The western video game is apparently a very hard thing to make. Nearly every developer that gives it a shot falls flat on their faces. Last year, Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood changed that a bit, it being one of my most favorite games of the year, I thought it was the perfect way to make a western game. Turns out, Rockstar San Diego has proved me wrong; there’s a way to make an even better one.
In Red Dead Redemption, you play as a a sarcastic, yet shockingly lovable protagonist named John Marston. He is on a quest to catch wanted men and hopefully get back to his wife and child. I’m not for sure if it’s his actions, his writing, or his actual voice work but something about him makes me love him, although he can be a complete dick at times. Marston’s interactions between the very diverse amount of people you meet are always interesting. Will he like this guy? Will he hate this guy? Will he yell at this guy? John Marston is an unpredictable joy to play as.
The rambunctious cast of characters in Red Dead are incredible. Sometimes hilarious yet sometimes very dramatic and tell a deep story. They’re all unpredictable, from a man selling elixirs, to a man that digs up graves and talks to dead people, to a man that was once a famous outlaw. I have no idea how the brilliant writers came up with these ideas.
Being as this is from Rockstar, you expect many similarities to Grand Theft Auto IV, and they are there but it seems as if they took every complaint people had with Grand Theft Auto IV and tweaked it a bit, which in the end results in many satisfying things. Just the actual movement of your character has been tweaked enough to where you feel like you’re actually walking and don’t have a 50 pound brick on one side of your body dragging you down.
Riding a horse is something many people, including myself, was worried about going into Red Dead. I was scared that they may try and over-complicate things and make riding a horse a very tedious and annoying thing to do. They have managed to mostly stray away from that. It does take a little while to get used to riding a horse but once you do, it becomes much more enjoyable. Sadly, many of the missions (And there are many missions in this game) require you riding your horse to the area located on your map which can get old after a while.
Red Dead’s visuals are mesmerizing. There are so many picture-esque moments in it that it makes you wish the game had an in-game screenshot feature. It’s not just the environments that are beautiful, the character models are sometimes creepily good. Marston looks like a man that has definitely been through somethings in his days, but take for example the character Seth (the one that talks to dead people), it admittedly scared me a little when I saw his face. Of course there are still a few visual bugs, but that’s come to be expected in games as large as this one.
The sound design in itself of the gun is magnificent. Every weapon sounds different and they all sound just as destructive as they really are. The attention to design on the weapons is stunning as well. After firing a gun, you can see the feint smoke blow out of it while it strongly kicks back. The actual shooting isn’t too much different from Grand Theft Auto IV, though. The lock-on feature is very helpful in stressful situations, but the main thing that differentiates Red Dead’s combat is the “Dead Eye” meter. A meter that allows you to slow down time and target different parts of a person’s (or animal’s) body. This is a very great concept and the execution is perfect. I could see why people may say that this feature makes the game a little too easy but in my experience it only made the combat more intense and more satisfying.
One thing all western movies had to have to be great was a good soundtrack. Red Dead Redemption’s soundtrack is not only good, but possibly the best I have ever heard in a game. Every song placed throughout this game was beautiful. The dulcet, incredibly sweet tone of a bass guitar played correctly is all it takes to take an already great scene and make it even greater.
There’s an absolute plethora of things to do in this world. And unlike many other open-world games these days, near all of it is fun. Along the way, there’s some bland things, such as horseshoes, but the bounty hunting and just plain hunting is so fun, you get over the staleness of some of the other things spread across this beautiful land. I know I spent around 3 hours playing Poker.
Rockstar is known for its great storytelling and Red Dead Redemption is no different. The pacing and narrative for this game is so engrossing, you’ll be hooked within minutes. The many twists and turns spread through this delight of a story are all enjoyable and none of it feels half-assed. There’s a spot in the final hours where some people may be immediately turned off, I know I almost was. I can’t get into too much detail, as it would spoil the rest of the game, but the pacing slows down so quickly to show off some new characters that it makes you want to pull your hair out at times. The true end to the story makes all of that go away. That doesn’t mean that the final hours were fun to do, they weren't, but it makes them feel worth while and you’re glad you did them. Red Dead Redemption has a great ending.
Red Dead features a multiplayer feature as well. The actual 8 on 8 combat is nothing special. It has the standard leveling system that we expect all multiplayer games to have. The only real special thing is the way people start out, all in a line, one team facing the other, in a draw. Then once the game starts, all players scramble backwards while firing at the other team. It’s a very exciting start that’s for sure. The main exciting thing to be had in Red Dead’s multiplayer is the free roam mode. This is where you can get a group of people together and go about the Red Dead Redemption world causing havoc or being nice guys. My favorite thing about free roam is that it can still be fun without playing with friends. As sometimes you’ll go into a game and an actual player will be causing absolute destruction, you’ll then be assigned to take him down as he will become wanted.
Red Dead Redemption had a lot of pressure on it. It was being made by Rockstar and was a western. So people obviously got very high hopes for it. I’m happy to say that not only is Red Dead Redemption the best Rockstar game ever made, it’s one of the best third-person shooters I’ve ever played.
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