Occasionally I talk games with my brother-in-law. The games we play don’t intersect too often (he’s a Gran Turismo fanatic, I’m a Burnout man), but when they do, it’s interesting for me to hear his opinion.
The summer previous, he told me he’d completed Red Dead Redemption. While he was largely okay with the game, he was very angry with the ending. When asked if the problem lay with John’s death, the reply was “No, it was the stupid ending with his kid! There was no point to it.” Apparently the epilogue was so infuriating it negatively colored the entire experience for him, as bad endings tend to do. Admittedly, if he finds fault in a game, he tends to aggrandize the problem until he finds the entire game unplayable (his meager skill at navigating rooftops in Assassin's Creed II leading him to drop the game altogether being one unfortunate example).
I don't remember why I never questioned his evaluation, but just last night I found out a much more legitimate reason for his irritation; he'd never managed to track down Edgar Ross.
When I first completed Red Dead Redemption, I had 20 minutes to get to work. Right then, however, I saw Jack Marston turn to the camera, his parents’ graves framing a dark visage. I called in to work and told them I was going to be late.
Because Ed Ross was going to die.
Hunting Mr. Ross down and pulling the trigger was a cathartic experience, the bullet a resounding, final retort to the hell he'd forced upon the Marston family. I hadn't felt this way since the ending to the Prince of Persia reboot, bringing life to Elika as soon as the game let me.
As a result, it was easy to empathize with my brother-in-law's dislike of his ending for Red Dead Redemption. To him, it was a very frustrating way of placing you back in the sandbox after completing the main campaign, with an unconvincing sequel setup (and negation of much narrative resolution).
I immediately set him straight, and he perked up with the possibility of exacting revenge. Then I wondered, "What if other games had pulled this big tease sort of stunt? Would it still result in a less positive experience? What if it made the game a little better?"
The first game that comes to mind for me is Halo 2. Originally, Bungie wanted one more Master Chief level to tie things up. Time restrictions prevented that from happening, and the last level ballooned into the entirety of Halo 3. What if that last level had been implemented? Would the game be that much better? Many, many, people were pissed off that Halo 2 cut us off at the knees the way it did, but I suspect part of the reason for the anger was the forming conclusion was getting good. That we had to wait for the end was unfortunate, but how eager were you to tear off the shrink wrap when Halo 3 was finally released?