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Playstation 3



Action Adventure



Rockstar Games



Rockstar San Diego



M (Mature)



May 18, 2010



- Excellent story and voice acting
- Big "sandbox" gameplay suits the Western setting perfectly
- Smooth controls across the board
- Plenty to do both in single player and multiplayer



- A few minor historical inaccuracies here and there
- Slight texture cracking on interior walls
- Trees and grass don't always look right



Review: Red Dead Redemption (360)

Review: Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City (PS3)

Review: Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard (PS3)



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Red Dead Redemption

Score: 9.5 /10


red dead redemption          red dead redemption


If there's any genre that I enjoy more than sci-fi or fantasy, it's the Western. Growing up, I was surrounded by the history of the Old West, from the source of my first name to the stretch of Chisholm Trail that ran through my grandmother's farm in Nebraska. On top of that, I saw a lot of Western movies starting at a young age, from the classic John Wayne action movies to the goofy comedy of Blazing Saddles to the more contemporary works of Tom Selleck and Sam Elliot. In short, I know a good Western when I see it. While the game space hasn't had a lot of Western-themed titles, the ones that do pop up are usually pretty good. Red Dead




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Redemption joins the ranks of those titles and makes it clear that it is the fastest gun in the West.

Rockstar San Diego clearly put in a lot of work to make the game appear as much of a living world as possible. More importantly, they went to the trouble of making sure that the setting felt historically accurate even if the area and events within


it were entirely fictitious. This shows up in the architecture of the towns the player rides into, the countryside that you ride through, and the various firearms that are used to dispatch varmints of the four-legged and two-legged varieties. There are a few fine details outside of the excellently directed cutscenes which add a cinematic feel to the game, such as blood spatter on a camera lens.

Here and there, usually on interior walls, you'll find some texture cracking. There are certain outdoor locations where leaves or grasses seem pixelated, almost like you're looking through a piece of screen door instead of plants. Aside from these quibbles, the overall graphics quality in RDR is top flight.

If the graphics are well done, the audio is almost flawless. Ambient sounds aren't just ear candy, they're a vital component which warns you that critters are about to kill your horse out from under you, bushwhackers are taking pot shots at you, and the train whose tracks you're using to cross into Mexico is coming up to run you over. The music for the game feels like a lost movie score from Ennio Moricone, from the shortest pieces to the longest.

The dialogue feels natural and realistic, and there were several instances where I could have skipped a boring wagon ride from Point A to Point B, but let it run because the give and take between the main character and the other characters was just so damned entertaining. More importantly, the dialogue helps move the story along, whether it's the short side story after meeting a random stranger in the desert or the sweeping epic of the main storyline. This game is the perfect example of how to do voice acting right.

The only complaint I have about the audio was a single sound glitch starting up the game one time, which was irksome since I missed out on some dialogue, but restarting the game took care of that problem quite handily.


red dead redemption          red dead redemption

It's tempting to chalk up RDR's gameplay as “GTA with horses,” but that doesn't really do the game justice. It's perhaps more accurate to say that this is the sort of game Sam Peckinpah would have made. Set in the fictional territory of New Austin, the player's alter ego John Marston has to deal with the remnants of his outlaw past and the crooked feds holding his future hostage, and it more often than not means dealing in lead.

Along the way, he meets up with corrupt army officers, gunslingers, Mexican revolutionaries, paranoid ranchers, embittered Indians, snake oil salesmen, cannibals, grave robbers, and more outlaws than there are bullets in his guns. It's a stark and gritty view of the Old West in its last days: the march of technology and "civilization" slowly pushing out the frontier spirit and the farmers, the difference between a hero and a villain defined as much by why a man pulls the trigger as who gets shot.

As you might imagine, there's a lot of gunplay in the game and getting that right was clearly a high priority for the developers. The single dot targeting reticule serves perfectly well for lining up shots, though the bullet placement occasionally leaves a little bit to be desired. The two sniper rifles in the game, which naturally use a different reticule, feel a bit clumsy and the crosshairs are perhaps a little thicker than would have been in real life. The game's lasso also feels a little clumsy, and is a bit slower than the other weapons available, but it's a vital component of the game that you learn to pick up after a few hours practice. The “Dead Eye” mechanic helps out a lot in situations where pinpoint accuracy is called for, though it's second iteration is one that can lead to unfortunate (albeit hilarious) results.

If one gets bored running around and fighting outlaws, there are other diversions. Along with the obligatory poker (Texas Hold'em only) and blackjack, players can score some extra cash playing Liar's Dice, testing their reflexes and memory with Five-Finger Fillet, or their brute strength in arm wrestling. Horsebreaking jobs are found in a couple of places, and it's easy to get back up on the horse if it throws you in the corral. If you're looking to unlock the best horses in the game, though, you're going to have to go out into the boonies, find them, break them, and ride back into town. I think there was a missed opportunity in the game by not letting players break wild horses and run a string of them back to town instead of always having to ride just one horse. There aren't a whole lot of vehicles in the game, but there are some missions at outlaw hideouts where you have to drive a wagon back to town without getting yourself killed or busting up the wagon in the process. If breaking horses or gambling gets old, you can always go out hunting wild game, pick herbs and flowers, or go treasure hunting.

Should you want to take a break from the single player game, the multiplayer options are quite satisfying, particularly with the recently released “Outlaws To The End” DLC pack that came out. I kind of wish there'd been the same sort of variety as far as the outlaw hideout missions in single player go that came with the DLC, but there's so much stuff to be doing that it's a minor quibble. Another minor quibble goes to the historical accuracy of a couple of the weapons in the game. While the game is set in 1911, and the array of weapons is certainly consistent with that time period, the only thing that's really off about them is the ammo capacity of a couple revolvers and repeating rifles. That, and the fact there's no option for a single shotgun blast out of the LeMat revolver. Still, if those are the worst offenses of historical inaccuracy, Rockstar San Diego is doing better than some Western movies out there.

As a fan of the Western, Red Dead Redemption hits its target squarely. Perfection may be impossible, but this game gets closer than most, and it sets a new standard for the Western game genre.


- Axel Cushing

(July 9, 2010)


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