Rockstar's Perfect Video Game Moment

Rockstar's Perfect Video Game Moment

I've played thousands of games over the years. And only once has a game ever given me a bonafide outbreak of goosebumps. Head-to-toe. It was during this past console generation, and it was while I was riding a horse.

If you've played Red Dead Redemption, you already know what I'm talking about. If you haven't, let me set the scene.

Red Dead Redemption is a game about a man on an epic quest, to both atone for past misdeeds and also to save his family. Your journey takes you all over the American West, from dusty one-horse saloons to bustling, modern towns emerging into the 20th century.

It's a long, lonely ride. But there's one point in the game where it gets very lonely. See, in the opening sections, you're always working with someone, or around other people. Your hand is being held as you learn the ropes and get started on your adventure.

But after those initial encounters are over, you're off to Mexico. That's not the next town over. That's the next country over, which in those days may as well have been an intercontinental flight. Gone are your comrades, your instructors, your easy beginning to the world of Red Dead Redemption.

You're alone. Far from home. With nothing but the shirt on your back and the horse under your butt.

And then this song begins to play.

Called Far Away, it's by Swedish folk singer José González.

From the haunting guitar to the melancholy vocals, it's perfect. In an incredibly rare moment in gaming, you're being manipulated not by explosions, or camera angles, or a flow of enemies, but by

It's Rockstar's cinematic ambitions reaching their zenith.

I mean, it's so simple. In terms of gameplay, you're just riding a horse towards a waypoint. That's what you spend 90% of the rest of the game doing. But the narrative context, and the perfect choice of song, transform something mundane into something truly emotional.

It's the perfect microcosm of Rockstar's catalogue, from Bully to Grand Theft Auto. Chaotic, confused, violent and often broken games elevated into classics through a deft use of wit, style and soundtrack.

Following the success of Red Dead Redemption's use of the trick - it repeats it to lesser success towards the end of the game - Rockstar tried it again several times throughout Grand Theft Auto V, most notably during Michael's return to the Midwest.

No doubt they'll use it again in future titles. But they'll never make an impact like they did on that lonely ride into Mexico.

Last-Gen Heroes is Kotaku's look back at the seventh generation of console gaming. In the weeks leading up to the launch of the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One, we'll be celebrating the Heroes — and the Zeroes — of the last eight years of console video gaming.


    I still think Red Dead Redemption is the best game they've made. Ever.

      absolutely - the story telling was spectacular

      what really stuck with me was the 'remember my family' stranger quest you do with Jack Marsden at the end - John sacrificed himself so that Abigail and Jack could live a normal life free from Edgar Ross, but that very sacrifice sends Jack down the same path as his father, which ultimately is the antithesis of what John wanted for him - powerful stuff

        Yeah man, it was fantastic
        Such a sad series of endings

          One of the best PS3 games I have ever played. Simply incredible. A vista to another time and place. There were other games I loved on my (still current-gen) PS3, like the F1 games, but I certainly wouldn't put them in the same basket of eggs.....

      I'm hoping for a next-gen sequel/prequel/game-in-the-same-vein, but it would have to be the best game ever to top Red Dead

      Agreed. That particular moment really stuck with me. I was very lucky as it happened right when the sun was setting.
      I agree with what Mark wrote a week or two about how the small details in Red Dead stick with you. You're happy to just explore and ride to a place you can see in the distance. Whereas with a game like GTA V you find yourself just going for the biggest most ridiculous car/jet chases you can.

      As for great musical moments in Rockstar games, I loved the soundtrack of Max Payne 3. Particularly during the shootout in the airport terminal where Tears by Health kicks in.

        I experienced it with the sunset also. Magical.

          Me too. In fact it seems like just about everybody I've heard talk about this said it happened at sunrise or sunset. I wonder if the game kind of manipulated the day/night cycle to make that happen? I seem to recall it being right after an on-rails kind of bit (riding that boat along the river shooting at guys), so I wonder if it used that bit to kind of make sure you got off the boat at the right time to be able to play that bit at sunrise / sunset?

        Definitely, Max Payne 3's a close 2nd for my favourite game, just behind RDR. I get massive goosebumps when that Tears track starts.

        Yeah that article was great, so true too. With RDR I never got that feeling like, 'ahhh c'mon where's my fast travel!', because every time I'd get even close to that point I'd crest a ridge or the sun would start setting or some random campfire would appear, and you'd just think, wow, that's beautiful. I'm gonna walk for a bit.

        GTAV's overall design (although I haven't played it yet) seems to me to be more a sequel to San Andreas in that regard. Sooo many choices, but with that kind of breadth I find it harder to get as invested in the characters, and it's difficult for the narrative not to get a bit out of sight or dissonant sometimes. Still spectacularly awesome though I imagine. I'm pining for a PC port.

      Just finished the GTA 5 story and I completely agree with you.

      It was great fun playing with multiple characters in GTA 5, but you lost that feeling of pure engagement. In Red Dead, you genuinely empathised with John and couldn't help but push him onwards. Red Dead nailed that sense of momentum. That, and the amazing sense of place and atmosphere.

      Can't wait to see what the next gen version brings.

      So pumped for the next-next gen, H-HD remake now

    I’ve played thousands of games over the years. And only once has a game ever given me a bonafide outbreak of goosebumps. Head-to-toe. It was during this past console generation, and it was while I was riding a horse.

