Thursday, April 04, 2019

COLUMN: Red Dead

My life is full of sacrifices. I hope you people are happy.

As a beloved and cherished local columnist and celebrity-about-town, there are certain responsibilities I must bear to my vast and ever-growing fanbase. I guess it's just the burden I have to carry for being so goshdarn loveable and awesome.

For instance: As some of you may be aware, two weeks ago the most anticipated video game of the year came out: Red Dead Redemption 2. Normally, a mature and professional writer such as myself wouldn't dream of wasting time on something so foolish and frivolous.

But what of my fans? Sure, I might be too evolved and sophisticated for such a childish pursuit, but some of you might be wondering about "Red Dead Redemption 2" and naturally you'd turn to a cultural superior such as myself for opinions.

Okay, fine. Because you people demand it, I'll waste countless hours playing a new video game. These are the sacrifices I make for my fans.

Honestly, though, I don't know if I'm the best person out there to judge a game like RDR2. I've NEVER been a fan of the Old West. I've never made it through a western without changing the channel, not even the one I'm named after. Some people romanticize the Old West as a grand historical period in our nation. To me, it just looks smelly and filthy and gross. I prefer Hyundais to horses. I am most definitely a city slicker.

Except for the past week, when I have been Arthur Morgan, cowboy outlaw with a heart of gold. Or Arthur Morgan, the cowboy outlaw who shoots his friends in the head for no reason. You can play Arthur any way you want, unless what you want is to drive a car, sit in air conditioning, or NOT kill people.

I know little about life in the Old West, but thanks to a week of Red Dead Redemption-ing, I've gained some important knowledge, such as:

- Horses are apparently a lot easier to tame than I thought. All I did was hop on a horse and ride it down a mountain when suddenly the game went "Ding! You and your horse have achieved level 1 bonding. He will now come when you whistle." This is pretty cool. My car never comes when I whistle. If I can figure out how to install a subwoofer on this horse, it just might be a keeper.

- Is it bad that I'm jealous at how Arthur Morgan can grow facial hair faster than me? There's spots in the game where you can shave, but not me. I want to see if I can make my Arthur eventually look like an refugee from ZZ Top.

- Surviving the horrific wounds of gun violence is MUCH easier if you maintain a liberal supply of baked beans on your person. Just last night, I was out jauntily robbing a train -- you know, like you do -- when I was suddenly ambushed by them pesky no-good O'Driscoll boys. I barely had time to draw my revolver when BAM! I'm hit in the shoulder and good as dead. No worries, though. I simply reached into my pocket mid-gunplay and chugged down a can of baked beans with my one good arm. Suddenly I was right as rain and would live to cyber-fight another day. Chia seeds and kale are for chumps. Pork 'n' beans are my superfood. 

Red Dead Redemption is being hailed for its detailed renderings and realistic gameplay. But there may be a such a thing as TOO realistic.

I had barely made it through the tutorial when some cowboy yelled, "C'mon Arthur, let's go hunt some deer!" The game lets you choose from various replies, but sadly none of them were, "No thanks, deer are cute. Pass the baked beans." Instead, within minutes, I found myself crouching through snow sneaking up on some poor innocent virtual deer I'd rather not virtually kill.

No worries, I thought. It's just a video game, right? I'll shoot the deer and it'll disappear, make some happy little ding noise, and probably say something like "FOOD +1." No big deal. I grabbed my bow, aimed, and fired. Ding?

Nope. Instead, I was greeted by the ungodly screech of a wounded animal and my cowboy friend going, "Aww, Arthur, it wasn't a kill shot!" And then the game makes you follow the BLOOD TRAIL and the DYING SCREECHES OF AGONY until you find the wounded deer and put it out of it's cyber-misery and now I'm pretty sure I need therapy. From there, it's just a matter of picking up the carcass, carrying it to my horse (I forgot to whistle,) and transporting it back to camp.

Impressively life-like? Yes. Moderately traumatic and emotionally scarring? You betcha. But I manned up and made it back to camp. And that is the precise moment when, hand to God, the game goes, "PRESS (X) TO SKIN YOUR DEER." Annnnd now I might be a vegetarian. Thanks, Red Dead Redemption 2. 

Bambi-murdering aside, it's a fantastic game. I've only scratched the surface, but I plan on playing a lot more -- you know, for the benefit of you guys. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go do some research on the pros and cons on sitting on the couch, eating Twizzlers, and watching Jimmy Fallon. In case you people ever need my input on it.

Sacrifice, thy name is Shane.

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