For Red Dead Redemption, the team at Rockstar San Diego created a large and beautiful game world that authentically depicts life in the wild west and provides players with tons to do; whether they play as part of a posse or as a lone gunman.
In the single-player campaign, you play as John Marsten, a man out to save his wife from the clutches of a former fellow gang member. Marsten is an inherently good man with a checkered past, but unlike the Grand Theft Auto games there is a real sense of right and wrong in Red Dead Redemption thanks to a dynamic honour system. Read More…
If playing as a good guy, deeds like saving innocents from being hanged and tracking down horse thieves will lead to discounts at shops and other perks, while if you are playing as an murderous outlaw you will constantly have a bounty on your head, be chased by marshals and will be feared by townsfolk.
The mission structure is what we have come to expect from Rockstar Games titles. There are racing and escort missions, on-foot shooting missions and some lengthy multipart missions. There are also some more contextual missions like herding cattle. Thankfully, the in-game checkpoint system is forgiving and should you fail a mission, you will rarely have to replay more than a few minutes.
There are a great number of side missions and activities to keep you busy in Red Dead Redemption. There are over a dozen outfits to complete, each rewarding John Marston with a unique perk. Bounty hunting missions can be taken, poker games can be cheated at, you can get into a bar fight after having a few drinks and even mount a horse by jumping off of a balcony.
Strangers you encounter will ask for a wide variety of tasks to be completed. Some strangers are quite memorable and are even tied to the main story, but most of the time you will randomly come across someone asking for help to stop a wagon thief or escape from wolves.
There are several ambient challenges that involve activities like picking herbs and hunting various forms of wildlife. Animal lovers should take note that harvesting the meat and pelts of animals is quite graphic, yet the process is mostly optional and is rarely required to advance the story.
It is very easy to get distracted by side missions and strangers when travelling by horseback. For me this is a good thing that adds to the longevity of the game, though the tasks do become repetitive.
Red Dead Redemption takes place across a sprawling desert environment in the year 1910. Traveling from town to town or mission to mission on horseback can be a lengthy process. You can fast travel to any area you have visited by setting up a campsite and you can also get around via train and stagecoach.
The controls work well and are responsive, but can admittedly be cumbersome at times. Weapon selection requires you to hold down the left bumper and cannot be set to auto toggle. Horseback riding involves a large amount of mashing on the A button. The cover system used is, for lack of a better word, sticky and I often find myself crawling around a rock or a tree when I want to break away from it.
To me, Red Dead Redemption is an absolutely beautiful game that really captures the look and feel of old western movies. The game features some great lighting effects and lifelike animation for both humans and animals. The game however does suffer from severe performance issues and will frame out in certain parts of the map and when action gets heavy.
Like many open world games, particularly those from Rockstar Games, I have observed quite a bit of glitchy behaviour relating to AI routines and the physics engine. I have not encountered anything game breaking and the technical flaws have done little to detract from the overall enjoyment of the game for me.
As good as I think the game looks, I think it sounds even better. Rockstar Games has always done an excellent job on sound design and Red Dead Redemption is no exception. The Enrico Morricone-inspired music and realistic sound effects help to immerse you in the game world and voice actors are convincing in their roles.
The writing is typical of Rockstar Games efforts, exhibiting a sort of juvenile maturity and twisted sense of humour. It pushes the envelope of good taste by touching on subjects like racism, mental illness and bestiality. This should go without saying, but those who are easily offended should probably find another game to play and this is most certainly not a title for, or to play around your kids.
By the time I fully complete this game, including the robust online free roam mode and co-op campaign, I will have spent at least 50 to 60 hours with it. At the time of this Review, I had played Red Dead Redemption for over 14 hours and completed approximately 35% of the single-player campaign. I have not yet played the multiplayer modes.
Red Dead Redemption sets a new bar for western-themed video games and fans of open world action will find enough content to keep them busy and great value for their money.
+ Large, Beautiful Game World
+ Authentic, Gritty Look and Feel of the Wild West
+ Well Written, Acted Characters
+ Lots of Side Missions, Activities and Challenges
+ Excellent Music and Sound Effects
- Severe Performance Problems at Times
- Frequent, Glitchy AI Behaviour
- Controls can be Cumbersome
Game Forward Score: 4/5
Brian J. Papineau > Game Forward
Red Dead Redemption (Xbox 360) Quick Facts:
Developer: Rockstar San Diego
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Release Date: May 18, 2010
ESRB Rating: M (Mature)