    I was certain this was going to be about that shiny new horse armour in Oblivion...

    I have had better moments in campaigns. BI's ending was mind-blowingly awesome, and the drugged scene in Uncharted 3 :O

      As great as RDR was, and it was pretty great. BI's ending blew my mind... ive read books and watched movies with similar concepts... but this was the first game to do it and do it right straight off the bat.... actually real goosebumps and a full moment of overwhelming "holy shit!!!".

    One of my favourite gaming moments of all time. When it started I just walked the horse. I had no compunction to make it gallop, or even trot. It was cinematic, emotional, visceral, haunting, contemplative, and, as you say Luke, perfect.

    One of the few games of this gen I finished twice. And this article makes me want to go back and play it again. Cheers.

      This moment and the ending song for me, two of them complemented each other perfectly.

        My favourite:

        The scene that had the most impact for me was where John hurried his family away and was alone in the barn, waiting to step outside to confront the law. The scene was absolutely heartbreaking.

      Yeah, if you were making your horse gallop or even trot in that moment, it really lost impact. I mean, the moments up to that had been incredibly intense, and just when you thought you'd made some real progress... everything was yanked away and you realized just how far you had to go for a little bit of happiness for poor John.

    Couldn't agree more, this moment sticks with me as one of the best in gaming.

    I can't say I had goosebumps simply because I was actually more intrigued they put the song in there. I wouldn't say I hated it, because it definitely accentuated the moment, but it also felt super out of place in the scheme of the rest of the games musical score as it was a game that didn't really have other songs.

    I'd actually maybe go as far as saying I don't think I would have thought of the moment as being particularly significant if the song wasn't there, considering a whole lot of a pretty great story had happened up to that point already.

    I have literally just completed RDR and RDR undead nightmare for the first time yesterday. And as much as I'd agree with this article in regards to Red Dead Redemption, the song that was played in Undead Nightmare was awkward and out of place. I stood still until it finished, before continuing my quest

    Never played it. Will do so now.

      I promise you will not regret it. This game is one that sticks with you for a long time after, Even once you've finished it. You sometimes get the urge to pick it back up and just play.

    I dunno, when the lyrics cut it in it took me out of the game and i was just left thinking "this is weird"
    Definitely not one of my best moments, but i cant see why you might think so.

    I did the river-crossing mission at night and was just before morning when I finished it.
    Very awesome feeling riding into Mexico as dawn was breaking over the horizon and the song slowly playing.

    Yeah, have to agree, when that song kicked in it felt like magic. When I did it I think was a storm going on and the drama of the moment was intense, spirited me away from the living room and right into that moment.

    Last edited 04/11/13 2:19 pm

    My game glitched out and the music cut out after about 10 seconds. So I never got to experience this :(

    I've heard so much about it since that I almost wonder whether I need to play through again just to encounter it...

      Watching the vid in this article is the first time I've heard it. I didn't even know it was in the game till I watched this =(

    I remember being taken aback at the abrupt way a soundtrack just started playing in the game, especially since it was over an unscripted piece. I liked it, and applaud them for having the balls to try something different.

    Amazing game, anyone who hasn't played it really owes it to themselves to set aside a decent chunk of time to play it through. The multiplayer was pretty fun too, if you had a decent posse.

    There's been talk of a sequel for the next generation of consoles. I certainly hope so.

    What about the bit where "Compass" by Jamie Lidell played, that was the goosebump moment for me, I still ocassionaly play it and get filled with feelings. no elaboration to avoid spoilers.

    I was completely speechless when i experienced this for the first time, without a doubt my favourite game of all time.

    It was the one at the end of the game that really got me, I don't even remember this one at all. I'd love to buy the game and play it again but I'm waiting for a PC version that will never come.

    Dead Mans Gun
    Still listen to that song. The only game to get any kind of emotional twinge out of me (you know, apart from restart rage).
    It sits in my Top 5 Games of all time (no particular order, just one of the top 5).

    For me, goosebumps were
    When Lee has to walk through the hundreds of zombies, killing them to get to Clementyne and that heart wrenching song is playing - a little similiar to this moment and also the ending of the first Bioshock, that was some mind blowing stuff. BI's ending was good, but I was expecting a twist and I feel is wasn't as ground breaking as the original's

    I loved The Last of Us, and think it's a seminal game and a landmark in interactive storytelling. That being said, I think Red Dead Redemption is the better game.

    I actually went and bought the soundtrack just for this song after Luke's article on it when RDR first came out. I don't think I'm ever going to play the game, but the soundtrack and that song in particular make me realise why people like it so much.

    Red Dead is one of my favourite games of all time. And wow, just wow, this song works SO well with this scene, a true master stroke.

    Unfortunately it's the first time I've heard it.

    It certainly didn't play for me when I rode into Mexico. I feel genuinely ripped off =(

    I like the part where he rode the horse

    This blew me away as it started, then my horse got attacked by something (some sort of snake I think?) and threw me off, stopping the song in the progress.

    I keep thinking of playing it again just to get it right this time, but know it wouldn't be the same... :(

    Benchmark in gaming history. The score, the atmosphere, the story all pulled together in such a majestic way. To think that there was a point that this game was in dire straits....

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