Review: Red Dead Redemption
Red Dead Redemption is Rockstar's spiritual successor to the 2004 title Red Dead Revolver, and is the second title in the franchise. However, it can safely stand on its own. Hot off GTA IV, Rockstar has now turned its attention to the wild west. Can the studio achieve the levels of success here as it did with its GTA series?
- Worth The Time?Yes, mostly. Definitely if you loved GTA IV though.
- Things LovedThe immense variety, the massive scope, the action, the entertaining multiplayer, the story, setting and characters.
- Things HatedThe boring gameplay sections, the painfully slow pacing, the same gameplay flaws in GTA IV returning, the fact that the game can really feel like GTA IV in the wild west, finding a game online can be a pain.
- RecommendationIf you're a fan of Rockstar's work, there's little doubt that you'll love this game and your money will be well spent. However, if you did not like GTA IV, there is definitely a likely chance that you will not enjoy this.
- Name: Red Dead Redemption
- Genre: Action Adventure
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: Online (2-16 players)
- Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360
- Developer: Rockstar
- Publisher: Rockstar Games
- Price: R599
- Reviewed On: PS3
If you’ve had any experience or play time with Grand Theft Auto IV, then there really isn’t that much to say about Red Dead Redemption that you won’t be able to relate to. Essentially, Grand Theft Auto IV has taken a trip down time travel lane, and has landed up in the era where cowboys, revolvers and horses are the “in” thing. You take on the role of cowboy outlaw John Marston, who is taken away from his wife and child by government agents and tasked with taking down the leaders of his former gang. If he succeeds in doing this, his family will be returned to him. The premise of the plot is simple, but as you’d expect from Rockstar, there are plenty of interesting twists and turns to keep the story intriguing, and you’ll meet more than enough wackos along the way to keep things entertaining.
However, the problem is that Red Dead Redemption shipped over quite a number of glaring flaws from GTA IV, and often it can feel like reliving a nightmare, just in a different looking kind of place. With the story and game structure, the issue is the pacing. The game starts off so slow that you can sometimes feel as though you’re going in reverse. Admittedly, Red Dead Redemption picks up a lot quicker than GTA IV, but then you factor in the annoyingly boring tutorials and suddenly you’re back at square one. It really does well, just like GTA IV, to prolong all the fantastic parts of the game with tedious, repetitive, boring and slow paced sections beforehand.
But say what I will, there is no denying that Red Dead Redemption is a damn fine game. The single player campaign will take you roughly 20 hours to complete the main story missions, and that’s excluding all the mischief and other stuff you can get up to in the massive game world. The characters, setting and music are all brilliantly portrayed and executed and Red Dead Redemption is, overall, top notch in all aspects. It’s also a massive time vacuum, because even after playing through the rewarding single player until you’ve either completed it fully or gotten sick of it, there is still the awesome multiplayer mode waiting for you. Fundamentally, the biggest gripes I have with this game are basically the same gut wrenching flaws from GTA IV being carried over to what is actually an excellent title – one of the finest in sandbox gaming.
Red Dead Redemption needs little explanation in the gameplay area, even less if you have experience with GTA IV. You’re placed into a gigantic world and left to your own devices, free to take on main missions, jack around, do side quests, explore or just do cool stuff for cool stuff’s sake. The gameplay structure is practically identical to GTA IV and so is the feel of the gameplay. You’ll take main missions from quest givers marked on your map and side missions from the various towns and people you come across on your journey. However, what’s admirable about Red Dead Redemption is just how extraordinarily diverse the game world is. There is simply an enormous amount of things to do and see, and this is definitely one of the most immersive sandbox games around, one where you can spend hours and hours on end just doing anything and everything.
There is a massive variety in activities to get involved in. To name a few, you can pursue enemies with bounties on their heads, and capture them dead or alive for reward, you can take on dozens of in-game challenges to up your ranking, you can play a host of mini games, such as poker, shoot up entire armies of bandits, take part in horse racing, challenge certain targets to cowboy duels, and just so much more. The game is literally packed with things to do, but unfortunately, like GTA IV, not all of them are fun, and this is where the problem comes in. There are lots of time wasting events, irritating and boring missions and, ultimately, Red Dead Redemption has just adopted a lot of GTA IV’s stupidity. Again, while it’s not nearly as bad as GTA IV, which even attempted to distract you from actually playing the game with activities like letting you watch television, the problems exist, and they really blend together with the issue of pacing. The game is slow paced and there is a chance you’ll get bored before it starts to pick up and become exciting. But once you get into it, it might be quite difficult to get out.
A big part of the problem is that Red Dead Redemption is essentially GTA IV in the wild west. This is definitely evident, problematically, when you consider movement and horses. A large portion of the game is spent riding them around to get to places, in between all the cutscenes and other mission requirements, and controlling them can be irritating and boring. The distances between places are often huge, and riding a horse there takes a fair bit of time. To make your horse sprint, you have to tap the run button continuously, and if this isn’t annoying enough, horses have stamina bars that decrease rapidly as you sprint, and if they run out your horse throws you off. So you basically have to repeatedly slow down once the bar gets low, wait a few seconds for it to recharge and start running again. It’s really pointless. While on the ground, you also have to rapidly tap the run button to sprint, which is again annoying, and movement is still as clunky as ever, with reference to jumping and sprinting there.
