9.5

I am not ashamed to say I have a man-crush on John Marston.

The closest I had ever felt to game characters was during the ending sequence of Persona 4. Anyone who has played that game will know what I'm talking about. It was the end of a journey that took me the better part of 90 hours and was filled with ups and downs, **** and saints, quiet spells and intense moments. It was a game that I'll never forget and holds the place of favorite RPG of all time in my eyes.

The reason I explain this is because it shows what all other games go up against, RPG or other wise. Characters are what matters to me most in fiction and that's what Persona 4 was full of. Without good characters the drama is not worth a care, the problems are cast aside. Give me good characters and I'm a happy guy even if the main plot sorta blows.

Red Dead Redemption is filled to the rafters with awesome characters. Ones that I adore and ones that I loathe. It was the characters that sucked me into the world above all else. It wasn't the gorgeous vistas, the plentiful mini-games, the attention to detail both in towns and historical, not even in the bounty hunting that pulled me into the world of Red Dead.

It was the characters. John Marston is easily one of the best protagonists I've ever had the pleasure of controlling. A rather brash man with a violent past but always a perfect gentleman when need be and not one who kills without good reason. Every minor character, as well, is filled with such depth and personality that it's mind-blowing that Rockstar San Diego put that many in. The insane treasure-hunting Seth, the snake-oil salesman W. Dickens, the old but still deadly Landon Ricketts and the dozens more all do their part to fill in this world of west America and Mexico in 1911. Every single mission was engaging for me because of the characters issuing them.

It's fortunate that the rest of the game is so stand-out as well. The gunplay is smooth and, if expert targeting is put on, routinely an enjoyable challenge. The wonderful Dead-Eye mechanic can tend to be overpowered but since it drains quickly that concern is somewhat mitigated. The world is also vast but rather populated and with lots to do. Strangers will pop up with a variety of quick and easy tasks that can earn John fame and money. There are gang hideouts to clear out. There's also hunting, searching for treasure, collecting bounties, poker, etc. There's rarely a moment where there is nothing to do whether it be unlocking a new outfit or trying to kill a cougar with a stick of dynamite.

There is also the concept of fame and honor thrown into the mix. Do missions and other assorted activities and John becomes more famous around the frontier. This leads to discounts, people saying hello while in town and more odd-jobs while riding out around. Honor can go in two ways. Do good things and people will worship you as a man-God, kill innocents and rob them blind and they'll run in terror. Good for fun every now and then to make people run in abject terror.

I could well go on but suffice it be said that the world of Red Dead Redemption is a wide one constantly filled with stuff to do and people to see and, sometimes, shoot in the head.

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