Thoughts on Red Dead Redemption and Final Bosses

So I bought Red Dead Redemption last Tuesday, and it's been an engrossing experience. My wife has been annoyed with the late night shootouts in Pikes Basin, my students have been jealous of my achievement whoring (me and a few students have an ongoing achievement contest), and I've--well--I've been lulled into John Marston's world, and I'm just waking from this week-long slumber.

But now that the single player campaign is over and I've hung my poncho on the coat rack, I've been thinking about the ending of the game (no spoilers I promise). I've come to the conclusion that the final "boss" encounter was very appropriate. It seems that many games--Mass Effect 2 and Bioshock come to mind--have final bosses that don't fit the ebb and flow of the game. While I love both Mass Effect 2 and Bioshock, the final bosses felt like they were trying to match what consumers want from a final encounter. Apparently, we all want big bosses and epic encounters even if they don't sensibly fit into the story. These types of encounters seem to be disconnected with the process that built to the end of the game.

Luckily, Red Dead Redemption doesn't fall into that trap. The end encounter (it doesn't really have a singular boss per se) matches the game's sense of climax. And that is where Red Dead Redemption hits all the right note--its gives the player great highs and good lows. Red Dead Redemption gives the player a chance to sit back and let things sink in. I was never given that false sense of "hurry or the world will end" that many games resort to. The worst part of that scenario is that it's almost always a lie. Normally, I see these moments and decide that I'm going to finish up all my sidequests before beating the game. Red Dead Redemption doesn't have to do this because, like a good essay or movie, you have an idea that the end is looming, you feel it coming. And while you don't want it to end, you know it has to.

13 Comments
14 Comments
Posted by Geekcore

So I bought Red Dead Redemption last Tuesday, and it's been an engrossing experience. My wife has been annoyed with the late night shootouts in Pikes Basin, my students have been jealous of my achievement whoring (me and a few students have an ongoing achievement contest), and I've--well--I've been lulled into John Marston's world, and I'm just waking from this week-long slumber.

But now that the single player campaign is over and I've hung my poncho on the coat rack, I've been thinking about the ending of the game (no spoilers I promise). I've come to the conclusion that the final "boss" encounter was very appropriate. It seems that many games--Mass Effect 2 and Bioshock come to mind--have final bosses that don't fit the ebb and flow of the game. While I love both Mass Effect 2 and Bioshock, the final bosses felt like they were trying to match what consumers want from a final encounter. Apparently, we all want big bosses and epic encounters even if they don't sensibly fit into the story. These types of encounters seem to be disconnected with the process that built to the end of the game.

Luckily, Red Dead Redemption doesn't fall into that trap. The end encounter (it doesn't really have a singular boss per se) matches the game's sense of climax. And that is where Red Dead Redemption hits all the right note--its gives the player great highs and good lows. Red Dead Redemption gives the player a chance to sit back and let things sink in. I was never given that false sense of "hurry or the world will end" that many games resort to. The worst part of that scenario is that it's almost always a lie. Normally, I see these moments and decide that I'm going to finish up all my sidequests before beating the game. Red Dead Redemption doesn't have to do this because, like a good essay or movie, you have an idea that the end is looming, you feel it coming. And while you don't want it to end, you know it has to.

Posted by JJWeatherman
@Geekcore said:
" Apparently, we all want big bosses and epic encounters even if they don't sensibly fit into the story. These types of encounters seem to be disconnected with the process that built to the end of the game. "
I definitely agree. I think it's partly due to that being how a lot of older games were always made. It's almost like video game tradition. Eventually more and more developers will start to see that not every game has to have the same type of stereotypical boss battle at the end of a game.
Posted by Tennmuerti

I concur dear sirs.
Well put.

Posted by probablytuna

I agree as well. But for Mass Effect 3, I do want to see epic boss battles for the dramatic conclusion to the trilogy.

Posted by rhacer63

It was an amazing experience RDR continues to climb my list of favourite games ever, months after I have put it down.

Posted by Icil
@rhacer63 said:
" It was an amazing experience RDR continues to climb my list of favourite games ever, months after I have put it down. "
Easily #1 if all the multiplayer DLC was in at launch.
Posted by rhacer63
@Icil said:
" @rhacer63 said:
" It was an amazing experience RDR continues to climb my list of favourite games ever, months after I have put it down. "
Easily #1 if all the multiplayer DLC was in at launch. "
Funny thing, I would put it up there without the multiplayer component at all. I've still barely touched the MP and yet the game still speaks to me.
Posted by HistoryInRust
@rhacer63 said:
" @Icil said:
" @rhacer63 said:
" It was an amazing experience RDR continues to climb my list of favourite games ever, months after I have put it down. "
Easily #1 if all the multiplayer DLC was in at launch. "
Funny thing, I would put it up there without the multiplayer component at all. I've still barely touched the MP and yet the game still speaks to me. "
I'm with you there. The multiplayer stuff never jived with me, but I can look past that and appreciate the narrative for how strong it is. Really an impressive game. 
Posted by Fjordson
@rhacer63 said:
" @Icil said:
" @rhacer63 said:
" It was an amazing experience RDR continues to climb my list of favourite games ever, months after I have put it down. "
Easily #1 if all the multiplayer DLC was in at launch. "
Funny thing, I would put it up there without the multiplayer component at all. I've still barely touched the MP and yet the game still speaks to me. "
Totally agreed. RDR's single-player was one of the best things I've played in a long, long time.
Posted by FancySoapsMan

I liked the ending, though I felt the rest of the story was pretty boring in comparison. It was way too slow and you could probably do away with half of the missions and it wouldn't affect the story in any way.
 
Though I agree about the last parts of the game being very fitting. It's not something I'd like to see more of, since there's nothing more satisfying than beating a tough boss in order to get to the ending, but it was a nice change of pace regardless.

Posted by rhacer63
@FancySoapsMan:  I'm stunned you found it boring. I think it showed some amazing character development the whole way through. It's the story of RDR that was the greatest part of it to me. I felt like a gunslinger in the old west, and spent many hours just riding around the country side or playing cards or whatever, just because it actually felt like something I would do if I were truly in that situation.
Posted by Claude

I thought the ending of RDR was very fitting for the game. I just don't like the gauntlet style of play developers throw at you during games, wave after wave of enemies. RDR had this, Dragon Age Origins, Assassin's Creed was fucking ridiculous with its end game gauntlet. It's like the only way developers can give you a challenge is to increase the number of enemies. I'm not a fan of big boss fights either. Maybe I'm just looking for more in my games, not sure.

Posted by Daryl

I loved the pacing. My only problem with it is I felt where you were at the end of the game should've been a bit further off the map. Felt a bit too close.

Posted by Soapy86

I've actually felt that "bosses" have been severely outdated since Halo 1. That game showed me that you can have a totally satisfying and intense conclusion to game without having to slay some large enemy with an even larger health bar. I'm a little sad that we're almost to 2011 and developers still put bosses in games that totally don't need them.