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First Impressions: Red Dead Redemption II

I’ve been sitting here doing a spot of writing while waiting for Red Dead Redemption II to install on my Xbox. I think the wait from the moment I put the disc in to install and finally pressing the start button for the first time seemed longer than the year long delay. This moment has been a long time coming (eight years) and now I’m about to play RDR II for the first time, I have the appropriate cerveza ready too…

Beer

Okay so all I’m doing here is taking a look at the first few of hours of the game. I’ll not be going through the story much or at all if possible. This is just to get a quick look and offer my first impressions, a more detailed and fuller look at the game will come later next week after I’ve spent more time with it. So here we go, I’ll just quickly pop in a SPOILER warning, though I won’t be giving any story elements away except for covering the opening of the game.

Just looking at the title screen has put a big ole’ smile on my face (though that could also be the beer). I fucking loved the previous game, best game Rockstar have made to date if you ask me. Yeah Grand Theft Auto is their big hitting series, but there was just something about RDR that entertained me so much more than any GTA game. RDR was a masterpiece of game design, story writing and characterization… oh and gameplay. This one has a hell of a reputation to up hold, even if its half as good as the previous game, it’ll still be a damn fine title.

RDR II Snowbound

So it all kicks off with Dutch Van der Linde and his gang lost in a snowstorm before they manage to find meager shelter, seems the law is after them. A long cut-scene just setting the tone before I finally get to control Arthur who with Dutch, goes out in the snowstorm to try to find some help and supplies. Dutch and Arthur talk while looking for some help out in the snow and they talk of a robbery gone wrong and a possible set up (you can chose from various conversation points too), the conversation continues and they mention John – I’m guessing it is the John I think it is. I’ve found a house that could offer some help, only things have gone a little sour. Okay so I’m going to jump ahead a little here, the opening chapter goes on a while and just teaches you the basics. That’s not to say its not any good as its great – but I want to get into the whole open world side as the opening is pretty linear. Still the first chapter shows you the new hunting, searching and fighting mechanics, etc plus you get to meet more than a few familiar faces. There’s a lot of new stuff to learn just in the first hour or so of play but it’s the open world I really want to get a look at and play around in, so I’m going to skip this write up forward a little.

RDR II Trio

So now it looks like I have the freedom the play around and explore the map, which is really what I want to do. The first thing that hits me is the graphics, damn this game is good looking (for the record, I am playing on the Xbox One X in 4K). The original RDR (I don’t mean Revolver) was a striking game and still is eight years after release. But this? This is a whole new level, RDR II looks sexier than Kelly Brook in a swimsuit and lets be honest, that’s pretty damn high praise…

Kelly Brook.jpg

So our gang have set up a new camp out of the mountains and away from all the snow. This is all looking very Wild West now. Seems I have grown a beard (I mean my character Arthur, not me personally) and you can shave in the game or just that that chin-rug grow. Got a full-on Brian Blessed right now. Looks like you have to support the camp by donating food and money so hunting really has a purpose this time around. But before I got lost in all that stuff, I’m going to head into the nearest town to play around with some of the new features.

RDR II Drinking.jpg

Found a small town called Valentine, it’s not the grandest of places but there’s still a few things to mess around with. Had my hair cut and had a shave. Took a nice hot bath as I’d gotten a little dirty travelling around. Hung out in a saloon and had a few beers, then started a mass brawl. Honestly, it was great fun. Looked like something from a Western flick with people being thrown over tables and out of windows, chairs smashed over their heads and so on – a good old fashioned bar brawl, so satisfying. Did a spot of hunting and sold my wares to the local butcher. Even found a tent that does slide shows for a little entertainment.

RDR II Bath

Well that about wraps this quick look a the game up. I know I’ve only scratched the surface here, so much more to this one that I’ll discover later. I’ll aim to rush to the end of this so I can do a more in-depth look over the next few days. But so far I’m very impressed. Rockstar have created an impressive and amazing world here. I thought they did a stunning job with GTA V… and they did. But RDR II is head and shoulders above it. The level of detail, the way everything feels alive, the amount of interactions and distractions to enjoy. You know how that This is Spinal Tap quote about going to eleven that is overused? Hell I’m guilty of overusing it myself. Well in order for me to describe this game, they need to make a Spinal Tap sequel.

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What Should Rockstar Games Do Next?

Only one more week!

Red Dead Redemption II.jpg

Okay so I fucking love Rockstar Games – as publishers, they have released some of the most enjoyable games I have ever played and as developers they have created characters and game worlds that have left a lasting impression on me for years. After a year long delay, we will soon be getting our hands on their latest release, Red Dead Redemption II… and I can’t wait. The first Red Dead Redemption is one of my all time favorite games and the new sequel (its really a prequel) is my most anticipated game in a decade if not ever.

Rockstar Games are a big, worldwide company with many branches, different development teams that work independently of each other as well as sometimes teaming up to craft some of the most loved games ever made. They’ve had a great and record breaking life in gaming since Rockstar Games was formed 1998, formally BMG Interactive. And I’m willing to bet that they have already begun work on their next fleet of games, even if only on an early pre-production level. At least one of their several branches must be working on something now that RDR II is so imminent.

But my question is, what should Rockstar do after the release of Red Dead Redemption II?

I guess the most obvious answer to that question is Grand Theft Auto VI. After the staggering success of GTA V, of course Rockstar would want to follow up with a new game in their most successful franchise and most probably have already been working on it in some capacity. But you know what, as much as I loved GTA V (and I really did), I’d be happy if they left it for a few years more yet despite the fact the last game was originally released back in 2013.

But before I get into my suggestions and ideas, I’d like to make a quick observation.

Have you noticed the gap between Rockstar’s games is getting longer and longer? There was a point when they would release a new game every two years or so (sometimes earlier) now its more like every five years. As I said at the start of this article, I fucking love Rockstar Games but I feel they have become a little lazy/complacent in recent years. Yeah I know they deliver highly polished and (almost) perfect games… often after numerous delays and yes I know games of their magnitude take a long time to develop. But still, they have multiple development studios and yet they can only manage an average of one game every five years as of late?

