Am I The Only One Who Thinks RDR's Story/Characters were mediocre

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#1 Posted by CoheedFavorHouse (670 posts) -

Okay, so I liked RDR. I really did. I hear a ton of love for it, and most of it is well deserved. Here's my two issues with everyone giving the game godlike status. I don't really think a spoiler warning is necessary, but here it is just in case.
 

The Story

 
Everyone loves the story. They think it's refreshing that a game finally focuses on a character who just wants to go home but is determined to do what it takes to save his family. I don't mean to sound rude here, but that's not overly unique. In fact, it's actually sort of a rehash of all sorts of movies and games, especially westerns. 
 
Also. Mexico. What the hell? I understand RDR was designed to be in parts, but Mexico makes no sense. Getting caught up in a Mexican Revolution seems to be a lengthy way (not to mention a copout) to have John progress with finding the gang members he's looking for. For the only time in that game, I felt like it was stretched out, and (closes eyes and crosses fingers) repetitive. 
 
To end my story rant. Herding cows. What. The. Hell. Horsebreaking was okay. even hunting was manageable. But to force me to waste precious gaming time herding cows? Fuck that. and not just once. More than once. I want to say 3, but i can't be sure 
 

The Character That Is John Marston

 
In my opinion, of course, John Marston isn't the new character of the year. In fact, he's not even a new character. He's a cowboy (or outlaw, for whatever distinction there may be). You know, the hero of every western, everywhere. Sure, he's not a bank robber, but that doesn't change the fact that he runs around with a six shooter and kills things. And more importantly, he's not interesting.Save my wife, blah blah blah. But other than that, it's "you turn on me, and I'll put a bullet in your head" "yo soy john marston!" and "i'll kill you all!" 
 
Okay, I'm sick of typing, so I'll end my character rant with this. John Marston is stupid. How many times do you have to run stupid errands for people, get turned on, and still have to do everything yourself before you say "fuck this. i'm gonna shoot everything in my sight," The grave robber and the shitty salesman? I mean come on John. I know you want to save your family, but seriously, what the fuck,
#2 Posted by FancySoapsMan (5818 posts) -

No, you're not.
 
It's a weak story that only gets interesting at the very end. 

#3 Posted by BaneFireLord (2957 posts) -

I quite enjoyed the characters, personally. Except for maybe Jack. Him and his creepy ass mustache.

#4 Posted by Berezov (504 posts) -

Yes you are the only person in the entire world that thinks that. Weird right?

#5 Posted by CoheedFavorHouse (670 posts) -
@BaneFireLord: I hated Jack so much. After I completed the main story after the main story  
 
 
 
 
I went back to an old save to do side quests as John. couldn't stand the kid's voice
#6 Posted by TheGreatGuero (9130 posts) -

Well, I totally got into it. I thought about 95% of the characters were despicable people that I was anxious to kill, but I still thought they were interesting characters. I loved the story, and really admired the decision to change up the pace of things towards the end of the game. That's something you don't ever see in games, and I feel it helped me really value some of the characters more. It was a nice calm before the final storm.

#7 Posted by zombie2011 (5049 posts) -

 The story does suck until the end. 
 
I hated every character in the game besides Marston, The Sheriff, and Bonnie.

#8 Edited by Enigma777 (6059 posts) -

It has one of the better stories and characters in videogames. They're not amazing, but compared to other games, they're quite good.

#9 Posted by CoheedFavorHouse (670 posts) -
@zombie2011: I feel like maybe I should edit the post. I forgot about Bonnie. I got emotionally attached to her, and then bam, you don't see her again after Mexico unless you buy Undead Nightmare. Which would be a completely different rant.
#10 Posted by velucyraptor (357 posts) -
@CoheedFavorHouse: Oh god I did the exact same thing, fucking soulmates, thought I was just being irrational
#11 Posted by zombie2011 (5049 posts) -
@CoheedFavorHouse said:
" @zombie2011: I feel like maybe I should edit the post. I forgot about Bonnie. I got emotionally attached to her, and then bam, you don't see her again after Mexico unless you buy Undead Nightmare. Which would be a completely different rant. "
You visit her with your wife at the end of the game.
#12 Posted by CoheedFavorHouse (670 posts) -
@zombie2011: right. but you dont get to hit on her anymore. i feel like right before mexico, she was really into marston. then its just this jealousy thing with the wife, and then it just ends. not quite what i was going for with how attached i got to her. im not a fan of marstons wife as it is
#13 Posted by President_Barackbar (3474 posts) -

