Monthly Archives: February 2011

The Western Revival

So, its been almost a month since my last blog, and I can guess what some of you are thinking: “Do you not have the heart to write a regular blog? Can’t you spare any empathy for us freeloading opinion spongers?” Well, calm yourselves down. For while every other reviewer has been jumping on the Big Fat Gypsy Weddings bandwagon (which is fully understandable considering its pure gawp appeal), I decided to do try something different. I wanted to study a genre, one that until recently has been personally untapped. Of course, I’m making this seem like a big announcement, but you’ve read the title so…yeah, let’s just get on with it, eh?

Of course, by now I am expected to have decided what I like and don’t like. But there are always things that I associate too freely with certain genres. For example, I see most romantic comedies as turgid, unoriginal drivel. And modern R&B always strikes me as… turgid, unoriginal drivel. So you can guess what my initial feelings were about westerns. Its all about a couple of goodies against a few more baddies, in small town in the middle of the desert. Yawn.

But I recently remembered the words of a certain Mr. Fry who I met last September (yes, if I have a name I’m damn well going to drop it). He believed that university is the perfect place to try new things, and to become more cultured whatever your background. And apart from my housemate introducing me to such vapid feces of ‘art’ as Owl City and All Time Low (it’s always worth testing to see if he reads this),  I don’t believe I have.

So I watched my first ever western, not counting Blazing Saddles, as I have no idea what it was parodying. Directed and starring Clint Eastwood (who I was also unfamiliar with), Unforgiven has a stellar cast of Morgan Freeman, Gene Hackman and Richard Harris. It follows the story of two retired gunslingers (Eastwood and Freeman) who pick up their weapons one last time to collect a bounty set by a group of disgruntled prostitutes. Standing in their way is a ruthless Sheriff (played superbly by Hackman) who, in a must-see scene of cinema, disassembles the classic western duel. I really shouldn’t give anything away, but if you are as new to westerns as I was, its a pretty damn good place to start.

Not pictured: A dead man walking.

However, what I really want to talk about is what may be the single biggest factor in bringing the Old West back into style: Red Dead Redemption. It has been acclaimed as one of the games of the year, and I hail it as one of the games of my lifetime. From Rockstar, creators of the Grand Theft Auto series, it follows ex-outlaw John Marston on the hunt for his old gang members in a bid to free his wife and son from government capture.

He's like a western version of Omar from The Wire.

It possesses most of the things that made GTA such a success; miles of space free to roam, colourful characters to interact with, and a campaign of missions that should take at least 20 hours of your time to complete. Not until recently were scripting and story development considered in any way important to a game. Yet somehow RDD can fill over 20 hours of gameplay with non stop action, character arcs, decent dialogue and intuitive gameplay. The slow-mo Dead Eye mode is a fantastic addition to live out the dream of dispatching multiple enemies at a time. There are so many different ways to go about your way in the west, which I can only start to list. Such as clearing out gang hideouts, hunting and skinning animals, picking wild herbs, duelling, transporting dynamite whilst shooting bandits, playing Blackjack or Poker, hunting for treasure… well, you get the picture.

Yes, the game may have come out almost a year ago now, but with new Rockstar creation L.A. Noire out in the Spring (which I will also be taking a look at soon enough) Red Dead Redemption might just be starting to come down to a bargain price. For the amount of entertainment you will get out of it, I would recommend a look round the shops in a couple of months time, for those who have that Smith and Wesson sized hole in their heart. And with the money you save, you may want to splurge on the expansion pack, Undead Nightmare, in which you fight off a horde of frontier zombies. Amongst other things.

Oh come on, thats hardly fair.