It was supposed to be so beautiful. A defining moment of poetic and aesthetic wonderment within an already stunning gaming experience.
Long had I travelled, fought, suffered and toiled through Red Dead Redemption’s New Austin frontier. I’d killed men, both good and bad, in order to further my cause. I’d made friends, I’d made enemies, and I’d made plenty of in-betweens. But the time had come to move on from my strange, dusty, adopted home. New lands were calling, as the next stage of my bloody task drew me away from this place and these people. It drew me south. It drew me to Mexico.
Above: And away I went...
I’d heard how amazing the transition to the Mexican desert was from those who had gone before. Matt has told on this very site of the perfect moment he experienced, leaving New Austin’s familiarity behind for this strange new world, Rockstar’s stunningly chosen soundtrack lending a graceful, reflective ambience to his first steps into this new unknown.
Meikleham had raved over the gorgeous looks of the Mexican desert when encountered for the first time and at the right time of day; river none more blue, terrain none more gold in the baking sunlight. Red Dead’s persistent ecosystem had even been generous enough to present him with a welcoming escort, a proud entourage comprising a whole herd of deer, who steered him safely into his new home and then galloped majestically off into the sunset ahead of him.
Make no mistake; this was going to be amazing.
I took my time travelling down to the border after I’d rounded off all of my business in New Austin. It was an odd place, a dirty and untrustworthy place, but it had character, and damnit, I liked it. So I sauntered from north-west to south-east, riding at a moderate pace and taking in every last detail I could along the way. I helped a few people out, completed a couple of Stranger missions, bought myself some new gear for the journey, and then I was on my way to my appointment with a beautiful moment.
And after my rough initiation to the ways of Mexico via a long, hard battle up-river, the reward of that moment was set to be all the more beautiful. I saddled up my new horse, took to the road, and readied myself for what so many had already evangelised. And then the time had finally come. The delicate strings of Jose Gonzalez’ yearning melody stirred.
Above: It was a good start...
The shimmering, mid-afternoon sun lit the environment with incandescent colour. I spotted a long ridge high above the river and decided to ride along its edge, basking in the beauty of this untamed, foreign new world I was about to get to know. This ridge wasn't just landscape, it was half a mile of wonder, with countless more stretching out ahead of me as far as the horizon. I set off, and beamed a peaceful grin.
Then seven coyotes leapt out of an infeasibly small bush in front of me, killed my horse, sent it careening over the edge of cliff, and forced me to use Dead Eye mode to take them all down. Gonzalez’ delicate, pitch-perfect music was reduced to a slow motion drone and drowned out by gun fire.
I frantically grasped at any way to salvage the situation. I quickly decided on an internal narrative solution, whereby the attack was a brutally poignant commentary on the beauty and unpredictable danger that go hand in hand in the Old West, the appeal of and the price to pay for this freedom inextricably blended in a vicious worked example. Yes, yes given the frictional discourse between freedom and civilisation throughout Red Dead’s script, I could just about pull this off.
I walked a long the ridge a little while, still fuming but pretending John was having an introspective contemplative moment. Then I decided on the redemptive punctuation to my little narrative addition. I would call my horse, my trusty, strong, loyal War Horse, who I’d reluctantly left in New Austin. The one who had stuck with me through my entire journey. He would, as he always does, come galloping over the horizon to help, a black beacon of hope silouetted against the burning sky. He’d take me away from this harsh greeting, and this whole episode would end on a positive coda, a silver lining explaining how loyalty and friendship can overcome any of the chaos the world throws up.
But he didn’t. Instead he glitched out, and spawned messily out of thin air six feet away from me. It kind of killed things.
So I rode sullenly out to the first sign of civilisation I could find, hoping to take refuge amongst the hospitality of my fellow man. But they didn’t have anywhere to stay, so I trekked out into the desert, set up a lonely camp fire on a rock, switched my 360 off and went to bed. The whole debacle had been like being the last of your friends to lose their virginity, and then having the years of expectation and excited anticipation result in a messy drunken fumble with an ugly girl and a mid-coitus booze-puke. And the knowledge that there'd never be a second chance to get it right first time.
Rockstar, I adore your game. I love the persistent, organic sense of life that makes it so special. But when you’ve got a really special point to make, couldn’t you just switch it off for a bit?
Sorry for the emotional outpouring. I had to share. Has anything similar happened to you? Have you ever had a great situation go resolutely tits-up because of the crap hand a game has dealt you? Has this kind of randomness ever ruined a session for you, or do you conversely revel in the crazy surprises games can throw up? Let me know in the comments, or via our community portals on Facebook and Twitter. I’m just going to go off for a little cry.