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Red Dead Redemption Review

by William Schwartz

Developed by Rockstar San Diego, as a follow up to the 2004 hit game Red Dead Revolver, Red Dead Redemption is a Western epic, set at the turn of the 20th century when the lawless and chaotic badlands began to give way to the expanding reach of government and the spread of the Industrial Age. The story of former outlaw, John Marston, Red Dead Redemption takes players on a great adventure across the American frontier. Utilizing Rockstar’s proprietary Rockstar Advanced Game Engine (RAGE), Red Dead Redemption features an open-world environment for players to explore, including frontier towns, rolling prairies teeming with wildlife, and perilous mountain passes – each packed with an endless flow of varied distractions. Along the way, players experience the heat of gunfights and battles, meet a host of unique characters, struggle against the harshness of one of the world’s last remaining wildernesses, and ultimately pick their own precarious path through an epic story about the death of the Wild West and the gunslingers that inhabited it.

I kind of knew I would love Red Dead Redemption even before playing it.  There haven’t been many Western based video games over the course of my long and distinguished video gaming career.  Sure most recently there was GUN and as bad as that was I absolutely loved it.  Why?  This open world genre has been begging for a game like Red Dead to come along and fill this niche.  Ever since there have been GTA knockoffs I have not been a fan of these copy cat style of games.  Possibly because they have all felt like cheap imitations.  The Western setting has seemingly endless possibilites  for video game fun when you think about it:  Mangy Characters, Gunplay, Horses, Cops, Robbers, Cowboys, Indians, Train Robbers, and Beautiful Vistas to name a few.  Rockstar manages to include all of the things that you think of when you think Western and much more. But not only does each piece exist in this open world sandbox, but they add layer upon layer of fun and dynamic to what could be the new measuring stick for this genre and style of game.

One of the real heroes of Red Dead Redemption is variety.  Variety in it’s cast of characters, environments, challenges, and subsequent rewards and penalties.  There’s a ton to explore, and equally as fun as travelling from marker to marker completing side mission, is wandering the open world of RDR.  Where you will find so many different and unique activities that you will find yourself hard pressed to complete everything if not for simple fact that you are only limited by your imagination.

Red Dead Redemption has included a very capable multiplayer component in this title. With nearly as much depth as the single player campaign, Red Dead’s Free Roam and Team Based Games are unique twists on some familiar game modes.

Free Roam – Red Dead’s Free Roam mode gives you that same feeling of possibility that the single player campaign does.  I immediately likened it to Burnout Paradise’s free roam mode in that there are goals set for you to accomplish or you can just explore or shoot it out with the NPC’s or human controlled players.  I immediately fell in love with the mode as my first play went something like this:  Hopping into free mode for the first time I noticed the familiar town of Armadillo from the single player campaign. Noted on the screen were about ten others in my free roam lobby but more importantly was the one player that noticed that I had just dropped in and was coming to welcome me to the game by handing me my first death.  I quickly looked for an exit, after realizing that all of the buildings in the town were available to enter and explore I ducked in to hide for a second.  My next objective was to find a horse and make a getaway.  This could be accomplished  by making my way across to the stable which housed 3-4 horses all the while trying to avoid death from this player that was circling my location on his horse like shark in open water.  Perhaps another player had caught his attention or he lost interest but the circling stopped momentarily and it was time to make my move.  Although, I could have whistled for my burro which is your default mount when you first start Red Dead’s Multiplayer component, you can’t exactly make a truly triumphant getaway on a burro can you?  So I made my way to the stable found my horse and right about the time I did this guy that had been stalking me saw me making my getaway.  Not content to let me go about my way he gave chase.  After a minute or so of hit and miss gunfire at my back I eventually made my getaway and got the opportunity to explore the open world in Free Roam.  While this small sampling of many of the unique scenarios that can unfold in free roam was one that immediately likened the mode to me, it was what happened next that really hit home.

