Spoiler Alert: Red Dead Redemption

Red Dead Redemption has been out for close to a year now and since myself and GiffTor recently finished the game, JDevL was excited to actually be able to discuss some of the major plot points of the ending of the game. If you haven’t played Red Dead Redemption and still want to, turn back now. I swear we won’t be offended. However, if you have finished the game and want to add your viewpoints, feel free to do so below. If you have gotten this far and haven’t understood the meaning of the few sentences above, I’ll spell it out a little easier for you:

SPOILER ALERT!

Mexico is pretty drab, but it is filled with colorful characters.

Why Did Mexico Suck?

In the Red Dead Redemption story you start your journey in the Southern United States before moving on to Northern Mexico. More often than not, this became a place that stopped many a gamer in its path, including myself. I thought Mexico sucked because it took forever to get from one place to another. I realize that there is a quick travel option available, but I didn’t want to use that the whole game. In GiffTor’s case he thought “Mexico was rough to play through, mainly because I didn’t particularly like many of the characters Landon Rickets and then Luisa, who, of course, dies.” He goes on to say:

If you plotted out my game play time on a line graph, I think you’d see a big spike turning into a plateau when I was in Mexico for the sole reason that I wanted out, I was tired of being asked to steal the grocery wagon and then pursued by police when I pistol whipped the potential thief and dragged him behind my horse until he expired, and I really, really wanted to hunt bears.

Actually Mexico made me stop playing when I first bought it on the PS3 last May. It took me until January of this year before starting over on the Xbox 360 because I knew I had to finish it, as well as getting the achievement points. JDevL had a similar experience and stopped for a couple of months. He didn’t wait as long as I did to finish the game. “By the end of the game, I admired the pacing of Red Dead Redemption, but in the middle of it, when I hit Mexico, I was worn out.” Getting worn out was definitely an issue but he did find a few things to like along the way. “I did enjoy Mexico and the revolution plot, but it really did seem like John Marston would never make it home if he kept doing random tasks for these idiots.”

Overall we had a tough time getting through Mexico. The Revolution storyline was cool, but playing both sides of the team is a dangerous proposition and I always felt that it would come back to bite Marston’s ass if he never chose a side.

How did Tall Trees get its name?

Was Tall Trees Enjoyable?

I thought the third area (Tall Trees) was cool but I kept waiting for the proverbial “other shoe to drop.” I was expecting it to end with those damn G-Men turning on Marston at some point and killing John’s wife and son as I was trying to track down Dutch. That wasn’t exactly what happened. While GiffTor was annoyed by the bears, “Twin Pines was probably my favorite area of the game because the individual areas were somewhat better defined (Great Plains, Blackwater, Bear Claw camp) than, say, the difference between Rio Bravo and Cholla Springs.” That is a good point. In the desert everything looks the same as Christina has been known to espouse. JDevL was bound and determined to finish the game but was confronted by his old alter ego.

“By the time I hit Tall Trees, I was on a mission. I was going to finish the game, but a funny thing happened along the way. I fell victim to my own completionist need to finish all of the side missions when I hit the snowy forest.”

However, it wasn’t all rosy. He loved the snowy forest but “the town of Blackwater was a chore, just because it was so far away from everything and running missions back and forth became tedious.”

There might be a pinch of crazy in Dutch.

Is This The End for John Marston?

Before we get to the last John Marston mission, GiffTor describes the great music within Red Dead Redemption.

“Jose Gonzalez’s voice (the guy who sings this song, Far Away) sounds like he may have actually seen his father get gunned down by government agents.  I downloaded this soundtrack just for that song (happily, the rest of the soundtrack is great).”

Not something you might expect from a game like Red Dead Redemption, but it really set a great tone for the story. While JDevL and myself thought that the mission where Marston tracks down Dutch van der Linde “played out perfectly,” GiffTor had a different idea.

“I thought the mission was way too easy.  I had dropped like, 85 hours into the game at this point and all I had to do was smoke a bunch of guys (surrounded by allies), blast a couple of lanterns and chase Dutch to a cliff only to watch him perfect his swan dive?”

While he makes a good point, I personally never though any of the Rockstar sandbox games where about having a challenging boss. The battles are there to just serve the overall story. GiffTor is right, it is very easy but that didn’t make me think less of the game.

Getting into the more specific parts of John’s final mission, I thought that fighting your way up into the hills and finally making your way to Dutch’s fort put my patience to the test. By no means does that mean I was frustrated by any of it, just that I had to remain patient (which I’m not) in order to proceed without getting killed. Shooting the lamp and catching all that scaffolding (don’t know a better term for it) on fire was a cool way to get John face to face with his old mentor Dutch. GiffTor wanted to worry about getting killed but:

“felt like everyone “fit” just perfectly into their roles at the “endgame;” you get hints of Dutch’s humanity, how far he’s fallen and maybe most importantly, that he knows that grace is out of his reach at this point and it’s driven him a little bit crazy.”

JDevL also took notice of Dutch’s character:

“this confrontation was built up even better than the previous two gang members. The shootouts in the city, seeing him murder an innocent hostage right in front of you. The game took its time, but it did make you hate Dutch.”

