Red Dead Redemption is a beautiful game. Not too many reviewers would start their review with that statement, but my appreciation for the cinematography, music and story are my drivers. Most people know Rockstar Games are highly controversial, very entertaining and filled with memorable gameplay. And their games are always top notch in quality and well received in the gaming industry. Rockstar decided to leave a genre they were comfortable with that included; prostitutes, wreckless driving and S.W.A.T. teams looking to take you down. So instead they went to the Wild West in Red Dead Redemption and glad they did. Rockstar Games did a damn good job with a 1900’s timeline that’s filled with dust and tumbleweeds. Now I ask you, “Who didn’t want to be a cowboy growing up?”
You are John Marston. Stepping into the boots of John Marston was very different from previous Rockstar Games. First, you weren’t put into a scenario that premeditated any of his actions thereby allowing you to truly decide what type of Cowboy path you wanted to take. Of course the story does begin with John Marston running into a “problem” with his former gang thus giving you some insight on his past but not enough to dictate the type of person he was. As you progress, you’ll learn bits and pieces but still feel like you don’t know enough. Throughout the game you’ll be presented with two sides of a “good guy – bad guy” meter. Positive actions will net you “Fame”. Those include saving a woman in distress, or disarming duelists who challenge you to a draw. On the other side of the coin, for times when you commit a crime you’ll be accruing negative honor points which turn into bounties. There are pro’s and con’s to both which include discounted prices for items in store and certain missions open for play.
Evil John Marston. Just like Superman, you too can be a bad guy to experience the other side of Red Dead Redemption… the good part is you already have the dark beard. Committing crimes in front of local townspeople or the law will activate your bounty. The longer you hide out the greater your bounty will become. You’ll get chased by several lawmen looking to cash you in. You can cut a deal if you’re dealing with one lawman by pressing “O” and paying half your bounty to him. I’ve yet to be successful with that tactic. Instead, you’ll want to head over to the Telegraph building where you can pay the full bounty and your name is wiped clear from any wrong doings.
Sandbox Gameplay. The desert is your playground and the term “Sandbox” suits this game perfectly. Red Dead Redemption (RDR) is an open field of tumbleweeds, dusty outhouses and steep mountainous terrain fitting for any outlaw of the Wild West. RDR is about exploring. Sure, there IS a point to the game but don’t forget what makes sandbox games great, the ability to travel the four corners (literally) and do it all the way you want. I’m a sucker for randomness so when I came across a lost man in the middle of nowhere (near Armadillo), I was asked to please stop and help. When I approached the needy man, I quickly found myself tossed from ontop of my horse to the ground as he left me there. Lonely and humiliated I did not bother whistling for another horse (pressing up on directional pad) and instead chose to head back into Armadillo and pretend the whole thing never happened. Don’t feeling like walking? Setup camp in the middle of the desert for an opportunity to travel faster among towns.
Games you’ll play. RDR has some of the best minigames. First, I tried my hands on a Texas Hold’em tournament. The gameplay is not ideal like some online poker games mainly because of the angle of play. Everyone is dealt a hand and your view is from Marston’s eyes. So as you look at your cards in your hands, seeing the Flop is cumbersome or until you press (L1) to see them overhead. Different attire will unlock some modes for card playing. Other games include; Horseshoes, Black Jack, Five Finger Fillet, Liar’s Dice, Arm Wrestling and Poker.
Quite the Gatherer. Provisions is another aspect of Red Dead Redemption. There are approximately 40 types of animals that you can hunt. Those include; rabbits, cougars and even bears. After an animal is killed, it can be skinned, and the resulting meat or pelt can be sold or traded to merchants. Some missions will include gathering flowers and other plant life throughout the desert. Keep an eye on your radar since it will let you know when pick-able items are near. They’re identified on the map with a black and white flower icon.
