Archive for August, 2010

(Sort-Of) Reviews: Alan Wake, Red Dead Redemption, Heavy Rain

In the past two months, I’ve played through three very story intensive games, two of which I now count among some of the best of the year.  These are Heavy Rain, Alan Wake and Red Dead Redemption.  The first two are more or less triumphs, the former a meandering, unfocused, beautiful game, and the latter a taut thriller with the trappings of Twin Peaks and Stephen King’s most solipsistic works.

Red Dead Redemption, on the other hand, is an excellent but flawed game.  Its story winds and strays the focused journey that it should be.  Neither are its characters as engrossing or memorable as those found in Grand Theft Auto IV or any of its episodes.  Arguably, the world is more of a character here, but I find it an unfocused mess that’s a bore to travel through and tiresome to explore.  Still, the brutal violence, coupled with the classic imagery and excellent development of the main character place Redemption as a game firmly following GTA4’s lead.

Because it does follow in GTA4’s wake, the flaws of Redemption are put in sharp relief.  The grimy, claustrophobic canyons of steel and concrete that made up Liberty City have given way to a sprawling landscape, with barren deserts and snow-topped mountains.  And somehow, none of that manages to be quite so compelling as Rockstar’s previous outing, or even competing games in the open-world genre, such as Assassin’s Creed II and The Saboteur.  While neither of those games are necessarily as well put together as Red Dead Redemption ultimately is, they find themselves more compelling, more enjoyable and far more memorable than the vast majority of Redemption actually is.

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