Verdict: The last days of the Old West go out with a bang!
In a Nutshell: Outlaw-turned-rancher John Marston is forced to hunt down his former criminal brethren while seeking to redeem himself from the life of an outlaw.
“America, early 1900′s. The era of the cowboy is coming to an end.
When federal agents threaten his family, former outlaw John Marston is sent across the American frontier to help bring the rule of law. Experience intense gun battles, dramatic train robberies, bounty hunting and duels during a time of violent change.
Red Dead Redemption is an epic battle for survival in a beautiful open world as John Marston struggles to bury his blood-stained past, one man at a time.
- Fun Rating: Fun
- ESRB: M
- Players/Mode: 3rd-person, single-player campaign, multiplayer game modes (including an open world map), downloadable content available.
- Game Duration: ~27 hours
- System: XBox360, PS3
- Developer: Rockstar Games
- Website: http://www.rockstargames.com/reddeadredemption/
- Cost: $60
|Would I play this again?||Yes|
|Would I recommend this game?||Yes, with some reservations (see below)|
|Was the story good?||Surprisingly good|
|Was the music good?||Quite good. Original soundtrack using period-appropriate instruments|
|Were the graphics good?||Yes|
|Was this game difficult?||Not Really|
|Was this game frustrating?||Sometimes|
|Was this game offensive?||Some, using mature language and one unnecessary sex scene|
|Was this game worth your time/money?||Yes|
Playing the game
You play John Marston in the 3rd person, wielding a wide range of weapons by the end of the game. There are all your expected weapons for a Western – revolvers, pistols, rifles, repeaters, and a lasso – but there are also a number of other weapons. Set in 1910-11, you have access to some more modern weapons like a semi-automatic shotgun and a couple of early sniper rifles. That’s not to mention the cooler weapons like Molotov cocktails (“fire bottles,” in the game), mounted Gatling guns, and cannons.
The left stick moves the character while right stick controls the camera. The A button makes you run (or speeds up your horse/carriage/etc), the B button reloads your weapon or greets passers-by, X is used to jump, hurdle, or climb, and the Y button interacts with just about anything with that option.
Left trigger draws your weapon, right trigger fires; left bumper can draw/holster your weapon, but is mostly used by holding LB to bring up your weapon options in-game, which you select by moving the right stick around to the one you want and releasing LB. Right bumper enters/exits cover and blocks (during melee).
The Select button opens your satchel, which includes things like consumables (such as Medicine, healing your wounds), collectibles (such as deer skin or bear meat you collect and sell), and the kit (which holds things like your camping gear, which allows you to save). The Start button opens a very detailed Pause Menu. Finally, the D-Pad. Up on the D-Pad whistles for your horse, Left and Right change your view to aim over your left and right shoulders (respectively), and Down zooms out the mini map.
What the game gets right
Red Dead Redemption is probably the best Western genre video game ever made. (Though Sunset Riders is still really fun.)
Anything you can think you would want to do is available – stopping bandits, rescuing damsels (and shop owners, and horse owners, and train engineers and so on…) in distress, breaking in wild horses, hunting animals, playing Blackjack in some seedy dive, bounty hunting, and more. There is even a wide range of possible activities if you are less honorably inclined in your gameplay: Marston can rob banks, trains, innocents, even steal horses, leave a helpless citizen to the mercy of wolves, or cheat at Poker.
Beyond just the missions and side quests you can do, Red Dead Redemption gets the story right. It is a story with good pacing, the right kind of escalation at the right time, good use of relief when the tension becomes too great…I could go on. Themes are found subtly (and not so subtly) strewn throughout missions and characters you interact with: one finds mercy contrasted with ruthlessness, blood thirsty killers against the reluctant anti-hero, rage vs. control, insanity vs. the fight to stay sane, savagery and the search for redemption. The story has familiar comforts from the genre and, yet, incorporates surprising twists. Ultimately, the dramatic story is what got me. When the credits rolled, I knew what I had just experienced was true modern video literature. In this article, when I said that the story was “surprisingly good” (see above), I said so because I am used to recycled and cliché stories about mobsters and gangsters from Rockstar Games. I stopped playing them after Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (which was basically an unlicensed “Scarface” rip off). Regardless, after reading good reviews on the story, I gave this game a try and was quite pleased.
The gameplay itself is also really good. The targeting system is helpful enough that the game does not want you to tear your hair out. The travel system is well-planned: horses can carry you where you want to go, but if you do not want to spend your own time traveling you can catch a nap in a carriage that takes you to your destination, or you can use the “Travel to Destination” feature for the game to take you where you want to go (even to manually-placed waypoints).
The most I hear about this game is about the visuals, and I cannot second that enough. The landscape is gorgeous, and is something I spent a lot of time looking at when I should have been keeping my horse on the road. All the sprites – that is, both humans and animals – looked great. There is a lot of detailed work, including the faces of the human characters. Just for an example from the animals, look at the detailed musculature of the horses as you ride into the sunset sometime.
The side quests are really well done – most are interesting enough on their own without the incentives you can get for “Ambient” challenges like treasure hunting, “sharpshooting,” hunting animals, and so on. Also, there are few games with a soundtrack as good as this one. Having bought the soundtrack, it seems only one song is not original to the game. All the music is composed using only those instruments that had been invented and were in use at the time of the events of the game (again, RDR takes place in the very early 20th Century).
What the game gets wrong
My main complaint is, honestly, could there possibly be more predatory animals? At times, when riding through the region called Rio Bravo, I came across a nonstop stream of wolves and cougars. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that these animals could be in places like that, but I’m pretty sure those animals do not congregate in the dozens, intermingling with each other. Also, by “nonstop stream,” I mean they would not stop until I was dead. I really tried to leave, I was just passing through, but those bloodthirsty animals would not be happy until they had themselves a Marston Meal. That’s not to mention how the predatory cats seemed virtually
invisible until they were right next to you, which does not really work with the angles from which you can fire your gun.
RDR is a little buggy in places, with the camera moving through the chest cavity of my horse almost a dozen times. There were times I was in cover and, for some reason, Marston would not point his loaded weapon at an enemy, even though I tried the left trigger several times; on the other hand, this problem was usually changed when I shifted some to the left or right. Finally, it seems that catching a wild horse requires some ridiculous trick I have yet to master, though one story mission forces you to catch a few of them.
Finally, there is one sex scene that was completely unnecessary for the story (it included virtual nudity). I know Rockstar Games is used to being edgy with their Grand Theft Auto games, but this scene was completely unneeded. If they wanted to show that character as a complete womanizer, there are plenty of subtle, clear, and classy ways to do so.
Sum it up
Red Dead Redemption has a surprisingly good story. That, combined with the high quality gameplay and wide variety of missions and side quests, makes this a necessary game for anyone who enjoys the Western genre. Even if you are not interested in all the side quests, look for an affordable copy just for the excellent story.