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Red Dead Redemption 360 Review - -

Gameplay 9.9
Graphics 9.5
Sound 9.5
Value 10
Distributor: Rockstar
Review Date:
May 2010
Andrew Bistak


Red Dead Redemption


I’ve had a hankering for some good old fashioned Wild West action for quite some time and unfortunately nothing has filled my thirst since the 1997 game by Lucasarts called Outlaws. Don’t get me wrong, there have been a few contenders over the years but nothing as memorable… until now. That’s right my fellow cowboys and cowgirls, Rockstar have created the penultimate Wild West game called Red Dead Redemption that finally allows us to live our cowboy fantasies and anything more engaging, I’d be wiping the dust from clothes after my gaming sessions. Some critics have mentioned parallels to the Grand Theft Auto series and although both share certain elements, Red Dead Redemption is entirely its own game that happens to be one of the best designed games all year. For me, the only real comparison with GTA is that they both use the same engine and that my outlaws and peacemakers is already a winning formula!


The Good The most realistic and entertaining Western sandbox experience ever!
The Bad Getting side tracked from the main story, hunting, collecting bounties, horse wrangling, poker... <two hours later>, exploring, helping strangers, mini-games... <another two hours> then getting back on track.
The Ugly Playing the Good, the Bad and THE UGLY!
Verdict Put on your cowboy hats and lock yourself away for a very... very long time! Red Dead Redemption creates the perfect and most interactive 3D Western world ever!

You’re probably wondering what all this hoopla is about? To cut a long story short, Red Dead Redemption (RDR) revolves around John Marston, a former outlaw who has apparently turned over a new leaf and has been given the task by the government to bring his old gang in. Unfortunately things go awry and without spoiling this intricately written story, Marston is left for dead outside the Wild West town of Armadillo. Found by the daughter of a rancher, Bonnie MacFarlane, Marston is nursed back to health, thanks to their country style of hospitality and from that point on, your journey begins as either a peacemaker, outlaw or something entirely in between.

That is the beauty of RDR that you can really customise your alignment and if you get sick of it, throw it out the window and try another tact. You have a fame and an honour bar in the game which influence how people react to you and unlike other third person action games, RDR is as dynamic as possible, not just a static story driven experience. In relation to the story, it is setup extremely well from the start and is almost a commentary about the life of John Marston and how this “relic” or “savage” has no real place in the “civilized” world. That's one of the reasons why I found Marston such a treat to play, he's a no bulls**t sort of a guy!

Like Grand Theft Auto IV, Red Dead Redemption is a sandbox game that contains one central story but with hundreds of side quests and mini-games and of course an almost 100% interactive Western World. Depending on the type of person you wish to play, this will effect how certain missions are played out that opens up the game for another interpretation, a second time around. Missions are quite plentiful in the game and whether its trying to find a boy lost in the wild or helping the Sheriff track down a vile outlaw, variety is definitely the spice of life in this game.

As mentioned, RDR contains a plethora of mini-games from poker where you can actually make money to shooting wild dogs or birds and it’s these little things that make the world of RDR so damn enjoyable. This however does cause a problem with the main story because it's difficult not to get side tracked... not that I'm complaining and if you want serious value for money, then this game is it. With getting side tracked, one little annoyance is that I wanted to know more about the back history of Marston and you only get snippets of it.

Thankfully, the game contains quite a few checkpoints should you fail a mission and to save the game, you just need to find a room, make a camp and go to sleep which lets you sleep for six hours. Early on in the game, you can have a small house at the MacFarlane Ranch and you can purchase or rent additional places later that offers you more “safe houses” and these are definitely needed in bandit infested Mexico. Even though the world of RDR is huge, it is neatly divided to prevent the gamer from being overwhelmed and even though you easily make your way from point A to B by stage coaches, saving or other means... it's just as satisfying to ride your horse.

The control system is mapped well on the 360 controller with the main controls being the left analog stick to control Marston, the right for the camera, A to run, X to jump and the shoulder buttons for combat. But what would a Wild West game be without the ability to ride a horse or drive a wagon? Horses play an integral part in the game and there are quite a few missions with these beasts in it. The horse riding aspect of the game is simplicity at its best and all you need to do is approach a horse, press Y and then press A to start moving. By pushing A again, it will move the horse from a gallop to run and if you keep on pushing A, the horse will run faster but eventually it will get sick of you and buck you off. Rockstar have also simplified riding with others and by holding A down on the controller, it will allow your horse to match the speed of the person you are following which streamlines this process perfectly. It will take a few moments to get use to the horses handling but once you do, there are no real issues with riding, expect that horses cannot move backwards and sometimes slide down mountains. A small bug but nothing major. To navigate in the world of RDR, there is a handy radar which highlights important places to visit and also displays your waypoints and the like.

