Red Dead Redemption

Rockstar comes through yet again.

By King, Posted 02 Jul 2010

If you've been told that Red Dead Redemption is a drastically different game than the GTA series, you've been told wrong. This feels just like you would expect Grand Theft Auto IV to be in the Wild West, with the real differences being the setting and presentation (mostly in the menus). This is not a bad thing at all, and probably the best choice Rockstar could have made for the spiritual successor to 2004's Red Dead Revolver.  From here on out, the GTA comparisons stop, as the Red Dead series is meant to be a separate series, no matter how similar the new Redemption feels.

The game begins by putting you in the shoes of John Marston, a former outlaw sent by the government to redeem himself of his past. As you sit on the train heading for New Austin, Texas, you get a sense of the insane level of detail. The characters around you are all carrying on conversations and living out their own lives, an action that you will see represented not just in cutscenes like this, but as you are roaming the world. Of course, you'll hear the traditional hilarious dialogue that Rockstar is famous for, too. You don't see too many old western games being made, so to see one with such a fine level of attention put into it is special. The vast territories of Texas and Mexico are living, breathing areas full of life and feel true to the date of 1911.

As you uncover more of John's past, you find out that he had been taken from his wife and son, and forced to hunt down the members of his former gang if he ever wants to see his family again.  Sometimes it's easy to feel a little detached from Marston as his motives aren't completely clear to you, and he talks a lot about being tired of doing favors for everyone yet never actually does anything about it. Redemption does tell a good story with strong characters, I just feel like it could have been executed a little better.

Red Dead Redemption Review

The variety of missions also holds Red Dead Redemption back from being a true masterpiece. There are some unique missions here and there, but the majority of them play out as follows: hop on a horse and ride to the waypoint while having a conversation with accompanying NPC(s), after your three minute ride or so is up it's time to shoot some bad guys, take out 20 or so and mission complete. Playing straight through the story missions will give you a good fifteen to twenty hours alone, which while it is the ideal length for a game of this nature, the story may have been more enjoyable if it had been cut down a bit, or else the mission objectives be spiced up.

But for most of us, the game isn't all about unraveling the tale of John Marston, and the good news is there is plenty to do outside of the missions. Outside of traveling the large map, enjoying the beautiful view, there are mini-games to play. Texas Hold 'Em, Blackjack, Horseshoes, Liar's Dice, Arm Wrestling, and Five Finger Fillet. Maybe you just want to go see a nice old-school cartoon flick? The amount of things to do in this world is mind numbing. Long load times keep some of the games from reaching their full potential, but nevertheless everyone should be able to find multiple mini-games that they enjoy.

Is hunting more your style? You're in luck, Red Dead Redemption is glistening with wilderness full of wild animals. You can go after anything from armadillo, to rabbits, to snakes, to cougars, to bears, the list goes on. RDR does a better job with animals than possibly any game I've ever seen. They look very realistic, especially the animation, and encountering them as opposed to humans sheds a whole new light on the game. It can also be a great challenge, as I can assure you that you'll die at some point or another by being attack by a group of raging wolves.

Red Dead Redemption Review

Red Dead Redemption doesn't break any barriers for third-person action games, but it feels right. The weapons (which include the likes of classic six shooters, shotguns, rifles, mounted gatling guns, and even a lasso) are satisfying and pack a punch. There is a standard cover system, and also a lock-on mechanic that can be turned off if desired. Riding on horseback is pretty smooth overall, although controlling your character on foot feels a little clunky, and it's difficult to make sharp turns or accurate jumps.

There's also a slow-motion bullet time mechanic called “Dead-Eye”, which deviates Redemption's gunplay from the norm just a fraction. By pressing on the right analog to activate Dead-Eye, time will slow and the game will be seen through an old-fashioned looking filter. When in this mode, you can choose where to place your shots, and once you have painted your targets, Marston will fire off a series of quick shots to those specific places. This is balanced out by the Dead-Eye meter, which depletes after use, but automatically will regenerate with time (or instantly if you purchase specific items). It's also worth noting that Red Dead Redemption features a health regeneration system, rather than making you eat, sleep, etc. to get back to full strength.

