The lights are on
Red Dead Redemption is all about discovery. Placed in a gigantic open world, you’ll likely find something to divert your attention on the ride to your next mission: duels, stranger missions, hunting rabbits, to name a few. The best part is that all of this content makes sense in the harsh desert locations where the game takes place. Even side objectives involving cannibalism seem to fit right in with the setting and its inhabitants. Despite all of the tasks you can be pulled into throughout the game though, the western vibe is never conveyed as well as the moment when you ride into Mexico.The early game content pulls you all over the upper half of the world map, leading you to wonder when you’ll finally cross into Mexico over the Rio Bravo. Finally, after making a few unsavory friends, you’re invited by the criminal Irish to accompany him across the river. It wouldn’t be a western without a harrowing firefight, and the perilous log ride to the opposite bank delivers in this respect. After dispatching dozens of angry bandits eager to welcome their “friend” Irish into their land, you set foot on foreign soil. Upon bidding your drunken companion farewell, you climb on to a nearby horse, eager to see what the region has to offer in regards to exploration. Constant viewing of the map prior to arriving here lets you know that the area is massive, but it immediately becomes clear in person.The Mexican landscape pulls back more and more as you progress along the banks of the river. Whether you ride closer to the water or high atop the cliffs, the view is gorgeous. You can almost see the point where the horizon touches the sky. The vistas on display would be breathtaking by themselves, but another ingredient adds to this amalgam: music.The entire game contains constant background music appropriate for the western setting, but when Far Away by Jose Gonzalez begins on this ride, you feel like a cowboy. The slow acoustic build leads into the first actual lyrics in the game, trumping every sound except the rolling clap of your horse’s hooves, an appropriate soundtrack for such a surreal moment.The perfect confluence of sight and sound showcased here embodies the whole Red Dead experience for me. Throughout the game, John Marston engages in a multitude of different activities and missions, so many that I never had time to fully appreciate the believable world laid out in front of me. But riding over that hill in Mexico to the tune of a slow acoustic guitar made me forget everything else and just soak it all in.