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Where Even the Water is Death (Red Dead Redemption)

Where Even the Water is Death (Red Dead Redemption)

The first person I met in Red Dead Redemption’s multiplayer mode shot me dead where I stood. I took two steps toward him like a newborn baby and he pumped me full of lead. I had entered Red Dead Redemption’s Free Roam area, where you can ride a donkey around and interact with strangers on Xbox Live. Unfortunately most strangers on Xbox Live are horrible trolls with high pitched troll voices and little troll nicknames like HALOxxx_KILLSPOT23 or MURD3RCL0WNHEADHSH0T_HANNAHMONTANABESTOFBOTHWORLDS. Even the nice ones are impossible to understand. This one dude asked me to join his posse. I was talking to him on my super cool Xbox controller headset. “This is my first time playing multiplayer,” I said. “How does a posse work?”

“Ha, ha” he said, “they’ll do that.”

“Who’ll do what?” I asked. “You got to…you got to….go there.” he replied. What? “Are you talking to me?” I asked. Silence. His horse stood in front of me. I rode in circles around him. Me: “What is our posse about to do?” Him: “It’s hard the first time.” No shit, Yoda. I should have put a knife in his ribs.

Later, I was playing a co-op mission with strangers. In the lobby, waiting on the mission to start, everyone was punching each other. A blond man chased me and punched me until I fell in the dust. Then a woman punched me. Everyone was punching me. The man jumped and down. The woman ran in circles. This was my team.

When the mission began, everyone whistled for their horse. I accidentally got on the blond man’s horse. The blond man shot it in the head so I couldn’t ride it and I fell on the ground. They rode off and left me behind and I had to run and run to catch up. When I got to where the fighting was, most of my team was dead and one guy refused to leave a cannon he found, shooting it in roughly the same spot over and over and over. Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! “I’m a cowboy!” I imagined him thinking to himself, “I like the cannon cause it boom and big kid pants.”

I saw on my radar one of the other players had become Most Wanted. I tracked him to the saloon in Armadillo. He was hiding out on the second floor. I walked into the first floor of the saloon. He shot me in the head and I died. I reappeared near the saloon. I came up the stairs on the other side. I peeked over the window to aim at him. He put another bullet in my head. I reappeared again and tried the outer balcony. I crouched next to the entrance and poked my head around. BAM! I was dead yet another time. I left him alone. Let some other fool go after him. But my pride, oh my pride stung.

I hunted another fugitive the next day, chasing him over the plains. He must have seen my dot on the radar racing toward him and known it was coming. “You don’t know what’s coming, son. Oh, you’re gonna get got!” I said to him in my mind and also out loud. I pulled out my Volcanic Pistol. I arrived at his dot on the radar. He was nowhere to be seen. I activated dead eye and shot a man off his carriage. An innocent man, it turned out. My quarry was hiding behind a rock. I got got! I didn’t know what was coming, son!

I was riding a raft with my friend Sam, holding off wave after wave of enemies. I stepped off the raft into the river. I drowned. OH I’M DEAD I yelled into my stylish Xbox headset. I couldn’t help but think of how this must be what hell is like, a hot dusty place where the mad and the evil and the foolish fight endlessly but never truly perish, reappearing moments after death. A place where even the water is death.

I appeared in a Mexican town having traveled there instantaneously via wagon wheel. I materialized next to an old Mexican woman who was not another player, just a character in the game. I brandished my rifle at her. She held up her hands. I holstered my gun and whistled for my horse. I rode away. Another player had become Most Wanted.

Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Conviction

I bet when Tom Clancy pours gravy on his mashed potatoes, it’s out of a pistol. He keeps the butter in a pair of military issue binoculars. And instead of napkins he dabs his mouth with a manila folder full of CIA classified documents. Also, he eats dinner in the dark wearing thermal goggles.

When he’s done he pats his belly and yells, “Tooooooooom Claaaaaaancy!” Then he kisses a bullet. Then he kisses his own hand. I had a discussion with my friends at work about how it’s fun to kiss your own hand but nobody believes me. Go ahead. Kiss your own hand. It’s really fun. Also a good argument stopper. If you’re having a fight with someone, start kissing your own hand. Check mate.