In order to keep your actions in check, Rockstar has introduced a morality system. Help out strangers and make the right decisions, and your honor will go up towards the Hero side. If you go on a killing spree, murdering the inhabitants of a town, your honor will slide down towards Desperado. You'll also end up with a bounty on your head, so when you break the law, instead of just running away from officers once, you'll still be hunted down until you are caught or pay off the bounty on your own. It's a great system that makes the consequences for being a bad guy more severe. The morality system is a nice addition, but the only problem is that since the main story portrays you as being the noble, good guy, it's hard to go ballistic on the innocent civilians.

If you get nothing out of Red Dead Redemption, at least you can sit back and admire the visual power of the game. The environment and characters are extremely detailed, and animations run fluid. You'll be amazed when riding your horse and gazing at the expansive backdrop of mountains, or seeing the western skyline lit up with stars at night. If only it were completely polished. Your admiration may be interrupted by an uncanny glitch. They don't ruin the game, and some end up actually being pretty funny, but it would have been a bonus to see this game running without so many mishaps. I've seen a lot of weird, random objects popping in, and at one point I attempted to take cover and instead John was launched up one hundred feet into the air and came plummeting back to his death. Yet another of Red Dead Redemption's strong points is the stellar soundtrack, which is good enough to have been in any big western film. It captures the mood perfectly, and certain moments are delivered with some emotional tracks.

Red Dead Redemption Review

If you weren't sold on the single player alone, there's also an online multiplayer component here to add to your gaming hours. You start off in a Free Roam session that acts as your lobby. From here you can join into competitive game modes, but chances are you may not want to. Free Roam is the most fun you can have online. Up to sixteen players can join up and explore the Wild West at their own leisure. The bad news is, not everything from the single player world has made a return to the online world, including the mini-games. It would have been a lot of fun to walk into a saloon and challenge a group of players to a game of Texas Hold 'Em, and the absence of these features doesn't make much sense. There's still fun to be had, completing gang hideouts, going on a rampage, or just screwing around. It's recommended that you get some friends along for the fun though, as often playing with random players ends up as an unwanted match of Free-for-All instead of Free Roam.

The competitive modes themselves aren't nearly as good. You have the standard affair of modes with deathmatches, capture the flag variants, and the likes. These end up feeling like noting more than a generic third-person shooter running on the Red Dead Redemption engine. There are a lot of unlockables for different characters, mounts, weapons, and titles, and fifty levels to work through, plus the ability to go through legendary status five times (see: Call of Duty's Prestige). It'll provide you with a few more hours of fun with RDR, but with so many other great online multiplayer games on the market, it's hard to imagine very many players becoming sucked into this one. Free Roam is still fun, but it's hard not to imagine what could have been if it had reached its full potential.

If you love the theme of early 1900 Texas/Mexico, it's a no brainer to get this game. Even if you don't care for the setting, Rockstar has done such a good job with it that you will likely be immersed into the western world anyway. If you're looking for great online multiplayer, you may end up disappointed, but the single player will provide you with a great experience and an insane amount of things to do outside of the main story. Red Dead Redemption is hands down the best western game to date, and can hang with some of the best open-world games around.

Logan Smithson, NoobFeed

comments powered by Disqus

  • Great review. But you've forgotten to rate it in the end.

    Posted Jul 02, 2010

  • @Sleven : I saw that earlier, but it's still taking time to update. If it's still not up by the time you see this, I gave it a 4.5.

    Posted Jul 02, 2010

  • @King : Thanks for the quick response. It's not up yet but judging by your review I was expecting to see a 4.5.

    Posted Jul 02, 2010

  • There we go. Score is showing up now.

    Posted Jul 02, 2010

  • Great review! I agree with the part that RDR has similarities with GTA series bt setting is different.

    Posted Jul 02, 2010

  • I'm still not sure about this game despite all the good reviews and good comments I hear.. I'll probably give it a try but only when it hits the cheaply priced games.

    Posted Jul 03, 2010

  • Nice review and I agree with most of it.

    Posted Jul 05, 2010
  • avatar RON

    The game sounds almost perfect. Very well written Logan.

    Posted Jul 07, 2010

  • Great review!  I wonder if it will be available for PC in the future...

    Posted Aug 20, 2010


General Information

Platform(s): Xbox 360, PS3
Publisher(s): Rockstar Games
Developer(s): Rockstar San Diego
Genres: Third-Person Shooter
Themes: Open World
Release Date: 2010-05-18

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