Wednesday, August 4, 2010

EXP Podcast #89: Red Dead Roundup Part 2

We are back on the saddle, this time to talk about all the spoiler-laden story elements of Red Dead Redemption. Such an ambitious and expansive game requires quite a bit of wrangling, so this week's podcast is extra long to compensate. This week, we delve into Red Dead as it relates to other Western mythologies, the ups and downs of open world story telling, and the meaning of redemption in a barren and nihilistic landscape. If you have thoughts on the game yourself, we encourage you to chime in below in the comments section.

To listen to the podcast:

- Subscribe to the EXP Podcast via iTunes here. Additionally, here is the stand-alone feed.
- Listen to the podcast in your browser by left-clicking the title. Or, right-click and select "save as link" to download the show in MP3 format.
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Show notes:

- Run time: 62 min 37 sec
- Music provided by Brad Sucks


  1. Though I haven't played Red Dead Redemption myself (and don't especially plan to), I really enjoyed your discussion of the game and I think the longer and two-part show format allowed you guys to get into a much deeper discussion than usual. (I'd even love to hear a part 3, where you talk about all those things you mentioned not talking about at the end of this one!)

    So if I may humbly request, perhaps consider doing more two part shows in the future.

    And hey, keep up the good work! Your podcast has turned into one my regular listens.

  2. @ dbaumgart

    Glad you enjoyed it! Since we always try to maintain a short podcast for our listeners, a mere half hour, we rarely get to discuss the topics as deeply as we could. As we see, there are plenty of too long gaming podcasts out there, and we'd prefer to err on the shorter side. That being said, next time we tackle such a large game, we won't be as weary about its length.

  3. Not sure if that's necessary, but *SPOILERS!*
    Just finished playing the story part of RDR, and well what can I say, it is quite the experience. I jokingly called the game "Grand Theft Horse" before I actually got around playing it, and well, the basic recipe might be the same as GTA, but all the extra stuff, the different oven and the new toppings make it into a wholly different meal.
    I have to admit though, it took me quite a while to really get on with it. For the most part of the US side of the river I chose to be annoyed by the mechanics, especially duelling, which I think is one of the game's really big letdowns in implementation, although the general idea is pretty neat. It's just that when I load up the game, ready for a fun play session, leave the saving spot, encounter a duelist, go for it, and then loose that I'm then likely to loose interest in playing on. Which is mostly due to the randomness. Loose a duel, reload, try to get even with the guy, and then realize that those duelists pop up randomly and can't be reloaded with a save unless they're story based. So learning how to really successfully do the duels is hard since they're few and far between.
    But then there's so much to like about the game, it's hard to condemn it for the few shortcomings it undoubtedly has. The looks are *insane*. The game world is so stunningly pretty, so breathtakingly huge... The game is a technical achievement, and one of it's kind, that's for sure.
    The story is spot on, in the typical Rockstar fare of taking all cliches, throwing them into a pot with *some* earnesty and grimness and have them simmer in the hot western sun.
    I'm not too happy with the horse handling, since my horses kept running into walls or rocks or other obstacles way too often, and that just didn't seem fitting somehow. Shooting was a bit too easy, but then again, Marston *is* a WMD on two legs (or on horseback...).
    I really liked the Mexico part, mostly because it almost felt meaningful helping the revolutionaries. The desperately crying relatives of prisoners about to be executed, seeing all the firing squads - random and non random - was almost a good justification for the ensueing violence. Though I sometimes really kept wishing that this was another game, one where the player could actively choose sides rather than being forced to do the military missions first and then after the story progression allowed it side with the rebels. 'My' John Marston might have just sided with the rebels right away and helped their campaign all the way through, even after Williamson died.
    Which leads me to another minor point of criticism, which are some of the missions / cutscenes, where the player isn't in control, and the character is behaving in a (sometimes much) less competent way than the player driven character would / could have. Especially the final standdown is a *bit* problematic there, as it does tread into the 'why didn't Cloud heal Aerith with a Phoenix Down? I *had* one when she died!' territory.
    From a narrative PoV, the final standoff is great, from a gaming one it's rather old fashioned. I admit I don't know if it's actaually possible for John to survive there, I didn't, but I sure know I didn't have the louse six-shooter equipped when I went into that barn, and I also know for sure that I still had a whole bottle of Moonshine left. Oh, and Medicine of course. So the player driven John might've survived there.
    But as I said, for the narrative, that was necessary, John needs that final closure, the family too.

  4. All in all, RDR was a very enjoyable game, that took it's time to grow on me. I still have some challenges and sidemissions open (mostly just "collect stuff" and "win at gambling" realted ones though), and there's still treasure hunting to do, but I doubt I'll come back to New Austin too soon.
    It sure is a game that has a real lot of critical discussion potential to it.
    I'm hoping for some good DLC coming up. There's still so many spots in the game world that haven't really been used for anything, they wouldn't even have to expand the world map.
    Oh, and the have to add the possibility of train robbing. I've tried it once, but all I managed was to stop the train by shooting the driver.
    Anyway, I'm interested to see how RDR holds up against all the other open worlders out this year, especially how it holds up against Mafia II, as another cinematic / open world genre piece and successor to an old favourite of mine.

    And, err, whoopsidaisy, that comment got a tad bit long. o.<
    As I said. Lots of discussion potential in that game.

  5. Hey Tellurian,

    Epic comment, my friend. Like you, the game took a while to grow on me, but I was hooked by the time I got to Mexico.

    I liked your thoughts on the Mexican part and I wonder if Rockstar has considered the possibility of making an open world game with branching paths rather than a single, all-encompassing story. It would be interesting to see player choice impact the missions available. Of course, that would be really hard to implement, but we can dream...