That is so true. For me, killing the other two gang members didn’t have quite the same feeling of satisfaction that Dutch did. But knowing the relationship that John and Dutch shared, did Dutch kill himself to spare John from having to kill his “father” figure?

Home Sweet Home??

The Ranch

I thought that after defeating Dutch, John would be reunited with his family. That goal was the overriding motivation for Marston throughout the whole game. But the game decided to say “not so fast.” Red Dead Redemption pulled a Lord of the Rings: Return of the King on us and wouldn’t end. I didn’t like the ranch missions because I just wanted to the it to be over after playing 5 hours straight. GiffTor had a similar feeling. “The ranch took way. too. long.  I get the impression that they were trying to introduce you to this family that John had left behind and make you care about them but “Uncle” was treated like I already knew his backstory (I didn’t) and he was a grouchy old ass-hat.” However, GiffTor did like one member of the family:

“I really liked Abigail Marston.  I’m a big fan of westerns (the post-John Wayne/Roy Rogers westerns – the Man With No Name flicks, Shane…I like some moral ambiguity with my Cheerios) and Abigail Marston fit into that archetype that didn’t really show up in the more idealistic westerns but did in the later ones.  She’s tough and funny and independent in the way I think you’d have to be if you ran a ranch a half-day’s ride from the nearest neighbor.”

JDevL expected the game to end, too, and even though he “first interpreted this as just a slow burn down or bookend to the experience similar to how you were trained on Bonnie’s ranch.” He also was annoyed by the ranch missions. The one shining moment for me was the closure John got with Bonnie MacFarlane. Other than that I didn’t want to do any of the ranch missions. They just dragged. JDevL felt the same way. “I wanted to be done, I didn’t get it. I  appreciated the story telling, but there had to be some other way. I know too many people who gave up or wanted to give up during this.” We didn’t give up. We were too close to the end.

These are the men responsible.

John Marston is Killed.

My fears came true, just a little while after I thought they would. When those damn government agents double crossed John Marston and had the army come attack the ranch I felt satisfied. GiffTor put it best when he said:

“We got to spend all of this time with John Marston and realize he’s actually a pretty good guy, even if he is rough around the edges, sort of like Wolverine, but to the Feds, he’s an unstable element who has maintained ties to his old gang and even though he’s turned on them, he’s developed all kinds of contacts on both sides of the border and is married to someone who used to run with the gang, too.”

JDevL summed up the events leading up to John’s death. “So much of the greatness of the final scenes of Red Dead come from the fact you know exactly what is going to happen, you can’t stop it, but you are compelled to finish it.”  That is definitely true. As great as John Marston is as a character, he killed a lot of people. For him to end up with a perfect life wasn’t justified. Even though I personally wanted him to have the “happy” ending where he would learn to live on the run with his wife and son. JDevL’s thoughts on how John goes out in the end:

“I was compelled to conduct this man’s business with honor even when dealing with less than honorable people. John Marston went out the only way an outlaw should, in a flurry of gun fire. I was said to see my hero die, but it felt right.”

Jack finds Redemption.

Holy Redefinition

After spending the duration of Red Dead Redemption in the boots of John Marston, once he was dead, the game would be over right? Wrong. I thought, “Okay, this is the end. Satisfying game for sure but pretty lame conclusion.” Rockstar swerved me again by fast forwarding a few years, and now I’m playing as Jack Marston, doing his best impression of his father. I didn’t quite know what to think at first other than, will this game ever end? Edgar Ross, the bastard G-Man who blackmailed John throughout the game, was still alive. JDevL said:

There is only one thing left to do. Find Edgar Ross, the man who killed your father. The man who screwed your father over and led him on his inevitably pointless missions. The man who killed one of the greatest game characters ever.

GiffTor compares the scenario with the motion picture Heat:

Getting to track down and exact revenge and redeem my family’s honor was one of those moments where a game actually let me have what I wanted.  Hell, with the scope of Red Dead, let’s be fair – it was one of those moments where, if you hadn’t gotten it, the experience still would have been incredible, but you’d have wished it was slightly different – like the end of Heat.  Every time I watch it, I wish DeNiro’s character could get away.

JDevL sums up the final confrontation:

You track down Edgar while he fishing and enjoying his peaceful retirement. One quick duel later and that bastard goes down. One shot to the face and it’s over (followed by countless shots while his lifeless body lay on the ground). Cue the most satisfying title card ever. Red Dead Redemption.

My version is a little less flowery. Jack kills Edgar in a duel. Title screen. End credits. F%$*(#& AWESOME.

Final reactions:

Colefacekilla

For the game to take on a whole different meaning in a short period of time is remarkable story telling.

GiffTor

I picked the Mauser C96 since it had the highest bullet capacity and then proceeded to put as many rounds into Agent Ross’s face as I could.  Once the cordite smoke drifted away, I felt…redeemed.

JDevL

The title redefined itself so many times leading up to the end. But god damn. That was a great ending to a great story and a great game.

End Spoiler Alert

Sources:

Giant Bomb (images)