Review: Red Dead Redemption

OUTLAWS TO THE END

Developer(s): Rockstar San Diego, Rockstar North
Genre: Action Adventure
Platform(s): PlayStation 3 & Xbox 360
Release Date: May 18, 2010
Compatability (PS3): 600MB Mininum Space | DUALSHOCK 3 Vibration Function | HD 720p | Network Players 2-16
Compatability (Xbox 360): 800KB Mininum Space | HDTV 720p / 1080i / 1080p | Online Multiplayer 2-16
Rating: 9.0

When Rockstar let the public know that Red Dead Redemption would be their most ambitious title yet, it made one wonder as to how they could get more ambitious than their highly respected Grand Theft Auto series. After all, what game could have truly bested GTA, in both look and feel, when it came to the open world genre? You know, I guess you can even go so far as to say that Rockstar San Diego weren’t only competing with other companies; they were also competing with themselves. Well, gamers gather round, for this is a competition that Rockstar has won on both fronts. Not only have they proved, once again, that they are a force to be reckoned with, but they’ve also dropped the modern Western back into the spotlight, all the while dealing with some internal struggles of their own. Where games like Gun, Call of Juarez, and even Red Dead Revolver failed to truly capitalize on the Western genre, Red Dead Redemption walked on to the stage with a six-shooter and blew our minds.

Yes, this game is bloody, grimy, romantic and everything else that comprises a good Western, but in the end the one quality that stands out the most is the fact that it’s just plain beautiful. You’ll experience plenty of different moods throughout Red Dead Redemption and if you were to compare the game to one of its film counterparts, your best choice would be somewhere in between The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and 3:10 To Yuma. I’m not kidding, RDR is an emotional rollercoaster; one moment you’ll be smiling from ear to ear as you blast away 10 bad guys in less than a second, and the next you’ll be scowling after you’ve just had to watch John Marston endure the worst of situations. As a result, you’re faced with a game that will pull you into a world that is captivating, expansive and believable, not letting go of you until the very end.

The game's visuals are one to look out for.

The game revolves around John Marston, once outlaw, now family man, trying to find and kill his old gang members in the hopes of burying his past and save his loved ones. As in most of the Rockstar titles, you’ll come across an array of characters, all accompanied with top notch voice acting, and do missions for them. RDR’s missions are spread out over three acts and three expansive territories, New Austin (The Frontier), Nuevo Paraiso (Mexico) and West Elizabeth (The North), all of which are just as beautiful and awe inspiring as the last; it’s clear that Rockstar San Diego invested a lot of love and care into Red Dead Redemption. Though fast traveling from one location to the other seems like a good idea, as the map is huge, it’s something you won’t want to overuse. Red Dead Redemption is filled with things to do and challenges to complete as you travel from point A to B. In fact, I can’t remember a single moment where I rode for miles without either having to stop bandits from murdering a woman in cold blood, or competing with a stranger to determine the best sharpshooter. While the main story can be completed in around 20 hours, everything in the world can occupy you for well over 40 hours. Mark my words; there isn’t a shortage of things to do in Rockstar’s rendition of the Wild Wild West.

On face value, one could say that this game is simply a western themed GTA title, but the differences between both games go far beyond horses and cars. For starters, you’re given a fame and honor system that adapts itself to the kind of deeds you commit to in the world and rewards you or penalizes you based on how high or low it is. At a certain point in the game, the law began turning a blind eye to any bad deeds I committed, so long as I didn’t kill anyone. Furthermore, shops began to sell me items at discounted prices. Had I decided to take the dishonorable road, shops would have closed their doors to me and the law would be more wary of anything that I did. Fame, on the other hand, is gained through the accomplishment of ambient challenges (e.g. saving a woman from hanging, duels) and, like honor, changes the manner in which non-player characters interact with you, be it something as small as talking about you behind your back or coming up to you more often for your help. Rockstar even went so far as giving the player an inventory system, which is something you won’t see in any of their previous titles. At any given moment you can access it and look for any potions to either restore your health, your dead eye, your horses stamina and even access a campsite that, once upgraded, allows you to fast travel on top of allowing you to save. In the end, we were not only given a game that felt familiar (gameplay and structure-wise), but one that went above and beyond in bringing a new depth to Rockstar’s GTAesque open-world genre.

The West is a place where you will find yourself in trouble. Big trouble.

There are only two negative aspects to Red Dead Redemption and they still don’t even feel that relevant in light of the titles glorious single-player campaign. The first being the occasional performance bug: By the time I had finished the game and the credits had rolled across the screen, my game had crashed around 5 times and I had seen some pretty strange bugs in the town of Blackwater (Act 3), one of which involved John Marston warping from one location to another, through walls, windows and trees. Apart from that, however, the game ran smoothly. The second negative to the game, and this may come a surprise to you, was the multiplayer. I felt like Rockstar had spent so much time perfecting the single-player experience that the multiplayer was a mere add-on, stripped of all the features that made the single-player so great. I’m talking about towns teeming with life, and plenty of ambient challenges for you to complete in the company of your friends. For me, the multiplayer became a grind: Free Roam involved riding around with my friends going to the same gang hideouts, where as the closed Gang Shootouts involved me spawning and shooting anything that moved without question. While participating in the multiplayer, I couldn’t help but reflect on GTA Online and the level of customization it offered players, be it spawning, weapons, voice chat, traffic, locations and weather. I thought Red Dead Redemption was going to go along the same path, and I was left disappointed.

Regardless, those were only two negative aspects to an otherwise perfect experience. If I could say anything to Rockstar right now it would be, “Thank you. Thank you for allowing me to participate in one of the greatest Westerns I’ve ever encountered.” Red Dead Redemption is a triumph for Rockstar and the Western genre alike, and it is definitely a title that you have to get your hands on play from start through finish. This is the level of creativity that all development companies should be shooting for.

Reviewed by Annand – June 28, 2010

Graphics
The visuals of Red Dead Redemption are amazing. A couple of glitches mostly in Blackwater (Act 3) and in the multiplayer mode are on the negatives side though.
 
Sound
Gorgeous soundtrack and top notch voice acting. One of the best around.
 
Fun
Red Dead Redemption is massive. You will find loads of things to do in the West. Multiplayer is disappointing but you will still be getting back for more John Marston action.
 
Final Score

 

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