Okay, I’m still catching up on 2011 movies before I put together my list but I’ll get there eventually. Let’s aim for BEFORE FEBRUARY. Anyway, meanwhile, let’s talk some video games.
I’m the kind of gamer who really doesn’t mind highly controlled experiences. Give me a hallway to run down with nothing to really explore, I don’t care. Since my artistic medium of choice is film, I really don’t mind a strong directorial vision of my games. You’re here to tell me a story in a different, exciting way. So do it. That doesn’t preclude me from playing wide open RPGs and the like, but yes, generally, I’m a story based gamer.
So that brings me to two games that are heavily story based, but tell their stories in different ways. UNCHARTED 3 is basically a game on rails. You go down the path that has been determined for you, shoot a few guys, run through some beautiful environments, and… that’s about it. It’s incredibly cinematic. You’ll shoot your way through some excellent setpieces the likes of which are seen in Hollywood movies and rarely video games.
This sounds boring in video game terms, but I really don’t mind it… normally. But UNCHARTED 3 just didn’t grab me. The stakes were never high until right at the very end. I mean, the impetus in action gaming is that you don’t want to fail. You are the hero and you want to save the day. In UNCHARTED 3, it just feels like you can’t fail. You can’t go the wrong way, you can’t mess up, and in the rare instances you can, the game just resets and points you in the right direction. So it’s like the video game version of an average high budget action movie. MacGuffin driven plot, forgettable baddies, low stakes, and lots of quips. What you see is what you get. It all feels a bit flat.
But that’s not the case for RED DEAD REDEMPTION, one of the best games I’ve played in recent memory. Let’s get the first thing you’ll notice out of the way… this game is gorgeous. It’s just enough to get on your horse and ride around the desert and watch the sunrise, or look at the brilliant stars on a moonless night. The level of detail and world building in this game is astounding. The characters are all well written, but smartly fit into the Western archetype so well. Familiar, while being fresh.
And the story is nicely small in focus even while sprawling across a huge area and variety of landscapes. Even ranching is made fun in this game. And while, like I said before, I’m not a big exploring type in games, just playing through the storyline provides you with enough thrill of exploration and discovery. It’s no more or less a controlled experience than UNCHARTED 3 (at least the way I played it, which is storming through the main storyline), but the free roaming environment, the dynamic atmosphere, the sprawling cast of characters… it all adds a flavor and depth to the world and the storytelling that makes RED DEAD REDEMPTION a far more rewarding experience. I loved pretty much every minute of it.