Review by SR71halo

"Rockstar takes us back to the Old West in this excellent open-world wester"

Rockstar has been very well known for their massive open world sandbox games like the Grand Theft Auto series. Although those game worlds are impressive, I haven't been a fan of the GTA series since Vice City and I have never played Red Dead Revolver (nor any other western game for that matter) so I didn't know what to expect. As it turns out, Rock Star has outdone themselves this time with Red Dead Redemption; a huge open world to explore and plenty to do, what's not to like?

Of course every Sandbox game needs a series of missions that relate to a main story. The game takes place in 1911, in which the old west era is coming to an end. John Marston, the protagonist, has been sent south to track down his former gang members, Bill Williamson and Dutch, and either kill them or take them alive. Marston has no choice since the Government agents have captured his wife and son until he does what they ask. Marston confronts Bill, who now runs his own gang in his own fort, but is shot and would have died if he wasn't rescued by Bonnie MacFarlane. Now John must recruit more men to help him take his former comrades dead or alive and save his family.

The gameplay is going to be very difficult to describe, because you are free to do anything you please. First of all, the world in Red Dead Redemption is huge. You really get the feeling of being in the old west for most of the world is desert but there are many towns to visit within Texas and even Mexico. The landscapes look gorgeous, especially at night, with so much going on like weather conditions (like rain), tumble weeds, many animals and even people riding through on horse back. You better enjoy doing the missions though, because that's the only way you are going to see the WHOLE game world. The story is actually interesting and engaging and the missions can be quite fun, although a lot of them have you ride your horse all the way their.

You are given a horse which you can ride pretty much anywhere. Don't like your horse? You can also catch other wild horses and break them by balancing on their back. Some horses are faster than others so it might be wise to try some other horses out. You can tap A to go faster but watch your horse meter on the left of the mini map for when that is depleted, your horse will knock you right off. You can also aim and shoot off the back of your horse simply by holding down the L trigger.

In between missions though, like I said, you are pretty much free to do whatever. First of all, hunting in this game is actually a lot of fun. You can hunt countless of animals in all 3 regions like cougars, wolves, coyotes, foxes, bears, rabbits, snakes, buffalo, dear, crows and many more. After you kill and skin your prey, you can take them back into town and sell their pelts, meat, etc. for a little profit. In exchange, you can buy guns, ammo, campsites, and other items you might need for your journey. Bounties are also available to complete as well. You are given a wanted poster and your only goal is to ride out to the target's last known location and either take him dead or alive (although you get more money for taking him alive). If you kill him, you have to loot his body for proof and bring it back. Taking him alive requires you to lasso and hog tie him and take him back on your horse. The most you get for these captures is about $600 ($300 for dead). There may be some other help that citizens might need like chasing after a thief (or a horse thief), saving women from being raped, saving people from being chased by wolves, or maybe there's a few people that will challenge you to a duel (when it says "draw" on the screen, aim your gun anywhere you want to shoot in a slow motion effect and hope that your shots are better than his).

Doing these sort of missions will get you more fame, which will cause more people to recognize you. In addition, there are multiple "stranger tasks" to be done which are just smaller side quests. Some of them have you do actual missions, some just require you to be at a certain place at a certain time, which is actually kind of annoying. Honor is also a big part of the game. You gain honor for taking criminals alive or saving other people from thieves or animals but you will lose honor for killing your bounties, stealing horses, or killing innocent lives. This sort of ties in with fame for the most part. Committing enough crimes in town will place a bounty on your head which will cause more and more sheriffs to chase you. You can surrender by disarming yourself (you're just placed in jail for a few days) or try to take them on. You can run away and lose them but there is still a bounty on your head, which you can get rid of by sending in a pardon letter or paying your fine.

