Smile and Nod: I, John Marston

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Generic_Dave:
I have to wholehearted agree. As a role to play, Marston was one of the first characters that guided my actions, rather that the game guiding my actions. I constantly found myself trying my best to do what that dang cowboy would do.

I found myself grudgingly fighting for the Mexican army, even though I despised them. And I found Liza's story-line heartbreaking and was deeply affected by how it ended. I would say it was the first time I genuinely cared about a character's life. For me, NPCs are normally just targets.

It kind of forces you to play a role in an extremely subversive manner. Even little things like the character fobbing off the hookers because he has a wife at home. The nobility and determination of the character drags you into his role, while very much glossing over the fact that you can only play the pre-defined role. The bars are there, they are just well hidden.

When compared to something like [Prototype] that encouraged you to kill anything that moves, innocent or otherwise (those weapons were NOT designed with an eye to reducing collateral damage) but then tries to paint its character as a noble and torn wronged man.

Of all the games I've play I'd think only Bioshock was as engrossing and immersive an experience.

Well said, i wholeheartedly agree..

I was really sad when John died at the end, why did the stupid flocker have to run out of the barn into a hail of bulletts?? What was he thinking? I could have easily killed them in normal matters if he had decided to stay in the barn..

Was real annoying to play as his son afterwards, Jack, with his puny little voice.. You cant be gangstah when sounding like that..
It kinda made me not want to play the game after this cause it was not the character i had come to know and care bout..

The main problem with RDR is that there is no Redemption. The game ends with the cheapest possible conclusion that might make for tragedy, but offers ultimately nothing more than a cheap FU to the player with no satisfactory resolution to any of the threads that the game left hanging outside of a lame newspaper article that can be read if the player chooses to.

Very good article, highlighting exactly why I like Red Dead Redemption. On my playthrough of it, my John Marston was as noble as the day is long, who never succumbed to the life he had left behind. But my Jack Marston is everything his father didn't want him to be, an out of control maniac, a rabid cur the law has yet to put down. In a bizarre sense, this makes the ending of the game even more poignant, as all of my John's hard work and self-restraint is completely (and tragically) undone by a now vengeful and hate-filled son. My John's legacy to the world is exactly the legacy he fought for so long to avoid, and I can't help but think that's the way it should be.

The only thing I disagree with this article, is what is written about his family. I felt that John and Jack had a good relationship. A more real father-son relationship than what I have seen in other games. John and Abigail also loved each other, quite clearly. Which made it all so much sadder at the end. This is the best game I have played in a long long time, and I don't think any game have stirred such emotions. I feel sorry for those who do not play it, because they are missing out on a classic on par with the good old western movies.

Amazing article. Very deep, profound, and indepth in many different ways. The ending actually broke my heart a little bit to watch. I played the game twice, once as an absolute saint, where I never shot and killed a civilian or did anything wrong, and the other time when I had gotten the $500,000 bounty almost right off the bat.

They both simply felt natural, and on the second playthrough, I dreaded finishing because I knew the end of the game was coming, along with the inevitable tragedy.

An excellent read. I too only tend to play as an honourable John Marston, although the only time I have shot at lawmen was because of mistaken identity. However I didn't really feel much for his family, apart from maybe Rufus the dog.

I'm so glad that I'm not the only one who saw all of this in the game. For a while, I was worried that I had my head up my ass and was turning into one of those weird people that clings onto an above-average game and proclaims it to be the best experience ever made (since not too many seemed to be really impressed, for whatever insane reason), but yeah, RDR was everything I was hoping to get from GTA:IV, plus a f*ckton more. I'd go so far as to say that John Marston has replaced Captain MacMillan as my all-time favorite vidya character.

Derelict Frog:

No, it was not just you. I thought that was one of the most touching and genuine moments ever depicted in a videogame.

I think the ending of Red Dead Redemption is very interesting when you consider the three main characters: Marston, Ross, and Dutch.

Marston believes (perhaps naively) that he can redeem himself for his past sins. He works for the government to try and get his family back. If you play the game honorably, he really is turning his life around. If you play it dishonorably, you see he can't really change. But either way, he is trying, and after killing Dutch, who was your friend, you feel he really has redeemed himself in some way.