Rockstar Games Logos

Let me just go back ten years to 2008. Rockstar released Grand Theft Auto IV and it’s two amazing expansions with The Lost and Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony. They also released Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars. Then there was Red Dead Redemption and it’s brilliant add-on, Undead Nightmare. They published L.A. Noire. Developed Max Payne 3 and of course the mighty GTA V in 2013. That’s nine games (including add-ons) in the space of only five years between the release of GTA IV in 2008 to GTA V in 2013. Now lets take look at 2013 to 2018… nothing until Red Dead Redemption II in seven days. From nine games in five years to only one game in the latter five years. That’s quite a production drop off eh? I can only hope they have been working on numerous games over the last five years and will release them all pretty soon.

Anyway, back to the point.

As I was saying, the obvious game that Rockstar could announce next is GTA VI and despite my remark earlier about not being that fussed by another game in the series, if they did announce it – yeah I’d be chuffed. But I’d like to see something else from them other than more GTA, or other games as well as a new GTA anyway. Rockstar really have a rich pool in which to dive when to comes to their IPs outside of GTA. So I’d like to take a look at a few and offer some suggestions.

Bully 2

Bully

Oh how I adored the original Bully. A love letter to one of my all time favorite games growing up, Skool Daze given that distinctive Rockstar lick of paint. You played as troubled teenager Jimmy Hopkins who is forced to attended the the corrupt and seedy Bullworth Academy. A school that is as prestigious as it is scandalous. Jimmy crosses paths with all sorts of characters from geeky nerds in need of help to gangs of greasers and jocks. Mischievous and rule breaking teachers impede his mission as Jimmy uncovers a deep seeded delinquency and wrongdoing running rampant though the school.

When originally released back in 2006, Bully was nailed the cross by naysayers in the media claiming the game was a bullying simulator teaching children how to carry out bullying and the game was even accused of glorifying and trivializing school bullying. These claims were all made before Bully was even released. Of course Bully was nothing like it was being perceived in the press and it was in fact the opposite as your character stood up to the bullying and corrupt teachers trying to put and end to the immorality in the school.

Bully Fight

Anyway, I want a sequel. Bully is one of Rockstar’s best IPs not to already have a sequel. There have been rumors in the past of a new game. Back in 2009, Shawn Lee who wrote the music score for the game said he was working on Bully 2… it never happened. in 2011, Rockstar co-founder Dan Houser said they will work on Bully 2 after Max Payne 3… it never happened and then in 2013 Houser again said he has plans for Bully 2… it never happened. Even as recent as 2017 the rumors began to fly again when supposed “leaked images” of Bully 2 appeared online yet Rockstar never commented either way. Plus more recently, it has been suggested that Rockstar’s next game will be a sequel to Bully after RDR II is released. All we can do is wait and see.

Max Payne 4

Max Payne 3

Telling the story of ex-cop turned vigilante, turned bodyguard. Famed for its bullet time shootouts and action set pieces. The Max Payne franchise is fast paced (except for the slo-mo stuff) and non-stop action from start to finish. But there’s also an interesting story about the dark and twisted Max Payne himself from the first game from when his wife and new born baby daughter were brutally murdered.

Max Payne 3 Action

Max is a complex and deep character with a broken soul… who likes jumping around in slow-motion shooting people in the face. As much as I enjoyed Max Payne 3 it lacked that dark edge the previous two games had when Rockstar decided to change the presentation to a format I really didn’t like all that much with its distorted/glitched cut-scenes and all that guff. The game itself was immense fun though but if they do bring Max Payne back, I just hope they ditch the whole glitch presentation and go back to something more like the first two’s graphic novel idea. A more film noir approach. Speaking of which…

L.A. Noire 2

L.A. Noire

This game was a very mix bag title when it comes to opinions. Some people hated the game while others loved it. I always felt a lot of the hate came from groups of people expecting the game to be Grand Theft Auto in the 1940s what with it having the Rockstar name attached and all. But here’s the thing, L.A. Noire was not a Rockstar game at all. It was published by them yeah, but it wasn’t developed by Rockstar. The game was created by Team Bondi who are no longer around and closed down a few years back now.

But when Team Bondi closed, they sold the L.A. Noire IP to Rockstar who now own all rights. Rockstar then released a remaster of the game which I recently played through… and still thoroughly enjoyed it as much as my first time with the game last gen. I loved the slower pace, the clue finding and evidence collecting. The having to use the old noodle to piece everything together, check your notebook and question suspects over the various crimes. Being a detective was great fun.

L.A. Noire Badge

I hope they didn’t just buy the IP to make a remaster as I feel this game has a lot of potential. L.A. Noire was not a perfect game and I could sit here and nit-pick it even though I think its utterly brilliant. Seeing as the first game was inspired by real life crimes (namely the Black Dahlia), I’d like to see further games follow suit. As much as I loved the 1940s setting of the first game, I’d like to see them move to a 70s setting, I mean that decade was full of notable and infamous murders, Rockstar would be spoiled for choice. The Manson Family, John Wayne Gacy, The Zodiac, Son of Sam, Ted Bundy to name a few. Plus pick a city like San Francisco as its backdrop. The sequel may not make sense being called L.A. Noire 2 if the time-frame and setting is changed but you get the idea.

The Warriors 2

The Warriors.jpg

Perhaps one of Rockstar’s most overlooked games, which is a shame as its amazing. Based on the classic 70s flick about a street gang being accused of a murder they didn’t commit just trying to get back to their home turf. The film is great as was the game. It was nothing more than a scrolling beat em’ up but one made with a lot of love and attention to the source material including bringing back the original actors to reprise their rolls.