Scattered around the world of Free Roam there are markers things that can be collected and gathered.  At this point I really didn’t know what to make of the marker that was on my map but I did know it was close enough to warrant a little exploration. So leaving my horse unattended i slid down the slight hill into a tree filled valley which my map had told me there was some sort of marker.  I never made it to that marker as when I hit flat ground I was ambushed by pack of wild boars.  One thing I wont soon forget is the distinct sound that the animals make although I never actually saw it coming.

It’s sequences like this and the endless possibilities of free roam done right that Red Dead’s multiplayer component offers and it adds immensely to the game.

Haters or Fanboys or just people that love to nit pick games to death over resolution and graphics flaws have been quick to point out that there is the occasional pop-in in Red Dead Redemption.  It’s true, it’s there, in all it’s last generation glory but it didn’t really detract from the overall experience in the game.  Sure it can be a minor annoyance but you will have a hard time find a point at which this alters your game experience in any way other than disappointing your expectations of sheer perfection.

Completing it all in Red Dead Redemption is no small feat.  There are a ton of main missions, and a slew of other side quests that can have you busy for upwards of 40 hours not counting multiplayer.  With a game of this size and scope you can expect some recycling of mission types.  One in particular is the stage coach shootout mission. Multiple times throughout your Red Dead campaign you will find yourself in the predicament of fending off outlaws on a seemingly runaway stage coach and in a game that is just teeming with originality you would have liked to see some new and exciting takes instead of going back to this cliche that seems a little played out by the end of Red Dead.

If you are a completionist and just wont feel satisfied until you’ve seen and done every mission available in Red Dead Redemption you are going to be a little disappointed in some of the side missions.  While they are completely optional, some of them are a little bit tedious and I couldn’t help but think that many of them were thrown in as filler.

For the most part the single player campaign was flawless.  As fun as my first playthrough on multiplayer hooked me to come back and play again, there were some disturbing problems that may limit the game in it’s multiplayer aspects.  From the start there were and are currently connection issues with Red Dead Redemption’s multiplayer component.  It’s hit and miss when dealing with public lobbies as you can just be dropped from a lobby or multiplayer game with no warning or reasons as to why your connection has failed.

Aside from the minor connection issues, there are some graphics issues that are pretty hard to ignore as well.  Most noticeably is a problem with disappearing assets.  In Red Dead Redemption multiplayer I have seen just about every combination of the disappearing act.  I have been riding on a ghost horse, meaning my character is magically floating through the air,  to being completely invisible myself.  It just happens, not sure what causes the situation to occur but one minute you are playing from the third person and the next it seems you playing from the first person as your character just disappears.  Though it’s not limited to just you, once this disappearing starts you wont be able to see any of the other characters in a lobby so you will likely be mauled by an invisible animal, or shot by an invisible advisary.   I saw that this invisible assets glitch carried over to your character selection screen as well.  It’s hit or miss.  Sometimes you can go into the selection screen and view the available character models and successfully navigate select and view changes, other times you can’t.  It’s likely something that will warrant a patch, if Rockstar really wants the multiplayer component to be as big a success as it’s ambitious development sees fit.

It really shouldn’t come as a surprise that Red Dead Redemption is taking the critics by storm. The talented development staff at Rockstar knows how to craft this type of tale.  The surprise should come with how well Red Dead Redemption is actually executed and the sandbox genre is taken to the next level.  It’s arguably the best Rockstar game to date and can give any of the GTA games a run for their monies.  The traditional Rockstar formula for creating a sprawling world, filled with vibrant personalities and a roster of activities that can keep you entertained for hours on end warrant an immediate examination in your gaming judgement if you aren’t already gathering your keys to head down to your local game store to purchase this title.

"loved"
loved

Red Dead Redemption

  • Available On: Xbox 360, PS3
  • Published By: Take Two Interactive
  • Developed By: Rockstar
  • Genre: Open World
  • US Release Date: May 2010
  • Reviewed On: Xbox 360
  • Quote: "Red Dead Redemption is arguably the best Rockstar game to date and can give any of the GTA games a run for their monies."
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