So, in Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Conviction your daughter is dead but she isn’t dead we lied to you and also this private military organization you worked for is bad now, so shoot everybody in the head. Put on this bulletproof vest. Bash this dude’s face in a toilet. Climb this pipe. Save a scientist! She’s wearing a lab coat so you know she’s all into some science and shit. And glasses!! Extra smart. Kill these soldiers! Don’t ask why! Leave a trail of bodies! What are you some kind of lady? You’re Sam Fisher damn it! Haul your distinguished middle-aged-graying-templed ass over to the White House and save the President! Put some Touch Of Gray® in your hair. Sit in a bathtub with your old naked wife in a Cialis ad. Play Roger Sterling in an episode of Mad Men. Put on these goggles. No, not your swimming goggles. The ones that can see heat signatures through walls. Okay, now put on your swimming goggles. Kiss your own hand.

Now you’re at the Lincoln Memorial. Giant Abraham Lincoln is sitting on his big ivory chair. Or is it marble? It doesn’t matter. You aren’t here to learn about stonemasonry, you’re here to sneak up on a businessman or a politician or something and slam his head into a speaker and also a table. That’ll teach him to wear a suit! Actually, no one has ever successfully learned to wear a suit by being physically assaulted in the face. Fun fact: Abraham Lincoln could teach a man to tie a tie by kicking him in the shin.

Spoiler Alert

When you’re done saving the President you have a choice whether or not to kill the mole who set everybody up and was feeding information to the bad guys. I shot him in the face because why not, he just showed up in the game and now the game is asking me whether or not to kill him. Am I wearing judge’s robes? I don’t give a shit. If you say he’s bad, video game, yeah go ahead and kill him.

Red Dead Redemption

I was playing Red Dead Redemption and I was sneaking up on a gang of bandits in a crouched position. I moved very quietly up a hill to get the drop on them from above. I drew my gun to fire on the bandits when my horse stuck his head in from the side of the screen. Hey, I’m your horse! Whatcha doin? Horse stuff? Sneaking up on some hay or grain?

I was looking to kill a corrupt lawman. It was raining. I had finally tracked him to a riverbed. My horse was in the lake. I whistled for him to come. The horse stayed in the lake. It is better in the lake, my horse seemed to say.

I reached the town of Blackwater. I had completed all the missions necessary to wear the U.S. Army outfit. I just needed to buy a scrap of fabric from the Blackwater tailor. My horse was blocking the door to the tailor’s shop. Whatcha buying? Horse clothes, maybe? I could use a hat. I’m your horse!

I was riding my horse over the plains and the rocks and the dust and the sunlight looked like the art on a tin plate my great-grandmother used to keep in her kitchen cupboard. Minus the revenge seeking cowboy, I guess. She used laminated photographs of desert scenes as placemats for dinner plates. I wonder if my great-grandmother would have rather lived in Arizona or Mexico.

I saw a donkey in Mexico and immediately jumped on it and rode it around. But it was too fat and slow so I left it by a Mexican brothel. If I was a donkey, I’d want to spend my days dozing in the shade of a Mexican whorehouse. If someone didn’t pay I’d bite their pocket until money fell on the ground and the prostitutes would bring me papayas and hang flowers around my head.

I was playing poker in Blackwater in my elegant suit and I tried to cheat but was caught by Bunk Trimble and challenged to a duel. I didn’t have the heart to kill him so I shot him in the arm. I slept in a room above the saloon and came back down the next morning for a more honest round of cards and Bunk was still there and it was like nothing had ever happened. I thought it would be cool if he was the great-great grandfather of William “Bunk” Moreland from The Wire, but then maybe characters from video games aren’t allowed to be grandfathers of characters from television shows.

Spoiler Alert

I had read on the internet that Marston died at the end of the game, but I was hoping it was some idiot on an idiot website who was trolling or didn’t know what he was talking about. But when John Marston left the barn I knew it was over.

Later when his son Jack Marston was riding his horse and wearing his guns, I had him put on the U.S. Army outfit but then realized he would never wear the uniform of the men who killed his father. So I had him ride to his family farm, lay down in his childhood bed and turned off the game.