Ross does not believe that anybody should be forgiven. In Ross's mind, Marston gave up his life long ago, and so it is Ross's duty to finish him off. Ross has no problem manipulating Marston because he sees him as less of a person. And then he betrays him to fulfill his vision of what is right, and then he gets medals. In this way you see that Ross is the true villain--traitorous, cruel, and destructive--but his actions are based in his belief in the law, a law that isn't ready to apply out west.

Dutch understands the situation best of all. He sees that Ross is evil, that Marston is being used, and that they will never be forgiven. Although he is violent and insane, his words ring true. In the end, everything that he predicted comes to pass. The law wins and the west comes to an end. In the meantime, all that Marston succeeded in doing as killing an old friend.

NpPro93:
I think the ending of Red Dead Redemption is very interesting when you consider the three main characters: Marston, Ross, and Dutch.

Marston believes (perhaps naively) that he can redeem himself for his past sins. He works for the government to try and get his family back. If you play the game honorably, he really is turning his life around. If you play it dishonorably, you see he can't really change. But either way, he is trying, and after killing Dutch, who was your friend, you feel he really has redeemed himself in some way.

Ross does not believe that anybody should be forgiven. In Ross's mind, Marston gave up his life long ago, and so it is Ross's duty to finish him off. Ross has no problem manipulating Marston because he sees him as less of a person. And then he betrays him to fulfill his vision of what is right, and then he gets medals. In this way you see that Ross is the true villain--traitorous, cruel, and destructive--but his actions are based in his belief in the law, a law that isn't ready to apply out west.

Dutch understands the situation best of all. He sees that Ross is evil, that Marston is being used, and that they will never be forgiven. Although he is violent and insane, his words ring true. In the end, everything that he predicted comes to pass. The law wins and the west comes to an end. In the meantime, all that Marston succeeded in doing as killing an old friend.

Good point. Well said.

Corpse XxX:

Generic_Dave:
I have to wholehearted agree. As a role to play, Marston was one of the first characters that guided my actions, rather that the game guiding my actions. I constantly found myself trying my best to do what that dang cowboy would do.

I found myself grudgingly fighting for the Mexican army, even though I despised them. And I found Liza's story-line heartbreaking and was deeply affected by how it ended. I would say it was the first time I genuinely cared about a character's life. For me, NPCs are normally just targets.

It kind of forces you to play a role in an extremely subversive manner. Even little things like the character fobbing off the hookers because he has a wife at home. The nobility and determination of the character drags you into his role, while very much glossing over the fact that you can only play the pre-defined role. The bars are there, they are just well hidden.

When compared to something like [Prototype] that encouraged you to kill anything that moves, innocent or otherwise (those weapons were NOT designed with an eye to reducing collateral damage) but then tries to paint its character as a noble and torn wronged man.

Of all the games I've play I'd think only Bioshock was as engrossing and immersive an experience.

Well said, i wholeheartedly agree..

I was really sad when John died at the end, why did the stupid flocker have to run out of the barn into a hail of bulletts?? What was he thinking? I could have easily killed them in normal matters if he had decided to stay in the barn..

Was real annoying to play as his son afterwards, Jack, with his puny little voice.. You cant be gangstah when sounding like that..
It kinda made me not want to play the game after this cause it was not the character i had come to know and care bout..

While I agree with you that Jacks voice was terrible compared to what we were used to. I think you may have missed the point on John walking out into a hail of bullets. He understood that the govt would never let him alone and he would always be hunted. By sacrificing himself like that, he saved his wife and son from a lifetime on the run and more importantly tried to save his son from becoming like him.
I actually had a hard time finishing this game because of that, John never wanted his son to become him, yet the only way to actually finish the game, is to take the first step down that road.

RDR made me think about how I'm gonna be as a father. It grabs you on a deep level.

TheBluesader:

Russ Pitts:
Smile and Nod: I, John Marston

A profound RPG experience isn't just possible in Red Dead Redemption, it's unavoidable.

