The last outlaw – Tearing up over Red Dead Redemption’s final stand

Red Dead Redemption

Death in games is meaningless. In the days of the arcade, digital resurrection would at least set you back a few pence. Now, the consequences are non-existent – restarts and mid-mission checkpoints have made the gaming Reaper less daunting than the one who plays Twister against Bill and Ted. That’s why John Marston’s tragic end stands apart. In Red Dead Redemption, that middle word is soberingly permanent.

John’s demise is so devastating because
it makes you feel feeble, helpless

Yes, technically you can bite it hundreds of times throughout Rockstar’s mournful Western before the fateful finale. We lost count of how many herb-hunting outings ended with us as a bear’s brunch. Yet when Marston sacrifices himself so his wife and son can escape an assault on the family ranch, there’s no redo.

John’s demise is so devastating because it makes you feel feeble, helpless. Cleverly contorting the idea of player control, Red Dead lets you believe you can prevail in a blaze of glory.

When the charismatic outlaw pensively pushes open his barn doors he’s met by a posse of agents. As you cock your trusty six-shooter, the same slo-mo Dead Eye aim that’s served you so faithfully smears the screen with its sepia tones. ‘Maybe I can win after al…’ Nope, you’re riddled with lead as soon as your first shell has left the chamber. Rockstar doesn’t do sentimental.

That the story’s subsequent redemption is delivered by Marston’s offspring in a brilliantly ambiguous side-quest only further cements Red Dead’s ending as the boldest closer on PlayStation. Often undignified, final and really bloody sad, this is as close as games have ever come to capturing the truth of death