He Don’t Dance Like Carlton (Mass Effect 2)

He Don’t Dance Like Carlton (Mass Effect 2)

An evaluation of my second playthrough of Mass Effect 2, which I first reviewed in February.

I played Mass Effect 2 as a woman this time. This lady Commander Shepard is very dear to my heart. She was the Mass Effect character I created after I got burglarized and my first Xbox 360 was stolen. Burns me up thinking of my very first Commander Shepard out there in some thief’s house, never to continue his adventures. He looked like Carlton from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and had a scar over his eye. He didn’t dance like Carlton, though. What if one day the police call me and say hey we know it’s been three years but we found your stolen Xbox and now you can play your Carlton look-alike Mass Effect guy in Mass Effect 2. I don’t know why the police would be so interested in me finishing a ME campaign, but I salute their enthusiasm. What a silly dreamer I am.

Speaking of silly dreams- I kid you not last night I had a dream about a giant muscular kangaroo, at least thirty feet tall, wearing red trunks and red boxing gloves punching car hoods in the middle of the interstate. Next thing you know, I’m trying to convince Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg to get on a ferris wheel. Dr. Dre was like, “You said we wouldn’t go higher than thirty feet!”

Commander Veronica Shepard (I was watching Veronica Mars at the time and had a wee bit of a crush on Kristen Bell) had a sassy short haircut, full kissable lips and a dark complexion. I had her involved in a romance with Thane the amphibian-spiritual-Buddhist-sort-of-human-assassin but then he got all gushy with the feelings talk so at the end of the game I kept putting him in charge of stuff where I was pretty sure he would get killed off for good. Is that how you girls do it? If I was a woman and some guy started all that flowery nonsense I might be tempted to put him in front a geth bullet, too. Thane took a shot right in the gut and died honorably without ever finding out how much I was rolling my eyes at his fussy little declarations of love.

Then not five seconds after getting back on the Normandy I had my ship’s yeoman Kelly Chambers doing a strip tease for me in my captain’s chambers. Now that’s how you grieve! I really like that this game gives you the option to have a lady strip for your lady captain before your boyfriend’s body was even cold. Or warm. I don’t know how it works with lizard/fish dudes.

This time I took the thief Kasumi with me on a lot of missions because I paid Microsoft a bunch of Microsoft bucks to have her as a downloadable character. For as much as I paid for her teleporting ass, she needs to be the one stripping in my captain’s chambers. Also, I tried to make sure that the crazy-bionic-bald-headed-tattooed girl Jack survived to the end of the game because my other Commander Shepard played with her heart and hurt her feelings then she took the bullet to the gut that was clearly meant for Thane. So by this logic, I’m trying to make it up to an imaginary video game character for past injustices. Oh hey Xbox 360 game character, I know you are made of pixels and aren’t real and all but I’m so obsessed with this story that I feel a strange obligation to see you safely to the end of the game this time around.  See, this is how cosplay gets started. Not sexy cosplay either, like fatty in a Stormtrooper outfit eating a Philly cheesesteak sandwich sitting on a box of comic books at a convention cosplay.

At the end of the game I blew up the Collector base ship and pissed off the The Illusive Man, aka Martin Sheen’s voice and face with some weird glowing eye circles, so we’ll see how that goes whenever Mass Effect 3 comes out. Guess I’ll just kill the next year or whatever doing dumb non-Mass Effect related activities like spending time with loved ones or sustaining my body with food and oxygen. I suppose I could start trying to breed that super kangaroo I dreamed about. Anybody got a pair of enormous kangaroo boxing shorts and a working knowledge of kangaroo genetics? Not so fast, Dr. Dre! That’s not what your doctorate is in! You’re just trying to get off that Ferris wheel.


I thought about Borderlands as I was drifting off to sleep the other night. In the game I was using my phasewalking ability to electrocute an armored military unit called the Crimson Lance, causing them to yell in their squawky voices, flail around, throw up their hands and die in a puff of electricity. So like Scrooge McDuck counting gold coins in his head before he slipped into dreams of large bosomed lady ducks, I counted the kills I made in Borderlands before I dozed off.