The Warriors Fight.jpg

Now I now what you are thinking, there is no The Warriors 2 film to base a game off. No there isn’t, but there wasn’t a Scarface 2 film to base a game of either, yet it exits with Scarface: The World Is Yours. I’m sure the talent at Rockstar Games could come up with a new and original story to work as a sequel. I mean the majority of the first game actually took place months before the film anyway with only the last few missions being based on the events shown in the film. So it just goes to show they can write an original story while still being inspired by the movie at the same time. Can you dig it?

More Red Dead Redemption

Red Dead Redemption Art

Goes without saying really doesn’t it? Of course I want more RDR, the first game (and I mean Redemption not Revolver) is one of my all time favourite games. The soon to be released sequel/prequel is most definitely my most anticipated game ever. I have played and finished the first game, I don’t know how many times over the last eight years but I’m sure I’m onto double figures. I just played through it again the other week as I get excited for RDR II.

Original Image

The Wild West is a great setting with hundreds of possible stories to be told. Other games could be connected to the already established lore and characters, or they could be all new tales. Either way, I don’t care. Just give me more RDR, only maybe get time between the release date a little less than eight years.

Agent

Agent

I’ve not forgotten about this one, not at all. See Agent was a game being worked on by Rockstar to be released as a PlayStation 3 exclusive – only that never happened. Interestingly, the game has never been officially cancelled either and Rockstar even renewed the copyright for the game in recent years. Plus Agent is still shown as an up and coming game on their official site (still listed as coming to the PS3) Is there a chance that Agent is still being worked on?

Agent Screen

Then there is the fact that images from the (unfinished) game have found their way online (see above). I hope the game is still being worked on as it sounded intriguing. Very little was known about Agent before everything went dark but what was known is that you played as a secret agent during the Cold War in the late 70s. The game would rely heavily on stealth gameplay. To be honest, it’s most probably is dead but as I said, it’s not been confirmed either way.

DMA/Rockstar Classics Collection

DMA Design

One of my favourite purchases of the last few years was the Rare Reply from 2015. A collection of thirty games from the legendary developer. So why not a similar thing covering DMA Design from before they became Rockstar and maybe even early Rockstar games too? Now I’m not sure how the rights thing will work out or if Rockstar Games even own any of the IPs for the older DMA games but I’m sure they could work something out.

Lemmings.jpg

Here are a few title suggestions they could include. The classic shooters Menace and Bloody Money. Lemmings would have to be included without question as would Lemmings 2: The Tribes. WalkerUnirally and Body Harvest would all be a dead certs. Plus of course I can’t forget GTA and GTA 2. Even get a little more modern with the likes of Red Dead Revolver and Manhunt maybe all topped off with improved graphic resolutions and all the usual gubbins. Ply the collection with game histories,  documentaries, makings of, artwork, etc. Throw in online multiplayer for games that are applicable and you’d have a corking collection.

Something New

New.jpg

Pretty much all of my suggestions have been other games in already established franchises (except Agent). Rockstar have some amazing talent working behind the scenes and I’m sure they could come up with some all new IPs.

I do love me some GTA and of course RDR. But there are times when I’d like to see something new. I’m a fan if these big, open world, sandbox type games. I really enjoy just exploring the map and playing around with the game mechanics, getting lost in all the distractions and side quests, etc. No one does open world games better than Rockstar – but how about something else from them? The Manhunt games were pretty popular… massively controversial, but popular. They weren’t open world and instead followed a more linear gameplay style. You may notice no mention of a new Manhunt game in this list. Well that’s not because I didn’t like the linear thing but more a case of I just wasn’t a big fan of the games in general.

The Long Dark

I’d like to see something more streamlined from Rockstar. I mean, The Warriors was linear and I loved it, so was Max Payne 3. The more restrictive game style just needs a better game within it and I’m positive that Rockstar are the developers to get it right. I’m a fan of hardcore survival, story driven games. Have you played The Long Dark? It’s brilliant with all it’s many variations on trying to survive the harsh weather. I’d love to see Rockstar do something like that with their production quality for example. A strong, story driven game with hundreds of possible variances.

Lets see some new IPs, new gameplay mechanics and ideas. A break from all these 50+ hour stories and huge open world maps.

Duo

Oh by the way. Did you know this time next week and Red Dead Redemption II is released?

The History Of Red Dead

Two weeks or fourteen days if you prefer. Hell, you could even say a fortnight. Either way, Red Dead Redemption II is almost here. It will soon be time to head into the Wild West once more – but how did we get to RDR II anyway? Well that’s what this article is all about, from the very start before Red Dead Redemption even existed to the release of the latest game in the franchise. This is The History of Red Dead Redemption.

In 1984, a Colombian artist by the name of Diego Angel set up his own visual effects company called Angel Studios, Inc. By the 90s, the studio specialized in computer generated effects work for movies, music videos and the like. You know all the CGI work in the film The Lawnmower Man? Yup that was Angel Studios.

Lawnmower Man.jpg

In 1996 Angel Studios worked on the cut-scenes for the game Mr. Bones on the Sega Saturn and got its first taste of the gaming industry. From then, they began developing their own games – Major League Baseball Featuring Ken Griffey Jr. was their first title released on the Nintendo 64 in 1998. They also handled the port of Resident Evil 2 for the Nintendo 64 too. But it was their driving games that really got them noticed, games such as Midtown Madness, its sequel Midtown Madness 2 and Test Drive: Off-Road Wide Open were well received at the time. But it was a relationship with a certain developer/publisher where things really changed.

Enter Rockstar Games who stepped into publish Midnight Club: Street Racing as well as Smuggler’s Run and Smuggler’s Run 2, all developed by Angel Studios in the early 2000s. But Rockstar were not the only company impressed with the studio. Capcom loved how Angel Studios manged to port Resident Evil 2 back in 98 and wanted to team up on a new game. A few ideas were brought up before it was decided that Capcom wanted to revive one of their arcade classics, a scrolling shooter from 1985 called Gun.Smoke.

