In 2020, Red Dead Redemption has long been a modern phenomenon in pop culture. The second part, published in autumn 2018, received numerous critic awards and is one of the absolute best sellers of the current console generation. But it was different ten years ago: While many expected the first Red Dead Redemption to be a really good game, very few believed in a mega-hit. No wonder, since the approach of an open world game in the Wild West seemed interesting, but not nearly as "mainstream" as the gangster dramas that US developer Rockstar Games usually told.

Red Dead Redemption: We look back – video flashback

Western games – a snapshot

Although Western has enjoyed great popularity as a genre in books, comics, and films for decades, it became popular in the gaming area before Red Dead Redemption (buy now for € 38.99) but rather neglected. Because if you look into the time before the rock star hit was released, it is particularly striking that the existing Western games were often not very successful niche products. In the action genre, the shooter Outlaws released in 1997 first comes to mind. The PC game stood out from the crowd thanks to its unusual Cel shading style, cool comic cutscenes and solid shooter gameplay. The game developed by LucasArts picked up typical western tropics and even camera shots of well-known films and was based on the so-called Jedi Engine, which was used, among other things, in a Star Wars shooter from 1995, which was indexed in Germany.

<img src = "" alt = "Red Dead Redemption skilfully played with the lighting mood of a western: the vastness of the landscape, Few clouds in the sky and a setting sun – you got an appetite for a ride or a roaring campfire.
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Red Dead Redemption skilfully played with the lighting mood of a western: the vastness of the landscape, a few clouds in the sky and a setting sun – you immediately felt like riding out or a crackling campfire.

Source: Moby Games

After the turn of the millennium, Westerns seemed to become increasingly interesting for players and the industry. With Red Dead Revolver, Rockstar San Diego laid the foundation stone for the later success of Red Dead Redemption in 2004. A year later, the Gun developed by Neversoft was followed by an open-world game that was as ambitious as it was successful. The third-person adventure was technically still quite limited, but it shone with the implementation of an open western game world and action-packed shootouts. Gun was certainly one of the positive exceptions at the time, since it was commercially successful and caused the first little western hype.

This was also evident in the well-implemented and still popular Call-of-Juarez series, which was able to celebrate success with its series debut (2005), the 2009 Bound in Blood and Gunslinger's 2013 release. At this point, we drop the Call of Juarez: The Cartel (2011) developed by Techland: Ubisoft and Techland tried to implement the wild west setting in a modern gangster adventure. However, this plan ended in an absolutely catastrophic mix of genres with a dubious story and bad technology. But the Wild West was not only occasionally mentioned in the action area. From 2001, the strategy game series Desperados, for example, showed that the setting is ideal for tough, tough tactics. The third part of THQ Nordic is currently in the works, but there is no final release date yet.

<img src = "" alt = "Protagonist John Marston naturally also went hunting. The skin of the slain animals sold we later and earned quick money on the side, but the animations and effects when skinning were always borderline for animal lovers.
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Protagonist John Marston naturally also went hunting. We later sold the skin of the slain animals and thus made quick money on the side. The animations and effects when skinning were always borderline for animal lovers.

Source: Moby Games

The makers of other titles such as Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath, the Wii-Shooter Red Steel (2006) or Darkwatch (2005), interpreted the setting with science fiction elements noticeably. In short: Although interest in the Western grew over the years, there were no real bestsellers and mass phenomena. That should change suddenly with the Red Dead Redemption published in May 2010. To date, Rockstar's open-world adventure has had one of the highest ratings on the Metacritic ratings platform and also sold extremely well after the launch. In the first month, the game was sold over a million times worldwide. In February 2011, Rockstar already reported eight million copies sold; by 2017 it was over 15 million units. Interestingly, Red Dead Redemption sold over a long period of time, reaching new audiences years after the original release.

With the Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare expansion released in November 2010, Rockstar also early connected to the history of the main program, but "surfed" at the same time on the then very popular wave of zombie games. The mix of undead and westerns was a perfect and equally exciting combination that unerringly met the taste of many action and film fans.

<img src = "" alt = "Bonnie MacFarlane saved John Marston at the beginning of the game and brought him to the Her family's farm at Bonnie is a modern woman: assertive and direct.
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Bonnie MacFarlane saved John Marston's life at the start of the game and put him on her family's farm. Bonnie is a modern woman: assertive and direct.

Source: Moby Games

Only GTA in the wild west?
The wild west genre has always been characterized by various motifs – from the lonely avenger to the longing for freedom to the conquest of the west. All of these ideas also appear in Red Dead Redemption. And yet the period chosen by Rockstar is unusual: The adventure starts in 1911, a time when the settlement of the West had already progressed. In this scenario, progress and modernity, technology and craft meet. For us as a player, this has one advantage in particular: we recognize many motifs and find our way around the world quickly. Red Dead Redemption doesn't explain much at the beginning. Instead, Rockstar Games plays with the scenario and lets us gain experience ourselves.