I perfectly understand that I might be sounding very nitpicky right now, and that you can use the quick transports available in the game to get to places instantly for a price, but the point I’m trying to illustrate is that Rockstar have brought back a lot of the same irritations from GTA IV, and as for the quick travel system, that defeats the purpose of having a huge game world somewhat. Then you get some more pointless elements like buying weapons for example, because, well, they’re expensive and you get them for free constantly from enemies, so there is no worry there. It’s things like these that are simply “there”, but have no impact on the game whatsoever and there isn’t much incentive to try them out. However, I guess having too much in your game can’t really be a bad thing, especially if they’re all optional, and it is admirable that Red Dead Redemption is loaded with so much solid content.
I’ve said a lot of bad things about Red Dead Redemption, but that’s only because they have to be said, and I’m trying to get the point across that if you didn’t enjoy GTA IV, there is a good chance that you won’t enjoy this. Also, there are the many gameplay irritations, and while they’re not really game breaking, they do get in the way. However, there are many, many areas where this game shines above the rest and many areas where it performs brilliantly. A definite step up is with the action and third person shooting. You’re able to select your weapon from a radial select menu in real time, and you’ll have a range of pistols, revolvers, rifles, shotguns and cool cowboy tools, like a lasso, at your disposal. Aiming is done over the shoulder style, and you can perform dodge rolls and snap to cover with a very easy and functional cover system. There’s an auto aim feature, where tapping the aim button will lock on to the nearest enemy, and this makes it really easy to bring down multiple enemies in quick succession.
Furthermore, there is the Dead Eye ability, that is governed by a rechargeable bar, which is basically bullet time with a twist. The colour on screen will distort into a bright orange, and a rushing wind sound will fill your ears. It has an awesome feel to it, especially as you mark your targets around you by moving your crosshair over them, and then executing multiple shots to bring them all down. It really makes you feel like a bad ass gungslinger. However, perhaps the only real problem with the combat, and also with the game in general, is that it’s not very challenging. With the Dead Eye ability and auto aim, the game is mostly easy, and even though you’ll die a couple of times in certain sections, you won’t find a tough challenge here. The majority of the time you won’t even need to use the cover system at all. Still, overall, the action in the game is immensely enjoyable.
Perhaps the greatest thing about Red Dead Redemption is the game world itself. Despite all my grievances, I have to hand it to Rockstar, they definitely know how to craft absolute brilliance. Without even considering the sheer scale and scope of the world, you can easily acknowledge how amazing it is from its content, variety and depth. The setting superbly captures the wild west theme, and taking a couple of good looks at the game world will welcome your eyes to what sandbox gaming can achieve in the creation of a living, breathing world. The game looks and feels stunning, plays perfectly smoothly and both the visuals and sound work are fantastic. Only a few, minor graphical and technical hiccups mar an otherwise gorgeous game.
The single player is just the beginning, after all, as once you’re done with that, there are the online cooperative and competitive multiplayer modes, which cater for up to 16 players, to get involved in. They’re a mix of team deathmatch modes, free-for-alls, shootouts, capture the flag type modes – and all of them can also be played in hardcore, which alters key gameplay settings. These modes are great fun, despite being rather typical, and will keep you solidly entertained. However, the best multiplayer mode is definitely Free Roam. This mode is so diverse that it can actually feel like a whole new game on its own. Basically, this is a type of multiplayer lobby, where up to 16 players can hop into one game world and then cause chaos and explore the whole single player map – which is huge. You can create little teams, introduce the other players’ faces to the barrel of your gun, just cause mindless mayhem, work as a team to take down forts and bandits, complete challenges or simply just explore the game world and see what there is out there for you. It’s hard not to love it, even if finding a game can sometimes prove to be difficult. Your best bet is to invite your friends to your games or get invited by them into their games.
As you play, you’ll earn experience points, which will level up your character and unlock special goodies such as new character models, modes, and better horses. Overall, the multiplayer is certainly no slouch, and doesn’t feel tacked on at all, but rather like a full on, complete and enjoyable addition to the game. The Free Roam mode is definitely where it shines and, coupled together with everything else, there is a fat lot of hours to spend playing Red Dead Redemption. You really are getting your money’s worth with Rockstar’s latest cowboy adventure, and, just like any good game, the hours you pour into it will ultimately feel very rewarding.
Red Dead Redemption is a truly great game from Rockstar. It’s unfortunate that the game is plagued by many of GTA IV’s shortcomings and mistakes, but, regardless, what we have here is definitely one of the best sandbox games around. There’s a powerful single player campaign to get through and waiting for you after that is the diverse and enjoyable multiplayer. Red Dead Redemption is both time and money well spent, and the most likely candidate who can’t go wrong buying this game is the one who loves Rockstar and had a blast with GTA IV. If not, there is still a very good chance that Red Read Redemption will deliver the goods.