Several games hardly need an introduction since they’ve become staples for their respective developer, such as GTA, Madden, etc. Red Dead Redemption, on the other hand, is an exception as the second installment in the Red Dead series and is the first Rockstar has made entirely on their own. The game has gone from being another rumor mill title to being quite the eye catcher with promises of several activities and a strong core single player in an open world Western environment. Just how well does the end product of this ambitious title hold up?
In Redemption’s main single player you assume the role of John Marston; former gang bandit turned bounty hunter who wants nothing more than to start a new life with his wife and son. Unfortunately, this means hunting down Bill Williamson, a once fellow outlaw to Marston. Along the way, Marston meets with a considerable amount of individuals, generally crooks, liars, tyrants, manipulators and anything in-between. While the story’s premise is decent enough, the actual experience is little more than a gigantic goose chase with an ending that feels too out of left field for comfort. Most of the cutscenes involve Marston hoping to acquire information and being told to carry out activities for the supporting characters. You’ll still get much of the symbolic commentary on society through conversations which Rockstar is known for hosting, but these and certain gunfights are ultimately the highlights of the main conquest.
John Marston finds several friends and enemies throughout his journey in Redemption
The campaign might not be terribly interesting, but the world you’re free to explore is. If you focus strictly on the single player you’ll see much of the environment and get at least fifteen hours worth of gameplay. Putting in the time for side missions and other plentiful activities will bring in even more game time. While you’ll participate in several widespread shootouts no matter what your progression style is, events such as horseshoe tossing, poker and blackjack, one-on-one gun duels, bounty hunting and much more help give the game some variety. Although many of these can be quite fun, some, such as herding cattle, can prove to be a chore even if it does compliment the setting. Most events incorporate their way into the single player with proper tutorials familiarizing yourself with the controls on-the-go, so you’ll garner a fair share of events to play, both the fun and not so entertaining.
When exploring the game’s wilderness, players can expect to find a wide variety of creatures which can be killed and skinned to gain more money. Bears, wolves, cougars, skunks, snakes and other animals can be hunted down or you can find horses, mules, buffalo or even zebras to tame and ride, should you choose. Additionally, there are unscripted stranger encounters throughout the lands and in towns. These are usually people who’ve had their means of transportation stolen (horses or stagecoaches) or prostitutes about to get killed by less-than happy customers. It’s a small touch but helps to sell the game’s dangerous atmosphere and should help keep most players on their toes.
Battles can get close and frantic, but they never feel impossible or over-challenging
Control-wise, Redemption feels tried and true to Rockstar’s ever-popular GTA series with a few minor changes. The time-slowing Dead Eye feature from Revolver returns with three levels to attain. And instead of driving cars or piloting helicopters, you’ll be riding horses and, occasionally, stagecoaches and trains to get around. Should you find yourself in a rush, however, you can always set up a campsite and travel to either a previously visited town or to a waypoint set on your map. During combat, the controls hold up relatively well but it’s inevitable that you’ll encounter some hiccups, primarily when trying to take cover. As with most titles nowadays, your health will regenerate in a few seconds after being shot while Dead Eye takes a bit longer. Killing more enemies will boost your restoration time.
As one might expect, Redemption also comes complete with a note-worthy multiplayer. Your single player feats have no effect on the multiplayer and vice versa, leaving you with little more than a handful of characters and a mule as your default mount. Players can choose to join Free Roam with others and have a small variety of objectives. The most beneficial of these is completing Gang Hideouts, which has you kill a large number of enemies in a single area, rewarding money, weapons and XP. These can be tackled either solo or with others, with the potential difficulty being harder than any of the game’s missions when going alone. From there, you can take part in more conventional modes, both kill and objective-based. Of course, you can always decide to have fun, senseless shootouts in Free Roam as well.
The game can become quite breathtaking when looking over a long distance
One area that Rockstar has usually been credible with is creating a polished, good-looking open world game. Fortunately, Red Dead Redemption manages to please our eyes with only a few hindrances. Many of the game’s best-looking moments are when you’re on top of a high cliff looking down at the world and impressive draw distance. There are also small, occasional touches that might throw you for a surprise such as a pink-orange sky color during dawn. Details on the surroundings and character models are quite solid though, like most free roam games, you’ll get a fair share of these features loading in-game for a few brief seconds. As for the game’s framerate, it might slip up a few times but never to the point where it truly impairs the moment. However, you’ll still likely fall prey to some interesting or funny glitches throughout the game.
If anything, Rockstar tends to do a better job in the sound department than the visuals with usually strong music and always excellent voice work. Once again, they prove themselves on all fronts in Red Dead Redemption. Every character’s voice fits them and the scenario perfectly which helps to keep some of the less conventional individuals convincing even if they themselves aren’t exactly likable. Since the game takes place during a period before automobiles became a standard mode of transportation, you won’t find any in-game songs to listen to while traveling. Instead, we’re given an original soundtrack that usually plays during cutscenes, missions or in-game moments such as the random encounters with strangers. The score does fit with every moment well but it’s not on a standout level such as those found on Halo and Metal Gear Solid. Various sound effects such as the fire tone from weapons, explosions and horse-riding are all believable and give each battle a proper sense of peril even if some aren’t terribly challenging.
There are plenty of creatures to find in the wilderness, some will attack when you get too close
Red Dead Redemption has built up quite a train of hype, especially over the last months of its development time. GTA fans who go into the game knowing what to expect (that it’s a Western) should get what they’re looking for and even those who might not happen to be fond of Rockstar’s acclaimed series are encouraged to give this game a shot. That said, Redemption does have its fair share of flaws which are usually quite minor, but the lack of a truly interesting story and some less-than entertaining mandatory missions hinder the game just enough to leave a considerable repercussion. Even so, this is a very competent release which remains engaging even outside of the main story thanks to several side missions and activities, both in the single player and multiplayer. Red Dead Redemption does enough to justify an investment and then some.