Red Dead Redemption: Game, Movie, or Both?

Red Dead Redemption

If you follow my twitter (@RejectRobert, I recommend it for hilarity) or some of the tweets of some other film writers, you probably noticed a gigantic surge in Western themed tweets and curses about cougars as, far and wide, we were among the millions of people who picked up RockStar Games’ Red Dead Redemption, a sequel in spirit to their previous, under-rated awesomefest that was Red Dead Revolver.

Aside from us movie fanatics just being nerds in general, there is great reason why so many of us, myself included, became so invested in this title – it’s an engrossing story, a wild game, and a chance to live inside of a western. With a few big genre films coming out this year (Jonah Hex this weekend, True Grit in December) we planned to talk to you about Red Dead Redemption just because it was western related – though recently director John Hillcoat (The Road) and the team at RockStar gave us a real reason to cover it from a movie perspective – a short film, created entirely from in game mechanics.

If you’re not familiar with that phrase, “in game mechanics” means that what you see is created by the graphics engine of the system live – not something that was made on a computer or hyped up machine and then inserted into the game via cut scene. Often you’ll see games that look fantastic in previews, though that’s just because someone basically created a CGI movie based on the characters. When playing the game, things are decidedly less inspiring to look at. In game mechanics can generate their own cut scenes, which means if a horse is standing behind you in game, it’s there in the cut scene. A bird may also fly by completely randomly, or in the case of Red Dead Redemption, you may hear the growl of a cougar that will eat your horse moments after the scene ends. Fudge.

With The Man From Blackwater, director John Hillcoat was given access to all of the in-game mechanics of the game and allowed to direct whatever he wanted to from it. The end result is a not entirely related to the game itself – the plot isn’t being ruined by you watching this 30 minute short film. So here, watch it:

It’s really quite amazing that what Hillcoat has done is re-edited things you’ll find throughout the game into a brand new and entertaining storyline. Nothing here was created new for the project, which means that if you enjoy this in the slightest, you’ll flip your lid over the game. You’ll notice characters change clothing, which they do in the game. You’re in control of your own wardrobe and can build new outfits while playing. The same goes for acquiring new guns, horses, and almost limitless other possibilities.

On display you’ll notice excellent graphics, a magnetic and complicated lead in John Marston, and across the board excellent voice acting. There isn’t much more to say about this short film other than it’s cool, check it out, but if I may digress (and I may, I’m an editor, I do what I want), I’d like to pitch you on this game.

If you’ve liked RockStar’s work in the past, notably Grand Theft Auto, you’ll enjoy this game which is something akin to Grand Theft Horse. This is definitely a mature title (as you’ll see in the short) and I don’t care if you’re 16 or 36, you’ll be drawn into the story and game play. Unlike many other games, Red Dead Redemption has a serious cinematic quality to it. At dramatic spots and turning points in the game, the camera will have seamlessly maneuvered in such a way that you’re riding your horse across a dewy field as the sun sets and a piece of moving original score or a song from the soundtrack (which is amazing) is coming through the speakers. Without even noticing, you’ve blasted your way into a beautiful in-game movie sequence, except you’re still in complete control.

The visuals are striking, the storyline moving, and the amount of depth to the main characters is almost unbelievable. For the first time in gaming (for me) it feels like you’re controlling a movie rather than playing a game or watching a flick. The world is at your finger tips and it’s up to you to decide whether you’re going to lasso the bounty and return him alive or drag him to his death and dynamite him over a cliff.

You play as John Marston, a semi-reformed outlaw who is forced to do a variety of tasks and missions for men he neither likes nor trusts, part of which includes hunting down men he considered friends and mentors – men that tried to kill him, men that he will now try to kill. Here’s the official synopsis from RockStar:

America, early 1900’s. The era of the cowboy is coming to an end. When federal agents threaten his family, former outlaw John Marston is sent across the American frontier to help bring the rule of law. Experience intense gun battles, dramatic train robberies, bounty hunting and duels during a time of violent change. Red Dead Redemption is an epic battle for survival in a beautiful open world as John Marston struggles to bury his blood-stained past, one man at a time.

Available both for Sony’s Playstation 3 and Microsoft’s XBox 360, Red Dead Redemption is an awesome cinematic experience cleverly hidden within the open-world frame of a video game. If you decide to take the plunge into this world after watching this cleverly created short, find me on the Playstation Network under “BobbyQuickdraw” and I’ll be more than happy to hollow your skull.

Have you played Read Dead Redemption? What do you think of the game? Of the short?

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