Review by Bob Bastard
The greatest Western game of all time, and possibly the greatest sandbox.
Red Dead Redemption tells the story of John Marston, a reformed outlaw who has to go after Bill Williamson, who was in the same gang as Marston back in his criminal days. Marston confronts him in the beginning of the game, and things don't go exactly to plan. This is personally one of my favorite games, and I recommend it to anyone who likes the Wild West, sandbox games, or third-person shooters. Read on to find out why.
Red Dead Redemption (shortened to RDR from now on) is beautiful, and is definitely one of the best-looking games yet this console generation. The draw distance is impressive, and the deserts with their cactuses, coyotes, and even rattlesnakes, look wonderful and incredibly detailed. Faces look realistic, animations flow smoothly, guns have a cool smoking effect when shot, and animals are modeled beautifully. Character models are just as beautiful as the environments, although they occasionally repeat themselves. Once I got into a fight with some townsfolk, and I did a double-take when I noticed that it was three of the same guy lying on the ground. At the end of the day, though, these graphics are amazing, and the only other negative thing I can say about them is that there's the occasional glitch where a rock will float or you won't be able to run into a seemingly empty space in front of you. These don't really detract from the gameplay, but they may break your sense of immersion for a bit.
Gunshots and other sound effects, like the clopping of your horse's hooves, sound great. Voice acting is incredible, and I really don't think they could have found a better voice actor to play Marston. The best part of the sound, though, is easily the music. The music is great, and you probably won't notice it most of the time, but a couple times songs start playing during important parts of the plot, like traveling into Mexico, and when that happens, it's one of the coolest experiences I've ever had playing a game.
This, once again, is one of the best stories in a game I've ever seen. The story starts strong, wavers a bit in the middle, and then finishes stronger than it started, with an unforgettable ending that brought tears to my eyes, which had never happened to me with a game before. Marston is very deep and he makes an excellent protagonist. The characters are likable, there are plenty of plot twists, and it lasted a good 20 hours for me.
It's hard to find fault with RDR's gameplay; everything from combat to horse-riding to combat while horse-riding is done perfectly. The game features a large number of weapons, including pistols, revolvers, shotguns, rifles, dynamite, and more. These are all a whole lot of fun to fire, and thanks to the Euphoria physics engine, firefights never get old. Hit an enemy in the leg, he's blown off his feet, gets up, and hobbles away to find cover. Shoot him in the left part of his chest, he will be jerked backward and fall on his side. The engine is even more fun when you push someone off a cliff and watch them tumble, or when you're dragging someone from your horse and they flail as they're dragged. It's so realistic, it's almost hard to watch. Another thing that makes firefights a lot of fun is something called "Dead-Eye mode"- you go into slow motion and carefully pick where on your targets you want to shoot. This is not a new concept, but it's still a lot of fun because of how Euphoria works.
Duels are a lot of fun, and you get into them with people on the street as well as scripted ones in the story. That reminds me; many people will randomly come up to you and either ask you to help them ("Help, mister! Thurr about to hang mah wiyaf, and she ain't done nothin' wrong!") or even try to rob you. It's up to you whether you help the people or shoot them and continue on your merry way. There are also strangers you can talk to which act as side quests. (go talk to my friend about blah blah blah, go collect 5 flowers, etc.) Some of them are worth doing and some aren't. I really like one line of side quests involving a mysterious man in a suit and bowler hat.
I think this implementation of horses is the best I've ever seen in a game. Your horse doesn't do precisely what you want it to, it has a stamina meter, and if you push it too hard it throws you off. You can shoot while on horseback, and that works suprisingly well, much better than it did with GTA 4's driving, because your horse follows a path which generally prevents it from running into anything while you're shooting. There are three levels of quality in horses, and on the highest level there are three horses, each with a different combination of health, stamina, and speed.
Hunting is one of the game's more original parts. There are around 20 animals to hunt, not counting birds. When you kill them, you can skin them, and then sell what you get for a few dollars. Most animals run when you get near, but not all; bears will be the least of your problems. Wolves, coyotes, and cougars can all attack you, and cougars in particular are worthy foes. Their one-or-two-hit kills of you, combined with their method of blindsiding you, spawned an internet meme.
The world in RDR is really big, and it has three parts; the great plains, to the north, which has buffalo and a modern city (well, modern for 1917); Mexico, which has a big civil war going on, as well as a lot of unique animals; and the mountainous place you start off in, I'm not sure what it's called.
There is sort of a moral choice system in this game. What this means is, if you shoot everyone you see, people will start to fear you, posses will start hunting you, and you'll get respect from outlaws. If you help people, citizens will like you more and lawmen will tend to look the other way for minor crimes such as horse theft. However, outlaws will treat you with contempt and challenge you to duels regularly.
The multiplayer in RDR can add hours and hours to your playtime. When you join multiplayer, you start off in free roam, which I didn't find much fun, but you can join gang shootouts, which is like a team deathmatch, Capture The Bag matches, and other game modes. Your enjoyment of the RDR multiplayer will correlate directly with how good you are at it, so I recommend you play at least a bit of the single player story first to learn the controls.
Like I said, it's hard to find fault, but find fault I will; the game has a couple problems with its gameplay. Breaking horses, where you play a minigame that has you balancing as the wild horse frantically tries to buck you, gets old really fast, and the story makes you do it like 10 times. Not to mention that you have to break the best horses in the game before you can unlock them. The other issue is with the movement. Anyone who's played GTA 4 will remember how mad they were when they landed their helicopter on a skyscraper, tried to climb the waist-high wall surrounding the edges so as to get a better sniping position, then plummeted to their death as their character jumped over the wall. This game has the same problem, and it's also sort of hard to maneuver in small spaces. I would usually slam into both sides of a door at least three times before I could walk through it.
In the end, the gameplay is great fun and is what makes the game so great.
The multiplayer adds a lot, but the single player replay value is sort of lacking. You won't really have much to do after you finish the main story, and to make matters worse... wait, that's a spoiler. You probably won't want to play RDR single-player again much, unless you're replaying the story.
Final score: 9/10
I highly recommend that you pick up this game.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Red Dead Redemption (US, 05/18/10)
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