Waypoint 101 — Red Dead Redemption


I’ll second that, with the sidebar that Max Payne 3 is the only recent Rockstar game that doesn’t undermine its own thesis. GTA4 buries its criticism of the American Dream underneath a lot of needless Crime Story; RDR thinks the Wild West was Cool and Free; LA Noire undermines it’s noir credentials by turning Kelso into a playable Mary Sue; GTAV was… GTAV, at least Max Payne 3 is consistent in its storytelling and coherent in its thesis.


Foolishly, I thought I might try to plow through this game over the next three days. It wasn’t until 4:00 this morning and near the end of act 1 that I realized I didn’t actually care that much.

Either way, yeah, New Austin has some fucking ROUGH patches. Every mission giver, from Bonnie to Irish, gets at least one absolutely fucking stupid monologue about “liberty” or “government” and there’s never any reflection about what it even means to pine for the “freedom of the west.” Rob’s comment about characters being cudgels is DEAD ON.

Revisiting it, I think RDR might actually have worse minute to minute storytelling than GTA V. I can only recall one instance, the aftermath of the torture sequence, where the plot stopped dead so Trevor could rant about the usefulness of “advanced interrogation.”


wasn’t going to listen to this because i hated red dead redemption, stopped in on this thread to see that the podcast is lots of people realising it’s Bad Actually, feeling very Captain-Holt-Yelling-VINDICATION!!! right now about the whole thing.

RDR had so many top-to-bottom issues, and like almost all rockstar games, it comes from the writing in the first instance; there are so many incredibly talented and competent people working on big games that it’s frustrating to see them, over and over, hamstrung by a lack of coherent narrative/thematic vision. they’re games which regularly have characters just straight-up tell you what the themes are, but which never actually deliver on those themes because they don’t seem to really understand them.

it’s a Big Games problem, and it’s why i think we need to get over Big Games culturally. it’s a bad way to make art! it makes for very bad art!


This podcast has been nothing short of validating in the sense that I hated RDR for years in the face of people proclaiming it as a masterpiece.

John Marston is an idiot who is towed along by a series of hustlers and nobodies asking him to do their boring-ass chores, when this “hardened badass” should have managed to cut down a third of this game’s mission count by pushing his six-shooter down these con-mens’ throats. The callousness with which it treats brutalization of the people in this world, the heartlessness of its world, I simply hated being within this space. The few characters I wanted to see challenge John’s world simply disappeared without any fanfare. I hated nearly every single goddamn person. Nearly every single goddamn exchange. It was a slog to endure this game’s “edgy” posturing in hopes that I might see what about this game was worth its acclaim.

I can respect the scale of the world and that the aim mechanic was sorta neat. My appreciation ends there. I could not have been more happy to have been done with this game back when I played it in 2010.

I thoroughly do not understand the grandness with which people praise Rockstar’s games beyond the scale of asset generation they seem to include with each game.


I’ve had an interesting experience with the podcast. I hated Red Dead when it first came out. The controls were terrible. The horses didn’t make any sense. Graphics were muddy and ugly. The wooden stage-style overacting - I get that it’s a throwback to classic Westerns, but good god, if I had to hear one more shout-talked conversation… “I KNOW YOUR TYPE, MR. MARSTON.” “YOU DON’T KNOW ME, MISS MACFARLANE.” “I SUPPOSE I DON’T, MR. MARSTON.” “I DON’T MEAN NOTHING BY IT, MISS MACFARLANE.” Fucking torture.

But I tried giving it a whirl on XB1X backwards compatibility and have been enjoying it much more this time. Already made it farther than I ever had before (which admittedly isn’t very far.) So, listening to the podcast has been a lot of “well, that’s true, but it’s not that bad.” Maybe it’s just all about expectations.


I haven’t played either game (new or old) but when Austin mentioned this on the podcast it almost made me laugh. The fact that you use exactly the same set of controls for the new game to either aim a weapon at someone + shoot them or aim your “focus” at them and then initiate a dialogue seems emblematic of an American way of thinking (from an outsider). Could we not have something that is functionally a little different for when we want to talk to people?


I don’t know where the idea originated as a mechanic, but it’s worth noting that the Housers (at least) are both English (although I believe now live in New York). I’d also say that if this does seem like an ‘American’ take, isn’t that fitting for a game trying to model itself in the way that Red Dead Redemption is?