Feeling lucky? You can also take a break from your hunting, missions, or whatever and play a relaxing game within the towns. Pretty much every game requires betting so you can make a little profit as well. First of all, you can actually play Texas Hold em. It's just amazing to have the actual full game in RDR, and the other players are actually pretty good too. There is even an outfit, the Elegant suit, that allows you to cheat by keeping a card under your sleeve. If you're careful, you can get away with it, but getting caught by one of the players puts you in a duel. Oddly enough if you win the duel, you can sit back down and finish the game with the remaining players. The only other card game is Black Jack (which you can't cheat at) but there is also Liar's Dice, Horseshoes, and Five Finger Fillet (just follow the button pattern shown on the table).

What is a western game without weapons? There are many to choose from split up into different categories; pistols/revolver, rifles/repeaters, shotguns, throwing weapons (dynamite, knives, fire bottles), etc. All weapons pretty much run on the same ammo count (although pistols and revolvers don't run on the same ammo and neither do rifles and repeaters) but some weapons in each category are better than others so that isn't a huge problem. You can buy more ammo at the store or, of course, pick it up from the people you kill. You can take cover or just run and gun. Surprisingly, either way works fine and it depends on the situation what you should do. The game also has an auto lock feature to help you out. One of the big features added is, of course, the Dead Eye meter. When filled up enough, you can enter this slow motion effect and choose your targets one at a time. When done, push the fire button and watch as you killed everything you marked. You are also given a lasso which can be used for catching and hog tying criminals/bounties (or other people for that matter, and you can drag them from your horse) and even for taming horses.

If the awesome in-depth single player isn't enough for you, you can saddle up for a surprisingly unique multiplayer mode. Instead of a lobby, you are placed in free roam, which is the same world as the single player only you can run around with other players. You can start or join posses with other players and pretty much do whatever you wish, although you can't skin animals or play games like poker. You can, however, try to gain experience and level up by completing gang hideouts which are controlled by NPCs and your goal is to do the appointed task and/or kill all gang members in the area. There are a list of challenges that you can complete, which will also help boost you experience. You will also gain very little experience by killing other players and even other NPCs. You can still get in trouble with the law and it works in the same way as single player, although if you reach a $1,000 bounty, you are marked as a public enemy and are worth much more experience to other players so don't expect them to leave you alone when you're marked. Leveling up will unlock more characters to play as, more guns at your disposal, more horses to choose from or even more titles. Free Roam is a ton of fun and it is sometimes more fun than the actual game modes but I wish there was more customization involves with your characters.

When you're done with free roam, you can enter into one of any multiplayer games. Free For All has Shootout (free for all) and Gold Rush (capture as many bags as you can and get to the chests) and Gang Matches has Gang Shootout (a team death match), Hold Your Own (like capture the flag but with bags) and Grab the Bag (only one bag is on the map and each team must take it and get it back to their own chest). Whichever game you play, they all start the same way; in a standoff. Everyone starts in a circle facing each other (or set in two rows for gang matches) and you must shoot when the game says go and be the last man standing. If you somehow survive, you can run to get a better weapon or a good vantage point, although keep in mind it does not mean you will win the match.

I would give this game a 10/10 if it weren't for two complaints, both of them are mainly for multiplayer. First of all, there are some very few, but very noticeable bugs like when my horse is stupid enough to run off a cliff or one time when another player I was fighting became invisible. Like I said, there's very few, but they're a pain when they happen. My second complaint is some of the re-spawn points are cheap. There's a few spots on the map in which you re-spawn in only one area. The problem is other players can stand behind me and kill me as I keep re-spawning in free roam, which is very devastating.

Other than those two problems, Red Dead Redemption is a master piece that anyone can enjoy. Whether you love multiplayer or if you prefer playing alone, there is something here for everyone. There is just so much you can do and many ways to play the game that it is very hard to get bored. With such a massive world to explore, many games to play, and a fun multiplayer mode, there isn't much to hate about Red Dead Redemption. It is so good and so fun that it can easily be called one of the best games ever made.

Real Score: 9.6/10


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 06/07/10

Game Release: Red Dead Redemption (US, 05/18/10)


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