You aren't but are definitely in a small minority. I loved the story in the game because it reminded me a lot of something like The Odyssey where you have a really likable, has-some-demons-in-his-past-but-is-a-nice-guy personality that really makes the ending such a catharsis of emotion.

#14 Posted by Junkerman (279 posts) -
@CoheedFavorHouse:   I especially disliked the fact that you would encounter characters, get to know them, and then never see them again without so much as a word.  Like the Sheriff you meet, you do maybe five missions for him, and then *never* see him again.
#15 Edited by Zippedbinders (1034 posts) -

I don't think John Marston is that great of a character, so much that he is well written. He's a common western trope and, as stated in the deliberations, an avatar for the player during the majority of the game. At the end he starts having more distinct feelings and characterization beyond "WHERE'S BILL WILLIAMSON?" and thats where it really picks up. Most of the cast is your usual round up of Houser's characters he puts in every game. Bonnie, Marshal, and RIcketts are probably the only ones that stood out in my mind, mostly since they're impossible to find in other Rockstar games, that is to say decent and earnest characters. I wouldn't say that the story was mediocre by any means, but I'll agree it wasn't the best. It was, however, the only other Rockstar game I've cared enough about to finish along with Bully.

#16 Posted by Jasta (2217 posts) -

If there was a word that could describe the space between "Mediocre" and "Great" I would call it that.

Feel free to find that word for me.

#17 Edited by spazmaster666 (1991 posts) -
@Jasta said:
"

If there was a word that could describe the space between "Mediocre" and "Great" I would call it that.

Feel free to find that word for me.

"
How about "good" or "above average"?
#18 Posted by Jasta (2217 posts) -

@spazmaster666 said:

"above average"? "

Sounds about right, I'll take it!
#19 Posted by jkz (4060 posts) -

No. 
 
I thought it closed very strongly, and that, towards the end of the first act, it picked up quite well. But all of your time in Mexico is absolutely stupid, and destroys any believability that Marston's character had in the first place.

#20 Posted by DarkShaper (1349 posts) -

I really didn't care for RDR, the story was boring and I just lost interest around Mexico.

#21 Posted by l4wd0g (2016 posts) -
@CoheedFavorHouse: 
 
Yeah, I see your point.
#22 Posted by eagles_band (159 posts) -

I loved the characters and story. And TC is saying RDR isn't unique, what game story is? Everything has been done before. 

#23 Posted by Azteck (7449 posts) -

No, I didn't think it was amazing. It's good in most areas but It's certainly not the game it's hyped up to be. But the story just felt flat, and didn't hook me in emotionally like less story driven games have in the past. And every relationship he has, whether it be with Bonnie or with his son or one of the fuck-ups in Mexico. His son does not feel like his son. There's no family bond shining through, and that is somewhat key if you want the player to sympathize with the characters.

#24 Posted by l4wd0g (2016 posts) -
@Azteck:  My biggest gripe with the John is that his character has a motivation and sometimes I found myself asking, "why are we helping this guy, He isn't helping us reach our end goal."
#25 Posted by Thoseposers (791 posts) -
@CoheedFavorHouse: 
 
I absolutely agree. I enjoyed the gameplay but man have i come to hate that story and his character. It just confuses me in a way because everyone gives the story so much praise
#26 Posted by Trilogy (2690 posts) -

You're never the only one with a negative opinion of a popular thing. That being said, I loved the story and the characters in RDR. Sorry.

