Platform: 360 (PS3)
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Developer: Rockstar San Deigo
Review by: Kevin Haverty
The Western is a dying genre. Kids aren’t outside playing Cowboys & Indians anymore. Western films have been few and far between, and recent ones haven’t been given wide releases. Unless of course, we count the recent adaption of Jonah Hex, but that crapfest would hurt the case for the Western.
A great reflection of society’s one time love for the Wild West and current disinterest in it could be summed up with Woody’s plight in the Toy Story series. Thankfully Rockstar dug up the Red Dead Revolver franchise and crafted an amazing Western experience with it in Red Dead Redemption.
Gamers take control of John Marston, a former outlaw who must track down and kill members of his former posse to save his family. And he is quite the puzzle, opting to take requests from locals amidst his ongoing manhunt.
John’s charm makes him more likable than the usual protagonist in Rockstar’s games, but it is almost to a fault. As his rough past is learned, it makes his present-day self looks like a pushover, unless the player is all the way down on the Rod Blagojevich side of the games morality system.
Graphically the game is beautiful and sells the desolate aspects of the Wild West really well. Riding between some towns gives a view of the isolation of the times. While traveling, John gets approached by locals asking for his help in a quick little sidequest, or they may have other plans for him. These short quests help boost John’s status towards his inevitable redemption.
At first, the requests are a little disorientating, usually resulting in someone’s death. After a few tries, things get easier as being a hero has a learning curve. Riding on the horse trails across the map is a fun experience and the well placed checkpoints make Red Dead Redemption much more enjoyable than the frustrating Grand Theft Auto IV.
The soundtrack is top notch and fits in well to the world created here. At first it isn’t very noticeable, as it blends in really well. The influence of Ennio Marricone bleeds through and fits the game to perfection. Rob Wietoff does a fantastic job giving Maston his voice. It is unfortunate that some of the supporting characters weren’t so lucky when they were cast.
Like every other sandbox game, Red Dead Redemption has its share of side games to help make money. Card games like Blackjack and Texas Hold ‘em are done well enough to almost be stand alone games. The card games move a little too slow, though, and while there is an option to “Skip to your turn,” skipping still takes too much time to fade out from other characters betting, then fading into the player’s turn.
A dice game, titled Devil’s Dice, it the offspring of the card game Bullshit and Yahtzee. While it isn’t as widely know as those games, it is a good fit and can stand on its own. Five Finger Filet is played by placing a wager then stabing a knife between John’s fingers. It’s controled like a mix of rhythm game with quick time event button pressings. This along with Horseshoes are lackluster and easily forgotten.
The multiplayer in Red Dead Redemption will keep gamers coming back. Players can jump into an open world with 15 other people to posse up, take over strongholds or just grief one another. More detailed information on the multiplayer experience can be found here.
Red Dead Redemption is the sequel that no one was asking for and everyone needs to play. Rockstar San Diego transformed it into a marvelous sandbox world. It is an ideal example of how to craft a fantastic sequel from a title that time forgot.
For more info, www.reddeadredemption.com
Pads & Panels received a copy of the game courtesy of the publisher for review purposes.