In the game Red Dead Redemption, in typical Rockstar Manner, you cannot swim, and when you go over your head under water, you drown instantly, just like in any Grand Theft Auto game up to San Andreas. In Vice City, a major part of the gameplay was boats, so it seemed silly to not be able to swim, but in Red Dead Redemption, so much of the game is played in so many different environments that it’s not noticeable unless you actually drown. I’ve drowned many times in that river in Tall Trees, mostly from overshooting corners and forgetting that river ever existed.
One mission and a couple of side missions have boats in them, but other than that, there are no boats on any waters, other than those harbored in Thieve’s Landing, and Black Water. But there is the Wreck of the Serendipity, in the Northern region of the great plains, and this is where our story takes place.
Tumbleweed Manor, when the timing is right, appears to be haunted. There is a video on youtube in which a player hears voices in the manor, and glitches the game to where the voices are: in a room of the manor previously unavailable to the player, filled with spawned NPCs. They are normal characters, they are just trapped, and once you shoot them all silence falls on the house once again.
In the early stages of Red Dead, the Serendipity was designed the same way: a unreachable room where normal characters would spawn and make “ghostly” noises to un-nerve the player and satisfy those who spent 4 hours looking for big foot in San Andreas, and those who swore to god they saw a UFO in Vice City. It was cut, though, and I don’t even think the Tumbleweed manor was supposed to stay that way, and it’s rare enough that players can just pass it off as a normal spawning glitch, but it’s not.
It’s kind of the same thing as blue hell in San Andreas and Vice City, and the Hospital Room in GTA IV- you propel yourself nothing-ness. Well, that can happen at the Serendipity as well, but it is rare. And it’s not just a room: it is an entire level. Very rare indeed: if you don’t capitalize on the moment it happens, or if you just don’t know the signs, it will pass and it will never happen again...perhaps for the better.
It has to be late at night, and music previously unheard but remarkably similar to the whistling in “The Shootist” will play for three seconds, out of tune and eerie. You will know it when you hear it. Then, you must run to the top deck, take out dynamite, and let yourself explode. Your sacrifice will not go unnoticed, believe me.
You will respawn in Armadillo, no matter where your last save point was, and things will seem different...because they are. The tint of the game will take on a very subtle yellowed-tone, and John or Jack will feel much nimbler and quicker than usual, and will be able to jump significantly higher that they could before. Next to your Red Dead Meter you will have another gage, a black rectangle filled with black. The game will never tell you directly, but this is your health. The regenerative health system is gone, but bullets cannot hurt you, and no one in Armadillo be hostile to you.
You cannot walk past the edges of Armadillo, or you will be glitched back to the center of Armadillo in a pixelated mess of graphics. You can only walk, and kill, for you have all your gun, and infinite bullets. If you do not kill, and only walk and listen, you will, after a time, see some pedestrians walking that just seem to fade away, like dust kicked into the breeze, and some that stop to engage in normal banter will talk of odd things, mostly trivial, but with constant reference to “The Train.” After the Train is mentioned the pedestrians talk in deep, harsh and suppressed voices and say “It is coming.”
You can kill without any remorse in this level- if you can handle the screaming. Everyone has the same, high and clear scream that pierces the silence of the otherwise slow town. It is a scream of agony; and if you can picture in your head every woman’s and man’s screams, then it is a blend of all, a universal scream from the depths of the soul. Most kill one and stop, but some simply turn the volume down and finish clearing out the town. If you clear out the town of all NPC’s, a single train whistle is heard from the train station, and if you’ve been playing as John Marston, the character to model suddenly morphs into Jack’s. If you’re playing as Jack, you stay the same, and you continue the long walk, in complete silence, to the train that awaits you.
If you do not kill, or kill once, you will notice that your life bar has been depleting at a steady rate for the entire level. Once it reaches zero the screen turns red like it does when you die, and it shows you walking to the train, slowly, almost as if you are watching a dream. You will stay as either John or Jack, depending on who you started the level with, and as you board the train you will notice the residents of Armadillo streaming in behind you. As the train leaves the station, the camera pans and the word “Redemption” in white flutters across the screen. You resume the game at your last respawn point.
If you clear the town, you will wait in silence, for the train whistle, as if it is a cue to the next world. Jack will move, by himself, to the base of the platform, of the train. You control Jack at this point. You can either step on the train, or you can run back into Armadillo, but you cannot do anything else.
If you run back into Armadillo, the train will leave the station and the desolate town, void of life, will be open to you. Shadows will dance on the forgotten ground and move across the walls, but you will be alone, so very alone. If you sleep in a bed, however, you are opening up a whole other door.
You will awake to a completely normal world, a completely normal Armadillo, with hookers waiting outside your bedroom and drunken tavern customers down stairs. You can continue with the game at this point normally, but the next time you die, you won’t respond at the last saved point. You will respawn in the Empty Armadillo. Every time you return darkness will fall heavier until there is nothing but black, and then, you have let the emptiness consume you and there is no escape. You will have to delete your game, or start a new one.