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Some enterprising individual out there will one day
modify an Xbox game case to hold those slim cheroot cigars that Clint Eastwood
made so popular in those classic spaghetti Westerns. The cheroots are really the
only things missing from Red Dead Revolver (RDR).
RDR is packed with film-inspired Western hijinks.
Not only do you shoot down various bad guys in a variety of dust-filled
environments, you also get to cause a rumpus or two at a saloon, demonstrate
your equestrian talents, and take on a
locomotive. And you don’t always play as the
titular Red (bent on revenge for the murder of his parents) – you get to control
other characters (and not always a character on the force of Good). In this way,
it could be classified as an “ensemble” game.
You don’t see too many ensemble games. Most times a game concentrates on one
specific character (e.g. Legend of Zelda = Link) but “buddy” games aren’t
uncommon (e.g. Ratchet & Clank 2 = Ratchet and Clank). Rarely do you see an
action game with as many playable characters as RDR. Some might be put off by
the seemingly random shifts to the other characters but it really did draw me
into the story (as simple as it is). In any sequel there may be more emphasis on
Red, but I, for one, did not mind the character switching. There’s too much fun
to be had!
One of RDR’s real highlights is the slick duel system that kicks for those
really dramatic gunfights. Flicking the right stick draws your weapon then time
drips by as you try to get a critical hit on your opponent. Maybe less tense
(but still satisfying), is entering Red’s “dead eye” mode, which can be
activated after you’ve dropped a number of enemies. “Dead eye” is essentially a
translation of Max Payne’s bullet-time mechanic. During the burst of slowed
time, Red can target specific body parts (depending on what kind of gun you have
equipped and how many bullets are loaded). Once time speeds up again the bullets
get fired at the targeted areas in one volley. There are equivalents for the
other playable characters, but none seem as satisfying as Red's.
Although blasting away in the open can result in some quick kills, it most often
results in a quick death. There are usually plenty of objects to take cover
behind. The actions of your character are quick and responsive – leaning out and
squeezing off a few rounds is easy – but the camera needed some fine-tuning
The right stick wholly controls the camera, when it’s not fixed to a specific
point in some areas of the game. It does nothing helpful to keep enemies in
sight and turning to face enemies that have flanked you is laboriously slow. (At
least it feels that way when you’re being shot at.) In a few instances I felt
the rising bile of frustration reaching into my fingers. You know, the kind of
frustration where you quick-draw the control at the farthest wall.
If you were expecting a Western version of Grand Theft Auto you’ll be seriously
disappointed. RDR isn’t just one big, open mesa alive with random country folk
and roaming bandits. It’s much more funneled. You progress from level to level,
stitched together with various plot points, in a linear manner. Surprisingly,
replaying a level (trying to score a better ranking) manages to be fun (aside
from the occasionally annoying camera), so there is the capacity for replay,
particularly if you fondly remember the classic Gunsmoke for the Nintendo
There is multiplayer available, too. Sadly, lacking any real friends and because
RDR doesn’t support any Live features (besides Live Aware) I gave short shrift
to the multiplayer modes. I concentrated on the single-player component –
collecting bounties, and unlocking levels and new weapons, etc.
In the presentation department, graphics and audio is good. Neither will blow
you away but they combine to create a very good Western mood. (Like I said, all
that’s missing is the cheroots.) There’s a spot or two of stuttering, but only
the truly anal-retentive will be upset by it.
Is Red Dead Revolver the penultimate Western-themed game? No, but it is good
one, worthy of a rental at the least to see how the slick quick-draw duel system
works or if you’re a fan of the Clint Eastwood Westerns.