I see where you’re coming from with this but I have to disagree. From a design perspective it makes a lot of sense to have all the major mechanics of looking around, shooting, and choosing who (possibly out of a crowd of people or someone who is at a distance or running away) to talk to be tied to the same or similar controls. Its not a Bioware style game where you’re walking up to a stationary npc and choosing from a number of dialog options, its not as separate from the rest of play. You can do it while doing anything else, it seems like, which might actually be a nice change from other similar games where once combat or a chase or something starts all non-scripted dialog is basically out of the question. In a more dynamic game like this one I’d imagine it’s just more intuitive to be able to look at/lock-on to someone and press your talk buttons than to have to deal with some other control scheme completely divorced from the rest of how you control your character and your camera view.

Also, maybe i’m being too literal here but do non-Americans not focus their attention/gaze towards people they are addressing? The game is just simulating that.


Not suggesting that people don’t focus on the person that they are talking to, just that it seems funny to me that it is the same mechainc as aiming a gun at someone/thing - I guess maybe the focus mechanic being the same but then having a different way of interacting might seem better / more divorced for the act of killing things.

@robowitch I guess it could be seen as being an appropriate nod to how gun centric the Western genre is, but my impression of previous Rockstar games suggests that it is an accidental commentary at best


Y’know I think i took you too literally and I actually agree with what you’re saying here in a general sense lol


Part 2 of this 101 is now up on the website! Go listen with your ears maybe?



damn yall that was fast


Ron’s description of the Houser’s position on America as an ex-imperial inferiority complex is chef’s kiss mwah, Beautiful. Can also be applied to any English political pundit/media guy, and Piers Morgan.


I loved both these podcasts. As stated above, I have always found the writing in RDR1 to be very boring, and had the same kind of problems with needless, uncaring characters.

That said, I wish there was a bit more debate around the game. Austin was happy to defend the game in places, but I think the overall perception of the game seems pretty sour from the group. I kind of wish they invited like a Brad Shoemaker, or someone who really loves the game and could buck against their opinions a bit.

Hamish Black of Writing on Games dropped a video on the original Red Dead, offering that perhaps John’s centrism is actually what leads to his downfall, and that it was a narrative choice for him to be this ineffective. I would still say the writing around that conceit is still really bare bones and bad, but it’s an interesting thought. I think Hamish’s take is that Red Dead Redemption 1 was trying to do the Spec Ops treatment of, “Why don’t you just stop?” Basically, the counter to John’s centrism is everyone in the game being like, “Well, at least I stand for something, even if it kills me.”

Not sure if I agree with him, because that has to be backed up with good character writing, but it was nice to listen to this and then watch Hamish’s video to kind of counter it.


Ever since GTA3, the protagonist has been seen as foolhardy by their peers for pushing forward. Perhaps this is the first Rockstar game in which the protagonist actually fails because of that singlemindedness, but then you become the kid and you find and kill the people who killed John and suddenly the game’s title makes sense.

It feels like a shallow trick. The story is 90% identical to all previous Rockstar games in which a selfish, centrist, driven protagonist dismisses every worldview presented to them by the one-note characters they encounter because caring about the world would bog them down on their quest for whatever the final mission is about - but this time, ya die!!

Because of Rockstar’s history of using this template, I can’t help but feel that this reading is charitable. The only material difference is the ending. Is that really enough to justify calling this particular iteration of this story a critique of all their previous iterations?


i enjoyed part 2 of the podcast but i found it super frustrating as well. there was a section where Patrick was talking about how in the original RDR, you were tasked with hunting various animals, but all you did with the pelts was sell them without getting any reward, so it was just busy work. he then compared it to RDR2 (and the post-Far Cry world) where now you can upgrade your ammo pouch or similar in exchange for the pelts, as a note of, like, “Wow! Game design has come so far! It’s so different!”

it felt like he was so close to grasping how this empty busywork is an empty crutch Big Games lean on, a complete waste of time, and something which ages absolutely horribly. i would bet, dollars to donuts, that if you have the exact same conversation about the various Far Crys or RDR2 or anything else ten years from now, that criticism will come out again, very slightly modified.

i know you can’t expect folks to review a game based on how they might feel about it 10 years from now when design standards have changed, but seeing people make the exact same mistakes over and over again when reviewing games feels very I Warned You About Stairs, Bro.


I’ve never had much affection for Rockstar('s) Games, so I’m very receptive to RDR being taken to task. That said, the entire ending sounds incredible, and I’m sorry I missed it at the time.


Guess the two of us would wait as long as those waiting for Part II. I remember my two playthrough being an emotional roll coaster ending at the middle, closer to the bottom. I was pretty high on the game after the first playthrough, it’s well made AAA video game in every aspect. Then the second time, I started to poking around some plot points and ended up not liking it so much.