The Wild West Genre used to be something very popular in the 60’s and 70’s, but in the 2000’s the wild west seems to have completely gone out of style. In comes Rockstar, the creators of the Grand Theft Auto series, who’ve tried their hand at the Wild West Genre back in 2004 with Read Dead Revolver. Unlike the Grand Theft Auto series, the Red Dead Revolver game met mixed reviews instead of high praise. Six years later the sequel to Red Dead Revolver appears, and it looks like the Wild West genre has been single-handedly rejuvenated.
In Red Dead Redemption you play a bandit gone straight named John Marsden, he’s been contracted by the government against his will to track down his old gang buddies. It doesn’t take long for Marsden to track down Bill Williamson and attempt to talk it out, unfortunately for Marsden the nice guy approach doesn’t work and he’s shot and left for dead. He’s soon discovered by a charismatic rancher named Bonnie Macfarlane, she patches John up and sets him up with a place to stay. This is where the game and the storyline elements open up for the player, with quest setups similar to Grand Theft Auto the player can continue along with the story or complete various side missions.
But do not get me wrong this is by no means Grand Theft Auto with a western paint job, there are tons of fundamental improvements over the tried and true free-roaming game-play formula. Mainly the way that side-quests and bonus activities are scattered through the game. The way things work players can easily be overwhelmed and distracted from the main story. There are bounties scattered about to be captured or killed. You can also hunt, skin, and trade animal pieces for challenge awards or just cash. You can become a scavenger by picking up random plants, or a sharpshooter by picking off birds and various animals. Or take a midnight stroll with a dog to protect a ranch, or save someone being attacked by Coyotes. Save a woman from being eaten by a cannibal, save a town from a bunch of rampaging bandits… or try to give a guy a ride on your horse only to have him steal it.
I think you get what I’m trying to say here, there are just tons of possible things that can happen in Red Dead Redemption. You can wrangle cattle, lasso a horse for a new ride, spend time in a Saloon playing blackjack or poker, play a game of five finger flint, sit around a camp fire and listen to stories, there are just a bunch of things that can happen in this game that will have you coming back for more. You can be as much of a savior as you want to be or as much of a treacherous yellowbelly scoundrel you can muster. And none of this goes unnoticed in the world, you gain fame and honor based on your actions.
So if you’re being a lawful man and bringing in bounties and saving people on the roadside, you’ll gain honor fast. However if you’re robbing people of horses, and shooting people dead in the streets for no reason. You’ll lose honor fast and people will change their reactions to you based on that alone. Yet this all becomes more obvious as you gain fame. With little to no fame most people will acknowledge you normally, but as you gain in fame you will start to receive challenges to duels, and outright people asking for more help or avoiding you.
Along with all of that great content, Rockstar seems to have outdone themselves when it comes to the quest variety. The way they’ve implemented quests beyond just shoot and fetch quests, is something that I hope more games will catch on to. Certain things like using tricks to help a swindler sell his tonic, or helping round up some stray cattle during a storm. Seeing this type of objective variety is refreshing, especially for someone who was just looking for a re-hash of the way that Grand Theft Auto’s system works. It’s not all murder in the world of Red Dead Redemption, and taking a look into the various way people live in this fictional west is impressive.
On top of that the Multi-player component is just fun and easy to get into. There are tons of unlockable characters to choose from, while you can’t edit them the way you want to. There are over 50 of them, so you shouldn’t have a problem choosing someone of interest. The real big draw to all this is that the Multi-player is basically like a console Multi-Massive Online Game, you hop online you get into a group with people and you can roam the world leveling up on bad guys and quests. And that’s not even mentioning the normal modes included in the game, ranging from capture the flag to standard death matches. When we add this together with the high volume things to do in single-player, it’s pretty certain that you won’t be putting this one down for months.
To top all of it off we have the astonishing visuals that Rockstar is now known for, I mean this game is absolutely gorgeous all around. The way the shadows pick up off of plant life in the daytime, or the way the sheriff badges glint when the sun hits them, to the droplets of rain as they come crashing down on the dusty desert. It’s an amazing sight to behold, they have pieced this game together brilliantly in an extremely large world. The way dust of the desert blows through the plains, or simply staring into the distance and watching the sunset. Not to mention the atmosphere of the city and the way people seem to live their lives in a believable manner.
If you sit about and watch people in town, they will go about their business completing everyday tasks like it is nothing. When you first hear shooting out in the plains and think it’s some kind of killing spree, and aim your gun only to find out that one of the men was hunting a coyote, you will start to watch where you aim your pistol, because these people are doing things similar to you. In fact they do everything that you can do in the game, they’ll commit crimes or attempt to stop them. They will lasso horses and hunt wildlife. Hell, there are even certain things they can do that you cannot. Like the first time I saw a man hop off his horse near a graveyard, run over to the front of it and begin to urinate in the bushes. I was shocked at the fact that he decided to desecrate graves, but also the fact that he had to use the restroom.
Yet you cannot mention the art and animation without stating how amazing the horses look, the way their muscles contort when they run, the way their mane moves fluidly during high speeds, to how they bounce with grace while trotting across the plains. It is quite a sight to see when an animal looks so organic in a video game. What makes things even better is the sound direction, with the way that horses hooves hit the ground while moving never gets old. To the simple sound of crickets at night, and the whizz of bullets that sound like they came straight out of the Good the Bad and the Ugly. It is hard not to pay attention to everything this game offers, and that’s not even mentioning the superb voice acting that accompanies the main characters and insignificant ones.
Of course everything is not all roses, but most of these things are minor problems that plague most free roaming game. Like shadows and textures popping in from the distance, or animations repeating constantly , certain sounds turn on and off, and the occasional frame-rate drop. You will see 3 out of 4 of these things occur while you’re playing Red Dead Redemption, but you will not see them happen often and you won’t care when you do. It’s just that kind of game really, the good totally outweighs whatever bad you think you see.
I could go on for hours talking about this game, in fact I had so much more to say. But this is supposed to be a half-ass review and that would be overdoing it. So in closing… this is the epitome of a casual to hardcore players dream. Which means that this is perfect for anyone that can’t finish long games, because even if you couldn’t finish Red Dead Redemption. You’d still find something that could preoccupy your time for months. If you haven’t gone out and bought it by now, you should probably stop watching this and go get it. That’s right… Red Dead Redemption is a definitive “A+” from me. Now before I close this review, I’m going to answer the question that some may be asking. Is this a Grand Theft Auto killer in anyway? The answer to that is a resounding “No”.
Red Dead Redemption is like a serious movie, whereas Grand Theft Auto is a light hearted action film. By this I mean that they both have their niche in storytelling. When you kill someone in GTA you don’t care and you go on a murdering spree, because the whole world told you that this is pretty much a joke. The TV shows, the magazines, the shows, even the people are all a bunch of quirky unrealistic personalities. That is not the case after playing Red Dead Redemption, the longer you play the more you realize these character are living these lives. When you see a prostitute about to get knifed by a thug, you may find yourself compelled to help out. Not cause you’ll get a lot of honor from it, but because you feel it’s the right thing to do. That’s the difference between the two games, but they are in no way better than each other. With that… off to start playing Alan Wake.