Red Dead Redemption Review
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On 06/07/2010 at 11:39 PM by Nick DiMola
Don't be fooled, this isn't just GTA in the Wild West.
Anyone looking for an interesting and fresh sandbox experience, this is the game for you.
The Wild West is one time and setting that is completely underused in modern gaming. Though the period seems to have everything you'd want in a game - guns, lawlessness, character-worthy people, and an interesting setting, developers seem to have largely neglected it. Red Dead Redemption proves testament to just how great the setting is and just how to make a game that capitalizes on all of the features it has to offer.
Red Dead Redemption follows the story of John Marston, a bounty hunter who has come to Texas in search of his former partner, Bill Williamson. Marston, though a bounty hunter, is trying to go straight and settle down with his family. In order for him to reach the life he aspires, he must capture Williamson. As players progress through the game, they are given some insight into the mind of John Marston, and exposed to his many facets. Additionally, players have the ability through their actions to control just how honorable Marston will become.
The easiest and most recognizable parallel to draw with Red Dead Redemption is Grand Theft Auto. The game clearly runs on the GTA IV engine, and it includes similar sandbox style gameplay, with main and side missions as well as random events. Though similar, Red Dead Redemption feels completely unique and much more focused on moving mission to mission, creating a more linear, but still flexible, experience.
Given the setting, players are able to perform a number of tasks that would be entirely impossible otherwise. Breaking horses, herding cows, capturing bounties, and performing nightwatch duties are just a few of the unique activites players will complete during missions. A variety of gambling games are available as well including Poker, Horseshoes, BlackJack and Arm Wrestling. All of the activities are extremely effective at immersing players in the western setting and experience. Furthermore, Rockstar San Diego has done an amazing job of creating both the world and characters within the game.
While none of us have lived in that time period, what we have built up in our minds as authentic matches closely to the Texas and Mexico that are represented in the game. The story writers have even done a great job of bringing in some American history by citing various events during cutscenes and character interactions. Little touches like this are what make the game immersive.
Unlike Grand Theft Auto, I found John Marston to be a character I could identify with. He's not a wiseass gang banger or mafioso, and though he's a bit rough around the edges, his interactions with various folk show that he is bound by a moral code and that he does in fact have some manners. No matter the game, I have yet to feel like the main character of a Grand Theft Auto game matched these qualities, which has always hurt the immersion for me.
Red Dead Redemption also does a great job of dissuading players from performing illegal acts. Anything players do that breaks the law will cause law enforcement to chase them initially, but even after managing to escape, a bounty will be placed on their head, and hunters will pursue them until the bounty is paid off. Furthermore, illegal acts will often cause a drop in honor - the game's morality meter. For me, the personality of Marston inspired me to behave more honorably throughout the game, as I suspect it will for many others as well.
In addition to earning honor, players can earn fame. This meter is not as closely tied to your deeds as it is the functions you perform in the world. As players help friendly NPCs in random events, or complete main or side missions, fame points are earned. Greater fame (and honor for that matter) equates to better earnings on jobs, as well as better overall treatment in the world at large. Over time, this perk becomes more and more helpful opening up the ability to purchase better weapons thus making the game's missions easier.
Similar to Grand Theft Auto, players will often find themselves in shooting matches during the game's various missions. Each mission will call for usage of a different weapon, and often some different tactics, in order to properly clear out the various bandits and outlaws that stand in their way. Dead-Eye, a bullet time-like power is available to quickly mark and execute a variety of targets in the middle of a heated battle. The ability is fun to use and can help speed up some of the lengthier challenges, or simply give players that extra bit of finesse needed to take down a guarded opponent.
Another technique exclusive to the game is the ability to lasso objects. Perhaps it's some leftover desire from childhood to be a cowboy, but I absolutely love to lasso enemies in the game. Conveniently, more often than not the game will award players for refraining from killing random enemies and bounties, meaning players must lasso and hogtie them, then bring them to the sheriff. It's great trying to avoid enemy gun fire and tossing the lasso around enemies at the last second; even better, is grabbing them off of their horse during a high speed pursuit.
The only true downfall of the game are the occasional glitches that will cause players to fail missions or accidentally perform some crime they didn't intend to commit. Consecutive shooting based missions can also bring about some tedium, but it's not often that many are stacked next to each other.
A multiplayer mode is included in the game, but it doesn't feature much that truly sets it apart (aside from the setting) of most other games with similar game set-ups. Players can partake in up-to-sixteen player Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, and Gold Rush (collect gold bags and try to hold them) mode. There is also an up-to-eight player Free Roam mode that allows players to either fight against each other, join up to take on gangs which have invaded local towns, or go hunting as a crew. Like most modern day multiplayer modes, there is a ranking system. Though this free mode offers some co-operative play, a true co-op mode will be released for free on June 22.
There is not much negative that can be said about Red Dead Redemption. It's a solid game that offers unique gameplay, a fun setting, deep and identifiable characters, an interesting story, and a competent multiplayer mode. Those who enjoy sandbox-style games, and especially those who are fans of the Grand Theft Auto series, will love Red Dead Redemption. Furthermore, anyone looking for a great game in an Old West setting needn't look any further.
The only truly noticeable difference between the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of the game are the graphics. The Xbox 360 version looks a bit cleaner, with less jaggies.
After some investigation, the PlayStation 3 version runs at 640p while the Xbox 360 version runs natively at 720p, explaining the visual differentiation.
On a more mundane note, the PlayStation 3 version includes a few minor bonuses in the way of outfits.
Realistically, regardless of the system you play the game on, it's mostly the same.