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Platform

Xbox 360

 

Genre

Action

 

Publisher

2K Games

 

Developer

Rockstar San Diego

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

May 18, 2010

 

 

- From the excellent story and characters (along with some exceptional voice acting) to the large and diverse gaming environment, to the varied gameplay events and tasks, to the better-than-expected multiplayer, simply the best Western-themed game ever made
- Traveling by horseback, the game’s main transportation, is much improved (with far-easier-to-handle controls) from GTA’s oftentimes frustrating and difficult-to-handle motorized vehicular travel

 

 

- Has a much better multiplayer than Grand Theft Auto IV, but it’s not always easy to find a game with more than a player or two as either opponents or allies
- Some missions/tasks are too repetitive and none-to-exciting (and more like chores than entertaining gameplay), such as the escort, herding and herb/flower gathering

 

 

Review: Red Dead Revolver ((XB)

Review: GTA IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony (360)

Review: Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood (360)

 

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Red Dead Redemption

Score: 9.5 / 10

 

red dead redemption          red dead redemption

 

Throughout gaming history, the Western genre up until now hasn’t produced that instant-classic game. Instead Western-themed gaming has been more like the good, the bad, and the ugly. There have been some OK-to-good ones, like Oddworld Stranger’s Wrath and GUN. But “wild, wild West” gaming more often than not has been a dusty, tumbleweed-strewn prairie of mediocre-but-average-at-best games like Darkwatch, the Call of Juarez series or Red Dead Revolver to plain bad-

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ugly titles such as Damnation, Wild West Guns, Dead Man’s Hand and Samurai Western.

However, the instant classic has just rode into town with full guns a-blazing on a white stallion with Rockstar’s genre-defining Red Dead Redemption, which is Grand Theft Auto on horseback, with

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the turn-of-the-century American West taking the place of GTA’s modern cityscapes.

And not surprisingly, Red Dead Redemption turns out to be every bit the stellar gaming experience of the GTA franchise (and just maybe surpasses it), lassoing and hogtying down gamers with a thoroughly engaging adventure. Red Dead Redemption saddles up a great story that would feel right at home moseying in a Clint Eastwood Spaghetti Western, with cut-scenes that stand alone as great entertainment (in fact, FOX actually pieced them together rather seamlessly in a Red Dead Redemption midnight “movie” that was shown the weekend of the game’s release).

Beginning with the game’s opening, gamers become John Marston, the somewhat typical Rockstar anti-hero (although more “heroic” than most Rockstar leading men) who is being rather forcefully placed on a steam-engine train by government agents. Seems Marston is being coerced with the threat of never seeing his wife and young son again unless he goes back to his past life and takes down his former posse’s leader for the government.

 

red dead redemption          red dead redemption


Not only do gamers get the great “reluctant avenger” John Marston tale to experience (and later, yet “another” Marston story at the very end), the related Mexican revolution storyline is practically an entire game’s worth of storytelling to itself. Both intertwine for one fantastic adventure that gallops past the quality of the seemingly unsurpassable excellence of any one of GTA’s superb stories. Unlike the GTA leading guys, which because of their very background make it much easier to be a “bad guy” anti-hero, Marston is a more likable and sympathetic chap (he even turns down the many propositioning whores and their advances out of respect for his wife), so much so that gamers might decide, even subconsciously, to follow the dusty trail of the “good guy.”

But the story can only carry Red Dead Redemption so far. A great story needs to posse up with great gameplay. With developer Rockstar San Diego using the Grand Theft Auto sandbox RAGE engine, there’s an overabundance of gameplay with a ridiculous amount of characters, events and tasks – from tracking down bandits, to escorting damsels in distress, to lassoing wild horses and bronco-busting them, to hunting creatures of the West big and small, to treasure-seeking adventures, to good old-fashioned “high noon” duels.

These multitude of side missions are all complementary to the story mode that follows Marston’s quest to kill a old compatriot in order to free himself and his family from the iron fist of the government, with a side story that takes Marston into Mexico as both a agent and adversary of the Mexican government in its fight against Mexican rebels seeking independence. In the story mode, gamers will also have to learn the intricacies of card and dice games, become an expert cattle herder, and most of all, become a master of the saddle, as the majority of travel through the unbelievably immense world of Red Dead Redemption will be on horseback.


As this is a Rockstar title based on the GTA gameplay, there would inevitably be some mode of transportation at its core. But while vehicles abound in the modern setting of the preceding GTA titles, the 1911 setting of Red Dead Redemption posed a dilemma of sorts to the developers, as there were only the very first cars appearing in the turn-of-the-century West. Easy solution, though, was implementing the cowboy’s best friend his horse. Riding any of the game’s horses, that can be bought, caught or even stolen, is easy (although there is a need to watch the speed at which you push your stallion or risk being tossed and bucked off). Horses will whinny and neigh to warn gamers that they’re just about ready to launch them flying through the air and also when gamers get a bit too close to precipices and risk killing not only themselves but their steed with a high-altitude fall.

Gamers that have ever been frustrated by GTA’s very hard-to-get-used-to driving, where even the most skilled gamer behind the wheel could be all over the road with certain vehicles, will find riding Red Dead Redemption’s horses a much less difficult undertaking. And for those that just can’t wait to reach their destination, each of the game’s towns has a stagecoach for hire. Much like GTA IV’s taxis, gamers can simply hop on in a stagecoach and get ridden to their desired locale. This comes in real handy for long-distance trips, especially when traveling across the border into Mexico.

 

red dead redemption          red dead redemption


Taking its inspiration from its not-quite-predecessor Red Dead Revolver (on the PS2), Red Dead Redemption’s shooting targeting dead aim is a big help in six-gun (and the game’s many rifles and shotguns, for that matter) shooting away any adversaries. Basically, it slows down time (think Max Payne-style bullet time) while allowing gamers to target enemies many times multiple enemies at a time (and it’s really a lot of fun to use during the duels that gamers can participate in). Even without the dead aim, gamers will find Red Dead Redemption’s targeting to be very easy to control, and one can assume that is because gamers need a simple-to-use targeting mechanism when on a fast-moving horse while in the middle of a firefight situation or when hunting and big game – like the aggressive and vicious Grizzly bears is on the prowl intent on mauling a gamer.

Not all of Red Dead Redemption’s activities and missions are entertaining, however. There are plenty of tedious missions that gamers must complete, from escorting annoyingly helpless non-playable characters to herding cattle to searching for and picking herbs and flowers. But some of these activities can simply be avoided or kept to a minimum involvement if a gamer isn’t interested in completing every side quest or optional mission.

Multiplayer is a big draw for Red Dead Redemption gamers, and it is a much better online multiplayer offering than GTA IV. Gamers can go it alone and take on others in a gunfight to see who is the baddest hombre on Xbox Live, or they can join with posses to complete online missions. When there are a lot of gamers online, Red Dead Redemption is addictively satisfying. But the problem is, it was hard for me to find many online games with more than a few – if that many online cowboys shooting it out at once.

Certainly not without a few imperfections, Red Dead Redemption is almost unquestionably the best Western-themed game ever, with a great Old West story, an amazingly detailed and expansive landscape that most Rockstar sandbox games are famous for and overall engrossing gameplay that will keep gamers riding off into the sunset for dozens of hours.

- Lee Cieniawa

(July 5, 2010)

 

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