Posted on: May 25th, 2010 VG REVIEW: Red Dead Redemption
I have a lot of respect for developer Rockstar games. The Grand Theft Auto series came along and really changed the face of gaming. I’ve never really been into that series, but I can appreciate what it’s done, not only for the open-world gaming genre but the industry itself. And if you want to play one of the best sports titles out there, check out their Table Tennis game…I’m not kidding, it’s amazing.
Enter Rockstars latest entry into the open-world gaming arena Red Dead Redemption and witness a complete masterpiece of story-telling, art and sound. This is the game that does what the GTA series hasn’t been able to do with their last two instalments, and that’s change EVERYTHING.
Here’s the story taken right from the manuals synopsis. “James Marsten was a former gang member who reappraised his life and resolved to put his past behind him to settle down with his young family. As Marsten changed, so did the landscape. The federal government set it’s sights on bringing their law to the whole country by any means necessary. When ruthless government agents kidnap John’s wife and child, and threaten to kill them unless he brings his former gang to justice, John is left with no choice…To save his family, he must pick up his guns once more and hunt down the men he used to run with.”
A quick intro movie train ride and you are dropped into the Old West with a pistol, knife and little else. It would be easy to get overwhelmed with the game at first, there is a small tutorial to help you along your way and point you in the right direction. Checking your map you realise “Holy shit, this game is huge”. Like the GTA games, there are miles and miles and MILES of virtual land to be explored. In any way and any direction you choose. One of the reasons it’s so fun to explore these lands that Rockstar has crafted, is because it’s different. Urban landscapes and busy metropolises are the norm in gaming nowadays. But a truly alive, fully realised Old West is something truly marvellous. And Rockstar is the first company to really get it right. With it’s ghost towns, way-stations, canyons, deserts and wildlife, this vista truly feels alive and aware of itself.
The core mechanic of the game follow the tried and true open-world rulebook. There’s the main quest, side quests and everything in between. I’ve read the main quest can be finished in 20-40 hours, I am at 30 hours of game play and have finished 30% of the main game. But this is a game that I don’t want to rush through. I’m taking my time and exploring every nook and cranny this West has to offer. Side quests come in all shapes and sizes, and are provided to you by NPC’s both in towns and in the wilds. It can be something as simple as someone running up to you and begging you to help get their horse and cart back from a bandit who has just absconded with them to arcing storylines, that follow different characters involved in the same plot. Some of these side-quests are so character heavy, plot focused and time involved, you’re surprised at the end that this has nothing to do with the main story.
As with any ‘sandbox game’ you are free to roam and explore any way you choose. Much of my time is spent wandering the wilds on my horse, looking for different herbs, locations and animals to level up my attributes. Attributes come in three forms hunting, sharp-shooting and survival. Hunting requires you to track and kill and skin so many of a certain type of animal, in different ways. To reach level 4 I had to kill and skin 5 wolves with just my knife. Sharp-shooting involves tasks like kill 3 bears with a single shot, or shoot 5 wild birds from the sky while riding your horse. Survival is all about herb gathering. While it doesn’t really affect the core of the game very much, levelling up these att’s provides a nice distraction form the main game, and gives you a chance to really explore these maps and take in the width and breadth of the landscape.
Don’t feel like hunting? Maybe you want to head into one of the many towns, where you can take in poker, blackjack, horseshoes, liars dice or 5 finger fillet. Or head to the cinema and take in one of those new moving pictures everyone is talking about. Buy the local edition of the paper and see what’s new and changing in this rapidly evolving new frontier. But be careful, as ‘modern’ as these towns are becoming (locomotives and telephones are taking over) law is still lawless. You’re just as likely to find yourself in the middle of a shoot-out, rescuing damsels from drunk thugs or right in the middle of main street, eye to eye with the latest fool to challenge your shooting skills, being taunted to draw. That’s where the Red Dead comes into play. Your Red Dead meter is a way to enter a slo-mo state, allowing you to focus your attention on any part of the body and shoot there. Want to scare someone and shoot the hat off their head? Do it. Want to earn extra honour in a shoot-out? Target the foes hand and shoot the gun out of it, letting him live on in shame. Or simply, blow his head off with a slow-mo shotgun blast to the face.
Red Dead Redemption lives and breathes. It takes these characters and this land and makes it feel more alive than any other open-world game before it. It feels less scripted and more vibrant that its predecessors which goes a long way in immersion factor. Immersion is what these games all strive for, you don’t want to feel as if you’re playing a game, you want to feel as if you’re part of something larger.
