At times I can be a bit of an impulse buyer, especially when it comes to media. Sometimes, when walking the aisles at Best Buy, there is this thing in my chest, kind of like one of the xenomorphs in Alien, trying to bust free and devour everything in the store. It’s a gruesome image, yes, but the only thing I can think of to describe that desperate urge I get when it comes to movies or games.

In college, I was particularly awful in this area of my life, but these days I’ve learned to control that beast that rages for more shiny things. One look at my DVD collection shows the symptoms of a rash media nut. This week, the animal of impulse reared his ugly head in the form of Red Dead Redemption, the newest entry from Rockstar, creators of the somewhat infamous Grand Theft Auto series.

By all accounts, I shouldn’t like the game. I was not a huge fan of Grand Theft Auto IV, for all its overratedness and much-too-big hype machine. But I kept hearing that Red Dead Redemption was worth checking out, so I thought I would give it a go. And I’m so glad I did.

Red Dead Redemption

The easiest way to describe RDR is that it’s Grand Theft Auto but with horses. It takes place in 1911, in a fake Wild West of sorts, and places you in the shoes of John Marston, bounty hunter and former criminal, trying to protect his family by settling an old score. You ride horses, view the gorgeously realized desert frontier, help strangers, play poker, and everything else you can think of under the punishing western sun. I’ve become obsessed with it in just a matter of a day, and something about it just scratches me in the right way.

I can’t quite explain it, either. I think for most dudes there is an appeal to the Wild West, and getting to play as a rugged bounty hunter that makes his own rules and has the freedom of the open plain has a certain appeal to it. I think deep down, as dumb as it sounds, guys just like being cowboys. Also, it doesn’t hurt that the game is terribly well made. It plays more like Oblivion than Grand Theft Auto, with lots of great diversions, sidequests and other interesting things to take your time. It transitions from task to task easily, and the game doesn’t punish you for playing exactly how you want to play it and at what pace. The best way I can describe its structure is like a mix between Oblivion and Assassin’s Creed 2. It really is a blast to play, and I love traversing from town to town to do new things.

To me, you know a game is good when you just want to spend time in its world. I’m perfectly content to hunt animals, ride around on my horse, and I even spend an absurd amount of time playing Poker. I also kind of dominate at Five Finger Filet, that thing you saw in the movie Aliens where Bishop stabs around his fingers with a knife. Seriously, I’m awesome at it. I am so confident of my awesomeness that I made my wife film me doing it. Observe.

Obviously, it’s more impressive if you’ve actually played the game. Jen was nice and only made fun of me a little bit. But now I owe her big time.

Anyway, if you like Westerns or good video games or both. You should totally check it out. As I said before, it’s not too often that I let the impulse beast out of his cage, but this time, the results were totally unexpected and splendid. I’ve had to learn to be a better spender since I became a husband, so occasionally it’s nice to reward myself with video game morsels, though I am just as susceptible to Blu-rays.

So what’s the last impulse purchase you made, and how did that work out?

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