Read Full Article

I think an important thing to keep in mind about RDR is how often you can die. Especially after you do terrible, terrible things. Sure, your stats remain unchanged by your death. But when you die, you respawn at the last save point - many times BEFORE you did the terrible things you did to get achievements or just to have some nasty fun. While this is a standard aspect of games, it also has an interesting impact on the story. Sure, John kidnapped a woman, let a train explode her, and then killed half a dozen people trying to get away with it. But then he got killed.

But oh wait, no he didn't! Because suddenly he's back to the point BEFORE he acted like a sociopath. Now you can certainly go back and do the same terrible things again, and avoid getting killed. But why would you? You've already gone through that. It doesn't matter that John himself no longer has those memories. Only you do, and they're your problem.

This almost makes the game an "all possible worlds" simulator. You can go out and see what will happen if John is terrible. But then you can get John killed, he goes back in time a few minutes, and now he's not terrible again.

I guess this doesn't do anything for people who think the narrative and gameplay are morally inconsistent. But if you pay attention only to the "real" John - the John as he keeps respawning - both aspects can be completely consistent.

As long as you don't make John a terrible person and survive it, at any rate.

I have to be honest with you, I've been playing videogames for so long that I don't think it even registers for me anymore when a character dies. It's just such an inherent part of the experience that it neither adds to nor subtracts form the experience. It's just a part of it. I imagine playing any Lara Croft game would be impossible without that remove.

Perhaps it's for a similar reason that RDR was so monumentally impressive as a sandbox game. Since, in previous sandbox games, you've had to take the disconnect between the narrative and the inter-mission action as a given, it's refreshing to finally play one in which it all really melds as a single experience.

Tode333:
I actually had a hard time finishing this game because of that, John never wanted his son to become him, yet the only way to actually finish the game, is to take the first step down that road.

Yeah, that hit me harder than any game has ever hit me. Such a powerful ending.

I have to agree with the article. The feeling of being "forced" into completing certain actions occured only a few times, and when the accompanying narratives came to a conclusion, it lost the "puppet strings" and I was generally left with a bit more insight into Marston's depth of character. (The only point where I felt like I was being forced out of character was in Mexico, with a few of the Mexican Army missions.)

While I don't have a single "Greatest Game of ALL TIME", RDR holds a place in the upper eschelons of my Mount Olympus of favored games.

My first playthrough I walked the straight-and-narrow line, and favored my repeater over my six. Heck, I even tied and carried that insane woman back to the inn after handing her my sole medicine bottle.

I did stray from the path once or twice... (Okay, maybe a few times more than that. Heheheh.) The first time was one of those "stagecoach harlot"s. In fact, my first encounter with one of them, ever. I barely survived the attack (I hadn't figured out that Dead Eye wasn't something unlocked through gameplay, so I was horrendously outmatched) and when I found her kneeling there, I was JUST about to put a bullet through her skull when I remembered hearing a rumor of an odd Trophy. So, I hogtied her and dropped her on the tracks south of Armadillo. (The bloody train took its time showing up, though...)

After the story completed, I grew too annoyed with Jack's grating voice and even-more-grating comments. "Move, you hag.", or whatever it was that he says when you're pushing a full gallop got on my nerves in less than 3 minutes. Even before I found the Marshal's wife, I wanted to take a willow switch to the little pissant. Guess you can take someone off of the farm, but never take the farm out of him. (edit: in this, I mean ME... not him) You don't treat a horse, ESPECIALLY a well-bred mount, like that. If I could have put up with him, I'd have gone the route of using him as the "dark side" of RDR gameplay. Instead, I started a second playthrough and proceeded to raise hell (and my bounty) whenever the whim took me. Like back with that crazy-woman whose faith was killing her... I simply perforated her skull to put her out of her own misery. Sure, I failed the mission, but I've already done the whole "100% Completion" thing, anyways. I even kept that old man's shack for myself, as most towns weren't too keen on my sticking around for long.

When "Deadman's Gun" played at the end, I did cry a bit. Manly tears, but still.