Online
#27 Posted by kingzetta (4307 posts) -
@FancySoapsMan said:
" No, you're not.  It's a weak story that only gets interesting at the very end.  "

#28 Posted by Pibo47 (3166 posts) -
@FancySoapsMan: Yeah same here man, i thought that game was alotta fun..i didnt hate the characters...but they just didnt ring true to me 90% of the time.
#29 Posted by FoxMulder (1711 posts) -

I like RDR, but I wasn't as wowed by it as everyone is.  The end really isn't the best ending ever like Brad has been praising.  I doubt I will ever play it through again.

#30 Posted by McGhee (6075 posts) -

Actually, Mexico was my favorite part of the game. If the whole game would've been based around Mexico and a revolution, I would've liked it a lot more. When you're main goal is always just looking for a couple dudes, and doing things for random people to get information, it gets a little uninteresting.

#31 Posted by Malakhii (1443 posts) -
@Trilogy said:
" You're never the only one with a negative opinion of a popular thing."  
Haters gonna hate. 
#32 Posted by sterbacblu (231 posts) -

I just finally finished this today after feeling obligated to and felt that it was a game that did a lot of things good, but nothing great.  The controls were pretty dismal except for shooting on-foot or while "riding shotgun" which were highly enjoyable.  The story to me was, again, just good and not great.  Had the story been condensed a bit, it may have had a better impact, but the game was about 1-2 hours long in each of the three "chapters."  I'm not saying that content should have been eliminated, it just should have been shuffled away from the storyline.  Also I have no idea why people felt this ending was "amazing."  Nice title card placement, but that's about it.  I do appreciate the western setting, some of my favorite films are westerns, and I hope to see another Red Dead something, but overall this was just a mediocre game to me.

#33 Posted by HandsomeDead (11863 posts) -

Because it's not unique, it's bad?

#34 Posted by Clonedzero (4196 posts) -

my only issue with RDR was the 2nd act.
the first act in new austin was great, the characters well done and such.
the third act was great, having one of the most well done endings ive ever seen in a game.
 
however the second act in mexico just felt so pointless and like it was busy work to pad out the games length. the majority of the time i was in mexico i wasn't sure why i was working for the people i was working for.

#35 Posted by Tofford (532 posts) -

The only thing that made me think this was a great game was the world. The way it was filled with animals and things to do. Everything else seemed mediocre to me.

#36 Posted by GetEveryone (4458 posts) -
@CoheedFavorHouse: Definitely not alone. I thought the characters were, for the most part, vile (not necessarily when they were supposed to be). I liked the bones of the story, not the way it played out. The first ending really grabbed me, but listening to John monologue and dialogue so often about his "past catching up with him", or whether "his kind had a place in this new world" really began to grate. 
 
I started to replay it again recently and I don't feel that my criticisms are particularly harsh. I still enjoyed the game immensely, but there are a lot of aspects that I didn't particularly take a shine to.
#37 Edited by Fjordson (2433 posts) -

Picking on Red Dead's story for not being all that unique is kind of lame considering most video game stories, especially ones of a genre as old as the western, will be reminiscent of movies, books, etc. that have been around for decades. You can reduce almost any story down to its basic archetype, but there's a lot more to a plot than just its basic narrative.
 
I enjoyed the general story arc of Red Dead, but what really captivated me were the characters, their dialogue and exchanges with Marston and the underlying themes that Rockstar dealt with. I think the idea of the west dying out and government and technology encroaching on people like Marston's way of life is a really interesting idea to explore. There are great little touches throughout the game pertaining to that (the Marshall trying to use the telephone in his office and saying he "just don't understand" is a great example of this). Also, I feel when talking about Red Dead's story you really need to mention the ending. Ryan and Brad (and probably Vinny I can't remember) on one of the GOTY deliberation podcasts illustrated perfectly why that ending is so good. It's rare for a game to have such a definitive and satisfying ending. The specific event that happens towards the end with Marston is also something that is incredibly rare in games and was a moment that really stuck with me long after I had finished RDR.
 
