Waypoint 101 — Red Dead Redemption


Red Dead Redemption

Hello, Waypoint readers! We hope you’re ready to join us and the Waypoint staff on our delve into Rockstar Games’ Red Dead Redemption, the second game in the Red Dead franchise (although I’m not sure we talk about Red Dead Revolver that much). Initially released in May 2010 for the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, players step into the role of John Marston in 1911 as he travels the ‘Wild West’ on the hunt for members of his old gang.

Red Dead Redemption received critical acclaim on its initial release, but, with Red Dead Redemption II on the shortening horizon, we ask: does the original hold up to the gaze of 2018? What can we say about this game with an additional eight years behind us? What has been its legacy and what have we forgotten?

This Waypoint 101 will have two parts. The goal is to have two episodes releasing in October (during the first and third weeks). Given that it is the spooky season, this Waypoint 101 will also include Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare in the discussion for the second part. The first episode will run from the beginning up until the mission We Shall Be Together in Paradise ends.

You can play the game on the PS3 and Xbox 360, but it can also be played on the Xbox One through backwards compatibility or, if you have a PlayStation Now subscription, on your PS4.

To consolidate discussion, we’re making this thread to serve as the home for Red Dead Redemption chatter around the upcoming Waypoint 101. Feel free to share your updates, thoughts, and posts as we go. We hope that, by having folks talk about the game as they play it, we can all have an enriched experience.

Given that the podcast will be divided by We Shall Be Together in Paradise, we would kindly like to ask that folks refrain from spoiling anything past that point & to be judicious with their use of spoiler tags, as people may not have played the game before. The thread will be opened up after the release of the first episode.

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Questions & Answers

Q: What is Waypoint 101?

A: Waypoint 101 is Waypoint’s video game book club! This is a semi-regular podcast series, in which Waypoint staff dive deep and dig into a game in full. Rather than the crew explaining the game to one another and the viewers, the team will have all played the game and, thus, open room for a discussion based on an assumption of knowledge. Of course, it’s a perfectly enjoyable listen even if you’re unfamiliar with the game!

Q: Do I have to play the whole game at once?

A: Not necessarily – you can feel free to give us your progress reports as you go.

Q: I played this game before. Can I talk about that thing at the end? Y’know, the thing?

A: As we’re likely not to have multiple episodes about this game, you can, but I would encourage folks to let the discussion germinate and flow naturally. If you really want to talk about the thing, please tag your spoilers accordingly.

Q: How much of the game should I play?

A: As much as you like! If you want to keep pace with the podcast, you should play up until the end of the mission called We Shall Be Together in Paradise. After the first episode drops, you can pick up the rest and join Waypoint to talk about the conclusion!


Reeaaaalllllyyy interested to see how this holds up. I haven’t read much in the way of thoughtful criticism of RDR divorced from the context of the prequel so I am super curious as to what people think of it. I played it back in 2013 and lets just say I have a very different conception of “The West” and western genre as a whole


RDR is the best game Rockstar ever made (except maybe for Bully) and it’s not even that great


Reminder for everyone revisiting this game/tip for newcomers: When you get to Mexico, don’t get off the horse you’re given when you get there until the song is over. It’s not your horse and if you’re like me you might want to get off and whistle for your horse, don’t do that. It stops the whole sequence of the Mexico transition.

Maybe they patched that but don’t risk it. I missed it my first playthrough because of this.


(Psst – this was announced at the tail end of the latest podcast and there’ll probably be an official announcement going live later this week. Call this one a sneak preview for the forum goers :wink: Make yourself look like you have the inside scoop while you still can…)

Nice. I always wanted to play it, but without a port for other platform and PS Now unavailable in my country a full spoiler discussion is great. Specially because even if it’s released for PS4 or PC I developed a little phobia to open world games recently, they never end, THEY NEVER END!!!.

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Wow. I love Rockstar’s second best game.

I might not replay it specifically for this but I’m excited to listen.

I started replaying this like two months ago on Xbox One, and I’ll say this - it’s definitely still gorgeous and plays pretty decently. I dunno if the story beats will remain terribly interesting, but I think they made such an intricate, detailed world, with random encounters that continue to be interesting.

I don’t think there’s been a better horse in video games since RDR, and my main gauge for RDR2 will be “are the horses as good, or better?” If they’re worse, then dang, there’s no way RDR2 can top the first.

