If you ever had a grandpa, a dad, or maybe you grew up with westerns, you know what makes a good western. The guns, shootouts, horses, as well as duels. Red Dead Redemption is just that, it is an outstanding western sandbox game that anybody should play. The story is of John Marston, a former outlaw contracted by the government to seek out and either capture or kill his former brothers-in-arms. Along the way he meets a bunch of colorful-yet-unique characters that help him in his path toward redemption. That is what’s interesting about most of Rockstar’s protagonists, they are mostly flawed individuals in which something troubling happened in their past. This is what gives likability to John’s character, as well as makes him more believable then other protagonists. The story is what really shines in Red Dead, every moment of the game breathes influences of past movies and books that capture life on the western front.
Everything about the game has a time and place to it that other games rarely are able to capture. Every second of John Marston’s story is compelling, leaving the player eager to finish his journey. That being said there is a bit of a slow start towards the beginning in which you are required to play a series of missions for a character named Bonnie. Some of these missions may feel a bit unnecessary considering the actual motivations of the character. For the gamer that does not have the patience to do mundane tasks, such as herding cattle or lassoing horses, the beginning portion of the game may come as a drag for you.
Despite the early few lackluster missions the rest of the story structure is pretty solid. Every mission feels like you are progressing towards this sweet revenge. And sweet is exactly the experience that comes to mind when describing the story, without spoiling it, it is without a doubt one of the best stories written in a game. Besides the incredible story, there are a variety of side missions, treasure hunts, bounties, duels as well as other ventures to pursue. Like GTA IV, there are a variety of strangers to discover along the western front. These strangers are just as interesting as any of the other main story cast, though they don’t provide much besides that of honor, or cash. You can also hunt legendary animals, find treasure maps, complete challenges, and much more. At first glance it may seem these side activities would provide no benefit for the gamer; but thats far from the case. Completing certain side activities open up other unlockables such as alternative outfits for John, as well as other guns.
Now for the gameplay, Rockstar continues to improve their controls when it comes to making a better game. Red Dead’s shooting mechanics are a step up compared to previous Rockstar fare. The aiming and shooting feels a bit smoother, and less sluggish when compared to previous titles such as GTA IV. If you played GTA IV you probably remember how clingy the cover system was. Red Dead feels like it has been improved tremendously. John is able to slide into cover at a quicker rate; that, and its easier to transition from one wall to another. Red Dead also features a fame and honor system. Depending on how you choose to behave(honorable or corrupt), U.S. Marshall’s may be sent to stop you, similar to GTA’s wanted system. If you are more honorable your fame will increase and your legend will spread throughout.
Rockstar uses its RAGE engine, as well as Euphoria and Natural Motion. The physics and animation are superb, horses, humans, and objects move at a realistic rate. Other than the physics, the animation is a wonder to behold. Muscles on horses tend to move in a realistic manner thats quite mesmerizing. Another great, yet funny example is lassoing a bounty and riding with the suspect behind you, only to look back and see him bouncing along the dirt plains in pain as you gallop at break-neck speed. These are just a few examples of how dynamic the physics and animation can be. Despite these overall impressive technical leaps, there are a few bugs, such as pop-in environments, inconsistent a.i., as well as long load times from the main menu to in-game. Some can detract from the experience, but its few-and-far between.
The multiplayer can be a blast, especially with friends. You can play gang hideouts, a traditional team deathmatch, as well as a version of capture the flag, these are just some of the modes available to play. There is also a standard progression system that unlocks new items based on challenges as well as level, such as characters, horses, guns, and so forth. If you feel a bit adventurous, you can form a posse with a group of friends and scour the world to your delight. Or if you feel a bit dastardly, leave a trail of destruction in your wake.
Overall, in my opinion Red Dead Redemption is one of the best games of all-time. Compelling story, interesting characters, fun multiplayer, as well as a sense of atmosphere make for a memorable experience.
*originally written on May 27, 2010