Gun

This was a top down scrolling shooter Wild West inspired game where you played a bounty hunter tasked with bringing numerous outlaws to justice. This new version would make use of 3D graphics and in the early 2000s, Red Dead Revolver was born. The game was not finished but an early version was shown around 2002 as a work in progress. The plan being that Angel Studios would develop the game and Capcom would publish it. Revolver was set to be a third person shooter with its heart still firmly in the arcade, an O.T.T., non-stop, action game with little regard for realism. This is where things began to fall apart. While Capcom wanted a straight up arcade style game, Angel Studios wanted to make something with a little more depth, they wanted a story and characters. A divide began to form between the two as they just could not agree on the direction of Red Dead Revolver and so development ground to a halt.

The relationship between Rockstar Games and Angel Studios a few years previously continued to grow as Angel Studios were working on Midnight Club II to be published by Rockstar while the whole Red Dead Revolver debacle unfolded. In 2002 Rockstar Games parent company, Take-Two Interactive bought Angel Studios outright and renamed them Rockstar San Diego. Now a part of the whole Rockstar Games umbrella of studios, the ex-Angel Studios and now newly named Rockstar San Diego could no longer develop games for anyone else other than Rockstar Games… so Red Dead Revolver was finally put in its grave. However, it was a short death as Rockstar co-founders Sam and Dan Houser had been keeping an eye on this Wild West game Capcom had asked Angel Studios to develop, they liked how it looked and felt there could be a good game under all that ridiculous arcade crap. So Take-Two stepped in and bought the rights to the game from Capcom with Rockstar Games taking over publishing duties. Development of Red Dead Revolver was back on track and this time developer Rockstar San Diego and publisher Rockstar Games shared a vision. This wasn’t going to be the all action, arcade title Capcom originally wanted it to be. Now with the backing of Take-Two and Rockstar Games, with the massive success of the Grand Theft Auto series with their character and story driven gameplay – the development team finally had their vision for the game respected.

Rockstar San Diego

Rockstar San Diego got to work cutting out most of the more ridiculous moments Capcom insisted on including (there was a flying character at one point) and began replacing them with gritter and grounded elements. While the game was reigned in from its more outrageous origins, Revolver still maintained a level of humour, a style Rockstar had become famed for with their previous games. There was a level of realism and maturity without losing a sense of fun.

After a troubled development cycle and even a short stint of being all but dead only to be revived by Take-Two/Rockstar Games – Red Dead Revolver finally saw the light of day in 2004 when it was released for PlayStation 2 and Xbox. Telling to story of Red Harlow who, as a child, sees his parents murdered over the discovery of some gold. Years later, Red has become a bounty hunter who sets out to track down and extract revenge on those who killed his loved ones.

Red Dead Revolver

The game was a moderate hit for Rockstar selling less than a million copies in North America, it didn’t set the gaming world alight as their previous GTA games had done – but Revolver still saw positive reviews and a loyal fanbase was created. The future of this new IP was uncertain for a time as Rockstar San Diego concentrated on the Midnight Club franchise instead. But that little cowboy game still left an impression on the Houser brothers, they saw something in the game they wanted to explore. When Rockstar got to create a title from the ground up, installing their trademark DNA and not just take over a failing project, that’s when the RDR franchise was truly born. The next game began initial development the year after Revolver was released in 2005 and this time they raised the bar. No one expected much of it and hardly anyone really remembered the previous RDR title with some thinking that the new game was an all new IP.

It was six years between games but the sequel, Red Dead Redemption was released in 2010 and the series underwent a drastic direction change. Revolver was a pretty linear game, yeah there were slight elements of openness and freedom. But by and large, Revolver was restrictive… bloody good fun but it lacked that open-world environment other Rockstar Games had and were famed for. Redemption changed that as its basically GTA wearing a cowboy hat and just for the record… I think RDR is better than GTA. Still being developed by Rockstar San Diego for the most part but also enlisting help from other Rockstar Games studios, Redemption took the ideas from Revolver and cranked up the volume. The game is a work of art, but that’s not to say it didn’t have problems along the way.

Red Dead Redemption Art

Development for the game was strained to say the least. It was the first time Rockstar had tired to develop a game via multiple studios and the logistics were a nightmare. The building of the map itself was also a major problem. See with games like GTA that are set within cities, developers can use tricks to hide elements behind buildings or not even program graphics at all and use a lesser draw distance. With RDR being set in a large and open world with a lack of skyscrapers, etc this meant the map had fewer restrictions so the player would see more of the world and would need a bigger draw distance which proved problematic. Plus there were various issues with the impressive horse models in the game that took over a year of development alone. The recent Leslie Benzies lawsuit saw all sorts of accusations come out detailing the many, many problems while developing Redemption. And yet despite the numerous obstacles Redemption was released after a few weeks delay in 2010. With you playing as John Marston who is forcibly working with the government to track down ex-members of his old gang. The whole game is just a joy to play and leads up to one of the greatest endings to a game ever. There was some fantastic DLC released for the game too in the shape of Undead Nightmare and a handful of online extras, but nothing was ever mentioned of another RDR game for years.

Redemption was a much bigger hit than the previous game shifting a little over 14 million copies and fans were screaming out for a sequel. Then in October 2016 and after several rumors, Rockstar announced Red Dead Redemption II via a teaser trailer saying the game would be released in the fall of 2017 but it was delayed. This time given a spring 2018 date… only to be delayed again. This time given a solid 26th of October 2018 date, a date just now two weeks away. Developed by pretty much every studio under the Rockstar Games umbrella and reportedly coming in at a whopping 105gb install (on the PS4, that doesn’t include the 4K enhancements for the Xbox One X), RDR II is going to be a huge game of epic proportions.

Lawnmower Man Red Dead Redemption II

From wired cyber sex scenes in The Lawnmower Man to the realistic horse bollocks of Red Dead Redemption II. Angel Studios/Rockstar San Diego have come a long way.

 

Will Red Dead Redemption II Come To PC?

