I couldn't help but be enthralled by Red Dead Redemption's tagline: "America, 1911. The Wild West is Dying." The combination of increased federal authority versus local efforts at self-government and free ranchers desire to be mostly left alone is a message that resonates to this day. Not to mention the extreme technological shifts at the time.
**I would say this article contains spoilers but, as we'll see, it spoils nothing the box doesn't spoil already.**
The setting, by and large, is done quite well. Nor do I have a huge issue with the game--in fact, if you read my review, I praise it quite highly. My problem with the game is that a very simple change could have made the game far, far better.
Just about every review or press release--heck, even the box itself--contains this message (quoted here from the box): "When federal agents threaten his family, former outlaw John Marston is forced to pick up his guns again and hunt down the gang of criminals he once called friends." In fact, that detail was so ubiquitous I found it quite odd that it takes (I'm going off memory here, and everyone plays through differently) a good 10 hours or so before Marston actually comes out and says: "my family's been kidnapped." If that detail was revealed so much beforehand, why does the game itself hide it until much later?
I struggle to understand why. After all, let's look at the opening sequence: Marston appears on camera, flanked by somewhat serious (and potentially sinister) federal agents who force him to get on a train. Some words are exchanged about his mission and the "reason" why he's got to do what they say--but no one ever comes out and say it. This could (and should) have been a great scene--a classic opening 'WTF?' moment--except anyone who's read so much as the packaging the game came in can assume: "oh, these must be the guys who kidnapped my family".
This theme continues with Marston's incredibly reluctance to reveal anything about why he's hunting criminals to Bonnie (the first major NPC). This reluctance flies in the face of the fact that we already know why he's doing it. The gamer could have been incredibly engrossed in Marston's mysterious past--especially what could possibly be so important as to have him being forced to work for federal agents--but the box ruins it for us.
Sure, many games are ruined by spoilers and leaks, but Rockstar ruined their own game. I enjoyed it, sure, but think of how much better it could have been.
Here's an alternate jacket that could have sold the game just as well, but kept the suspense the game needed: "America, 1911. The Wild West is dying. Caught in the net of unscrupulous federal agents, the former outlaw John Marston is forced to hunt down the criminals he once called friends. Step in the shoes of a man with a mysterious past that's come unburied and a future he's trying desperately to preserve."
Played Red Dead Redemption and had the same thought? Any other games that have been 'ruined' by their jackets (it wasn't ruined, but Halo: Combat Evolved comes to mind as a game that has almost as much of its story set up in the jacket as in the game proper)? Share in the comments!
For more random observations and sharings, follow on Twitter @MKEGameDesign