Publisher: Rockstar Games
As soon as I finished Red Dead Revolver, way back in 2004, I crossed my fingers and hoped for a sequel. Then the long wait began, during which time Call of Juarez made its first appearances but just didn't have the same magic or impact, and as a result my longing for another Red Dead game grew stronger. Finally, on one of my regular searches for upcoming games I read a winning combination of words that made me extremely happy - Red Dead Revolver 2, which after a short period of time changed its name to Red Dead Redemption. Following this I regularly checked up on the game during its development and when it was announced that you'd be placed in a free roaming environment I couldn't imagine this game being anything other than spectacular.
Unfortunately for me, I tend to have a nasty habit of getting so worked up about films and games that have been hyped-up in the press that by the time I get hold of them they tend to be a little bit underwhelming and I end up extremely disappointed. However, I'm happy to say that this isn't the case with Red Dead Redemption.
The story revolves around John Marston, a former outlaw, who settled down to run a farm after re-evaluating his life following a bank robbery. Unfortunately for John, federal agents kidnap his family and threaten to murder them unless he brings his former gang mates to justice, forcing him to strap on his gun belt and ride across the Old West once again. The main storyline is very well written, and brought to life by a number of colourful characters, however you'll come across even more whilst riding across the vast wilderness. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that the 'random' events and numerous side quests are the best I've seen in a game.
There seems to be no end of things you can do during your downtime between the main missions. If you're in a town you can walk into a saloon, order a drink, then sit down and enjoy a range of mini-games including poker, blackjack, five finger fillet (made famous by Aliens), horseshoes, or liar dice. If you're riding around the environment, you can choose to accept tasks from strangers which tend to last a while, or you'll come across situations that need your immediate attention such as escaped prisoner that need to be stopped, stolen horses that need to be returned to their owners, and people who need to be rescued from bandits.
If you don't want to rely on gambling as you're sole source of income, there are even jobs that you can keep yourself busy with, including horse breaking, becoming a nightwatchman, and best of all bounty hunting.
The environments are truly spectacular, incredibly varied ranging from sparse deserts to an unbelievable waterfall, and their scale is epic. The map for the game is huge and definitely towers over that of GTAIV, in fact the paper copy of the map seems to just keep on unfolding the first time you open it up.
Every single area of the game oozes with individuality and the graphics will make you look at things in complete and utter amazement. The weather effects are outstanding, the first time you're caught outside during a thunder storm is a joy to behold, you'll stare in amazement as you ride through the night gazing at a star filled sky, and witnessing the sunlight streaming through the clouds or casting the image of a window frame on the opposite wall of a buildings interior is quite frankly beautiful. Having said that, the fact you can't see your own reflection in the mirrors you find in the variety of accommodation you use throughout the game, was a little bit disappointing.
The controls handle very well and you shouldn't have to rip yourself away from the screen to flip through the manual, despite the fact that the in-game tutorials can sometimes whizz by in a haze of dust.
Marston has a range of weapons at his disposal for combat, including Western classics such as the trusty six shooter and 'the gun that won the west' better known as the Winchester rifle. As you'd expect the combat is incredibly well thought out, and you'll often find yourself ducking behind cover to avoid a hail of bullets. The cover system is much better than I expected, and if you're caught a short distance away from a conveniently placed rocky outcrop or overturned stagecoach, you'll make a short dash and even smoothly slide across the ground to safety.
Your greatest advantage during combat is dead eye, which slows down the action in the single player campaign and gives you enough time to 'paint' multiple targets for quick take-downs. There are three levels of dead eye, which you'll unlock as you progress through the main story.
Most of the battles take place on foot, however there are a number of occasions when you'll have to defend yourself whilst riding your loyal steed. Encounters on horse back are a little more challenging, as its incredibly difficult to navigate whilst looking around to dispatch your enemies. Luckily, this is where dead eye comes into its own, because you can quickly set up your shots and take out the majority of assailants. You'll also be treated to some of the best sights the game has to offer, for example knocking an enemy from their horse can result in them getting caught in their stirrups and dragged across the ground by their mounts.
No Western title would be complete without the chance to duel with opponents, however unlike Red Dead Revolver where you'd most likely be up against bosses, in Redemption you'll randomly be challenged by people whilst walking through the street.
The free roaming multiplayer is phenomenal and will definitely be getting me to renew my Xbox Live Gold subscription. The entire single player map is your playground along with 15 other players, who you can choose to take on single handed or form a posse with in order to ease the difficulty of the challenges present in the environment.
Being part of a posse is great fun as you can do some really extraordinary things, like piling onto a stagecoach and bringing swift justice to anybody who stands in your way. However, becoming the leader of posse is a special experience, as you watch something you've initiated grow and lead your compadres to each situation be it for richer or poorer.
Dotted around the free roaming environment are gateway markers, which you can use to initiate the competitive modes the multiplayer has to offer. These include shootouts where your objective is to kill as many people as possible, and the various capture the bag games on offer. Also, its worth noting that shootouts have possibly the best start to any multiplayer encounter, a classic Mexican stand off.
The customisation of your character, as in the single player, is a tiny bit limited. You can choose from a wide variety of characters, mounts, and titles, with more becoming available as you gain XP and level up.
Now, if you've decided to buy the limited edition over the standard issue, you'll be able to download the deadly assassin outfit, the war horse, and the golden guns weapon pack.
The deadly assassin outfit is probably the best of the lot, as it allows your dead eye meter to regenerate at twice the speed, which means you'll be able to make light work of an enemy encampment without having to hold up behind some cover and slowly chip away at them one at a time. The war horse is stronger, faster, and has greater endurance than the majority of others found in the game, which gives you a massive advantage during both mounted combat and racing missions. Supposedly the golden guns generate more fame per kill than any others, however I'm yet to be convinced, as far as I can tell they're just there to look flashy and the novelty quickly wears off once you find weapons with superior firepower.
When you combine all the aspects present in Red Dead Redemption, what you're left with is a game that'll keep you going back for more, ticks all the boxes, and is arguably the best game that Rockstar have ever produced. The downsides to the game are so unbelievably small that you'll hardly give them a second thought, and if this doesn't win a Game of The Year award I want to see the game that beats it, because this is as close to perfect as they come.
- A huge amount of varied tasks to complete
- Epic free-roaming multiplayer
- Furious Old West gun fights
- Limited character customisation in the single player campaign and multiplayer
- Mounted combat can be a little tricky at times
- Water kills you without much warning
The Short Version: Red Dead Redemption is a game of epic proportions, that takes players on an action packed adventure across The Wild West. This has got to be the best title of 2010 so far, and will set the bar for all of those that follow.