Yup its almost here only twenty two days left and you can tell I’m excited as all I’ve written the last few weeks are RDR related articles with a few more to follow before launch day. Very, very soon and after a year long delay, PlayStation and Xbox owners will be able to finally be able to play Red Dead Redemption II. But while console owners are gearing up to play what will easily be the best game of 2018, what about PC owners?

Comp

The first game (and I don’t mean Revolver) was never ported to the PC and this casts a little shadow of doubt over the chance of RDR II making its way to the platform too. But why didn’t RDR make it over to the PC? Well there is a rumor going around the interwebs that the game never game to PC because the coding was a mess and it was just too much trouble to port. Its a rumor that I can find no evidence about though. I’m pretty sure the messy code theory is just something some idiot said a while back and given the nature of the internets and people not bothering to check basic facts, it just spread like a bad game of Chinese whispers gotten out of hand.

I suppose there could be some truth in the code not being very easy to port to PC…but there is a major flaw with that idea. The game was designed and coded on PCs to begin with. So how could the coding for RDR be a mess and not work on PC when it was coded on a PC? The closest thing I can find that suggests there were problems with RDR is this article from 2016 that mentions problems with the development from 2006. But it never specifically mentions problems with the coding nor a PC version, just general issues with the game’s development overall and all games have troubles during the development cycle, so this is hardly news really. So we can’t really say that is proof the code was too messy to post to the PC. As I say, I chalk this one up to a rumor that spread over the interwebs and nothing more.

The Gang

So why no PC port? Well it has been confirmed by Rockstar Games’ Kris Roberts, who was one of the lead developers on RDR that they never even considered a PC port. This article right here confirms this. In the worlds of the man himself…

“I don’t think there was ever an intention to have a PC version of Red Dead Redemption”

– Kris Roberts

Could it really be that simple, that Rockstar just never even wanted to do a PC port of RDR to begin with? It does make more sense than the code not working for a game that was coded on PCs right? But I think there could be another factor and perhaps the most important one when it comes to running a successful company like Rockstar… money. See, in the same article, Kris Roberts also mentions how he was surprised that they did a PC version of Grand Theft Auto V and how that game was only originally going to be for consoles.

As we all now know, GTA V was a big seller. In fact its the most successful piece of entertainment in history. Not just game, but most profitable and successful anything. And its still making money five years after its initial release thanks to the online mode. But at the time, Rockstar didn’t know just how popular it was going to be so didn’t want to risk a PC port. It was only after the unbelievable sales that the idea to port the game to PC came about. This is a theory that can also be found with Grand Theft Auto IV. Again, GTA IV was originally a console only game, but it sold well and so was later ported to PC after strong sales. So how does all of this relate to the lack of a PC port of RDR?

Compare Pic

Look, I love RDR, you love RDR, a lot of people love RDR. But there is one very simple fact and that is RDR  is not as popular as GTA which is Rockstar’s flagship franchise. Again GTA IV was only ported to PC after the impressive sales on console, same with GTA V. RDR only shifted a little over 14 million units, now selling 14 million is lot, of course it is. But compared to GTA IV‘s 25 million sales from before RDR was released? Well its just not good enough.

So I think its a combination of the fact that Rockstar never really considered a RDR PC port and the fact that the game under-performed (compared to the previous sales of GTA IV that is.) that Rockstar just didn’t see the point in a PC version. You have to bear in mind that a later port means pouring money back into development, optimizing,  advertising, packaging, distribution and the like, all of which costs some serious coin. But if the sales are not good enough, then why risk it? In short, if RDR had been as popular as GTA IV and sold as many copies, then it most probably would’ve been ported to the PC. So the next time someone says that there was no PC port of RDR because the code was a mess, just call them an idiot seeing as the game was coded on a PC. Its really nothing more than a popularity/money issue.

Original Image

So to answer the question of, will Red Dead Redemption II come To PC? I guess that depends on the sales. I’m sure Rockstar’s parent company Take-Two have sales targets in mind and if RDR II meets and even beats those targets then they’ll want to make more money from their product and a PC version would be on the cards. So if you want to see RDR II on PC, you’d better get your fingers crossed that it sells… a lot. But with the RDR name just not as popular as GTA, there’s a good chance that won’t happen.

Why The Most “Boring” Part Of Red Dead Redemption Is My Favourite

October is just around the corner and that means two big things. First, Halloween is almost here. Second, Red Dead Redemption II is now only four weeks away, fuck it lets say twenty eight days instead, sounds much closer. My fingers will be tired from all the typing I’ll be doing during the last couple of weeks of October covering all I have planned.

Original Image

RDR II is on the horizon and I can’t wait. This is a game I’ve been looking forward to ever since I finished the first game (yes I do know about Red Dead Revolver, but you know what I mean) eight years ago, before this sequel/prequel was even announced. Yet wait is exactly what I must do and to help pass the time, I’ve been enjoying the stunning world Rockstar gave us with the first Red Dead Redemption. Yup I have played though RDR again ahead of the release of the new game. The 4K update for the Xbox One X backward compatible version is sexy and for an eight year old game, it can easily hold it’s own against games released today.

Now there’s a hell of a lot of things I love about RDR, the setting of the Wild West, the well written and acted characters with both main and periphery ones being very memorable, the world itself is full of life. The game is packed of things to do from the main story missions to side quests and even random encounters. Fancy taking on some wanted bandits, maybe hang out in a saloon and play some poker or liar’s dice? Go hunting for wildlife or even treasure. Unlock new clothing items, weapons and horses. RDR is one well packaged game with a lot rammed into it, so it’s kind of hard to single out just one favourite part…but I think I’ve manged to narrow it down.