Combat. Nothing is more satisfying than using your six shooters to blow your fellow outlaws to kingdom come and combat can take place almost anywhere in the game, whether riding a horse, crouching behind a rock and a few unexpected places that I don’t want to spoil to those wanting to the play the game. The game contains a healthy amount of weaponry available which can either be purchased or looted from your enemies and thankfully, ammunition is littered throughout the gaming world. When you do draw your weapons, a small dot appears on the screen which you need to manoeuvre to your intended target and then press fire. A head shot will incapacitate your enemy immediately, whereas a body or leg shot only wounds them. For those harder battles, the game contains a Wild West version of bullet-time and by pushing down on the left analog stick while your gun is cocked, it will activate this power that is definitely handy when you’re outnumbered or trying to make those skilled shots. Great for duels or rescuing citizens.

I even shocked myself in the game when I accidentally shot a cattle rustler in the head at point blank. The moral of the story? You shoot to kill! As mentioned earlier on, Red Dead Redemption uses an alignment system that can make you either famous or infamous which depends on the type of deeds that you do. I’m a sucker for the goody two shoes Clint Eastwood character, so apart from that accidental kill, I was a good guy for the majority of the game... although it did become blurred in Mexico. There is a "law" system in the game and if you are bad, you will become an Outlaw, just like the wanted system in GTA. When this happens, you either need to kill the lawmakers after you or attempt to flee and hide until your wanted meter goes from red to white. If you do have a bounty on your head, this can be cleared by payment or a pardon letter.

You might be wondering what the completion time of RDR is? That my friends depends on how involved you want to be and although with a minimal amount of distraction, you could safely finished this game in around 20 or so hours, however if you want the true experience, give yourself anywhere around 40+ hours. Once I knew I was getting close to the finale of John Marston, I slowed down and went exploring, meeting new strangers and once again getting lost in this amazing world. But even when it does finish, you can jump online for some great multiplayer matches from traditional death matches to my favourite, the free roam that lets you engage in a more holistic experience. The online experience was just as competent as the single-player but more-so when you defeat real players.

Thanks to the gaming engine, everything in the world of Red Dead Redemption has been meticulously created from the smallest attention of detail to larger than life landmarks or realistic weather conditions. The characters in the game are well designed and contain the regalia of what you would expect to see in the Wild West, whether it’s the working girls at the Saloon or the different outfits that John can purchase, it's been perfectly implemented. The characters move quite realistically as do the horses and although sometimes they run into things which looks a little odd, overall the animation is quite strong. The texture details look quite impressive such as the realistic hair on the horses and some of the facial features of the characters which is more evident during the in-game cutscenes. The developers have really used the lighting to their advantage such as the approaching sunset or how everything becomes quite dark and brooding when a storm is coming. Then again, the next time you awake, it might be a beautiful and sunny day in the town of Armadillo and the old analogy of expected the unexpected rings very true in this title.

The soundtrack has been inspired from all the Western movies that have come out of Hollywood and is initially quite ambient, unlike other console games that use a more inspired Spaghetti Western soundtrack. The music changes tact throughout the game, especially when you reach Mexico that brought a smile to my face. Interestingly enough, the voice acting is not very clichéd or over the top which I was actually expecting from a Rockstar game. It’s all above board and can be quite serious at times, although the Sheriff’s deputy was royally giving me the s%@'s from his inbred holler. At times, you can have fun with the voice acting but thankfully, this more serious tact makes the game more compelling as an overall story, without the need for too much carry on.

Red Dead Redemption is easily and will probably be the best game of 2010 and the developers should be commended on the amazing attention to detail. It's the little things that stand out that truly make this an amazing interactive experience and although John Marston is the main character, it's up to the gamer to make the game what they want. That's the beauty of Red Dead Redemption that no matter how many thousands of people play it, each experience will be uniquely and solely different. That is something not many games can do and Red Dead Redemption does it well. Reviews really can't do this game justice, so what are you waiting for? Put on your cowboy hat and start riding!


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