The emergent non-scripted moments in Rockstar games are amazing, but where the developer really excels are in the painstakingly-crafted setpieces. It's no secret that Rockstar have a deep and abiding love for the cinematic, and try to close the gap between games and movies wherever possible.
My most memorable moment in a Rockstar game, though, is memorable not because of this, but because in spite of all the effort put into crafting such scenes, I still managed to ruin it.
In the original Red Dead Redemption, there is a mission which takes protagonist John Marsden over the border and into Mexico. After a short cutscene, control is handed over to the player, who has the pleasure of riding into the sunset, toward uncharted lands. As you crest the first hill, a gorgeous José González track (composed specifically for this mission) begins to swell.
It's an achingly beautiful moment, one that sets the scene spectacularly. That is unless you're a ham-fisted dingus like I am, and you accidentally ride your horse into a ravine within the first twenty seconds.
In THAT case, you'll find yourself respawned in Mexico post-cutscene, and won't have the chance to experience the moment for real this time. That BIT in RDR that everyone talks about? Never got to experience it, mate. But I got my own story out of it, and isn't that better, really?
Nah you're right, it probably isn't.
I asked some of my other colleagues about some of their most memorable moments from Rockstar games. Here's what they told me.
Matt Reynolds, Guides Editor
In the original long forgotten Grand Theft Auto, there was a bonus mission inspired by all-time classic Speed where a parked bus you could 'borrow' would explode if you didn't maintain a certain speed. Of course, I only noticed this sometime after I grabbed the vehicle and sped away, so by the time I slowed down to read the explainer text, the bus was already in flames, much to my bemusement. I never managed to replay the mission to see how it was supposed to play out, but I'm hoping there was a pop quiz somewhere along the way.
Oli Welsh, Editor
From frequent visits to Blizzard's offices in Irvine and to BlizzCon in Anaheim, I'm very familiar with the drive south from LAX airport into the endless urban sprawl south of Los Angeles. It's a distinctive yet distinctly unglamorous landscape, vast raised freeways carving through boxy retail parks, blank-faced business HQs and dusty grids of suburban homes for mile after mile after mile, framed by ever-present ridge of brown hills on the horizon. I'll never forget driving the same route in GTA5 for the first time and being astonished at the accuracy with which it had been captured: not the exact geography, maybe, but the look, the light, the tone, the mood of a typical but completely mundane, completely un-scenic slice of modern America.
That's the Rockstar difference, I suppose: they bother to simulate the dull stuff, too.
Johnny Chiodini, Video Team
As I'm sure many of you will recall, Red Dead Redemption's deadeye unlocks incrementally - at first it only slows time, allowing you to line up one shot before snapping back to the action proper. At level two, the game hungrily paints targets for you as you move the reticle across the screen and it's not until you unlock the third and final level that you can place your targets manually.
I mention this because one of my enduring memories of playing Red Dead Redemption happened while I had deadeye level 2 equipped. I was minding my own business in one of the game's towns - I think it was Armadillo - when a group of varmints came tearing down the main street on horseback, dragging some poor lassoed unfortunate behind them. Not on my watch! I thought, clicking in the right stick and dropping into the familiar realm of slow motion and sepia. Smoothly, calmly, I swung the camera up as the posse rode past, putting a little X on each of their heads.
All of them.
Just as the meter ran out (and I lost the chance to cancel), I realised I had managed to tag the head of the poor man being dragged through the mud as well as his assailants - he was actually the first one I targeted, somehow - so when Marston slapped leather, there were no survivors. At all. I stood there for a while as people ran around, screaming, marvelling at how thin a line it is between being a hero and the meanest outlaw in town.
What are your most memorable moments from Rockstar games? Let us know below!
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