As I said, there is a lot to like about RDR from its main story to its numerous side quests. The humor that is peppered throughout the game is brilliant and compliments the well written characters perfectly. Sometimes you forget you are playing a gritty Wild West game when you have characters providing comedy like Nigel West Dickens, Seth Briars or that Irish guy, I forget his name…

Red Dead Redemption Irish

But its not the humor of RDR that is my favourite part. Nor is it the varied side-quests like having to collect a bunch of flowers for a dead woman or helping a stranger build a flying machine. My favourite part is not even the lead character of John Marston even though I thought he was an utterly charming and engrossing character to play as from start to finish – one of my favourite gaming protagonists ever. Maybe its the map with its beautiful locales and vistas that just make you stop what you are doing and look around, admire your surroundings? Nope. Could it be the weather effects in the game, how you can see storm clouds slowly building the bright blue sky before a torrent of rain hits you forming puddles on the ground as lighting comes crashing down, still the best weather effects in a game so far…not that either. I do love how the game is loaded with dozens up on dozens of tiny little details and random events/encounters so you never see the same thing over and over – but there’s a part I love even more. You may think its the fact you play as hardened outlaw, robber and murderer John Marston who takes time out of his busy schedule of being an all round badass to stop, pick some wild flowers and exclaim “you little beauty!”.

Basically my point is that RDR is full of moments both big and small that could be my favourite and selecting just one moment is next to impossible. Yet after replaying through the game recently…again, I have managed to pin down the one part where it hit me that RDR was more then just a game, it was an experience. I’m going to get into SPOILERS from this point onward as I cover the end of the game, so if you’ve still not played and finished RDR then stop reading now and go play it.

Red Dead Redemption Fine Spot

So if you’ve finished the game, then you know what happens at the end and how its one of the most emotional and impactful game endings ever. The climax is both a major downer and a brilliant resolve at the same time…yet its not the very end of John Marston’s journey, but more a case of the ending and everything that leads up to in the last hour or so.

I was talking to someone about the final few missions of RDR after Dutch is dead and you go back to your ranch. They said that part is the most dull and boring of the whole game. I respectfully disagreed as those last handful of missions are by far my favourite part. Allow me to explain why and maybe paint a picture along the way too of my first time experiencing the ending with a quick recap and my view of that final stretch of RDR.

Red Dead Redemption Edgar

So the basic plot of RDR is that you playing as John Marston is under control by the government who are holding John’s wife and son as collateral to force him to track down and kill his old gang members. After tracking down the final member, Dutch the old gang leader, the government allows John to return to his wife, Abigail and son, Jack on his ranch. Its that moment after Dutch is dead when the best part of the game begins.

See, John is now free from his governmental ties and rides back to his ranch and to his family. One of the few vocal tunes kicks in (Compass by Jamie Lidell) as you make the journey home riding on your horse through the Tall Trees and onto the Great Plains areas, the song wells up as you get closer to Beecher’s Hope, your ranch and your family. After his long action and violence packed adventure, John is back home and he takes to tending to his homestead. Doing a run to MacFarlane ranch to drop off supplies along with his slightly jealous wife, Abigail. He rounds up some cattle with the help of his cantankerous old uncle, scares birds away from his corn silo. John swears never to return to that outlaw life now he is free and plans on spending the rest of his days by Abigail and Jack’s side making a life as a farmer. He finally has his redemption.

Red Dead Redemption John and Dutch

Everything is perfect…but that’s when it hits you that you’re still playing the game. Surely it should’ve ended a while back when John first got back to his family directly after Dutch’s death. John has been freed from his government ties, he’s back home with his wife and son, happy ending, roll credits, job’s a good un’.

Only the credits haven’t rolled. So why are you still playing, you have finished the game, you have done what the government asked and are now free? Why are you doing these mundane tasks after several dozen hours of action and excitement? From mowing down Mexican rebels with a Gatling gun on the back of a train, taking out bandits and their gangs to getting involved in mass shootouts…oh and collecting wild flowers while exclaiming “you little beauty!”. Its been non-stop action and adventure for the best part of fifty plus hours and now you’re a farmer?

Hitchcock

Its often said that Alfred Hitchcock was the master of cinematic tension and suspense. Well Rockstar are the gaming equivalent. While playing those last few “boring” missions, it was perfectly clear it was not quite over despite the fact you fulfilled your governmental duties and tracked down your former gang members. Something was amiss, you didn’t fully know exactly what it was the first time playing…but something was not right, you could feel it. There was a sense of unease and discomfort. With the sun glaring down on Beecher’s Hope while birds tweeted away in the background as Rufus the dog patrolled his territory happily barking away. It was peaceful and quiet – the calm before the storm and the longer these “boring” missions continued, the more tense and suspenseful the wait became.

As beautiful and serene those last handful of missions were, there was an underlying wave of anxiety. You didn’t want to see what happened next as you knew it was gong to be bad, you wanted John to be happy with Abigail and Jack, he’d more than earned it over the course of the game. You wanted him to make it as a farmer as “boring” as it sounds. I suppose you could turn your console off now and leave John on his farm with his family. But of course, you had to see the real ending. So you continued to play, herd that cattle and take them out to pasture, teach your son how to use a gun and take him hunting, kill a pack of wolves to sell their meat at a local store, break-in some wild horses. More “boring” missions followed as that niggle of negativity at the back of your head kept eating away. Something was going to happen, you were sure of it – you just didn’t know what or when.

And then it does happen, suddenly the ranch is attacked by the army under orders from the same government folk you have been working for the whole game. They want to cut all ties and that means John and his entire family must die. All hell breaks loose and that peaceful serenity of the farmer’s life is shattered as the bullets fly. John’s cantankerous old uncle is killed in the gunfight and this just spurs him on to fight back harder to save Abigail and Jack. The bastards even killed Rufus the dog who got caught in the crossfire. But there was a glimmer of hope as the numbers thinned out, the army were loosing the fight. This is it, take out the army, the crooked government officials, John can get on with his life and live happily with his family, roll credits…only that’s not what happens.

