By dudeglove 40 Comments
Having acquired Red Dead Redemption just the other day, I find again that I'm plagued by the recurring problem that is rampant in many video games lately, and not just the sandbox ones - the GPS mechanic.
When the GPS mechanic first reared its head in video games - I can't remember who it can be attributed to, but I think it's safe to say the GTA franchise solidified it in the industry's minds - it was neat. It was a sneaky way of approaching exploration issues in open world games, meaning developers no longer had to break their adventures into separate levels and instead create a "living" world to fill with hidden packages and easter eggs. But, much like anything, it was too good to be true.
Why? Because, having only played Red Dead Redemption for a few hours, the GPS is literally doing everything for me, which is a real shame.
For those not versed in RDR or don't have the opportunity to play it, it's a good looking game. No, wait, scratch that. RDR is a fantastic looking game. It's not as horribly 'brown' as its sandbox predecessors, and for the past couple of hours I've put into it, there's always something going on in this sandbox world. For a place that's meant to be mostly desert and inhabitable, there sure is a hell of a lot of shit going on.
So why am I bitching about GPS? It's because the GPS is ruining the beauty of RDR for me. When traveling between destinations with your quest markers or self placed waypoints, the not-very-obnoxious-but-certainly-visible GPS will kindly lay out a golden trail for you of the fastest route on horse back between A and B. And invariably my eyes are gravitating more to the lower-left corner of the screen, rather than admiring both the gloriousness of the New Austin landscape and my steed's backside. Sure there's pop-up that Rockstar would rather you not notice, but at least it's darn good looking pop-up, partner. It's become such an issue for me that I'm struggling to stop glancing at the all-knowing circle in the corner every five seconds.
Is Rockstar the sole guilty party here, and can the GPS problem only be attributed to sandbox games? No. It's seen elsewhere. Mario Kart on the DS not only has a GPS, it has a whole screen full of info overkill devoted to it. You can literally play the game without looking at the top screen, as all the information you need (in fact even more than the main screen, as you can see the goddamn shells approaching from behind, or the banana skins up front, rather than just simple blips of other players and an outline of the course) is shown through the touch screen. And it destroys the game.
Admittedly, the situation in RDR eventually remedies itself. Even after playing only a few hours, I have a pretty good idea how to get from the Ranch to Armadillo without worrying about the map. I imagine it will carry over as I further explore New Austin.
Coming to a conclusion, can there be a solution to this in RDR? Is it possible to assist navigation without ruining the visual experience? I think in the bombcast, Brad noted that RDR wasn't "Fallout 3 enough" for him. I think he may be on to something, as the navigation aid in that game was just a simple compass on the HUD which lit up with simple markers indicating nearby stuff. To a much lesser degree, Borderlands had something similar. In both instances, your view isn't ruined by a GPS. You're being fed location info, but you still have to look around for what you're after.
But having something like that is at odds with RDR's storyline. Marston isn't a nameless blank slate crawling out of a vault, he's fully acquainted with the Wild West and New Austin. Having him do laps up and down the world map finding locations like in Fallout 3 would be laughable.
What else might be able to help? Can aspects of Batman: Arkham Asylum's "Detective Vision" possibly lend a hand here? Marston, again, isn't a greenhorn to the Wild West, so what about some sort of "Tracking Vision" to accompany his Dead Eye quick draw mechanic? He can already skin animals and, given the context, you'd think along with that skill he should be able to find his way around without a map or compass.
This might sound a ridiculous stretch, but what about Zelda's fairy mechanic? Could that sparkly ball be manifested into something that would help but not be completely at odds with RDR's time period? How about playing on the tracking thing again? Give Marston an eagle as a navigation tool (as opposed to shooting them out of the sky) and have it reveal some nearby territory in the distance? But with this idea lies the rub of Marston having to maintain another animal along with his horse.
It's clear Rockstar doesn't want you to be pausing the game constantly to check the map, but finding an alternative to compliment, yet not interfere with the main game is something that may never be attainable. I'm extremely interested to hear what you all might have to say on this matter.
Boiling down my criticism - Dude, it's a fucking GPS; they didn't have TomToms back then.
Thanks for reading.