Red Dead Redemption 2

RDR1 has best game story-line of any I have ever played

red dead redemption 9 - RDR1 has best game story-line of any I have ever played

SPOILER ALERT. But it is an 8 year old game, so there's that.

I just purchased RDR1 two weeks ago, and I was blown away by the game. I know it is only new to me, and the nuance of the story-line has probably been beaten to death in forums over the years. However, I wanted to talk about what appears to be one of the more "controversial" aspects of the game according to the old threads I have been reading: the journey into Mexico.

According to Reddit and other (older) forums, people are pretty divided. Either they enjoy this part of the game, or simply can't wait to push through it. The former generally fall into two camps: either they speak Spanish themselves and understand what's going on just fine, or they don't and just enjoy the game as a whole. The latter tend to be non-Spanish speakers who find the area "barren" because they don't understand what's going on.

For me, Mexico is what moves the game from being simply good to a true masterpiece.

Now for starters, I identify quite a bit with John Marston. While I'm certainly not a grizzled gunslinger, I'm about the same age, have a kid about the same age, and understand his preoccupations with home and hearth. After the Assault on Fort Mercer (what I thought was the end of the game), another attribute we share suddenly becomes relevant: he speaks about as much Spanish as I do.

John's quarry has moved into a foreign land, and he must follow. He asks his friends Irish and West Dickens, who have been there before, what it's like. True to form, these unreliable hucksters offer a polished tale far from reality, and John encounters hostility before he even sets foot in the country.

It's when the character mounts the horse in Mexico for the first time and the music starts to play that the game becomes something truly special. You are suddenly quite aware that John is in a land that is the same, yet not the same. You have crossed a border. You can see home on the other side of the river, but you are heading away from it. You carry what you have learned with you, but the rules are different now.

Soon you encounter roadside trouble. People are in distress, but a non-Spanish-speaking player doesn't know what's going on. So you delay, trying to figure it out. Then someone gets shot, and that's that. So you ride on.

John's trepidation and lack of familiarity reflected my own. His first scripted encounters are hostile ones, and he doesn't know quite how to act unless violence is required. When he speaks with a shopkeeper, he tries to fuddle through with "Uh… hola!" The shopkeeper responds with something that sounds cordial, but you have no idea what he's really saying. You can only pick out general intent from the NPCs you walk past, bump into or run over. Even when people speak English, they only speak it to John – you have no idea what they are saying to eachother.


Spend enough time in the environment, though, and the player is able to figure things out in bits and pieces. This guy is saying he's innocent, that he has a family. That guy is telling his daughter there's no time. This other guy is calling John names.

Soon enough, John starts using a patois of words himself. "Mi nombre es John Marston! Remember mi nombre!"

The story of Red Dead Redemption explores change, aging, falling-out, the complications of old compacts and the 'death of eras'. As the Mexican people in the game live in the bones of the Spanish colonial era, so do the Americans live in the dying carcass of the Old West. The game is set right before the last continental state was formed, in the lead-up to WWI. As Agent Archer points out, "You should see what they're working on in Virginia. Soon there will be no war we can't win." On those merits alone, the story is fascinating.

But when I think of this game, the word that comes to mind is "unapologetic."

The characters are nuanced and imperfect. In their various turns and ways, they express bigotries and fallibilities, their temptations and sins and regrets. They debate politics and social issues, have their own strong and often shocking opinions, and sometimes say horrible things. Each character had their deep flaws, yet are fleshed out in their motivation and are thus sympathetic. Even Colonel Allende's dismal vision of leadership makes sense from his point of view.

Yet I believe that the bravest creative decision they made was to throw the player into Mexico the way they did. Even playing on Hardcore and not figuring out how to properly use DeadEye until Landon Ricketts taught me, being forced into a world where I had to muddle my way along without knowing the language presented a challenge unlike any I have ever experienced in a game. Even the subtitles are no help. I became truly immersed in the experience. I believe that experience, fantastical and fictional though it may be, changed me in some way.

"Far Away" by Jose Gonzalez marked the point where Red Dead Redemption moved from being just a game into an adventure.

10/10, would recommend.

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