SpiderJerusalem:
The main problem with RDR is that there is no Redemption. The game ends with the cheapest possible conclusion that might make for tragedy, but offers ultimately nothing more than a cheap FU to the player with no satisfactory resolution to any of the threads that the game left hanging outside of a lame newspaper article that can be read if the player chooses to.

Only, there is a Redemption. It is the most classical of all redemptions in litterature even. By dying, John Marston redeems himself from his previous life as an outlaw. It is not a redemption in the eyes of the government, his family or the bureau but before God. By stepping out of the barn and accepting what is coming to him, John is redeemed. To me at least, that seemed like the very obvious reference in the title.

subtlefuge:

Your own definition is also only half true. If RPGs required stat growth, then Legend of Zelda would not be considered an RPG. While you may personally believe that, you would have a hard time convincing very many people.

Who in the hell things Zelda is an RPG?

It's an action-adventure; there's not a single RPG element in it.

OT: Although not as bad as Niko Bellic, Marston is still rather conflictingly written and - mostly in Mexico - a massive hypocrite.

The guy's got no qualms about shooting either the rebels or the soldiers, yet he lets the leaders of each push him around forever before telling them how it is - and this is the guy that's so impatient he snaps at Uncle every 5 seconds for being a bit old.

Then there's the treat of women by each leader. You can see throughout that Marston's respectful of women - he has a massive bitch-fit when the Mexican girl gets shot, and he's very polite/respectful to Bonnie - yet when the rebel and military leaders get ready to rape a couple of peasants (and on more than one occassion) he ignores it and lets them use him some more.

I dunno, R* are now getting so much praise for their story and characters when they can't write a protagonist consistently or have a story that's paced well.

Woodsey:

subtlefuge:

Your own definition is also only half true. If RPGs required stat growth, then Legend of Zelda would not be considered an RPG. While you may personally believe that, you would have a hard time convincing very many people.

Who in the hell things Zelda is an RPG?

It's an action-adventure; there's not a single RPG element in it.

OT: Although not as bad as Niko Bellic, Marston is still rather conflictingly written and - mostly in Mexico - a massive hypocrite.

The guy's got no qualms about shooting either the rebels or the soldiers, yet he lets the leaders of each push him around forever before telling them how it is - and this is the guy that's so impatient he snaps at Uncle every 5 seconds for being a bit old.

Then there's the treat of women by each leader. You can see throughout that Marston's respectful of women - he has a massive bitch-fit when the Mexican girl gets shot, and he's very polite/respectful to Bonnie - yet when the rebel and military leaders get ready to rape a couple of peasants (and on more than one occassion) he ignores it and lets them use him some more.

I dunno, R* are now getting so much praise for their story and characters when they can't write a protagonist consistently or have a story that's paced well.

Whoa whoa calm down. Allow me to explain my statement.

The Legend of Zelda [insert game name here]: Players name their character and embark on a journey in a fantasy world. They perform quests and sidequests with a major emphasis on exploration and puzzle solving. They acquire weapons, equipment, and upgrades that scale upwards with pacing and allow them to deal with increasing threats. There are traditional dungeons. There is a major emphasis on character interaction and storyline. There is buying and selling of equipment. Players increase their stats...

I can understand arguing that all of this does not constitute a RPG, but the idea that it could be isn't so far fetched.

Four pages to tell us repeatedly that Red Dead Redemption is realistic?

I agree entirely* but that could have been cut in half.

* Except the horse bit. Mine ran off several mountains, with and without me.

This is one of the most touching stories in a game I have ever come across. I felt genuinely connected to the main character and was devastated at the end. I doubt we will see a game as profoundly moving as this again for a long time.

"Antimony" is a plant.

One of the best game articles I've read. RDR's ending is one of the most emotionaly intense I've ever played. As John is getting his family to ride out of the ranch, you can tell he has no intention of joining them. He's prepared to face a brutal gunning, to buy his family time to get to safety. The tension is palpable as he takes a last deep breath before steping out to face an impossible battle and commit his last, heroic act. The feeling jumps up a notch as dead-eye kicks in. You know you have no chance of winning, but you're determined to take as many of Edgars men with you. It's moving to know that John was defient to his enemies and loyal to his family to the very end. It's sobering to see his family grieve at his body and the "Remember my family" epilogue mission provides a fitting sense of closure. A definite contender for Game Of The Year.

