Review: Red Dead Redemption

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The western setting has never really transferred nicely into a game that you would want to play, with most cowboy person games being forgettable. But I think that this is all about to change with the release of the best damn western game I’ve seen ever.

  • Score:

    9.5 / 10

  • The Good:

    Amazing atmosphere.
    Fun gameplay.
    Astonishing visuals.

  • The Bad:

    Feels a bit unpolished.
    Not as good as GTA IV.

  • Bottom Line:

    While it does miss a bit of the polish that GTA IV had, it’s still a game that we’ll be talking about for a long time to come. 2010’s must-buy game.

Red Dead Redemption is an open-world game by the creators of Grand Theft Auto, Rockstar Games. And it definitely shows with the amazing amount of depth and realism to the world of the game. So lets get stuck into the details.

Presentation

You play as John Marston, a solo cowboy with a dark past. But his past life isn’t about to stop biting him back anytime soon. It’s the year 1911 and John has to capture his previous gang members or else his family kicks the bucket. The story is gripping and the cutscenes are top notch, filled with brilliant, world-class performances that help you step into John’s shoes. And if you need a break you can pause cutscenes which is awesome. And this is needed as the game is truly hard to put down as soon as you’ve started playing.

The main protagonist, John, is a like-able character but makes bad decisions followed by more bad decisions. But he really has no choice. It’s either them or his family. The game feels a bit unpolished compared to IV but that is only a minor negative presentation wise.

Gameplay

The gameplay of Red Dead Redemption is addictive to say the least, with plenty of variation. You can ride your horse, catch animals, walk around, play with the smorgasbord of mini-games or just watch the magnificent view. There is so much to do in the game. And if you think it’s just Grand Theft Auto IV with a paint job, think again. RDR retains the cover system, where any rock, trailer or horse (not recommended for obvious reasons) is a shield from gunfire. There is also the Dead-Eye targeting system, which lets John slow down time to get a more accurate shot, which is great in the heated gunfights. There are levels of Dead-Eye which do different things and are upgradeable by progressing through the game. There is also a karma system in RDR, where doing good things will increase your fame and honour level, while doing bad things will decrease it. And if you decide to shoot somebody for fun you will get a wanted level. But unlike in GTA, you get a bounty which, if unpaid, will attract bounty hunters to get you, dead or alive. You can use your hard earned dough to pay off the bounty if you need peace of mind but I thought it was fun when at the end of a mission, while riding to your save point, you randomly get shot at.

Now for the horses. The horses are ridden by tapping the X Button (PS3), but your speed is limited by the amount of stamina your horse has. Push a horse too far and it will buck you off. It’s a little tricky at the start, but you get used to it eventually. Also your horse will begin to trust you more and you will eventually get more stamina. Horses are mainly differentiated by colour and the amount of energy they have, with little else for you to choose from. Horses are fun to ride, but can sometimes feel a bit unpolished. For example, if you ride into a town and run into a building your horse literally just bounces off. I mean, sure, there aren’t that many things you can do to make a horse look perfect, but it sort of took me out of the game. As you ride along the open plains, the horses become apparently different to cars, with neat additions like holding (X) to go the same speed as someone next to you, sticking to the path by default and when you go near a cliff-edge the horse usually tries to stop. It doesn’t always succeed though, with the horse, and sometimes you, falling to your deaths. And if you survive the fall, but your horse doesn’t, you can skin him for money.

But skinning horses isn’t the only thing in target. Any animals you see in the world can be shot, killed and skinned for cold, hard cash. There are a range of animals, as the Bearly Legal trophy/achievement suggests (cleaver!).

Mission activities range from mission to mission, with each mission usually bringing something new to the table. And when you’re riding to a location you’ll also walk past and, at your own choice, participate in a number of mini-missions. For example, somebody’s camp site is being robbed and you have to kill the robber. Or when you’re in a town you’ll occasionally see a woman being attacked by a thug, and you’ll have to help her. It’s these mini nuggets of gameplay that will keep you on edge in even the most boring parts of the game, which there are almost none of.

There are the weapons too, from machine-guns to shotguns and even, my personal favourite, the lasso where you can lasso a person and drag them behind your moving horse. Or you can follow the rules and use it in capturing wild horses.

When you need a rest from the game (usually after a night of little sleep) you can literally set up camp anywhere in the game. Also Autosave is on by default so you don’t really have to worry about losing your save.

And if you do somehow become a little tired by the missions, remember that at the end of many of the missions you are rewarded with new goodies, like guns to buy, horses, costumes and other cool things. Overall the gameplay is fun, except for a minor glitch here or there (don’t worry, they aren’t game breaking). Also, the Rockstar Social Club, Rockstars online hub filled with cool stuff to do, is tightly integrated into the game, more-so than GTA IV was, and gives you bonus content and tasks to do.

As well as the offline game there is also online game modes, including Free Roam, Shootout, Capture The Bag and more which are basically the offline game but with your friends, including the entire game map.

I encountered little to no lag but if your friends aren’t online we couldn’t really discover how to get into another group’s game. Overall Multiplayer is fun.

Visuals

Read Dead Redemption is a beautiful game with a massive draw distance and detailed models, it’s hard to find fault with the graphics. There is a fair few noticable glitches with the visuals though, even in cutscenes, and they can sometimes be pretty annoying, but definately do not detract from the overall experience of a wide, open world. And when you ride to the edge of a cliff and look below at the towns below, you can truly feel how much work has gone into this game to make it this amazing to be in.

Sound

The music and sound effects, while not groundbreaking, are good, but the voice-acting is where it stands out, with top notch, movie style voice acting that make the characters feel real. Also on the way to a mission, the other characters talk to you. And if you fail the mission the next time your going to the mission the characters say other things, which is something I wish more games would do. But if there was one thing I could change it would probably be the music. I know, it sounds dumb but I missed the ability from GTA to listen to some form of music other than just the regular movie style scores. And if they didn’t want that, couldn’t they have included in custom soundtrack support? There is nothing worse than riding a horse for 5 mins non-stop without any music except for the occasional guitar strum. I mean, sure it’s in the Western setting but I listened to my iPod when I wasn’t watching the cutscenes or listening to the conversations in game.

Replay Value

To say that you’ll be playing for months to come is an understatement. Rockstar has already supported this baby with plenty of free and paid DLC, Social Club features and the game on its own being massive. Like a 20-25 hour story mode, followed by a lot of side-missions, big or small and then top that off with the sandbox that is the open world that you can, at any moment, just go for a ride with your noble steed and kill some bears.

The game is so big that I’ll probably have to leave some of the elements out of the review because it would take me all day to show them to you and I don’t want to spoil any of this amazing game.