John Marston, a former outlaw, is forced by the federal government to hunt down the members of his old gang.
Oh, the enemies I'm going to make for this one! I'm just going to say it upfront: I did not like this game. I know I'm in a small minority on this, but I can't just pretend I'm as enraptured as everyone else. On the contrary: this game made me angry! I simply couldn't condense my thoughts to 250 words, so I've decided to make this a longer review than usual, turn this into an epic rant. Also, fair warning: this review will contain spoilers.
Before I start ranting, though, I will admit that the game looks stunning. The graphics are stellar, and the map is meticulously planned and detailed. The most fun I had was riding around admiring the scenery, especially on clear starry nights. A lot of the character interactions made me laugh, too. But that's where my compliments end. Everything else was just plain torturous!
At every turn, this game found some new way to piss me off; there are too many examples to count! But the main source of my rage was the pacing of the narrative. At first, I was only mildly interested in the story. The goal was to stop Bill Williamson, and that single clear-cut goal is what held my interest as I assembled a team to storm his fort. But when it turned out he wasn't even there, I was furious! That was my equivalent of "our princess is in another castle". And none of what followed piqued my interest in the slightest, probably because the game had teased me into thinking the assault on the fort was the climax; I felt like it should have been over already, and I was resentful that it had put me right back to square one. The rest of the game kept extending that tease: every single mission promised the goal would be achieved right away, only for the game to keep saying, "Soon. You've got to do this one thing first," over and over and over again! I wasn't angry at the characters for endlessly using me: I was angry at the game for dragging itself out for no good reason whatsoever! The longer it kept going, the more enraged I got, until eventually I was literally screaming at the TV! Some missions turned out to be dead ends, which made me say out loud, "Oh, fuck off!" This game felt like my own personal purgatory: it was constantly dangling one simple goal in front of my eyes, only to continuously snatch it out of reach. Even towards the end, when you're finally reunited with your family, the game still just keeps going! I was wailing by that point: "Why are you still making me do missions I don't enjoy?!"
'Cos yeah, I hardly found any of the missions superficially fun either. Many of them were essentially identical to earlier ones, just repeating something I didn't even like the first time. And let me tell you, I really started abusing the "skip checkpoint" feature (that's one thing I'm thankful for: that the game was considerate enough to give you an easy way out if you fail too many times), especially whenever I had to ride and shoot at the same time! I generally suck at video games, and in this case I just could not hit moving targets! I grew to rely on the slow-motion Dead Eye mechanic just so I could hit them, but sometimes it just wouldn't activate! I read something about having to charge it, but why was that necessary?
The only reason I kept playing, kept enduring all that hell, was because there was still an end goal and I wanted to reach it. This wasn't like L.A. Noire, where I gave up about halfway through the third chapter (Homicide) because it seemed like there was no goal other than to solve each case and, again, the process was just tedious. (Actually, between those two examples, Bully and the fact that I have no interest whatsoever in playing GTA, I've decided I'm just not a fan of Rockstar Games in general.)
And that's all I have to say. Believe me, I wanted to like this game, especially given how immensely popular it is. But like I said, it just kept pissing me off! Ultimately, it's one of only two games to date that I've actively disliked (the other one being Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone on PS1). Sorry for beating it down like I did, but as it's one of the most beloved games in recent memory, I felt you deserved the unabridged version of why I can't chime in with that praise.
My rating: 40%