Red Dead Redemption Review

June 22, 2010 at 11:33 PM | Posted in (All Posts), Reviews, Video Game Reviews | Leave a comment
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Red Dead Redemption.

I can’t quite think of the best way to start a review for Red Dead Redemption. It was a huge release that garnered a lot of attention and rightfully so. It’s not very easy to think of things to say about this game that haven’t already been said.

However — I think using one of my favorite quotes from the game’s protagonist seems like a good way to start things out:

Some trees flourish, others die.
Some cattle grow strong, others are taken by wolves.
Some men are born rich enough and dumb enough to enjoy their lives.
Ain’t nothing fair. You know that.

__  __  __  __

Red Dead Redemption — on the surface — is Grand Theft Auto with cowboys and horses instead of the mafia and fast cars. Instead of a living, breathing, modern city like Liberty City or Vinewood, Red Dead Redemption takes place in the wild west. The particular location of the game is fictional, just like the settings in other games from Rockstar, and covers three main regions: New Austin (similar to Texas), Nuevo Paraiso (a region in Mexico), and West Elizabeth (similar to Colorado).

You play as John Marston. John Marston gets off the train in New Austin set on capturing or killing his former gang partner, Bill Williamson. As the game progresses you come to find out that John Marston used to be a member of a gang outlaws led by a man named “Dutch”. Dutch was something of a father figure to John and the other members (including Bill Williamson), but an accident occurred during one of their heists and John was betrayed by his outlaw family and left to die.

John soon left that lifestyle and settled down with his wife and son. Now the government has come to John with the proposition of hunting down every single member of his old gang and bringing them to justice. Considering that John’s family is being held hostage by the government, he has no choice.

What did I like about Red Dead Redemption?

*Above all else, my favorite aspect of Red Dead Redemption was the story. I have always enjoyed the storylines in the games from Rockstar, and this was no letdown. The idea of having a GTA-styled game in the west is genius and they could have made a great game on that concept alone, but the single player storyline really steals the show. For all I care — the game could have been one long movie and I would have still enjoyed it a great deal.

It goes through many of the motions that Rockstar storylines do — you start out doing odd jobs and soon find yourself gunning down outlaws and being involved in big crimes for big money — but it just works. Little by little the story unfolds and you find out about the past of John Marston. As you make many choices in the game, you really start to become drawn into the character and grow attached to him. Rockstar did a fantastic job of making you really care about the characters in the game. While some of them are obvious stereotypes that are very predictable, it’s never boring. All in all, the story stole the show — for me.

*The gameplay. Plain and simple — the gameplay and controls were very good. Holding and tapping the “X Button” (or A Button) to accelerate your horse took some getting used to as I’m used to holding in the right trigger button for accelerating your vehicle in the GTA games. After a few hours of playing the game, I had the controls down and memorized. I had no issues with the camera at all. While some aspects of the game needed polishing, the controls worked well enough.

*Rockstar did a near perfect job of capturing the atmosphere of the American West. The music and the dialogue and the settings are so good. You can take jobs by doing a nightwatch at a local ranch. You can play a round of horseshoes to kill some time. You can hunt wild animals. You can play a game of poker or “Liar’s Dice” and try your hand at gambling. You can shop and sell goods. You can tame wild horses. You can herd cows. You can even help a stranger out on the road if he’s being held up by bandits. Without a doubt — this is the American West in a video game. And it’s all fun. No question about it.

*While the multiplayer isn’t something I would write home about, it’s a fun alternative to the single player campaign. You basically pick your character from a variety of character models you encounter during the game and then you find yourself in one giant free-roam session. From that point, you have access to everywhere on the map you would in single player, but a select few other players playing online are also present on the map.

One thing I feel I need to point out is that I was not a fan of the multiplayer in Grand Theft Auto IV — also developed by Rockstar. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but the system in place for RDR is definitely more inviting than the multiplayer in GTA4. For one thing — being dropped in a free roam session doesn’t immediately greet you with the sounds of dozens of unwelcome headsets. Things seemed to flow much easier and I never found myself experiencing an issue finding a session to play in.

Most of my multiplayer experiences involved just shooting the other characters until everyone became bored with that, and then a few of the players travelled out and took on a gang hideout. You have the option at any time to jump right into a separate gameplay mode like “Gang Matches”, “Duels”, or just a standard “Free For All” where you just try and shoot everyone and everything in sight. If the multiplayer would have been all that RDR has to offer, I would have been severely disappointed. However, it serves a purpose in being a fun “extra” that stands alongside the single player mode.

What did I dislike about Red Dead Redemption?

*There really isn’t much to dislike about this game. I have no “major” complaints, but there are a few minor ones that I feel I need to address.

*Glitches. Oh how I hate the glitches. It breaks my heart that I even have to acknowledge these, but Red Dead Redemption was not without it’s share of glitches. Most of them are extremely minor. In fact — I never ran across anything that was “game breaking” so to speak. Most of the haul of glitches I encountered involved small things like my horses legs disappearing into the ground or some random character in a town continuously walking into a wall. There were enough glitches now and then to create annoyances. On one occasion I tried getting into a taxi and ride to the next town. Even after selecting my location, I somehow lost the option to “skip the trip” and found myself watching the wagon continuously try to turn into a building. It stayed that way for well over a minute, but finally I was able to skip the cutscene and the game reloaded in the correct location.

Granted — anytime you have a massive open-world game like the one that Rockstar has created in Red Dead Redemption, you’re going to run into issues here and there. While I feel that some errors are to be expected, some of them were downright frustrating. It wasn’t so much an issue of “hating” the game because of it, but more being disappointed because of how much it takes you OUT of the experience.

Overall —

Red Dead Redemption is a real treat. My video gaming world would be a much sadder place if I hadn’t played this game. Simply put — you don’t know what you’re missing if you haven’t played Red Dead Redemption. It’s a formula of a free roaming game put in a western setting, and it works better than anyone could have imagined.

The game is not without flaws and it really pains me to admit that. I found myself so drawn into the story the game offered and sincerely cared for the character of John Marston and the characters I interacted with. Rockstar did such a good job of pulling you in, but it just became that much more irritating when some minor glitch would occur that could immediately remind you the game has small issues. I don’t know how Rockstar could have polished everything considering how massive the world they crated in RDR is, but I have to feel that the game could have been brushed up in some areas.

I would be a fool to act as though these minor problems deterred from my overall experience with Red Dead Redemption. It is a really great video game that offers so much. It’s the Wild West meets Grand Theft Auto. What more could anyone ask?

Red Dead Redemption gets an 8.8 out of 10.

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