Not sure how herding cows hurt the story in any way. If anything, it simply reinforced the atmosphere of the game and Marston as a character, showing that he's had a life and has experiences separate from just being an errand boy and killer for various criminals. I actually liked all of that stuff in the beginning with Bonnie. It was one of the many examples of John showing that he was actually pretty friendly and willing to help and repay Bonnie for saving his life despite the tremendously difficult situation that he was in.
 
As far as Mexico, I can't really argue for or against it. Merely opinion. I liked it quite a bit. It reminded me a lot of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (one of my favourite films ever) and was a neat contrast to the American territories at the beginning and the end of the game. The one thing I didn't quite like was that I felt John played both sides a bit too long. That did feel somewhat awkward, but overall I'm glad it was in the game. I found a lot to like about it: the music, the landscape, characters such as Landon Ricketts, etc.
 
Regarding Marston's charater, again, just like the story, you're reducing him down to his most basic of attributes. He's a cowboy and uses a six shooter. If that's all one wants to say about him then okay, fine, you're right. But what I liked about Marston was his dry sense of humour and straight forward approach to the multitude of extraordinary and difficult situations that he finds himself in. He always seems to stay mostly calm and just takes things as they come. I thought he had a lot of funny exchanges throughout the game with the other characters and his voice acting was top notch. I love that Rockstar made him a more multidimensional character than someone like a Tommy Vercetti or Niko. Yes, he's done terrible things and did more during the game, but his basic personality was actually quite charming and he had various good qualities about him that he displays throughout the game (politely denying the hookers in the game because he's faithful to his wife is the one that always comes to mind).
 
The last thing you mentioned is something I see with almost every Rockstar protagonist. I see people bitching about this with literally every Rockstar game. Like the Mexico thing, I'm not sure what to say since I've never really cared. It's a bloody video game. People will act in ways that are probably slightly unrealistic and/or naive in order to fit the flow of the game. It's mission based. Yes. The Rockstar protagonists sometimes make dumb decisions. It's been happening for years. Personally, I don't really have a problem with it because I always love the side characters that you deal with. If you could suddenly forgo the entire mission structure of these games and simply start killing people at random, ending up at the final cutscene a few hours later, that would be pretty dumb.   

However, I will agree that Rockstar could try and create missions and characters more in line with the beliefs, morals and personalities of their protagonists in future games and give you more choices as far as who you go to work for, but it's never really bothered me that much for whatever reason. Something about the writing and the characters in Rockstar's games just click with me.

#38 Posted by FritzDude (2273 posts) -

Isn't it funny to think that in these days we are enabled to compare video games to actual movies?

#39 Edited by ProfessorEss (7523 posts) -
@l4wd0g said:

" @Azteck:  My biggest gripe with the John is that his character has a motivation and sometimes I found myself asking, "why are we helping this guy, He isn't helping us reach our end goal." "

Yeah that would be my only real gripe too, but for me it's a small price to pay for big open world stories. 

I thought the story concept as a whole was very interesting even tho it wasn't perfectly told. The supporting characters, like most Rockstar games, were second to none. So Marston was a bit out of place as the errand boy, to me it's not that different than Ezio collecting flags and treasure chests when their are much more pressing matters at hand.
 
Sometimes I feel like I'm the only one who can tolerate having a little videogame in my videogames these days.
#40 Posted by Azteck (7449 posts) -
@ProfessorEss said:
" @l4wd0g said:

" @Azteck:  My biggest gripe with the John is that his character has a motivation and sometimes I found myself asking, "why are we helping this guy, He isn't helping us reach our end goal." "

Yeah that would be my only real gripe too, but for me it's a small price to pay for big open world stories.  I thought the story concept as a whole was very interesting even tho it wasn't perfectly told. The supporting characters, like most Rockstar games, were second to none. So Marston was a bit out of place as the errand boy, to me it's not that different than Ezio collecting flags and treasure chests when their are much more pressing matters at hand.  Sometimes I feel like I'm the only one who can tolerate having a little videogame in my videogames these days. "
Thing is, the flags and chests (at least after AC1) were completely optional, where-as the missions in RDR were maybe not required, but didn't have the characteristics of a "side-quest"
#41 Posted by fraser (478 posts) -
@Fjordson said:
The last thing you mentioned is something I see with almost every Rockstar protagonist.
 