No matter if it's an RPG or not, RDR made me care for the playable character so much more than any of the 'real' RPGs I played before. I found it very satisfying to play the predefined John Marston and try to act according to how he is portrayed in the cutscenes. I really felt sad and angry when he was killed. Dragon Age or Mass Effect in comparison didn't make me feel attached to any of my party members in a similar way.

There's one little thing I have to disagree with. (Otherwise, I feel this article is spot-on) While Marston certainly isn't above doing outlaw-ish things, I never get the impression he would ever want to rob a bank or kill people just for fun. He's completely focused on keeping all that in the past no matter what. If Marston feels disgusted watching the way Allende treats women, how am I supposed to believe he'd ever be comfortable assaulting a hooker or tying a girl to railroad tracks?

That, and he's just so polite all the time. (Except when he's talking to someone he doesn't like) It kinda feels like he's meant to be on the straight and narrow, which is why I've never purposely done a crime during my entire playthrough. But now that I'm Jack, however...time to have some fun >:D

pneuma08:

For me, the game simply didn't allow what I wanted to do with it. I couldn't go tell the Mexican Army to screw itself, I couldn't deny the strangers' request even though it is clear that I am being scammed, can't disarm a guy in a duel if he is meant to die - sure, I could ignore them, but then I had already agreed to help, and there's always that little note in my to-do list nagging at me.

I also have to agree with this. Take that stranger mission with the cannibal. It was so flippin' obvious I was being tricked. Come on Marston, you're seriously going to believe the crazy old hermit over the well-groomed man who keeps screaming "Don't take me back there, he wants to eat me!" If the game had let me, I would have untied him and put a bullet in the old man's head right then and there.

Though I also like that the game is realistic in the sense that you don't always win. After that mission, I felt bad for the child and lady who got eaten. I would have loved to save them, but there was nothing I could do for them anymore.

Brilliant article Russ.

Red Dead Redemption wrapped me up in it's story and world more than any game I have played. The way the characters were created, the way the world slowly unfolded before your eyes... It was incredible.
And the ending.... I've never had such strong feelings for a character in a game. It was a very emotional moment.

If story telling in games continues to build on this new benchmark, I have high, high hopes for the future of video games

NpPro93:
I think the ending of Red Dead Redemption is very interesting when you consider the three main characters: Marston, Ross, and Dutch.

Marston believes (perhaps naively) that he can redeem himself for his past sins. He works for the government to try and get his family back. If you play the game honorably, he really is turning his life around. If you play it dishonorably, you see he can't really change. But either way, he is trying, and after killing Dutch, who was your friend, you feel he really has redeemed himself in some way.

Ross does not believe that anybody should be forgiven. In Ross's mind, Marston gave up his life long ago, and so it is Ross's duty to finish him off. Ross has no problem manipulating Marston because he sees him as less of a person. And then he betrays him to fulfill his vision of what is right, and then he gets medals. In this way you see that Ross is the true villain--traitorous, cruel, and destructive--but his actions are based in his belief in the law, a law that isn't ready to apply out west.

Dutch understands the situation best of all. He sees that Ross is evil, that Marston is being used, and that they will never be forgiven. Although he is violent and insane, his words ring true. In the end, everything that he predicted comes to pass. The law wins and the west comes to an end. In the meantime, all that Marston succeeded in doing as killing an old friend.

Absolutely this. Part way through I was hoping there would be a quest where John smartens up and tortures Ross for the location of his family members. You just HAD to know that they would come for John too.

I also loved that Jack basically became his father, in spite of John's efforts to prevent that. My favourite part was the banter between Bonnie and Abigail though. That whole mission was awkward to say the least :).

I liked the medicine dealer, Irish and even the side characters you meet like the guy who asks you to get flowers for his dead wife, California, and the guy who wanted to fly. If it weren't for Mass Effect 2 coming out this year RDR would be my game of the year.

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