Sounds of The West. If you’ve ever watched a western you know the sounds complete the experience. I was worried Rockstar would overdue the western feeling with an over abundant amount of filler to remind you that this was a western game. But the somberness which includes the faint cries of a vulture and the rustling in the weeds by a rattlesnake depict what the west was truly like. If you’ve never done it before, put your controller down for 5 minutes while standing in the middle of the desert to hear all the sounds of the wilderness just to experience the amazing sounds. Of course, what’s a western with a gun fight. The recoil from the guns in Red Dead Redemption are very realistic and sound old fashioned with a high pitch ping. And if you identified the Wilhelm Scream after killing an enemy then points for your good hearing! By far, Red Dead Redemption has the best Thunder Storm sounds of any game I’ve ever played. It’s realistic enough to make you think it’s raining outside.
Attire you’ll acquire. RDR’s costumes come with some perks. For instance, if you wear the Elegant Suit that will allow you to cheat at poker. Or befriend a Bollard Gang member wearing none other that your Bollard Gang suit of course. But not so fast. You’ll have to earn these costumes by completing some challenges along the way. Tasks include Successfully completing a Nightwatch job at MacFarlane’s ranch then win at Horseshoes at MacFarlane’s ranch are some of the jobs asked of you before purchasing the Bollard Gang suit in Thieves’ Landing. Also, changing into them near save points are your only chances to dawn your new digs.
Side Missions are worthy. When Red Dead was first announced, I prayed you could play the life of a western without going through the main story was possible. It is. If you ever wanted to use a lasso and catch criminals for rewards, you’ll want to take on missions from Wanted Posters. Like a bounty hunter, you’re asked to hunt down that criminal and either eliminate (kill) him or hogtie him (capture) and bring him back alive to the local sheriff for a higher reward. The inclusion of “Dead Eye” make any mission that requires precision shooting. To activate press “R3”. Select your targets with R1 and when you’ve put “x’s” press R2 to shoot. You’ll have a meter, so it drains quickly but using tobacco restores that right up. Horse Taming, Bull Riding, Treasure Hunting are all possible and a lot of fun. Occasionally an NPC will challenge you to a duel, at which point you can accept. Using Dead Eye you can kill the man or disarm him to wing the mission.
Join a posse online. Multiplayer mode is mixed up between Free Roam and Game types. When you enter multiplayer, you’re inserted into a random free roam room where you can play with up to 16 players. You are scattered throughout Mexico and the US during Free Roam where you can take on various missions including clearing out Gang Hideouts. Pressing the start button take you to your journal where you can try different challenges. The coolest part of Free roam are the posse’s you can join. Inviting friends to your posse is eay with the menu and allows for some co-op game play. For starters you’ll both see the same objectives and where to go on the map. You’ll also chat with your posse without holding any buttons while you in the posse. If you choose to be an outlaw, you can attack other players in a PvP style and rack up some notoriety. But becareful, you’ll soon see other players chasing you down for points of their own. The various competitive game types you can move to are:
* Shoot Out – Deathmatch, Western style. It’s you versus everyone else – try not to die. Keep an eye out for better weapons scattered across the area and use Dead Eye pickups to refill your Dead Eye meter, helping you take down enemies quickly.
* Gold Rush – Your priority is to grab as many bags of gold as you can find, and take them to the nearest chests – killing comes second. You can grab up to two bags of gold at once, but all that weight will slow you down.
* Gang Shootout – Team Deathmatch on the frontier. Work with your team to pin down enemies and rack up kill streaks.
* Hold Your Own – Infiltration and theft. Each team has a base and a bag. Steal the other team’s bag and bring it to your base. In larger areas, strategic use of horses and ballistic weapons placements will keep opponents on their toes.
* Grab The Bag – One bag, one chest, two teams. Stake your ground, and defend the chest until a bag appears. Once it arrives, grab it and take it to your base to score.
Final Thought: The genre of a Western video game has been revived thanks to Red Dead Redemption. The beautiful landscapes, the excitement of being a cowboy and great voice acting of the characters blend perfectly in this movie-made-into-game and best of all you star as the main character. For the sandbox lover, you’ll immediately appreciate all the odds and ends that make up Red Dead Redemption from the askew wooden planks that make up a building to the dynamic physics when shooting a bandit off his horse. The detail is all there. My vote for one of the best video games this year goes to Red Dead Redemption because this cowboy won’t be singing a sad song anytime soon. Congrats Rockstar!