Review by WeeblsPie
""Get three coffins ready.""
I've never really been a "western" kind of guy. I've fully seen a western film. I've always been a sci-fi kind of person. It's not that I vehemently work to bash the genre, it's just that I've never really pursued an interest in it. As such, this was a game that snuck up on me. I hadn't really paid any mind to the hype for the game. I didn't see any commercials for it. I knew almost nothing about it besides that it was set in the west and that it was a successor to Red Dead Revolver.
My interest in the game was piqued when I saw that it was made by Rockstar, a company that has made many titles I have enjoyed. Upon researching the game more, I became more enamored by the idea. A GTAesque game set in the west, a location that's been left relatively unspoiled by the industry, seemed like a really great idea. I went into this game knowing that I was either going to love it or hate it.
Red Dead Redemption is a beautiful game. It's very clear that a lot of work was put into the graphics in this game and they pulled it off well. The landscape graphics really capture that western feel. The subtle change between the regions in the game, from province to province and from New Austin to Mexico are done well. It feels the same, but the regions are designed in a way that makes them slightly different in some places to majorly different in others. It's a good thing that they did this because traversing back and forth across the desert does start to get repetitive when you're seeing the same landscape over and over.
The characters are designed well, giving them each a distinctive feel. Their expressions are animated better than most games I've seen and their motions, along with the motions of animals and the like, are very smooth.
The only real outstanding issue I have with this game is the draw distance. It works fine for close to mid range, but at long distances things lose almost all texture, staying at various shades of tan and brown. It wouldn't be a problem in most games, but in a land where various mountains, mesas and cliff sides are jutting out of the ground, it can detach from your experience a little bit.
This is an aspect of the game that I really haven't been able to find any issues with. The character voices are well recorded. Rob Wiethoff does a damn fine job as our protagonist, John Marston, and the supporting cast is done just as well. I especially liked Anthony De Longis as Marshall Johnson and Steve Rimpici as Nigel West Dickens. The game did well to record lines in Spanish as the game required. It really builds on your experience to hear Mexican characters talking in their native tongue rather than English so the player can understand.
Other than that, the sounds you would expect from the west are all there. The sounds of gunfire, the gallop of horses across dirt trails, the cries of birds in the sky overhead and various animals on the ground. It sounds like a western. The background soundtrack is done very well and does not detach from the game at all. One of my favorite moments from this game was arriving in Mexico in the rain with Far Away by Jose Gonzales playing in the background. Right there is where it stopped feeling like a game and more like a movie, but in a good way. It set the mode and suited the situation. It took what could of been just any other moment in the game and made it defining, which is something many games fail to do.
The story is where this game takes a small stumble. They did do a few things that made it more interesting and it really got interesting up near the end, but for the most part, the story isn't really that original. I liked the way that you were thrown into New Austin with almost now explanation. You see John Marston get escorted to a train that he then boards and rides to New Austin, you go and confront someone that John clearly knows, but other than that the story is built through character dialogue. It's an interesting idea. Most games have you at the start right at the beginning of a story, but in this game you get thrown in after some major events have already occurred, leaving you to find out what's really happening for yourself.
But for the most part the story is rather mundane, joining a long line of Rockstar titles with similar stories. A character with a troubled past who has and is trying to make amends for it ends up going on a journey that leads him back into a life he tried to escape. On the way he meets a wide variety of interesting characters as he journeys across large expanses of land in search of someone or something. Sound familiar? It's because I just summarized the plot of Red Dead Redemption, a couple of Grand Theft Autos and many other games. I didn't notice it at first, but when a couple of characters point out about how John is selling himself as a killer with a code or a thief with honour, it really starts to sink in how cliche parts of this plot are.
It's not a bad story per se. I certainly enjoyed it and who doesn't love a good story where a character goes on a quest and ends up redeeming himself. It's inspiring. And the game throws in enough bones into the mix to keep it fresh and interesting.
The gameplay doesn't really stumble. On the surface it's fine in most aspects. But what does it really bring to the table that other games don't? They worked hard to make it unique and they did a good job. The western theme totally works for them. But it's just like other Rockstar titles. Modernize the tech and move it to the city and you have the groundwork for all of the 3D Grand Theft Autos. This isn't really a bad thing, the mechanic still works, the Euphoria Engine is still just as fun to toy around with, but it's hard not to notice the similarities.
Red Dead Redemption does bring some nice new things to the table that really aid it. The weapons are cool to use, each with their own little differences. You have the lasso and it's always fun to drag someone across the desert. You have the use of horses instead of cars, which have their own stamina and health and will react to things like gunfire. The western theme saves this game from becoming just like every other sandbox game.
I did get frustrated at points in this game. The story missions weren't a big issue for me, I could beat most of them in one try. Where I was dying was through random encounters. I would be racing along the road, run into some bandits holding up a stagecoach and be killed before I could fire in retaliation. It really pissed me off that this always seemed to happen after I had travelled long distances. Sometimes I would think I had killed someone, after all, 3 shots should take them down if their allies had gone down in 2, only to have them get back up and kill me while I was distracted.
The Dead Eye system is fun to toy around with, and has saved my life on many occasions. It was similar to the VATS system from Fallout 3, but it didn't hold your hand as much. It bought you time to line up your shots and was a big help when I was low on health and needed to drop enemies fast.
Red Dead Redemption is really a game to behold and is one of Rockstar's best. It looks damn good and sounds damn good. The plot may not be completely original, but that doesn't make it any less engrossing. The gameplay is very fun and the game itself is very addicting. It's starting to take up all of my free time. I'm very, very glad that I gave this game a shot because it excelled my expectations. I feel like going out and watching some westerns now. This could be the game that turns me on to the genre. It leaves me wanting more and I would definitely like to see a sequel. Kudos to Rockstar for making such a gripping and refreshing game. They have a real winner here.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 05/25/10
Game Release: Red Dead Redemption (US, 05/18/10)
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