Fired up Red Dead Redemption and I was immediately transported into a world that felt eerily familiar and very specific. Yes, I realize that the game exploits the common tropes of any Western, but in its gritty realism and darker elements I believe it may be paying homage to the films of Anthony Mann, a director who moved from early works in film noir to the western and then finally the epic.
It's Mann's early Westerns, with their noir sensibilities, that I found similarities to as I watched the opening of the game and then began to play.
First of all we have the story. Red Dead Redemption's protagonist Marston is a reformed outlaw with a family. We see him walking through a town and getting on a train. He has to listen to his fellow passengers and we gamers get the necessary exposition that situates us in the world of the game. This is highly reminiscent of the opening of Mann's film Man of the West in which a reformed outlaw with a family sets out on a train only to be stranded after a robbery and forced to rejoin his old gang, eventually fighting them to survive. Now the latter is where the story departs, but the opening was interesting nonetheless. I was really expecting Marston's train to get robbed!
Next, we end up on a ranch whose house and internal layout greatly resemble the homestead in Winchseter '73. Its owner is a woman named Mac Farlane who resembles Vance Jeffords from the film The Furies. In fact, this rancher reminds me of an amalgamation of several of Mann's strong female characters from a variety of his films. Even the chase sequence reminds me of Vance Jeffords horseback races with Juan Herrera and the landscape begins to look a lot like the Furies ranch as you travel around past the house.
Now, how about the game play? Well, it's very smooth and learning the controls comes very fast. I really liked being on the Mac Farlane ranch as an introduction to game play mechanics. Oh, and the landscapes are so beautiful as to be distracting. If this is how good the game is with only a few minutes in I cannot wait to experience more.
The game included a massive fold-out map and a beautiful poster of Mac Farlane looking tough as hell. If I continue enjoying the game that poster is going up!
*Photo: Vance Jeffords, copyright the original holder.