Review by Chibi Soma
"It should've stayed Dead."
Where does one begin on a game like Red Dead Redemption, a game that has been given almost exclusively good reviews?
Well, let's break this down into three categories. If you like your westerns, I think you can see where I'm draggin' this here cliche.
THE GOOD: The voice acting is generally top notch, and the writing is about on par with Rockstar's other games. The graphics, while looking a bit stiff, generally come off as being good. And that's about all I can say that's good for RDR. The script has more than a few questionable instances where you wonder why everyone's swearing like Joe Pesci in "Goodfellas," but the writing is alright for what it is. The story is told, and although it's not much of a story, it's enough to keep you barely clinging on for the entirety.
THE BAD: Preeeetty much everything else. Combat is boring after the first few times, with almost no variation. You'll die in seconds if you don't have a readily defensible spot where people can't circle around you. Mounted combat is one of the most abysmal experiences I've ever had in a game. And it really 'shines,' as it were, when you're also on escort missions. When you must not only reach a destination, but do so with your quarry alive. So you're juggling staying on the road to remain at top speed, attempting to line up shots, cursing the tiny window of bullet time you're allotted, and trying to avoid getting shot. If being stressed out sounds like your bag, then brother do I have a recommendation for you!
The game also starts horrendously, and it takes a considerable amount of time to get up to speed. Once it does, things pick up a bit, but not to the point where you'll be totally enthralled. More likely, you'll spend most of your time wondering why in the name of god John Marston doesn't just threaten to shoot these sawed-off halfwits if they don't help him out. Instead, you'll spend your time doing meandering things for terrible people. People you'd like, above all else, to shoot point blank in the face. Ah, but there's a problem here.
See, it doesn't matter where you are when you commit a crime. Out in the middle of the wilderness, miles from any form of civilization? Thinking you can blow off some steam by capping a guy at a campsite and pillaging his pockets? A bad idea, partner, as the law enforcement is capable of both instantly knowing you've committed some heinous act as well as being able to teleport within range of you. And then you'll mount up and ride until you're out of their circle of view. It's a pathetic method of handling being wanted. Surely, you'd want to avoid town. But if no one's around when you kill a fella, who the devil's going to put a price on your head outside of the omnipresent marshals and their men?
THE UGLY: When it comes right down to it, the game develops like this - you watch a cutscene full of irritating people. You get dumped off in the ass of the earth and promptly get shot. Saved by a farm wench, you'll do the very epitome of mundane tasks as you get back on your feet. Rockstar was kind enough to pepper a few short combat sequences early on to help keep you awake, but you'll soon be riding all over the place to get between quests. The world is bland and feels empty, which I guess is what they were going for. You'll pass by a few people on the roads and run afoul of campsites here or there, but that isn't what I'm talking about. People complained that Fallout 3 had a bland, dead world and this might rank up as worse than that. About the time you're forced to herd cattle, and tame wild horses by first lassoing and then hopping on to perform a Tony Hawk-esque balancing check, you realize something's wrong here.
You can quick travel, it's true, but you have to be outside of a town or bandit hideout (or what have you) to use it, as you have to set up a camp site. From there, you can save or travel to any major location you've been to. So after a mission, you'll have to scamper out of whatever hellhole you've been in, pause to set up camp, choose to quick travel, select your destination, then wait for the load to drop you off. It's a slow, clunky process. And that really describes the game as a whole - slow and clunky.
The bottom line: If you love sailing in Wind Waker, if you love Grand Theft Auto 4, or if you're just a fan of Rockstar's games or even westerns in general, you're sure to find SOMETHING about Red Dead Redemption to enjoy. But if you're not, then you're going to be slogging through a lot of glue to get to the good parts. If you can turn your brain off and just let the generally good voice acting lead you, and ignore the at-times idiotic script, you could have a good bit of fun. And on the other side of the coin, if you hate long, meaningless travel sequences, lengthy talking scenes, or bland combat mechanics, then you're going to spend a lot of your time fighting those things.
Don't let the overwhelmingly positive reviews skew you. RDR has a lot of very real problems with its mechanics, and anyone who claims otherwise is lying to you. If you can see past all of those, there's a decent enough story waiting to be told to anyone who has the patience to listen. You'll question Marston's motives more times than not, and you'll hate almost every character you come across. The game is not perfect. Hell, it's not even anywhere close to such a pedestal. It's also not the most godawful game on the face of the planet. Reviews are opinionated and this one's no different. I had a very poor experience with the game, and it's tainted it for me. I can't look back at it and go "Yeah, I enjoyed myself." I can pick out the parts I liked and the parts I didn't. A 'perfect' game, you shouldn't be able to do that. For a perfect game, or even a very good one, you should be able to think back to your time with it and go "I can't think of anything I hated about this. I had fun from the time I started to the time I took it out."
I think the most fun I had with Red Dead Redemption came WHEN I took it out.
Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 06/28/10
Game Release: Red Dead Redemption (US, 05/18/10)
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