Then again, the next night I was thinking about fried ice cream cake, which is something I came up with at lunch with my friends. It’s a piece of ice cream cake you dip in batter and fry. I also invented a service where you hire a priest to stand outside of a strip club and forgive you as you are walking out. You’re forgiven! And you’re forgiven! Aaaaand you’re forgiven!

The only thing I didn’t like about this game is deciding which gun to keep and which gun to sell, because there are so many to choose from. I kept obsessing over having the best of all the guns. My favorite weapon was a Double Anarchy submachine gun. Other guns came and went, but this was a gun I felt like I could settle down and grow old with. Congratulations, Borderlands, I’m reminiscing about video game weapons.

Most games, I couldn’t give a damn what I’m shooting someone with. Oh does this shoot lasers? No, it shoots little needle things. And this one just says prerecorded businessman cliche phrases when I pull the trigger. (pulls trigger) “Maximize our SEO!” “It is what it is!” Maybe somebody could make a gun for priests that forgives people. Wonder what ammo you would load it with. Probably confetti.

Borderlands is looking pretty with those cel-shaded graphics. Very stylish. Like an ad for an uptown condo. All it needs now is a skinny lady holding a cosmopolitan. If I see a woman in an ad holding a fancy drink and a big glittery purse I assume if I hung out with her she’d be really mean and boring.

Here comes a spoiler:

This whole game, you’re running around killing bandits on a desert planet, picking up weapons and shields, looking for this mythical place called The Vault. To be honest with you, I thought the Vault was going to be full of amazing weapons and loot. Nope. It’s got a squid creature from another dimension in it. That ain’t right, video game. If you call something a vault, it better have treasure or a dead body in it. I’ve never heard of anyone keeping a big space jellyfish in a vault, not even the seafood bank where you can get a 3% on all shrimp you deposit.

But like the ocean voyage you must take to reach the seafood bank, what made Borderlands great was not the destination, but the journey. Skully Skeleton, the mossy skeleton from a shipwreck at the bottom of the ocean I mentioned in my review of Wonder Boys and The Lovely Bones, once traveled all seven seas just to deposit a silver backed shark into his seafood bank account. Then he found out his account was overdrawn by one hundred lobsters. Funny story- that shark ended up being the best man at Skully’s wedding to a a Polynesian belly dancer.


Halo 3: ODST

Nathan Fillion, Adam Baldwin, and Alan Tudyk did voice work for this game. That’s great! I love it when actors from my favorite canceled show get together in the same room to work on another project. Like there’s a possibility that Joss Whedon might crash into the studio Kool-Aid Man style and say “Oh YEAHHH Firefly’s back on let’s make some EPISODES!!!” Then he punches Master Chief in the heart through his space Marine armor. I guess Master Chief was mixing sound that day in the studio. Who’s cranking the treble now, bitch?

It’s the 26th century and the events of Halo 3 haven’t even happened yet. This game is a little side story to Halo 2, which I never played and don’t know anything about. It has a jazz soundtrack, which is good. Space marines and saxophones- like on a poster you win at a county fair dart game. I once won a poster of a bikini lady standing in front of an open refrigerator door when I was eleven. I had it hung on my wall for about an hour before I took it down from embarrassment.

You’re a rookie dropped in the African city of New Mombasa. What happened to your squad? You don’t know. Aliens from the Covenant are trying to kill you. What’s the Covenant? An alliance of hostile alien races. Any sexy aliens? No. It’s a gathering of ugly monsters with shiny guns, like a tea party at Dick Cheney’s house. Who is still making Dick Cheney jokes in the year 2010? Me!

I bet Halo 3 might as well be Disney Sing It on the Wii as far as Dick Cheney is concerned. He’s all like,”Yahh! More blood! Where’s the gore? Bigger guns! War! War! It’s my turn to sing Jonas Brothers!”

My favorite guns were the grunt shot and the beam rifle because you could snipe your enemies from far away with laser beams. My favorite thing to do in a Halo game is crawl up in some big piece of machinery and knock out all the enemies inside and then blow it up from the inside. Makes me feel like a man.


