The old west. A time of whiskey drinkin’, butt kickin’ and gun slingin’. When men were men and the term “gay” meant “happy”. When stage coaches were a form of transport rather than some guy telling actors their lines. Believe it or not, these are concepts you have to take into account when playing Red Dead Redemption.
Red Dead Redemption is a 3rd person sandbox shooter set in 1911, when the “wild” west was being taken over by civilisation, telephones and the ultimate way to travel is on the back of your trusty steed. So this game’s not quite as gun slingin’ as one might be forgiven to think. There’s still plenty of lead swappin’ to be had but, somehow I did think there’d be a showdown at every turn. Maybe because of the “ROCKSTAR GAMES PRESENTS” sign on the cover of the game for one thing! For those three or four of you who don’t know, Rockstar Games are responsible for the very contraversial GRAND THEFT AUTO series.
After a long and strangely mysterious intro, Red Dead throws you into its world. The controls do their part though I did find them a bit sloppy. Some might forgive this for being “realistic” but there are a lot of times that this will play against you. For instance, movement in the opposite direction either starts with one step in the original direction first or a slow turn around. Both of which are useless when faced with 10 bandito’s who are using your ass as target practise. Rockstar seem to have countered this by making the AI relatively stupid with enemies doing the “run the obvious line to cover then poke your head out every few seconds” routine…. but they are real “crack”shots (ha, see what i did there?)
The fun with the AI does not end there my friends, oh no. Your own horse will display some Scientology-like intelligence also. After going to help a damsel in distress, I found out I was the victim of a hoodwink and 5 outlaws jump out wanting my wallet. Since I had spent my ammo on the wildlife around, I decided a retreat was the best option. I whistle to my horse, hear the “ney” in the distance and watch as he runs right up to me….. and past me… by about a hundred metres… As I get turned to Swiss cheese. Bloody horse! Whilst this is funny as hell, it does get annoying after 3 or 4 times. Your horse just seems to love buggering off out of reach for no reason what-so-ever.
The world’s map is humungous but it is sparse. Towns are minutes away from each other, even with your horse at full speed. Trains that come later in gameplay do take the edge off a bit and there’s your “campsite” that lets you “teleport” to areas you have previously been (‘coz that’s what campsites do, right?!) but for exploration and missions, travel is long and sometimes painful. Strangely, you would feel kind of cheated if you take these options because there’s a fair bit to do in between. You can hunt all the different flora and fauna, help random folks in need and even, as before mentioned, get held up by cowboys. The hunting is awesomely fun, the best way to get money in the game is by selling your victory spoils and can very easily over shadow the main game.
Towns themselves have a variety of goings on too. Shops barter their wares, liveries sell horses and you can even hit the bars for drinking, Blackjack, Texas Hold ’em and even buy rooms for saving your progress. Townsfolk remember who you are and, depending on if you’re the good guy or bad, they’ll react differently. The hero will get discounts at stores while the outlaw gets duels thrown his way, not to mention the sheriff’s attention too. All of which are a lot of fun. So your actions do impact your gameplay. I recommend having 2 save files. 1 for the good guy, the other for the bad.
One of the things you notice early on, especially when you see your first sunset in the game is this : Red Dead is absolutely freakin’ gorgeous! With the exception of the characters, Red Dead’s world is so expertly presented, you can almost taste the grit in the hot southern air. There will be times you’ll wish there was a screenshot feature so you could tell your family about your vacation to the alamo.
Gunplay has been done well also, with real weight felt with each hit. A little liberty must be given though since it is 1911 and most guns didn’t have amazing accuracy back then. The snap-on style auto aim works really well and you still need to be pretty close to your mark before it kicks in, so you won’t feel like a sissy if you use it. There’s a slow-mo feature to take down multiple targets in a split second, with a resulting “hell yea” from the player. The cover system is simple and works for the most part but I found just hitting the duck button gave a better control over your character and still kept you out of their sights. There’s also a lasso which the creative minds will come up with a million evil things to do with including hog-tieing. Another “hell yea”!
So it’s not shy of it’s downfalls, but is it good? Darn tootin’! Red Dead Redemption is not just for the John Wayne or Clint Eastwood fan. Nor is it only for the GTA nut. Anyone can find something in here. There’s enough action and variety to go around and it never feels cheap, but it does feel nasty in all the right ways. In a time where we gamers are enjoying an unseasonal wealth of quantity, it’s good to get some real quality from the bag!