Red Dead Redemption review
Rockstar, the king of open world games and the creator of the critically acclaimed game of the year “Grand Theft Auto 4,” is taking Wild West game expectations to a new standard. Who hasn’t dreamt of being a cowboy, saving damsels in distress, having shootouts with bandits, dueling gunslingers and hunting for treasure? Unfortunately, the western genre is one that has not been met with much success in the video game industry. Previously, western style games have been met with mediocre reviews and low retail sales. Rockstar has set out to change this with its newest open-world action adventure game: “Red Dead Redemption.”
Set in the first decade of the 1900s and a time that can be seen as the death of the west, players take on the role of John Marston, a redeemed outlaw and family man. Marston is tasked by the federal government to bring in his old gang in. After a particularly long introduction in which Marston confronts a member of his old gang and is greeted with a stomach full of lead, he wakes up on a ranch healed of his wounds and the adventure begins. The local rancher who finds him bleeding in the middle of the wilderness asks him to pay off his debt to her by helping around the ranch. Soon you find yourself riding horses, herding cattle and wrangling mustangs. Early on, you will be assisting the marshal with local bandits and later on taking part in a revolution.
The story progresses as you meet new faces and help them with their problems so that they, in turn, help you. Each character you encounter has a unique personality with their own individual quirks. You will interact with the honorable marshal, a grave robber who talks to dead bodies and a drunk Irishman with a bad memory to name a few. Each character drives the story forward and introduces new and entertaining features in game play. Overall, the story should take the average player about 20 hours to complete, but the story portion of the game only scratches the surface of the entire game.
In “Red Dead Redemption,” you will not find a lack of things to do. There is a huge variety of weapons to acquire, townsfolk to save and challenges to complete. You can hunt animals and bring their pelts and sell them at a local shop, find treasure maps to find hidden treasure or collect bounties by hunting outlaws. There are also a variety of mini-games such as poker, blackjack and five finger fillet throughout the world which you will find around towns and in saloons.
Random events keep the action flowing throughout the game. While traveling to your next objective, you might come across a group of bandits robbing a stage coach. In this situation, you can either help the stage coach or help the bandits or do nothing and watch what happens. However, all of these decisions affect your honor meter. Help the stagecoach and you earn honor, but if you help rob the stage coach you lose honor. Your honor effects how the other characters in the world interact with you. An honorable man will be greeted and praised by the locals, and the dishonorable will be feared and scolded. By doing evil deeds, however, you can earn a bounty on your head. Bounty hunters will track you down in the wilderness and lawmen will shoot on site when you enter a town. Whichever way you decide to focus your morality, you will have a blast doing it.
The graphics and presentation in “Red Dead Redemption” are amazing. From the fully voiced dialogue to the huge vistas of the countryside, Rockstar nailed the look and feel of the Wild West. The raising and setting of the sun alone gives a sense of realism as cacti, mountains and clouds cast shadows over the world. Horses are so detailed in their animations that you would swear they are real. Sounds of gunshots and coyote can be heard off in the distance, and the ricochet of a bullet that missed its mark create and unbelievably immersive experience. This is one of the best looking games I have played.
In terms of controls, “Red Dead Redemption” has a slight learning curve, particularly in the case of controlling the horse. On a few occasions, I found myself accidentally jumping over fences, riding off of cliffs or trampling the locals, but after a while I was lassoing thieves and chasing bandits with ease. Shooting has been slightly refined from the mechanics of “Grand Theft Auto 4.” There is a soft lock-on feature that allows you to quickly aim at a target, fire a few shots and lock on to the next. This feature also makes shooting from horseback both simple and satisfying. The addition of the Dead-Eye mode further increases your chances when taking on multiple bad guys. When activated, Dead-Eye slows down time so that you can get precision shots on multiple targets. The gunplay controls work smoothly making it easy to take cover, blind-fire and maneuver around objects to get the kill shot.
After completing all that there is to do with the extensive single player portion of the game, there is still the multiplayer mode. The multiplayer in “Red Dead Redemption” allows players to explore the open world of the single player game with friends and other players online via Xbox Live and PlayStation Network. Players can take part in modes such as Death Match, Team Death Match or Capture the Flag. Players also have the option to participate in the Free-Roam mode in which players can form “posses” or groups and complete missions together such as hunting challenges or gang hideout challenges against computer controlled characters. Completing missions earns experience points that are used to unlock new mounts, characters and weapons. I ran into several bugs that are unique to the multiplayer. Horses and weapons would become invisible, donkeys would fall out of the sky dead and the game would occasionally crash. Rockstar has already begun patching the major issues, so those problems should be solved in the near future. Bugs aside, multiplayer offers almost an unlimited number of ways to have fun with your friends and it will keep you playing for hours on end.
Overall, “Red Dead Redemption” is an absolute blast to play. The captivating story will drive you through the epic single player campaign while the polished game play and challenges will keep you playing well after the main story is over. The graphics and art style are some of the best I have seen in a game making exploration a completely immersive experience. Fighting off bandits, shooting down a victim from a noose and hogtieing thieves could not have could not have been more exhilarating. Rockstar has perfectly emulated the feel of the Wild West with “Red Dead Redemption.” Add the experience of exploring the world with friends in multiplayer, and you will find that “Red Dead Redemption” is everything you could want and more from a Wild West game.
I give Rockstar’s “Red Dead Redemption” 5 stars out of 5.