A landmark of ambition, scope, and sophistication in gaming that will be remembered for years to come.
Although huge steps forward in storytelling were taken in Grand Theft Auto 4 -- and critics overreacted in hysterical fashion -- it still suffered from the sameness of the depiction of urban crimelife, and the problems that had plagued the series for years were still there -- forced participation in boring dating mini-games, annoying racing missions, lack of real gameplay focus, and an overall sense of deja-vu that creeped in halfway into the game and began to make things less than engrossing. It was a game that did many things fairly well, but it did nothing exceptionally.
Enter Red Dead Redemption, a project many gamers and media felt was an attempt to create the impossible; a great game set in the Old West -- a setting so well explored and depicted in American cinema that many considered it a dying genre.
Let's not mince words here; Red Dead Redemption is a masterpiece. A daring piece of work that outright transcends the videogame experience and scoffs at the Mountain-Dew fueled nerdery that has held videogames back since the beginning. This is not Grand Theft Horseback -- it's a creation of pure art; a shockingly ambitious and mature piece of work from a team of artists at the top of their game that is as compelling and involing as any movie -- western or not -- that has been made in years. There are no stupid bowling alleys, no goofy siblings to take care of, no strip clubs, no tanks to drive through the city. Rockstar has learned that these things are childish novelties, and has bravely removed them. This is a story of an imperfect man who has made mistakes and is trying to redeem himself, as painful as his journey may be. A game that captures, with masterful nuance, the human emotional experience -- determination, fear, love, anger and regret -- almost effortlessly. It doesn't hurt that the world is the most realized and beautiful in gaming history. As much fun as it is to play the game itself, equal enjoyment can be had from just roaming the stunning depiction of the American landscape -- riding over a snow-covered hill as the rising sun divides and fractures through the trees is just as impressive and enjoyable as shooting a fleeing outlaw in the leg, only to lasso him up like a wild stag; hogtie him, and take him to the local sherriff on the back of your horse for a pretty penny. You'll never forget the moment you first see a herd of buffalo roaming an open field. Simple moments like these are shockingly unforgettable. However, these are not the games' most accomplished moments. The most important thing you experience during the game is emotional impact. The way you will think, the way you will feel -- just like your character would. You have never felt this in a videogame before, at least not to this degree, and it is downright unsettling at times. And for this, Red Dead Redemption is one of the most important games in videogame history. As much of a step forward and signifigant as Grand Theft Auto 3 was for 2001, this is a game of equal impact, and one that moves videogames forward in innumerable ways.