reviews\ May 20, 2010 at 8:00 pm

Red Dead Redemption review


One of the true success stories of the decade, Rockstar Games has become one of the most beloved game developers of all time. Now, the studio responsible for the landmark Grand Theft Auto franchise has made magic happen again with its sandbox take on the Western genre, Red Dead Redemption. A sequel that bears little resemblance to the original Red Dead Revolver, Redemption is a fantastic game with great production values, solid gameplay, and tons of content that any gamer will enjoy.

Red Dead Redemption puts you in the shoes of a reformed criminal named James Marston, who is trying to get his life back on track. Unfortunately, his former allies have different ideas, threatening his family and forcing him to take on his former gang members and their leader, Bill Williamson. You’ll meet many people on your journey, some of which will help or hinder your pursuits. Your quest will take you all around the vast state of New Austin, which is as expansive as they come.

The game gives you a choice on how to build your character’s standing in the community. You can choose to go the good path, building up a positive honor rating by helping out innocent people who are in need of your services, or opt to go the bad route by becoming an infamous criminal to get what you want. Depending on your chosen path, you will receive different missions to complete, opening up the replayability of the game immensely.

Earning honor is done in a variety of different ways. One way to earn positive honor points is by taking down your bounties and your enemies non-lethally, be it by using your lasso to take them down and hogtie them, or even by shooting the gun out of their hand so they’re no longer a threat to you. Additionally, you can help out random people that you meet throughout the game, rescuing them from an attack and earning a small amount of money as thanks and some honor. Aside from the honor gauge, performing missions and tasks will grant you a fame rating as well, as more people throughout New Austin will begin to hear your name and of your exploits.

Rockstar has always succeeded with when it comes to creating a living, breathing sandbox for players to explore, and Red Dead Redemption definitely does not disappoint in this regard. The sheer amount of activity taking place in the game is astounding, as NPCs have their own stuff to deal with, often requiring you to step in and intervene, either positively or villainously. As in Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto series, law enforcement plays a crucial role in the environment, and will step in should you start getting a little too rough on those around you. Witnesses, which can be silenced through bribery or more violent means, will run to the local sheriff or marshal and report your actions, and you might even see wanted posters up calling for your capture.

Players will never find themselves lacking in something to do in Red Dead Redemption. You’ll always have a great amount of side-quests to take on outside of the main campaign. You can bust up gang hideouts, go bounty hunting, have shootouts with people in duels, and take on many odd jobs in order to earn extra money and fame. As you complete objectives, you’ll also be able to unlock new outfits, which will grant you specific boosts - including the ability to cheat at cards and so on.

There is a variety of mini-games for players who just want to horse around as well (pun not intended). You can play horseshoes, gamble, break wild horses, or go hunting or gathering flowers and other flora. You can find new horses to break in, including some rare ones that will grant you some nice travel boosts. Stagecoaches can be used to get from one area to another quickly, should you not want to take your horse. What the developers where able to accomplish in this regard is truly a feat, as there is never a dearth of content in Red Dead Redemption.

The combat feels a lot more fluid and well made than the system in Grand Theft Auto IV. You can still take cover behind rocks and other objects in the environment, and the game’s weaponry is robust, including a variety of rifles, handguns, sniper rifles, and even Gatling guns to take out your foes. The finicky auto-aim feature has been replaced with one that still gives you assists, but is not nearly as limiting. Additionally, the Dead Eye feature from Red Dead Revolver has returned, allowing you to slow down time in order to get off a better shot at your enemies. There is a gauge on the HUD that decreases when you use Dead Eye, which replenishes over time as well as when you kill enemies.

If the single-player doesn’t keep you entertained (and it will), Red Dead Redemption offers a robust multiplayer element that will keep you coming back time and time again. There are online free-for-alls and team-based game modes as well, each beginning with a Mexican stand-off. However, the real meat of the online component comes from the Free Roam mode, which could be a separate game in its own right. In Free Roam, you’re able to hop online with some friends and form a posse, taking on other gangs in online skirmishes, busting into their hideouts and taking them out. The scope of the multiplayer element is fantastic, and a great way to eat up time if you’re a multiplayer fanatic.

Graphically, Red Dead Redemption looks phenomenal. The environment is astoundingly created, and the character models are very impressive. While there are some graphical quirks and bugs here and there, including framerate hiccups, they do little to detract from how great this game looks. The sound is also very impressive. Rockstar’s industry-defining production values come into full form here, with a tightly written script and fantastically performed dialogue. The music, while sparse, does an excellent job of setting the pace and overall theme for the action.

With tons of content both online and off, stellar production values, and solid gameplay, Red Dead Redemption is an absolute blast to play, and a time-consuming one at that. Be prepared to dump a lot of time into this one, which stands as one of the best games of the year, and certainly the best Western-themed game you can find.


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