Alright, lets talk graphics. I’m reviewing the PS3 version, I had the 360 version, but as soon as I put it in my Xbox, I got the red ring of death (suck it Microsoft!), and I’ve trolled a lot of forums to see what people are saying about the differences in graphics. The 360 version does seem to be a slight bit sharper, but almost negligible, and the anti-aliasing on the 360 version is noticeably better. Both games do suffer some from draw distance, the pop-ins are there, but all in all, there isn’t a huge difference between the two. From my viewpoint, the reason the 360 version looks the way it does is because developers design these games with the hardware limits of the 360 in mind. It’s a known fact that the PS3 is a better machine hardware-wise. In order to make a cross platform game work, you can only be a strong as your weakest system. If Red Dead Redemption was a PS3 exclusive you would see a massive overhaul. But hey, Rockstar wants to develop for both platforms, and it IS about making money! So more power to them.
That being said, the graphics are truly wondrous. From swampy marsh, to rolling plains, massive canyons and sweltering deserts the locations are a sight to behold. I’ve spent more time just riding my horse and looking around at the scenery than I have hunting. It looks that good. True day and night cycles and changing weather patterns add to the realism of the land. Sitting at a camp at night, stars overhead, full moon and crickets chirping is the closest I’ve come to the real thing in a game yet. Sitting on your mount, at the edge of a cavern as the sun comes up, shining through clouds, painting the sky pink and red makes you feel small in such a big world. Watching the clouds darken, you know rain is coming. The rain cycles are the best produced I’ve yet seen in a game. As it rains, puddles slowly gather, streams flow through the town…it’s monumental because it behaves in a life-like way. When it stops raining, the ground just doesn’t become dry as in so many other games, but dries slowly over time. When you step in blood, your feet will track that blood around for awhile. I appreciate small attention to details such as that. It makes me feel like the developer gives a damn about providing us with the most real experience they can deliver.
Sound is exactly the same. If you’re not playing RDR in 5.1, don’t play it! From the baying of wolves, the shake of a rattlesnakes tail, the crickets, the wind and mostly thunder cracks you’ll find your head turning to investigate the location of the sound. And another kudos to Rockstar involves rain. When the rain comes, as you horse gallops you hear the hooves hit the ground and make a muddy ground sound. As it stops and things dry, the sound slowly goes from mud to dry land. No game has done that before, and it only draws you further into the experience. And the voice cast needs a special mention. Superb voice acting!
I’m not much of an online guy, I can’t compete with the 13 and 45 year olds who spend all day playing a game, and keep handing my ass to me over and over again. This is why Red Dead Redemption was made for me. You start multiplayer in Free roam, much like an MMO, your online character is dropped into the world and off you go. How you choose to play inline is up to you. You can go it alone, and take quests from NPC’s all the while either teaming up with, or shooting down fellow online gamers. You can form a posse with 15 of your friends and take on bigger quests, or fight other posses or participate in some more standard multi-player fare (capture the flag, domination), the point is, its not just wait in the lobby (there is none), enter game world, get sniped. The online multiplayer is as vibrant and alive as the single player.
It’s refreshing to play a truly unique game that takes all the best aspect of other games, and puts a fresh spin on things. RDR is not the first Old West game out there, but it is the best. And I don’t often say ‘game changer’, but it truly is. Every so often you come across a game that breathes new life into the video game world, that takes you on an epic journey that you want to return to again and again. With a beautiful script, incredible voice acting, lush deep graphics, immersive sound and HIGH replay value, Red Dead Redemption is a game that will remain in my collection for a very long time. Now, get lost , I’m wasting serious time with this when there’s a band of thugs messing with my horse…time for old school justice.
Watch the trailer for Red Dead Redemption:
5 Responses to “VG REVIEW: Red Dead Redemption”
May 25th, 2010 at 6:30 pm
I agree with everything you said. I’ve been engrossed in RDR for a week or so now and I’m loving it. I haven’t been into the GTA games since Vice City, but I definitely appreciate what they’ve done for open world games too.
RDR is almost the perfect game for me, in how it combines some RPG-ish elements like character building into a sandbox game. Plus, it’s a freaking western.
May 25th, 2010 at 7:47 pm
Thanks Tommy, and yeah, it being a Western is one of the awesome features that make it a total standout! I’m addicted!
May 25th, 2010 at 10:25 pm
I adore this game-I’ve got it on the 360 and it’s owned my face for a week.
I saw an article on all the glitches that some users have been subjected to but I haven’t experienced a one. Any of you fine folk seen anything with your copies?
May 25th, 2010 at 10:45 pm
Not one glitch for me yet. But I’m sure Rockstar is working on some patches as we speak!
September 11th, 2010 at 12:10 pm
i have i saw a foating goat with a guy riding it and when i skinned it it said it was a horse -_-