This.
 
And I totally agree with the critique. I bloody love Rockstar but the whole "protagonist reluctantly doing small jobs for people of no real relevance to him/her" is rather frustrating. Especially when (and this is where I disagree with the OP) the story is so strong. It feels like you're constantly being led astray from the story for no worthwhile reason. Whilst I love the world they flesh out through so many diverse characters, I wish they could do it in a way which didn't stilt the narrative so strongly.
 
Also herding cows as a critique of the story? Really? 
 
I'm not a particular fan of wearing a suit, so I hate the story in The Godfather.
 
Ok maybe that's a bit extreme/a dickhead thing to say, and it's different when you have to play through a game. But can you really critique the story of RDR because you have to herd cows every so often?
 
I do, however, agree with you on the Mexico front because it deviates the plot significantly from where it needs to go in a way that feels pretty half-hearted and pointless.
#42 Posted by babblinmule (1262 posts) -

I thought that the characters were fairly good, but the story just dive bombed for me when you hit Blackwater. And the ending left a sour taste in my mouth because I just flat-out didn't care about the fate of John Marston and his family.

#43 Posted by Bloodgraiv3 (2690 posts) -

Your not the only one, but very few :P 
Me personally I thought it was the best game in quite a few years. 
#44 Posted by KillerFly (397 posts) -

The beginning and ending of that game are great. Yeah, Mexico is pretty bad. But the payoff at the end is so good.

#45 Posted by Animasta (14726 posts) -
@McGhee_the_Insomniac said:
" Actually, Mexico was my favorite part of the game. If the whole game would've been based around Mexico and a revolution, I would've liked it a lot more. When you're main goal is always just looking for a couple dudes, and doing things for random people to get information, it gets a little uninteresting. "
I would play a GTA style game based on a real/fictional revolution of some kind, that kind of thing hasn't really been done in games and I think rockstar could probably do it
#46 Posted by McGhee (6075 posts) -
@Laketown:  
Well, that kind of what Just Cause 2 is about if you haven't played that. There just isn't much story. Most of it is, "Here's some guns. Go and kill these people". But the game play is awesome and the combination of the grapple hook and parachute is one of the funnest things ever in a game.
#47 Posted by fox01313 (5089 posts) -
@Clonedzero:
Agreed after thinking about it after finishing the game finally. I played too much of it when it came out & decided to take a break once returning to the ranch only to find out today just how close I was to the end. For me the Mexico part was excessively pretty to look at but aside from wandering around a lot more after things to hunt, the missions there were rather tame. I did enjoy seeing the glider/stranger mission but it was even funnier with someone posting the stranger replaced by a horse trying to fly it. I think since you weren't in the 2nd act (aka Mexico) all that much it just didn't have enough time to grab hold. Overall a good game but the story is quite believeable which is probably why the Zombie Nightmare DLC story should be more entertaining as the more fantastic elements of the DLC story should make it highly unpredictable (going to get it in a few days & looking forward to enjoy the hell out of it).
#48 Posted by memo (421 posts) -

I enjoyed the game and the story pretty slow at first but it picks up.  Its totally cool that u thought it was mediocre.  Everyone has their own opinion.

#49 Posted by oliver (124 posts) -

it felt in the middle  in    Mexican it got abit boring . but the end it pick up real nice and felt epic at the end

#50 Edited by BBQBram (2294 posts) -

There is also a lot of implications and reflections on the times in the dialogue. Maybe if you're not looking for big story beats the nuance will jump out at you. It's like the difference between a Showtime and HBO series. 
 