I’m not sure it is on PC, is it? That’s why I’m a bit sad to have to sit this one out (as it’s not on any platform I own), but also happy to follow this along to see what it’s actually all about…

One of my curiosities about how the conversation about Red Dead Redemption will shake out is the extent to which it feels like a game which has had a big legacy. I didn’t play it at the time, but it was hard to ignore the ripple effect into games discourse writ large, with the popularisation of terms such as ‘negative space’, which I, prior to its release, had been unfamiliar. An example from Kotaku’s 2010 Game of the Year deliberations (source)):

[Red Dead Redemption h]as Negative Space (Since the wonder of the American West is magnified by its immense size, and therefore, when made into a video game, should be a place of grand vistas, slow gallops, and long trails at the end of which may lurk either grizzlies or civilization.)

Red Dead Redemption let me pretend I was in a place that was once real. It nearly overwhelmed me with the deft manner in which its plain core gameplay was put in service of many unusual and interesting activities. Its characters weren’t just memorable. Their behaviors were fascinating: the tension of romantic affection stifled into friendship; the stubborn clinging to past glories; etc.

The game’s developers at Rockstar created a work rich with the results of great decisions: they were right to trust its players to find its treasures by scrutinizing its landscape; right to interrupt the game’s instrumental soundtrack occasionally with a stirring song; right to end John Marston’s story not when expected but only after we got to see what could become of a weary outlaw who pined for a wife and son long unseen.

There was no game in 2010 as beautiful and as full of such smartly-crafted adventures — loud and quiet, grand and quaint — as Red Dead Redemtpion. It was the best video game of 2010.

I wonder if takes like this will stand up in 2018, either because maybe they were reading more into it than what was there (possible) or if an additional eight years reveals what was there to be slighter than we might have imagined at the time.

I just hooked my XB1 back up to play through it one more time before RDR2. I’m only a couple hours in but I did play through to the Mexico transition in 2016.

The game part of it (shooting, fist fights, overall mission design, etc) shows its age a bit if only because I know how much better, in my opinion, it got in the subsequent 2 games they made in that engine. It’s still pretty fun, it’d be even more fun with mouse control!

However I think the world is still top tier and existing in it is still a treat. Every shack feels like someone picked that spot to live a simple life, every trail feels like it was carved out by thousands of hooves over decades, the sense of encroaching industry on The West is genuinely felt as you travel in and out of its influence.


Your last paragraph there sums up what I think will be really fascinating about this Waypoint 101. Both through the narrative and the world design, RDR foregrounds this idea of the west being this place where people went to live this secluded life of self-determination and self-sufficiency that is about to be disrupted by industrialisation. This is true, but the game’s melancholia about this fact - from what I can recall anyway - is based on this idea that, for all its faults, the Old West is a better, freer place than what we know is coming. That stance inductively erases the fact that the old west was built on a whole lot of Indigenous genocide.

I’m fascinated to find out if RDR actually addresses the fact that it’s about feeling nostalgic for an era that’s just about to end, when that era was Bad and Should Not Have Been A Thing.


Another part of this game that feels so important to what it is - this game is not just “a western,” it’s filled with details that are explicitly from Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns, especially in the soundscape. The music, obviously, is a take on Ennio Morricone’s music, but the sounds of guns, all the background sound effects, are directly from those movies, too. Bullets whizz and whir, they have the particular crack that movies in that time had. There’s also smoke trails from guns, an aesthetic choice that also helps the player pinpoint where enemies are. People Wilhelm scream when they die, and they also gesticulate and fall like people would in those films. Yeah, the rockstar-brand physics engine helps out, but the initial movements and reactions to being shot look exactly like they did in the movies.

A few years ago, I watched a fistful of dollars for the first time, and I was just struck by how this movie felt like red dead - obviously it’s the other way around, but I made so many connections that just delighted me. That movie has a shootout in a graveyard that feels exactly like a red dead gunfight - the sounds are the same (PYEAAAOW), smoke trails from rifle barrels, and hell, it’s in a dang graveyard!

I hope that Red dead 2 keeps these feelings, or at least apes some other western movie style. This type of influence from film is far more interesting to talk about, and now that I think of it, I imagine you could make similar comparisons with other rockstar games?

I’m so excited for the 101! I won’t be playing along because I have a low tolerance for open-world games, and want to go into RDR2 with a fresh mind.