Rockstar decided to stick the knife in and give it a twist instead. With the initial wave of attackers dead and their bodies scattered around your ranch, John gathers up his wife and son and heads to the barn to get some horses – time to make a run for it. John sends Abigail and Jack away while he stays on to fend off any stragglers and as he opens the barn doors, the slow-mo Dead Eye game mechanic kicks in giving you the chance to target and kill every last one of the bastards – only that is just another Rockstar ploy, another twist of that knife, a ray of false hope specifically designed to purposefully give you a heart racing moment of blood and vengeance that John will never get. You try frantically to target each and every one of those corrupt officials. Only its just not possible, no matter how many times you reload that mission and try. The game is designed to show the inevitable end of John Marston…

Red Dead Redemption Johns Death

It a bloody and brutal end too as John is gunned down by a couple of dozen army and government suits. He falls to his knees and wheezes as his last breath leaves his body before succumbing to the dozens of bullet holes. Its a slow and agonising death. Rockstar don’t make the end of John Marston an easy watch, they want to to feel the pain. You’ve just spend the entire game playing as John, got to know him as a character, got to know his life and even fell in love with him a bit…and now he’s dead and you’re going to watch.

All that time doing those “boring” missions was a build up to exactly this, the grand finale. They were meant to be “boring” to lull you into a false sense of security, to give you a little ray of hope that everything was going to be okay. And when you think that’s it, no more, its over and you’ve seen the worst. The game then makes you control his son, Jack and forces you to go back to the ranch and see John lying in a pool of his own blood as Abigail and Jack look over the dead, blood soaked body.

This is punishment, punishment for enjoying the game and for enjoying John Marston as a character. I mean after all, he was an outlaw, a thief and a killer. John Marston was a bad guy looking for a little redemption and he didn’t get it. The whole thing, those last few missions and John’s death, they are one and the same and you can’t have one without the other.

That is my favourite part of RDR, not just the finality of John’s fate but also those “boring” missions before as without them, the ending wouldn’t have had the same level of impact. If after dealing with Dutch, John returned home and it was a happy ending or if on your return to the ranch, the army instantly attacked – the ending wouldn’t have had the same level of impact. You needed those “boring” missions to juxtapose against the bloody and violent resolve. That’s why the “boring” part of RDR is my favourite. Its Rockstar’s Hitchcock moment and one that master of suspense would’ve been envious of. Well played Rockstar, well played indeed.

The climax of RDR is one of the hardest, most uncomfortable and yet most satisfying endings to a game ever. A finality I think that will be hard to top. It’ll be interesting to see what Rockstar have planned for RDR II, with it being a prequel we know a lot of what will happen and who will survive given the story of this game, so there will be a certain lack of surprise.

Can they catch lightning in the bottle twice and deliver an equally or even better resolve with the new game? Either way, RDR II has some pretty huge cowboy boots to fill.

Why I’m A Little Worried About Red Dead Redemption II

Please note the headline does say “a little worried”. It’s minor, but it’s still something that’s niggling away at the back of my head…

Arthur Morgan Quote

Six weeks, just six more weeks and Red Dead Redemption II will be released. Its been eight years since the previous game and after a year long delay, we will finally be able to play the bloody thing. My palms are sweating in anticipation.

So I’m really damn excited for RDR II. This is easily my most anticipated game of the last ten years if not ever. I’m a huge Rockstar Games fan, they just deliver the most highly polished and beautifully crafted games ever. Interesting characters wrapped up in intriguing and wonderful stories. Game that have me returning year after year. I’ll happily debate with anyone that the first RDR (and I mean Redemption not Revolver) is the finest game Rockstar have made to date and definitely one of the greatest games ever created to boot. This new game has some pretty big cowboy boots to fill. Yeah I’m pumped for the sequel/prequel, but there’s something that I can’t get out of my head, a problem that could be minor and nothing to worry about…or could it be something major? That problem is Leslie Benzies.

Leslie Benzies

For those not in the know, Leslie Benzies was a programmer on the DMA Design game  Space Station Silicon Valley for the Nintendo 64 in 1995. A few years later and DMA Design would make one of the most important games in history with Grand Theft Auto III of which Leslie Benzies was a huge part of as he soon found himself as a producer on the game along with Sam and Dan Houser. Eventually, DMA Design are renamed Rockstar North and the birth of one of the biggest British gaming studios ever began. Benzies along with the Houser brothers became presidents of Rockstar Games. Benzies influence can be seen and felt in games from GTA III right up to GTA V and everything else in between including Rockstar’s finest, Red Dead Redemption on which he worked as producer and designer. He’s a passionate man with a lot of vision…and he no longer works at Rockstar Games.

See, it was in 2014 when Benzies took a break, a sabbatical from Rockstar after a suggestion from Sam and Dan Houser for all his hard work over the years at the company. Only when Leslie Benzies returned a few months later with his batteries recharged ready to work, he found that he didn’t have a job anymore. Now exactly what happened is only truly known by those involved, the Houser brothers, Rockstar Games, Take-Two Interactive (Rockstar’s parent company) and of course Benzies himself. Though it has been said there was a disagreement about royalties not being paid, something about an unfair dismal and all sort of accusations. Anyway, Benzies ended up filing a lawsuit against Sam and Dan Houser, Rockstar Games and Take-Two. Its a rather messy story and not one I want to dwell on here, but if you really want to get into it then click here. Its all very unpleasant and the lawsuit is still on going today. But my point is that one of the main people behind the success of Rockstar as a company and their games no longer works at Rockstar. Leslie Benzies no longer being part of the company is a worry not just for RDR II but for the company in general from this point onward.

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RDR II has been in development since the massive success of the previous game eight years ago. So I’m sure that Benzies has been involved with the title in some way before he was ‘removed’, so hopefully his mark is still imprinted in the game somehow. Yet I still can’t help but worry that the whole affair has had an effect on Rockstar Games on the whole. Its been well known that RDR II was delayed…three times leading to a whole year long delay. The postponement itself is no surprise as Rockstar are quite infamous for delaying games, in fact I called the RDR II setback a year ago shortly after the game was initially announced. Yeah Rockstar will suspend games and have done so for over a decade now – but the delays have usually been a handful of weeks, maybe a couple of months. Never a whole year and that twelve month delay has me worried that something is not right behind the scenes at Rockstar.