That said I thought all the characters felt real and were a metaphor for a part of the west as well. The whole story is a reflection on the old frontier with the law of men being overrun by the state and federal law. Not one side is fully good or bad, it's a duality, shades of grey. Marston is the frontier law and Agent Ross is the federal law. He makes Marston and the player believe there is a place for him in the new world, but it was just a lie to tie up loose ends. It's genius and thematically consistent. 
 
Then there's the emergent narrative. Here you have a man who is forced to return to his old life to save his new one. The question is, will he revert to his old ways or will he redeem himself in the process. You make this decision, and it effects all the implications of the scripted interactions greatly. Then there's the end which is a rough realization of, no matter how saintly John's life may be nowadays, there is no redemption save for death for what he did in his old life. This realisation hits the player when it hits John, and is an amazingly strong conclusion. Taking the whole story arc's natural outcome, settling the player into relief and closure and then bam! They drive the point home.   
 
And then there's Jack - providing the player with freeroaming post-credits that doesn't break internal consitency and player immersion, a free choice to reflect as a child of West-Elizabeth on the actions of his father (Federal America reflecting on the old frontier) and all the choices you made as John provide all the choices you make with Jack with different implications and subtext. Will he turn bitter and seek revenge? Will he better himself and remember the last days of his father, fighting crime for a higher cause? Will he soil or clean the family name? There is endless subtext in emergent gameplay narrative here.  And of course, the real ending provides some closure, and thematically resolves the duality. Ross couldn't get away with the way he used Marston in the end, in tying up a loose end he created another one - the federal government will never have absolute controll over the primal nature of man and the law of man. And it's sad in the way that John realized his time was up and that his old ways were through, and he wanted a better life for Jack. But by sacrifising himself for his family he made Jack into a shadow of himself instead of a Marston of the new America, going of to university and acquiring a place in society for himself.
 
So there is redemption, but it goes both ways. This game could have just been a cool iconical spaghetti-western. Thank God it's not though, this is a work of art.
 
Besides, all of the character design, animation and voice work is superb for the actual cast of despicable figures John meets along the way. These are all different archetypes of the old world. And the duality of the old and new world is magnified in the second act; yes, Mexico is pretty separate from the overall arc but it's John looking a the same duality his current life represents but from the outside looking in. The army and the rebels are the exast same duality, only condensed in time in an eternal struggle back and forth to the point that there is no meaning to either side, it is just manipulation for power. In that sense, Abraham Reyes is as corrupt as De Santa and his superiors and when he attains power, other rebels will surely rise to the same ideal he supposedly stood for. I think all the characters in this act are amazing as well, and John is supposed to come off as a bit distant, both appalled by the corruption and shocked by the naivity.
So that in mind I think the acts work wonderfully - the first act is the archetypal west which is both enchanting and threatening, the second act points out the greater thematic duality at work here and provides a backdrop for the action ramping up, then the final act crescendos, only to revert on itself and drive the point home, thematically and emotionally. Then Jack's character is the excellent epilogue, providing endless emergent narrative to reflect on John's arc. 
 
Now if you don't see this, then a great story with literary depth is wasted on you. It's like how GTA IV bummed people out who just wanted goofy parodies of Scorsese flicks, Miami Vice and Gangsta Rap wars respectively (while it remains as the greatest GTA game to date).
 
Edit: It occured to me that John's willingness to help shady folk without a clear benefit can be read as his desperation, but it also signifies the greater design paradox Rockstar is running into since they're going for believable characters nowadays. Niko had this problem as well. On the one hand you've got this very driven narrative, and the other hand your character seems to be tugged along it on the whims of minor characters, even if it goes in the face of his convictions. This undermines the characters identity to some degree. However I believe this is more of an open-world game design issue than a legitimate complaint towards this story. Here's hoping that LA Noire will be the perfect balance of choice and driven narrative that R* is going for. It might be a bit ambitious and creates some paradoxes with the open world intention, but give me a Rockstar world with a defined protagonist where I create the emergent narrative over a blank slate Bioware protagonist any day.

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