WANTED Dead or Alive – My review of Red Dead Redemption

We all loved Rockstar’s famed Grand Theft Auto series; open-worlds filled with people, cars and let’s not forget hookers who give refunds the hard way. Now one day some guy called Josh Needleman walked into Rockstar HQ and decided he wanted to take the GTA series and scale it back a hundred years or so, an thus in 2004, gave birth to Red Dead Revolver, the first game in the Red Dead series. In 2009 Rockstar officially announced a sequel to the western themed, open-world sandbox titled Red Dead Redemption.

JohnmarstonRed Dead Redemption takes place in the year 1911 during the decline of the American Frontier. You play as John Marston, a hardy ex-bandit who has been ordered by the government to seek out his former brothers in arms and bring them to justice. Why must he do this? Because the government have taken his wife and son hostage until he completes his task. If John fails, he dies. If John doesn’t conform, his family die. His only choice is to do what he is told, through whatever means necessary, and bring his former companions back, dead or alive.

The main storyline is huge and covers most of the playable area, visiting the major towns and villages, giving you money to spend on anything your heart desires, meeting all of the characters, as dark or as colourful as they come. As huge as the storyline may be, it can seem to get a little strung out in places and feel repetitive, much like its modern day brother, Grand Theft Auto IV, just when you think it is over something else comes along and adds a few more hours of gameplay, to some it could be a blessing but to others it can be a curse.

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The environment is huge and expansive, allowing the player to roam freely from the deepest canyons to the highest hill tops, spanning across two continents and eight towns with many locations in between. Following the theme set by its predecessor and the Grand Theft Auto series, Red Dead Redemption limits the player to certain areas until they have completed an appropriate mission or task. Through exploring the map the player can discover areas of beauty or dismay and meet people of all backgrounds, whether it is for a random encounter mission, a quick chat or a hunting contest, sometimes you might even pass by a holdup on the roadside.

Detailed RDR Map
Full map complete with legend.

There is much to do in the world of Red Dead Redemption, from games of horseshoes to a quick draw challenge, maybe even strike lucky and find treasure. Picture me this, you’re walking through town when some feller comes over and says his friend is bouts to be hanged and you gots to go help him, this is something that can occur every once in a while. If not that scenario then maybe you spot an innocent man being held up at the road side, you stop to help out and he also pulls a gun on you, you’ve been tricked and now you have to fight to bring these thugs to their judgement, in life or in death. The world is interactive in every way and even after the story is complete, there will always be stuff to do.

Example of basic weapons
Example of basic weapons

There are many weapons to choose from that can help aid John in his mission to save his family, sometimes given to you by key characters or bought from the local gunsmith and ammo is usually something you need not worry too much over, you can pretty much find it everywhere and is best found off a dead man’s hide.

If not by horse or foot you still other means of transportation. Each of the main towns have a carriage service which allow you to fast travel between certain areas, for a small fee of course, though if you’re feeling tight fisted you can always walk out of town and set up a small campfire. Campfires are pretty basic unless you buy the Improved Campsite from any General Store, though either campfire allow you to fast travel making being stranded a thing of ease, campfires can do more than fast travel though. If you decide to stay the night under the stars then you have other options to choose from, be it making ammo, sleeping until morning or saving your game without needing to visit a safe house.

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I found the combat system to be a tad iffy upon my first play through, though as I progressed further into the story I began to get the hang of it, I was shooting buzzards out of the skies in no time. Weapon selection is a task done with great ease, allowing you to choose your weapons easily even while in the heat of combat. Like most games, Red Dead Redemption utilizes a cover based protection system giving the game that spaghetti western feel you’d expect from a Clint Eastwood film, sliding in and out of cover, jumping over rocks and even kicking down doors. Sometimes you may come across various objects that may aid you in taking down whatever vicious criminals you are facing, most gang hideouts having dynamite crates which can be detonated with a single shot from your rifle.

An example of cover based combat
An example of cover based combat

Red Dead Redemption has always been a favourite of mine in the current generation of games, mainly for its beautiful landscapes, deep, meaningful storyline or its immense combat system, though not all games are perfect, though Red Dead Redemption has little flaws in my opinions. The biggest flaws for me are mostly graphics. The thing that annoys me most is night time as it is pretty much the same as the day just with a star-lit sky and the moon. Who needs a torch when you can see everything, even snakes in the tall grass perfectly? The second graphic flaw for me – and I know I’m being a stickler here – is the sky, during the day the clouds seem painted on and static, even though I know they move and how it is hard to create a believable sky in video games, the night sky is worse as it is rarely cloudy unless raining and it’s lit up like the fourth of July. As I said, I’m being a stickler.

Would I recommend Red Dead Redemption? Yes. Yes I would, mainly for its unique gameplay and amazing storyline, let’s not forget the amazing twists witnessed though out the entire game, but the amazingness doesn’t stop there, there is the beautiful world, the great characters, the arsenal of weaponry, the fields of horses, the dead-eye quick draws, the finger chopping board games, the daring shootouts and trying to walk while drunk! There is so much more I could say this game is worth playing for, but I guess at this point you should try it out for yourself, and then maybe tell me some of the things I have missed out!

If you don’t think my review is enough to win you over then check out the critic scores which averaged scores of 95/100 from Metacritic, 94% from GameRankings and 9.3/10 from GameStats, making Red Dead Redemption the highest rated video game of all time!

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