Review: Red Dead Redemption
There was little said about Red Dead Redemption before I became extremely excited about it. I heard the terms “western”, “sandbox”, mixed with the “Grand Theft Auto 4 engine”. This was enough for me to already put in my top listed games, given the gameplay was what was promised. I even wanted the game so bad, I went back and picked up Red Dead Revolver to play through it. I can safely say that Redemption is nothing like the spiritual father of the game.
Redemption is set during the 1911’s. You play as John Marshall, a former outlaw destined to stop his former gang so he can reunite with his wife and son. To get to these men, John must help the locals in their missions before they help or give any information that he’s seeking. It’s your basic Grand Theft Auto style of story telling, but there’s just something about how it takes place that makes it feel much more alive.
As you progress through the main story, several side quest will arise from strangers. These will include your run-of-the-mill fetch missions and assassination attempts. Even though they’re typical (i.e.: go here, do this), they add a lot to the story and breaks the game away from it’s pace of just trying to get your family back. Since I don’t want to ruin anything at all in the story, I’ll leave it at this: this game feels more like a good Eastwood movie, or more even like the classic movie, Tombstone.
The game is based on the Grand Theft Auto 4 graphics engine. But unlike Grand Theft Auto 4, this game is a lot more colorful and vibrant. There’s not as many mute areas overall. The first time you travel south of the border and stumble upon the bright, white sands, you may actually feel like shielding your eyes from that torturing sun reflecting off of it. Playing through on the PlayStation 3 version, I didn’t really notice anything horrible about the game’s graphics, even though the Xbox 360 is suppose to have a better look. But you don’t miss what you ain’t seein’, right?
More on the graphics, the frame rate is smooth all the way through. I never saw a point in the 30+ hours I put in thus far where the game hick-uped or dropped for a moment. While the game does look nice, there’s some noticeable issues with jagged edges. The lack of the anti-alias could easily be patched, and hopefully, will be soon. The draw distance is nice for this type of game. Objects are dropped in way before you just happen to walk up on them. However, there’s some bugs that need to be worked out. My first time playing multiplayer, the characters didn’t load up at all for the character selection. This seems to happen once in a while, and I’m sure will be fixed in upcoming patched.
One of the things I really love about Rockstar’s games is they always find good voice actors. Redemption is no different. John’s voice will be stuck in my head as one of the best character voices ever voiced. It’s distinctive. Scratchy and dirty, yet respectful. And not only that, all of the other voices are so well done, during the movies, you actually want to sit back and watch just because the animations with the voices match so well, it feels realistic.
The way the music is setup is nice too. During fast-paced scenes, the music fades in, picks up enough for the action to end, and slowly draws into the distance. It’s a lot better to hear a lot of ambiance in this game. It makes it feel more alive.
You get several guns in the game. You’ll either find them or buy them from local gunsmiths. Each type of gun is categorized together for easy access. For instance, all of the rifles will be slapped under the same menu. Sniper rifles in their own. Pistols in their own. You get the picture. Each gun also has an execution mode. This is when you run up to someone and shoot them, point blank. It will cause the game to move out a bit and show John blasting a whole through the chest/stomach/head of a victim. Unlike most games, it’s so quick and sometimes hard to do that you never want to hit buttons to skip the “action camera” of what’s going on.
There’s a feature in the game called Dead-Eye. If you’re familiar with Call of Juarez: Bound by Blood, it’s similar to their system for adrenaline junkies. Basically, it slows down time and you target as many things as you can and let the bodies his the dirt. In some areas, it’s the only way to save your butt. And while this will speed things up for your gaming experience, they also included a camping site for you lazy gamers out there. You can visit (or buy maps) to certain locations, build a camp fire, and fast travel to areas of your pleasure. It really saves you some time for those long travels. However, doing this, you miss out on a lot of what the world will show you.
The game has an honor system, but for me personally, it’s hard to play John as a bad guy. He seems like a typical, good American trying to fix his issues. It’s hard to really do this when you’re psycho in the streets. The fame and wanted portions should have been enough.
As always with a good ol’ sandbox game, there’s a few mini-games. You’ll get to play horse shoes, gamble some money away at black jack and/or poker, or play dice games. Cheating results in it’s own mini-game of dueling. You’ll run into memory games by playing five finger fillet. If you consider the several bounty missions as mini-games, or the hunting of forty different creatures, or the “collecting flowers” as all mini-games, along with several other activities, then there’s a good truck-load of fun to be had.
For the single player experience, even the co-op multiplayer experience, the fun with the game is that while it maintains the fact it’s a game, it manages to make the most realistic world ever created. And it’s set in a period which isn’t touched on near as much as the future or a World War. It’s based in the wild west. When you first experience the several different side jobs that go on, people asking you for help in the middle of hunting, you just feel like the people have a real sense of need.
My last portion of the review is for the multiplayer. Free roam is definitely one of the more fun game modes out there. It’s a good break from just trying to be the best. Joining friends just to go hunting in the woods is a blast on it’s own. Joining those same friends in the woods to hunt, being ambushed by other players on the public server, and then winning; that’s just something else. There’s several modes that are similar to what you’ve played before, but the real fun is just riding around the open world with your friends.
If I could change just a few things with the game, they’d all relate to the mini-games (mostly). Rockstar already had a pool table in Grand Theft Auto 4. Billiards was a popular game in the wild west. I was shocked this wasn’t a hidden mini-game. Darts as well. But more than that, it was really disappointing to see that none of the card games or horse shoes can be played in Free Roam.
Reviewed on the PlayStation 3.