanly possible. He runs at breakneck pace into the side of a horse! Undeterred, the stranger continues to run, his arms flailing wildly, his legs pistoning up and down in a blur. But he is not making progress; just running as if the ground beneath him were made of ice with his face planted in the horse's flank.

"Good evening for it, mister," says the horse's rider. This inappropriate response seems to snap the furiously running man out of his reverie, for he immediately stops trying to force his body through the horse and stands there briefly. Then, as if remembering an important appointment, he punches the horse and runs off at full tilt, the rider's parting words hanging in the dust behind him: "Billy James once sawr a wolf th' size of a barn door, no foolin'!"

Blam! The strange man parts the bat-wing doors of the saloon with his face and makes a flying leap onto the bar top, scattering shot glasses and beer steins. The bar's patrons greet him with polite howdies. He responds by going into a crouch and punching air for a bit. Tiring of this, he jumps down and sprints around the room in mad circles, plowing into everyone. The unlucky townsfolk in his path seem to offer no resistance; as soon as the stranger's body comes into contact with them, their muscles all relax at once and they crumple to the wooden floor with indignant cries of "hey!" and "you'd better watch it, mister!" and "my outhouse gots sticks in it!".

Evidently not satisfied keeping his barging spree confined to one floor, the strange man heads upstairs. He is greeted there by the establishment's sultry escorts. "You lookin' for a good time, mister?" they inquire sweetly. The man responds by shoving them over the rail and onto the floor below! What a bastard. Obviously, this sociopath is dangerous. The ladies take defensive action by...calmly walking over to a post and leaning seductively against it. "You look like you could use a good rubdown, mister," one can be heard saying to a nearby man.

Infuriated by the womenfolk's total fearlessness, the stranger runs face-first into a locked door for ten seconds.

Cut to a shot of the saloon's outdoor balcony. Two women (probably twins) dressed in identical outfits rest languidly against the railing. One of them is smoking a cigarette. Suddenly, the doors in front of them burst open, and the strange man comes charging out at full speed. He hits the railing opposite the doors with his pelvis, taking the full brunt of the hit without flinching or toppling over.

"Howdy, mister, you look like--" one of the women starts to say before the crazy man shoves her down the stairs. The other woman continues smoking her cigarette until the man pushes her over the railing. She lands on her face, gets to her feet and stands there a full two seconds while her PowerPC-based brain decides what to do next. She settles on screaming and running off into the desert to be eaten by coyotes.

An entire streetful of people watch this little exchange without breaking stride. The stranger then jumps from the balcony, landing with an "ooomph!" that turns the screen red momentarily, and whistles for his horse. The horse, standing ten feet away from the West's laziest sociopath, trots over. The man mounts, and without saying a word, gallops off into the open desert. On his way, he purposely knocks down three people.

If we were to follow our strange new acquaintance, we would find him dismounting occasionally to kick armadillos, chase skunks and pick flowers. Happening upon farms also affords him the opportunity to kick goats and lasso pigs.

This is where we must leave him, because it gets pretty monotonous from here on out. The man is driven, evidently, by a powerful and insane urge to punt chickens and shove donkeys, and will not rest until he has kicked one of each species of animal in the game. He tackles this mission with steadfast resolve.

Oh, and I've been told that there are bears somewhere in the game. I can't wait to kick a bear.

1 comment:

Why not tell me what you thought of this post? Especially if you liked it. And especially if you plan on rewarding me with baked goods.