The protagonist in this case was John Marston – a man who looked as torn as the game world itself. The former lawbreaker withdrew from the business after a failed coup by the Dutch van der Linde gang. Instead, he lived on a farm with his wife Abigail and son Jack. This constellation of people alone is unusual for a Western; traditionally, the protagonists tend to be loners or hold responsible positions such as the role of sheriff. Too rarely do husbands appear in the lead role of a western.

<img src = "" alt = "The shaggy Jake was hired by Marshal Johnson as Marston's companion. He led him from Armadillo to Fort Mercer The meeting point for the two was a saloon including light girls.
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The shaggy Jake was hired by Marshal Johnson as Marston's companion. He led him from Armadillo to Fort Mercer. The meeting point for the two was a saloon including light girls.

Source: Moby Games

Ultimately, however, this background provided the necessary emotional connection for the player. Because his past caught up with Marston, and the authorities in the form of the Federal Bureau of Investigation kidnapped his family. So John has to go back to his brutal roots. He has to shed his "civilized farmer's self" and become a nefarious gunslinger again. The fact that the government pulls the strings in this constellation also appeared unusual and suited the modern narrative of Red Dead Redemption. Because although the game quickly earned the title "like Grand Theft Auto, only with horses", in the end that was exactly the great strength of the game. The American Society's GTA 4, released in 2008, held up the mirror with much cynicism, so Red Dead Redemption went one step further. It showed the origins and development that ultimately made the world what it later became.

<img src = "" alt = "The cover system was certainly not one of the great strengths of the game. Overall, the controls were here it was rather sluggish and changing arms via the command wheel was rather moderately comfortable.
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The cover system was certainly not one of the game's great strengths. Overall, the controls here were quite sluggish and we found weapon changes via the command wheel to be rather moderately comfortable.

Source: Moby Games

Gunfights, liberties and poker
This story made Red Dead Redemption approachable and pulled the game out of the usual Western cliché swamp. Despite the well-known location, the story and its motifs were modern and therefore understandable. At the same time, however, the authors also preserved the legacy that they took on with Red Dead Redemption. Although few of us all want to live as serious as a gunslinger, outlaw or cowboy, we have a fairly clear idea of ​​it through books, comics and films. To meet this was probably the biggest challenge for Rockstar Games – and as we know today, the US studio mastered it with flying colors. The impressive graphics already offered exactly what everyone expected from a western game: vast landscapes, sunsets, canyons, mines, dingy saloons and equally rough locations. But it was only the soundtrack, which was heavily inspired by Ennio Morricone's film music for the dollar trilogy, that rounded off the total work of art. Graphics and music went hand in hand and created goosebumps moments again and again, especially when roaming the huge game world.

<img src = "" alt = "In the saloon we could play poker and hit our well-earned money on the head. Not infrequently There were also disputes between those involved in the course of the games.
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In the saloon we could play poker and hit our well-deserved money on the head. Quite often there were disputes between those involved in the course of the games.

Source: Moby Games

This was accompanied by the typical advantages of open-world games: chance encounters and side tasks encouraged us to take longer trips, which we were happy to take on thanks to the grand presentation. Marston's actions also had an active impact on his reputation and had immediate consequences: For example, if we cheated on the poker games that were also integrated into the game, the opponents often challenged us to a duel. The shootouts were among the most important, albeit playfully controversial elements of the Wild West game. Regardless of whether Clint Eastwood in For a Fistful of Dollars (1964) or Marty McFly in Back to the Future 3 (1990) – duels simply belong in a wild west scenario.

Red Dead Redemption didn't just feel like a "normal" action game. The game succeeded in balancing fan service, contemporary open-world design and ingenious staging. If you ignore the occasionally strange control, Rockstar Games presented an almost error-free implementation of one of the most iconic genres. Red Dead Redemption was full of exciting, strange and bizarre stories, created great moments and sometimes even brought us to tears. It made Western cool and modern at the same time. If Red Dead Redemption was a surprise hit ten years ago, the successor in 2018 became the expected mega-success. And since then, not only have soloists been enthusiastically traveling in the Wild West, but thanks to Red Dead Online, courageous multiplayer cowboys have also been on the move.

What do you think of Red Dead Redemption and its successor? And which game do you like better overall? Let us know in the comments!

What do real cowboys do in their free time? Logically, they catch and tame wild horses. Red Dead Redemption takes up all common Western settings.
(Source: Moby Games)

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