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Red Dead Redemption: A Western Done Properly

September 01 2010

Red Dead Redemption: A Western Done Properly
by Lodur

When you think of the old west, movie scenes spring to mind. John Wayne saving the day or riding with outlaws; poker games ending in shootouts; and women of questionable integrity vying for your attention. You think of stories of the gold rushes, farm hands becoming heroes, bandits robbing stagecoaches, trains or banks.

The old west inspired children to play cowboys and Indians. It has been fictionalized and romanticized to a point where you can’t go anywhere in the world where folks have not heard tell of it.

Video game makers however, have ignored this genre for quite some time. Sure you’ve had some anime style games push into the old west, but nothing truly attempted the rugged nature of this land. That is until Rockstart Games turned its eye towards the Wild West. The company was made famous for its Grand Theft Auto games, and they have approached this game with the same love and attention to detail as they have with all their other endeavors.

Red Dead Redemption captures the feel of the time and does a great job of reminding us that present day hot button issues like racism, immigration, federal government power and personal freedoms are nothing new; they are deeply ingrained in American society. Instead of just teaching or preaching, the game puts you in the shoes of John Marston; a former outlaw gone straight who more or less starts as a neutral party.

You are sent to take down former friends and allies of an outlaw band that you used to ride with.  These just happen to be the same ones that left you for dead years ago. The setup seems cliché, but in truth it runs much deeper. As the game progresses you will be taking over a large swath of land that straddles the border between the U.S. and Mexico. As you adventure you will meet, and potentially assist, a large and fantastic supporting cast of characters. Dialogue, as well as voice acting, is top notch and seamless. Facial expressions match perfectly to the actor’s actual words and do wonders to draw you further into the game.

The main story of the game offers about 20 hours of game play. This is quite a bit compared to other games at a time when the average game tops out at 8-10 hours. There are also a ton of side missions for you to take on, which really emphasizes the sandbox feel of the world. You can break mustangs, track down bounties, go treasure hunting or even test your gunman skills. The world is rich with a vibrant soundtrack that makes you feel a part of the world. You could spend all of your time not doing anything but riding around and seriously not be disappointed.

As you complete tasks you gain (or lose) fame and honor. As you progress through the game, NPCs will react to you based on these levels. People may challenge you to duels or beg you for help. The game is set up to allow you to choose your ethics and morality. You can be a woman-abusing drunk, or a paragon of virtue. The choice is yours. That doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences. There is a police force in the game, and dastardly deeds will see you firmly in their radar. Ultimately the system allows you freedom on how to play the game, and as a result you can play the game twice and not get the same experience.

The world is teeming with wild life as well, birds in the air, coyotes and rattlesnakes on the hunt. Trains whistle in the background and the weather changes as well. You may see people running to the road for help, or set up to ambush you. You may find yourself running from a cougar or a bear, but you never know what exactly is going to happen as you travel the world. The colors and hues of the game are impressive and attractive, and the visuals are spot on.

The game prides itself on the details as well. Shoot a man off of his horse and his foot may get stuck in the stirrup leaving him to be dragged behind the scared creature. Shoot a man in the leg, he will stumble and fall down moaning and in pain. Shoot a man in the hand to disarm him, hogtie people and sling them on a horse, or leave them for bandits or animals to take care of. All of these combined details work to create a cinematic game experience.

There have been those that claimed this was simply Grand Theft Auto with a Wild West skin, however they are dead wrong. Rockstar not only took elements from their old games that work, but they also adapted them to a new system as well as added new elements.

The Dead Eye slow motion effect makes you feel like a gunslinger right out of the old west. Time slows down and you can plan your shots only to exit the slowdown and complete the shot sequence in true action movie sense. You can use rocks and walls for cover, and can sneak up on an enemy. There are just so many ways to do just about everything.

Even after you’ve beaten the game and gotten a 100% completion, there is still more that you can do. The game has an online cooperative and competitive mode for up to 16 players simultaneously. Competitive action includes free for all matches with shootouts, capture the flag style games and team death matches. Each game begins with every player standing in a circle ready to draw pistols, meaning you start every match in a Mexican standoff.

Each multiplayer game also has a lobby; that lobby gives you what is called free roam. The lobby is the entire game world open for you to explore. Want to check out a place you haven’t unlocked in the single player game quite yet? You can do that in the online lobby. Even in the lobby you can do things like form a posse and take out bandit hide-outs, or even take on a rival posse. As you play multiplayer games, you will gain experience which unlocks better mounts, weapons and sometimes character models.

In the end Read Dead Redemption does something no other game has done in a very long time; it puts you in the middle of what is a truly cinematic gaming experience. You can feel yourself interacting with the game and being drawn into the world. It is a complete game in every sense of the word and it brings life to the old west in such a way that you can’t help but truly enjoy it. With additional content planned to expand single player as well as multiplayer games, this will likely be around for a long time and offer gamers quite the bang for their buck.

The attention to detail, control scheme and game play itself lend to a truly unique gaming experience. If I had to offer criticism of the game it would be that no “classic” voice actors were tasked to participate in the recording. There is no Sam Elliot or John Wayne present, which does leave me a little sad. In addition, some ports of the game are very buggy and have quite a number of glitches. These range from birds being replaced by people models; random zombies in the game; or bad clipping.  This doesn’t take too much away from the game, and offer only minor annoyance.

Overall I give the game a 97% for fantastic visuals and game play and an experience that truly draws you in. The only thing keeping this from a full 100% are the random bugs the game seems to have. Hopefully those will be corrected in future updates.

Filed under: ReviewsPS3Xbox 360RPGShooter

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Buddha's avatar
Buddha 11:10am, 09/01/2010

I hope to hell you mean recordings of John Wayne… cause they’d be hard pressed to get the Duke to record anything for this game from the grave.

Lodur's avatar
Lodur 11:39am, 09/01/2010

I do indeed. They have them and the ability to synthesize more. The DUKE MUST LIVE ON!

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