So, last night I saw the credits roll on what has to be one of the greatest games I’ve ever played. I got to the end without spoilers and I urge you to do the same. Knowing what’s coming would be absolutely ruinous.

With that in mind, if you’ve not finished the story and seen the credits then do not read any further. Please. Don’t do it to yourself.


No, really, go away.


So, you watch Dutch fall to his death and it’s time to go home. And it’s idyllic. You can see why John fell in love with Abigail and your son Jack is as whiny and full of himself as a teenage boy should be, but you sense that he’s got real potential. You herd cattle, tame horses and take your boy out shooting. And, of course, you know it can’t last.

But what’s going to happen? The ranch is set up so that at some point it might have activities. Maybe it’ll have infinite taming and herding missions. Is someone going to set themselves up by the horseshoes so you can play? Maybe this will become a happy, working ranch, a home to come back to after going off to hunt cougar or pick flowers.

Maybe. But it even if it does, there’s going to be blood spilled on the grass before you get there. You know it can’t last. And, if you’re like me, you’re dreading a mission where John goes out on his own, because of what he might find on his return.

None of that happens, though. They come to you. Dozens of men in army uniform. Are your wife and son going to survive? Even as it started, I didn’t expect what was coming. I mean, it’s an open-world game. Threads are left dangling – strangers, ambient challenges, all the extras of the game world.

And then John’s in the barn with a firing squad of sorts lined up outside. And then you realise. There’s no way you can take them all. You try – I think I dropped four of them before they got me – and you fail and John slumps to the ground. And suddenly you’re Jack, on a horse, riding back to your father. There he is, on the ground, looking as dead as it gets.

Still, though, you expect him to cough up some blood and wake up in his bed. But no. This game has had the audacity to kill John Marston – to kill you. That doesn’t happen. It just doesn’t happen.

But it did. And now it’s three years later and you’re Jack. You’re alone. The ranch isn’t populated by farmhands and cowboys. It’s just you, still sleeping in your childhood bed, though you’re no longer a child. What are you to do?

You’ve got revenge on your mind, but there’s no mission marker. It’s just you and the world.

I went to the graveyard near Blackwater to finish of a stranger storyline. Three years later and a widow is still by her husband’s grave, still mourning, still bitter. Nearby, I see a new stranger marker. A government man; I ask him about Edgar Ross. I have a lead.

And I ride.

I ride west. Which seems appropriate.

I find his wife. She sends me on my way. I let her live.

I find his brother. He sends me on my way. I let him live, too.

These are the sins of Edgar Ross, not the sins of his wife, not the sins of his brother.

And there he is, hunting duck by the river. Four bullers in his arm – and I hope he feels them before the final two bullets hit him in the head. He slips into the river, quite dead.

There I am, wearing my father’s old hat and duster coat, standing by a river in Mexico as the man who, more than anyone, is to blame for my father’s death lies there turning the water red.

Do I feel empty? Hell no. This revenge feels very, very good. And then the screen goes red and white, the words RED DEAD REDEMPTION are stamped on it and the credits roll. Immense satisfaction, but also a great sense of loss. Not only for John Marston, who I spent fifty hours with, but for the game. It’s the same feeling as you get when you finish a great book. You don’t want it to go on any longer, because it’s complete and it works and that’s the fucking story, but now it’s gone.

And doing it over again is possible, but wouldn’t be the same.

So, really though, what now? There’s a whole world out there. I’ve got challenges to complete and outfits to find and achievements to get there’s a number in the eighties that I have a real shot of getting up to one hundred.

But, no, more than that – who is Jack Marston? That’s what I get to decide. Is he ruined beyond redemption? Am I the man my father wanted to be or the man my experiences made? Outlaw or hero? Murderer or killer? (As John says shortly before he dies, there’s a difference. At least in intention.)

Now I get to choose. Online, I’ve seen a lot of people who played a “good” John Marston are playing an “evil” Jack. And I see the attraction. Free of cutscenes telling me who I am and pushing me in one direction, I now get to do whatever the hell I want. The world’s a playground and maybe I just want to shoot everyone.

I think that would be fun, to be the black hat. To put on my bandana and kill and kill and kill again with no remorse and a stack of pardon letters in my pocket.

Here’s where things get strange. It’s a game. Just a simple old game world with clear rules and boundaries and consequences. None of it matters. The story’s over and it’s a playground.

But I don’t think I can do it. I don’t think I can turn cold-blooded killer of the innocent. Not because of who I am, the big beardy fellow with an Xbox controller, but because I know what John wanted. He wanted his son to be better than him. And if I turn Jack into the scourge of the west, am I not betraying his memory? I feel like I have a responsibility to John Marston. We went through a lot together to save his son and, well, I guess I need to see him saved.

Let’s see what happens, though. I’m still in the shock of the endgame. In a few days maybe the feelings will fade and the bullets will fly into the heads of shopkeepers and farmers. We’ll just have to see.