Game Review: Red Dead Redemption
Release: May 18th (NA), May 21st (EU)
Genre: Open-world, Action, Western
Developer: Rockstar San Diego
Available Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360
Players: 1 (1-16 online)
ESRB Rating: M
Grand Theft Auto IV was one of the biggest disappointments of the last ten years. After five years of hype, Red Dead Redemption offers to take us by our grumpy hands and show us a land of opportunity. To be straight with you and to maybe even get the entire review out of the way; Red Dead Redemption is the greatest open-world of all time and ends on one of the most powerful moments in videogame history. It matches ‘Would you kindly?’, it’s in grasp of the whole of Shadow of the Colossus. Red Dead Redemption is Rockstar’s finest product since San Andreas, and it’s in my top five games of all time already.
And I only finished it ten minutes ago.
Red Dead Redemption is the very pinnacle of every Western themed thing in existence. Clint Eastwood, Ennio Morricone, the saloons, the barfights, the duels, the wildlife is all here and displayed. It’s an open world game, perfectly fitting the Western atmosphere. Rockstar are known to make the cream of the crop in the open world genre, and they’ve certainly earned their trophy this time around. For a while I thought the fun couldn’t be put back into another Rockstar title, that it would be all ‘serious business’ since Grand Theft Auto IV. I was dead wrong, Red Dead Redemption combines the silly fun of past Rockstar titles and mixes it with the ‘serious business’ to create something that’s balanced between the two themes.
You play as John Marston, a little Western outlaw who just so happens to be caught in a little mess. The new federal government has taken John’s wife and son into captive and, if he wants to live his farmer life again, must find and take care of his old gang. The story stretches into the Mexican revolution and tightropes the Old West and the coming new age of civilisation. It’s a story about death, not just of the people around John, but of the world drying up like the deserts he roams. In typical Rockstar fashion, the narrative is brimming full of brilliantly written witty characters and exciting set-ups for gameplay moments. I never thought I could fall in love with a game that involves a skinny grave robber, but I sure have.
The clumsy cover-system of GTA IV returns, reformed and working more than fine. Gone are the days of clumsily falling about a parking lot firing shotgun shells with a massive reticle, Red Dead Redemption takes cover shooting and introduces it fully to the open world. Just about anything can be used as cover. There’s more than a handful of weaponry to use and you can even hunt animals instead of men. There’s a giant economy that fuels your gambling (In-game poker is dreadfully addictive), outfit buying and property development. You can hunt and skin bears and wolfs and birds and Chuck Norris. Maybe not the last one. Dead Eye, which slows down time and allows you to paint targets, is not a ‘win’ button but rather a reward for the player.
If I’m honest, there’s not much bad in Red Dead Redemption. I’ve seen a damn whole lot of bugs, the skinning and looting animations are pretty pointless but that’s all trivial stuff. Some of the missions right near the end are dreadfully boring, not an ounce of life in them. The ending itself is fantastic but I think it needed more setup. A complaint I would have is that it does feel like a lot of game design necessity has been sacrificed for realism. For instance, instead of looking on a map on your horse and picking a destination you want to travel to; you have to put up a campfire. This means taking your horse a few miles out of town, jumping off, hitting select, scrolling to the campfire, choosing your destination and waiting for a loading screen.
On the multiplayer side of things, everything is in good form. It’s unbalanced but I doubt Rockstar wanted to make the new Call of Duty. It’s just brimming full of modes and posses and other little things you and your mates can enjoy. At the time of writing, I haven’t had this blessing of friends buying the game yet, but I can see the potential of it. I have had zero issues with this side of Red Dead Redemption and it’s all being rather good fun really. My only complaint being that I’m not taking the whole of the multiplayer seriously, and you’re forcing me to level up to unlock an actual horse… I have to start with a donkey? Lovely.
Nath’s final say: Red Dead Redemption is the evolution of the open world. The themes are exploited to their full potential and it may just be one of the greatest Western things of all time. Rockstar have scored a home run with my heart and there hasn’t been an open world game like this since San Andreas. The bitter-sweet ending is a powerful note and a fantastic swansong to such a large an expansive title. Redemption lives up to all the hype. It’s addictive, classy and above all; it kicks ass.
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