The whole thing is just leaving a bit if a bad taste in my mouth. I know no one man (or woman) is never bigger than a worldwide famous and respected company such as Rockstar Games – but there is no denying just how integral to the company Leslie Benzies really was. Other development studios have suffered after the leaving of a key member, see Bullfrog after Peter Molyneux (before he became a laughing stock) left in 1997 for proof. Going back to his first job with them (then DMA) in 1995 to his insistence and passion behind developing GTA III and beyond, Benzies was the rock in Rockstar. I have a feeling that the Rockstar titles that we do have wouldn’t have been as great without him. Benzies was a huge piece of Rockstar and now he’s gone, they are missing something…I just hope that something isn’t missing from RDR II and any future Rockstar games from this point onward.

Benzies’ dismissal from Rockstar, the extra long delay of RDR II, the rather unpalatable lawsuit – its all got to add up to something. Could Red Dead Redemption II be the last great Rockstar game?

Horse

I’m sure that RDR II will be an amazing game, it’ll get high praise and mop up all sorts of gaming awards over the next few months. I have no doubt that this is going to be a jaw dropping gaming experience. But still, no Benzies has got to have an impact on anything Rockstar related from this point onward.

Currently Leslie Benzies is working on a new game with the working title of Everywhere. Said to be an open world game like no other, one that will offer freedom not seen in a game of this type before. Oh yeah, he has some ex-Rockstar employees helping out too. So Benzies isn’t the only talent gone from Rockstar…

Do I Like Shenmue II?

So I guess this is a kind of sequel to my I Don’t Like Shenmue article. Quick recap, I didn’t like the game when it was originally released and I still don’t like it now. But I did buy the recent Shenmue re-release (with a few minor tweaks). While I played the first game when it was originally released, I didn’t actually finish it – I just got so damn bored and decided to spend all my time in the arcade playing Space Harrier and Hang On instead. I never bothered with Shenmue II because the first game was so damn tedious, though I heard the sequel was far better. Still, when I recently got my hands on the re-release, I told myself I would finish Shenmue this time around before moving onto the sequel. Well I’ve finally finished the first game (god damn it that was laborious) and now I’ve played the sequel…but do I like it?

Shenmue II Ryo

By and large Shenmue II is pretty much more of the same with some minor refinements, but is that enough to make it an overall better experience? Well right off the bat. You can skip cut scenes and fast forward time to meet a specific deadline, this alone makes this one infinitely better then the previous game, no more needlessly waiting around for hours or days. Straight away I noticed how the world of Shenmue II is much more lively and vibrant over it’s predecessor. There are more people around doing more activities with more buildings to explore. Everything just feels so much more “alive”. The controls are still clunky and getting Ryo to simply turn is cumbersome but they feel a lot smoother though, plus some of the buttons have been switched around which took me a while to adjust to after getting so used to Shemnue’s layout. I have only put in a few hours, maybe 6-8 but in that short time, I’ve found this sequel much more playable and interesting than the first game by far.

Yeah Ryo is still an insufferable bore to play as with zero personality. But thankfully he’s plunged into a version of Hong Kong that’s full of interesting and enjoyable characters coupled with plenty of pleasing locales to explore and play around in/with. Some of the really crappy parts of the original still remain in the sequel, the clunky controls, the boring protagonist, the difficult and sometimes awkward navigation, the annoying look mechanic. But I found the short comings of Shenmue II much easier to forgive over the first game due to how much more interesting and interactive the world is. This sequel just has so much more character and personalty. Personality goes a long way too.

OutRun

Of course being the huge OutRun fan that I am, my first port of call was to the arcade to see one of my favourite games in all its glory. Sega lost the Ferrari licence a while back (that’s why you can’t buy any OutRun games anymore) so I was curious how they would handle this in Shenmue II. Maybe they’ve removed and replaced OutRun with another Sega classic? But to my surprise as I entered the arcade, there in the middle of the floor was a sit-down OutRun cabinet sparking off childhood memories…and you can still play it too. But due to the lack of a Ferrari license, sadly there is no big red Testarossa to drive anymore. Instead the iconic Ferrari has been replaced with a generic, Ferrari-esque red sports car, no Ferrari badge or any whiff of the Italian car manufacturer anywhere. Still, Outrun within Shenmue II is still an absolute joy to play. I’m a happy gamer.

Shenmue II OutRun.jpg

I begrudgingly forced my way through Shenmue and found very little to enjoy along the way – that god damn forklift truck racing and job is still one of the most boring things I’ve ever experienced in a game. Shenmue II is a very different animal, a game I’m looking forward to spending a lot more time with and a game (unlike the first one) I’m in no hurry to reach the end of, one I want to enjoy to its fullest by soaking up everything it has to offer. Do I like Shenmue II? Oh yes, very much so.

Shenmue plays like a broken, unfinished prototype and in may ways, it is. Given the scope of the game’s designer, Yu Suzuki original ideas for Shenmue and how much it was cut or trimmed back – it is a broken, unfinished prototype. I will never understand the praise Shenmue receives, its a terrible game but an average demo at best. It was back when it was originally released and it still is now. Shenmue II is different. Yeah its a little rough around the edges and yes its slow at times but that roughness is enveloped by a really strong and playable game, one that most definitely deserves all the praise, unlike its predecessor.

Shenmue II Ryo Walk.jpg

From the first game to this sequel, I’ve been converted, Shenmue II is wonderful title and in a way, I’m glad I didn’t play the game when it was originally released as now I feel as if I’ve found a long lost treasure, a real hidden gem of a game. Now of you’ll excuse me, I have a date with an OutRun arcade cabinet…oh and apparently I’m supposed to help Ryo find his father’s killer – but there’s always time for OutRun.