Red Dead Redemption is the second game in the Red Dead franchise that almost didn’t make it to begin with. The first game, Red Dead Revolver, was a Western game that was originally owned by Activition but eventually sold off to Rockstar. Rockstar finished developing the game and created a solid action Old West shooter when there really wasn’t any out there at the time. In development for years, RDR combines the elements of Grand Theft Auto with some of the mechanics of the original Red Dead Revolver.
RDR has you controlling the somewhat secretive and now good guy, John Marston. Marston, a former bandit, has been sent to New Austin to take down the head of a gang that Marston was once a part of. By establishing contacts and earning their trust by completing missions, Marston slowly works his way up the ladder in order to complete this objective.
Fans of Grand Theft Auto 4 and its expansions will feel right at home in RDR. You control Marston via a third-person perspective. Throughout the game, you will have contacts who give you tasks to complete, involving killing criminals, protecting trains and stage coaches, and even herding cattle. Finish the tasks you’re given and new contacts will open up. Repeat the process until you complete all the storyline missions.
Of course the game is not limited to those missions. Like the GTA games, there’s far more to do and this is where the majority of the fun is. These side missions cover a huge variety of activities from simple gambling to hunting wildlife to taking down wanted criminals.
Different cities have different forms of gambling such as blackjack, poker, and other activities such as horseshoes and Five Finger Filet (when you put your hand on a table, take a knife and go back and forth between the fingers a la the movie Aliens). With such a big landscape, wildlife is plentiful with deer, bears, and mountain lions out and about reacting to your presence. Some other activities include duels, lassoing horses to break them in, robbing banks, patrolling towns, cattle herding, taking down gang hideouts, arm wrestling, and even picking wildflowers...how manly.
As with GTA4, you have different weapons in different categories. You have pistols, rifles and shotguns, but naturally, there are no machine guns to equip because of the time period. The repeater (a quicker action rifle) is about as close as you can get. A lasso is your non-lethal tool to take down enemies by hogtieing them, or you can kill them while they are still tied up if you feel especially cruel (slit their throats, leave them on a train track or just drop them in a lake). From Red Dead Revolver comes "Dead-Eye" where time slows down ("bullet time"), and you can target specific parts on an enemy or multiple enemies. With a limited "Dead-Eye" meter, you can use it in a pinch, and you’ll slowly recover it over time or make it recover faster by using an item. With the combination of a solid combat system and the "Dead-Eye" mechanic, you can fight multiple enemies without any problems or frustrations.
Now I know what you’re saying "I didn’t like the other GTA games because blah blah blah I hate popular stuff blah blah blah so why would I like this game?" Well, the game plays like GTA4, but the difference is the tone of the game. GTA games are parodies of cities, and because of the parody, there’s a lot of sophomoric humor that makes people roll their eyes until they start to bleed. Red Dead Redemption isn’t a parody of the Old West; the narrative plays out like a true tale of that time period. Yes there are little jokes here and there (especially if you’re a fan of The Opie and Anthony Show), yet it doesn’t have that immature type of comedy that so many people loathe these days.
Another way it separates itself from GTA games is that there is a moral system in the game. With its Honor system, you decide on whether you have a dastardly bad guy or a saintly hero. Yes, there is law enforcement that will chase you down for doing illegal activities like stealing horses and killing people, but because of Honor, you have to decide whether want to take the quick route and be a bad guy or go the longer way to be a good guy. By going up and down the Honor ranks, you can benefit by getting more money if you’re stay on the side of being an honest lawman, or being such an awful bastard people are scared to report your petty crimes. While moral systems have been somewhat overdone, by giving you a reward for being one or the other, Red Dead Redemption makes you feel far more connected to your character than other games that allow you to be good or bad without any in-game consequences.
Having such a huge world to explore, there are some problems that may occur because of it. One are the travel options which are restricted to horses, and trains are only to get you from certain stations. While on horseback, you can hold down a button to keep a certain speed without having to constantly press the button over and over again like when you run, but it’s still a slow way to travel. Then again, what do you expect from a game based in the Old West? Another problem is the glitching. Although I didn’t see the problem that others have, you can’t avoid some of the weird physics that appear in the game while traveling. They are far from being a game breaker, but these glitches will be annoyances for some players.
When playing through Red Dead Redemption, and traveling through New Austin and Mexico, I had an urge that I’ve never had before. I really wanted to go camping. Being the gamer that I am, I’m simply not one to enjoy the outdoors, but RDR has such beautiful landscapes that you want to simply explore so you can see those majestic views. Everything about the visuals is simply remarkable in every possible way.
Similar to how GTA Vice City was practically a video game version of Scarface and GTA San Andreas was like Boyz n the Hood, RDR has constant homages to the Man With No Name Trilogy starring Clint Eastwood. This becomes incredibly apparent with the music. It’s simply incredible because it weaves itself to the scenes of the game so seamlessly. The music is memorable, and makes every scene even more powerful. Voice acting is a little shaky sometimes when there is awkward timing during the dialogue. Don’t get me wrong, the actors do a fine job playing their characters, but there is a little room for improvement.
Like many elements of the game, multiplayer takes what was created in GTA4 and its expansions and refines it. Standard game types like Capture the Flag and Deathmatch are included with an Old West spin added to it. Part of that spin are the Mexican Standoffs that happen at the beginning of team matches. By far the most fun part of the game, the two teams line up across from each other in a recreation of the famous Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
Free roaming is also a part of multiplayer, and for many, this is some incredible fun. In free roam, your team can form up to take down gang hideouts while fending off other players that may want to try and take you down. Coming soon is a free download from Rockstar that allows 4 player co-op missions to keep players teaming up online with more extras promised in the future. With plenty of unlockables, multiplayer is rewarding and tremendously enjoyable.
With a single player campaign of more than 15 hours, tons of side missions, and a solid multiplayer, Red Dead Redemption simply has it all. I am hard-pressed to find any reason why this game wouldn’t be enjoyed by any gamer. For me, I could not find any faults that kept Red Dead Redemption from being one of the best games I have played in quite some time.