Come to find out the whole mission is to protect a big intelligent floating jellyfish loaded up with data. One time I went to Pensacola Beach and there were so many jellyfish in the water that little bits of jellyfish were floating around so you got stung no matter what. I ended up drinking in the sun under a wet towel all afternoon. One girl got stung by a jellyfish on her leg and her boyfriend took her into an alley behind a hotel and peed on her. Because that’s a home remedy for jellyfish stings, not because he was into it. I mean, maybe he was into it. I wasn’t there.

Just so you know, the best way to actually alleviate the pain of a jellyfish sting is with saltwater, fresh water and urine will only irritate it further. Also, if Dick Cheney pees on you in an alley behind a hotel, it is because he lurks in hotel alleys waiting for out-of-town Democrats taking shortcuts to the Whole Foods. If he jumps out at you just yell, “Halliburton!”

Batman: Arkham Asylum

Well, Batman, looks like you’ve captured your brilliant mad arch-nemesis the Joker again. Where you gonna put him? Arkham Asylum? Hope he doesn’t break out and cause any havoc. I mean, he broke out all those other times, but surely he won’t—oh wait he’s out. And it looks like he’s freeing all your other worst enemies too.

If I was Batman I’d build a bat-prison in the bat-cave and put the Joker there. Or maybe a bat-prison on the bat-moon. Just a metal bat-box with some bat-oxygen in it and a year’s supply of bat-treats.

I’ll tell you where I wouldn’t put him- a crumbly old building he broke out of a million times before.

Batman is super ripped and bulky in this game. I thought Batman kept himself lean in spite of his muscular frame- so he could skulk around in the dark and detect stuff. Seems like with these giant power muscles he’d struggle a little bit to even turn his head.

The character design for this game is all about muscles. Muscles and naked ladies, that is— Harley Quinn is dressed like a clown pin up girl and Poison Ivy didn’t even bother putting on pants for this whole Batman killing party. She couldn’t have made a mini dress out of leaves or something?

Seriously, though—everybody Batman punches in the face has an amazing physique. Lot of people sporting no shirts, too. Cause that’s how I’d prefer to fight Gotham City’s most determined crime fighter. With the exposed skin of my torso and endless optimism. (To be fair, Batman called shirts.)

When you get knocked out in ‘Batman: Arkham Asylum’, a cut-scene comes up in which one of the game’s bad guys gloats at Batman’s soon-to-be corpse, stuff like ‘nice try Batman, time to DIE!’. In one of them, the Joker walks up and says dismissively, “Someone finish him off” and walks away.

Wait- what? You’re the Joker- you and Batman have been fighting one of the most epic battles in the history of pop culture rivalries and you have him bleeding and helpless in front of you. So here’s your chance to do some CRAZY MURDER to Batman, and you hand it off to some henchman you just hired the other day in a gym bathroom?

Which brings me to the final boss battle aka a spoiler: Why would the Joker inject himself with toxins that make him a big muscle freak? He doesn’t like brute force combat, he’s more of a ‘slice a smile in your face with a skinny knife’ kind of maniac. He’s also vain- why would he take anything that would mutilate his body to that extent? His ribs were bursting through his chest- he’d seen it have that effect on other people.

Not to mention the fact that he had Batman’s oldest and dearest friend Commissioner Gordon as a hostage. Here’s an idea: inject Gordon with the toxin and make Batman fight him.

What’s going to really get Batman where it hurts- fighting a bigger meatier Joker at the end of a long line of fighting big meaty dudes or shedding little bat tears in his cowl as he has to fight for his life against a twisted version of his best pal Commissioner Gordon? How cool would that be as a feature in a game? ‘Press X to keep from crying into your superhero mask.’

Speaking of crying, I’m sorry I said all those critical things about you, Batman video game. The fight mechanics and the parts of the story that involve the other villains are amazing.  The Scarecrow making Batman hallucinate all of Bruce Wayne’s deepest anxieties made manifest into a playable level; or Batman just hanging out on a gargoyle waiting to swoop down on some dumb bare chested dummy with a machine gun- I have to give credit where credit’s due. This game is well crafted.

I guess it’s just that if you want to tell me The Joker’s crazy, you need to make me think he’s crazy. In this game he just wants to be strong.