Very interested on critically examining the game that I just a few years ago was beyond critical reproach. I have a feeling a lot of the game won’t hold up!

Red Dead Redemption is probably one of my favourite games of the last gen.

But… whilst being a game of tremendous highs - the landscape, the exploration, the music, the tone of being set in a world in which Marsten is very much a relic of another age - it was also a game of numerous lows. Whilst the story was excellent in places, particularly in how the parts with Bonnie and the man in black, the single biggest recurring memory I have for that game was the bit in which the game had you team up with the alcoholic Irish dude for a few missions.

Oh and Jack Marston. “Allow me to take your coat, madam!” Shut up Jack, you are not your father. YOU SHOULD HAVE GONE TO COLLEGE!

I am looking forward to RDR2 immensely, but at the back of the mind I know I’m probably going to have to bear some Rock Star silliness. In which they lampoon 'Murica in a sub South Park way. Remember the torture sequence from GTAV? Remember Trevor’s drive to the airport straight after. Euhhh… Sometimes there is just so much game in Rock Star games - I wonder whether they have any real editorial policy that truly considers each specific mission and whether it is complimenting of the overall vision of the game and its world.

Looking forward to the 101! As far as content on the internet goes, they’re my favourite!


RDR, and the western genre as a whole, is a tough one for me. I’m more aware of indigenous issues in 2018 than I was in 2012, and I know that will color how I view the game nowadays. It’s a major reason why I’m very ambivalent about RDR2 (that and GTAV feeling like a relic of PS2-era open world design). Though I’m curious to hear what the Waypoint crew thinks about the game after all these years, I just don’t think I can bring myself to experience John Marston’s story yet again. He was a bad man that got what was coming to him by other bad men, and it doesn’t get much deeper than that.


You make a good point. There is something odd about the tone of Red Dead Redemption. Red Dead is not a satire in the same way GTA is. If it were, it would feel more like Blazing Saddles: The Game. Instead, it is a typical spaghetti western, but, like you said, there are flashes of Rockstar in there. During the opening train cut-scene, for instance, the riders on the train seem more like GTA caricatures than Western characters. Granted, the Rockstar silliness provides a bit of levity, but I think they could have added comic relief while still maintaining the tragic, Western tone.

Added: It occurs to me that Red Dead doesn’t have the same ready object to satirize as GTA does. GTA mocks contemporary American culture - media, consumerism, etc - which most players can be expected to be familiar with. Red Dead could have been focused on lampooning, say, rugged individualism or genre conventions of spaghetti Western, but these topics are more obscure (especially since the Western genre has faded from popularity).

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One of my absolute favorite details of this game is how Rockstar adapted the details of the GTA games that were impossible to replicate in the Wild West. Some of the narrative tools that come to mind are the newspapers, the casino tables, the bars, and certainly the campfires.
Every time you moved the story forward or got into some hijinks, the papers got published. They were so simple and elegant ways to make the world feel bigger and deeper. You read about the sacking of a bandit camp just like you would some big tycoon out east getting his comeuppance. Even more fascinating was really the campfires. In a way, they were a stand-in for the GTA’s radio that would report on the world state (or really the main mission progression.) The old guys around the campfire would tell your tale like it was any other old tale of the west, and you could sit by and hear them chat for awhile and then be on your way (or shoot them or trample them with your horse.) What was cool is that these guys wouldn’t be everywhere either, they wouldn’t just be spawned in some awkward place like a snowy mountain for no reason.
My great hope is these sorts of characters return in RDR2 and their reprise takes into account all of the more dynamic things that happen in-world that Rockstar seems to be tripling down on with this upcoming release.

Oh and the Strangers mission are just so good. It sounds like they will be back in 2 (they were so lame in GTAV) but blended back into the world to make it more cohesive. This one might be my favorite, so sinister and odd. Maybe the Strange Man will come back too, though the nature of his existence and presence is obviously nebulous.

As much as I love A Fistful of Dollars, There Will Be Blood, The Misfits, Shane, The Great Silence, The Searchers, and The Treasure of Sierra Madre; I hope Rockstar takes more from Days of Heaven, Limonádový Joe, The New Land (Nybyggarna), Dead Man, and other adjacent adventure films that do things a bit differently to help paint their world.


Psst for anyone else who missed it going up last night – the Waypoint 101 for Red Dead Redemtpion’s first episode is out now!