Release Date: Out now!
Developer: Rockstar North/San Diego
Publisher: Rockstar Games
For years the Wild West has been a setting of amazement for people, its wide open world and simple life on the horse has captivated imaginations all over the world.
Sadly its ventures into gaming have been mostly poor, though one of the latest efforts (Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood) was a fairly good FPS game but it still never captured the spirit of the West.
But now it’s all changed with the release of Red Dead Redemption, Rockstars latest outing.
Straight from the intro you’ll know that you’re in for something different, the games lead character John Marston sits on a train, he’s one of the last of a dying breed as the Wild West is slowly dying as technology takes over the land that he loves so much and it’s made clear as he sits on the train and listens to conversations about the lawless natives.
It begins with Marston being forced to capture the men from his old gang, the Agency (part of the new Government that is slowly killing the West) has captured his wife and child and are forcing him to hunt them down.
In your first hour this leads you to Fort Mercer where your first target is located, but it quickly goes wrong and you’re left for dead in the dirt.
Thus begins the game proper as you’re picked up by the first major character in the game, Bonnie MacFarlane.
You wake up on her ranch and the games natural feeling tutorial begins as you learn how to herd cows, break in horses and fend off bandits.
It’s a slow start to the game, in fact much of Red Dead is slower paced so gamers without patience should be wary of entering the Wild West.
But it does feel much more natural than most game tutorials.
Red Dead is certainly driven by its story, a long sweeping tale of Marstons hunt takes you around 20-30 hours to complete and that’s without indulging in too many of the games other activities.
And what a tale it is, Marston is one of the most well thought out and interesting characters to grace the console, while he has his respectful and nicer sides he also makes no mistake on what he began life as, a killer.
And while he’s trying to reform it’s clear that he has no problem doing what it takes to get his family back.
Along the way you’ll encounter a varied and very impressive cast of characters that are almost as well thought out as Marston himself.
Seth the nervous grave robber and Irish (” an alcoholic arms dealer, is there a better kind) a drunk man who often pretends that he doesn’t have a clue who you are.
It’s a fantastic cast and while some of the later characters are not as interested they’re still fun to watch.
Combine that with some truly fine voice acting and you’re onto a winner.
But all of that is second only to the gameworld, the huge desert expanse that awaits you and your trust steed (or donkey if you feel like it) that is free for you to explore.
It’s big, that much is certain but it’s also very beautiful, even if a vast majority of it is brown.
Riding up to a cliff edge and watching the sun rise is a fantastic experience .
It’s an impressive technical feat, especially if you factor in the ecological system that is included, as you venture forth rabbits will run under foot, deer and wild horses will roam the lands and packs of wolves will become a thread to somebody looking at the pretty rabbits and not paying attention.
And they all react to the world, annoy a grizzly bear and you better start running, but leave it in peace and you’ll be ok.
Wolves can be seen hunting deer, cougars often attack random strangers and rattlesnakes have a nasty bite.
Throughout the world random events occur, these can include bandit attacks, strangers who need a ride, people being attacked etc and it’s entirely up to you whether you partake in these events or not.
Of course a large part of the West and of this game, and Rockstar have crafted their best combat system yet using a cover system.
Simply tap RB to take cover, but while it’s Rockstars best system yet it still feels a little clunky compared to many cover based shooters out there and moving from cover to cover can feel a little cumbersome.
It’s not a bad system but it’s far from great, however the guns all feel nice and meaty like they should.
Rifles go off with a satisfying bang and pistols feel fantastic to wield.
The game also includes an aim assist which provides alot of help, though it can often make it feel a little easy but for gunfights on horseback it’s great. Turn it off for a real challenge.
To go with the combat comes the Dead Eye mode, this allows you to slow down time for short periods and “paint” targets before unleashing a hail of deadly accurate bullets into their noggin.
Throughout the world you’ll encounter many things to do, you can hunt the wildlife, play poker or 5 finger fillet.
Taking part in Duels is excellent fun and helps relive those classic moments from the Films.
You can arm wrestle, rob banks etc
And along the way you’ll encounter “strangers” you give you side quests, these are usually entertaining but sadly the vast majority are not as fleshed out as they could of been.
While the land Rockstar have created is vast and alive it’s also pretty damn barren, venturing over yonder hill never nets you a massive sidequest which is a shame so exploration is not really encouraged leaving many people to just fast travel from place to place which is a shame as the world is a fantastic place to ride through, largely thanks to the games very lifelike horses.
As you progress through the story the missions are fairly varied and ranged, from basic shootouts to guarding trains, attacking forts and taking part in a revolution it’s a fun experience from beginning to end but by the end the missions do come down to plain shooting a little too often.
At the final quarter it also takes a big risk by changing pace to very slow again until it’s amazing finale.
Red Dead is certainly not for the impatient gamer, slow starting action and slower paced combat will put off a good few while the vast use of horse rides with AI will bore many others however these rides are often used to fill in story details.
However the slow start is one of the most enjoyable I’ve played, yes it’s not all out action but it’s a refreshing change and helps create the living, breathing atmosphere that brings the world to life.
It’s John Marston himself that captures the show, the man trying to change his life is one of the most real and interesting characters to play as.
While he may be trying to change he seems happy to accept what he is and what he was without argument, and its obvious that he’s feeling out of place as this new world forms around him.
At times he can be a caring man and at others he has no problem with shedding blood to save his family.
He’s perfectly voice acted throughout and you’ll find yourself feeling attached to him and his story like few video game characters manage.
The only complaint is his running and jogging animations look daft.
Multiplayer also plays a part, when you join you’ll find yourself in a Free-roam world where you and many other players can venture around, either tackling gang hideouts or just shooting each other.
It’s a fun mode and you and your friends can form Posse’s as well, just riding around tackling the AI hideouts is great fun.
You can also take part in the fairly standard game modes such as Deathmatches etc which are all fun affairs.
Sadly at the time of writing the multiplayer is a bit of a mess, glitches are numerous and connection issue’s abound which is a great shame in an otherwise great multiplayer.
In Red Dead Redemption the Wild West has been brought to life, allowing you to finally experience the life of a man in those times, and it’s a stunning experience.
It has flaws but they’re mostly minor which is amazing in a game of this size, though you will encounter the occasional crash or bug.
And now it’s time… I have to score this game and what a hard time I’ve had of it. It’s not perfect. but it’s also very very good. the minor niggles hold it back a little but the gameworld and characters are some of the greatest seen. time to meet my destiny……DRAW!
+ Feeling like a proper gunslinger
+ Irish is one of the best characters yet
+The world is so real!
– Big world, not so much to do in it though.
– that it had to end.
It’s a beautiful world with great animations, the horses like amazing and each town looks stunning. and there is tumbleweed!
Fantastic voice acting backed up by a great soundtrack. Guns all sound nice and loud and all the little details are there.
Sweet god! the first 10 I’ve ever handed out! it’s hard to fault this story, the only complaint that I could think of was that it could be a little slow at times. But the ending will leave you amazed.
While the combat can be a little fiddly it’s good fun and the world has plenty to do and see. But the exploration is a bit dull sadly
It’s a big game with the story taking anywhere from 20-40 hours to complete, depending on how sidetracked you become with cheating at poker, taking on random missions and winning duels!
It’s not a ten, it’s so dam close even I can’t believe it but the glitch Multiplayer and the minor irritations in the singleplayer keep it from scoring the first ever overall 10 on this site. If I’m honest, I’m tempted to chage it as I type. It’s been a hard review…. but I think the score is fair.