True West

I’ve made a couple of posts on the subject of games, films, art, yadda yadda yadda. Boring stuff, and anyway, who cares whether Roger Ebert knows a gamepad from a Wiimote?

Rockstar, the makers of the infamous Grand Theft Auto series, take a strange position in the whole game/film argument. There are few games that borrow as liberally, and as successfully, from the movies and from TV as Rockstar’s. This has never been as obvious as in their latest, Red Dead Redemption, which is in equal measures Once Upon a Time in the West and Deadwood. The ghost of Sergio Leone haunts the game’s arid landscapes. I’ve rarely seen as effective and evocative an interpretation of the West as the one Rockstar have conjured up. Yet their games never become that most frustrating of hybrids, the interactive movie. They are both grandly cinematic and great games.

More than anything else, Rockstar excels at creating worlds to explore that feel alive: the faux ’80s Miami of GTA: Vice City, the parallel LA, San Francisco and Las Vegas of San Andreas and the not-quite-NY that is Liberty City.

None of these measure up to the accomplishment of Red Dead Redemption, however. I’ve played the game for five to ten hours, and in terms of gameplay it’s nothing revolutionary – missions here, duels there, horse riding, cow herding and poker minigames elsewhere – but it creates a sense of place that is simply amazing, as the video of the game’s time-lapse day/night cycle shows:

John Hillcoat, director of Australian neo-western The Proposition and the film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, was asked to direct a short film using footage from the game – possibly a gimmicky way of advertising its release, but one that’s pretty gutsy, speaking not only of Rockstar’s confidence in their creation but also in their chosen medium. Is Hillcoat’s half-hour take on Red Dead Redemption an overly idealistic barrage in the Great Movie/Videogame War of the ’00s? Is it just something to do in between directing grim, gritty and depressing movies? Judge for yourselves.

2 thoughts on “True West

  1. Ade September 21, 2010 / 11:59 am

    Hmmm… I’ve actually considered buying a console purely on the grounds of what I have heard about this game… You’re not helping, mate!

    Need a bigger tv first though… And a better paying job / sponsor / winning lottery ticket / revolver and bandana. Probably the last one, to get me into the spirit of the game.

  2. Matt September 21, 2010 / 12:09 pm

    I’ve found that playing games on TV is a surprisingly different experience from playing them on a PC, at least if you’re sitting close to the latter machine’s screen. RDR works extremely well on a TV screen because its look is so cinematic.

    Nowadays prices for 40″ or 42″ LCD screens have come down so much, it’s probably worth checking out what you can get at a decent price. And there are a number of PS3 exclusives that are unlikely to make it to PC.

    And yes, all of this is me trying to get you to fork out your hard earned cash on a TV/PS3 combo so we can meet up in RDR and I can shoot the hat off your head in a show of amazing gunmanship. And then I’ll probably be attacked and killed by a pack of coyotes.

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