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Red Dead Redemption Review (X360)

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating

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Red Dead Redemption Review (X360)
Rockstar
Red Dead Redemption is an Old West-themed sandbox game where you'll ask yourself multiple times while you play "I wonder if I can do this ...", referring to some specific clichéd "Western" action, and more often than not you can. It has been lovingly crafted to not only mimic Western films, but real life in the West as well. The result is a fresh, incredibly detailed take on open world games that is surprisingly realistic and satisfying and just plain fun. This is the best open world game to come around in a long time.
Game Details

  • Publisher: Rockstar / Take Two
  • Developer: Rockstar San Diego
  • ESRB Rating: “M” for Mature
  • Genre: Third-Person-Action
  • Pros: Great story and characters; solid voice acting; nice visuals; fun gameplay; well designed game world; freedom
  • Cons: Glitches; jerks in public multi games; cougars and wolves and bears (oh my); pacing kind of off in the middle third of the game

Red Dead Redemption is the story of John Marston. He was once a member of a gang of outlaws, but decided to change his ways. Now, a few years after he, his wife, and their son thought they were living a safe and normal life, the Government comes calling on John with the request that he take out the remaining members of his former gang.

To do so, John needs some help. By helping people around the state of New Austin, as well as across the border into Mexico, John learns a few new tricks, picks up some new weapons, and gains information that helps him plan the how and when of when he can kill his old friends.

All in all, the story is pretty darn amazing. The characters, including a crazy grave robber, a snake oil salesman, corrupt Mexican officials, Mexican revolutionaries, a Native American guide, and more are all extremely well thought out, well acted, and just plain great characters. The story takes a lot of different threads of Old West life and ties them all together into one fascinating story. It also ends with a great, unexpected twist, and a secret ending you'll have to find on your own.

Gameplay

Rockstar
The first thing that needs to be said is that the game world is huge. It includes large lakes and rivers and mountains and deserts and forests and great rolling plains. Dusty dirt roads and trails and train tracks crisscross the landscape, but getting from Point A to Point B is left up to you for the most part. Movement is kind of slow if you're on foot, but grab a horse and you can gallop fairly quickly anywhere you want. Different breeds of horses will have better speed or more endurance, so finding a good horse is key. If you use the same horse for a long period of time, it becomes more loyal to you and gains more stamina. And when you are out in the boonies and need your horse to come to you, you just press up on the d-pad to whistle and it will come running. You do get rather attached to your horses, and if/when they die from gunfire or an animal attack or something, it really will affect you. Of course, you can just whistle up another horse but it never quite feels the same. My first horse was killed by a cougar. And I was pissed.

In addition to riding around on horses, you can also take a stagecoach or a train from town to town. You can also set up a campsite anywhere you want, which lets you save your game as well as instantly travel to any towns or waypoints you have set on your map.

While it is definitely handy to be able to instantly travel from place to place, just riding your horse along the trails is pretty fun on its own. You also never quite know what you are going to come across as you are riding along, as there will occasionally be NPCs that need your help (or maybe just want to try and steal your horse) alongside the road. There are also tons of animals including rabbits, skunks, snakes, deer, elk, boars, multiple species of birds, buffalo (only 20 of them total and they don't respawn, by the way), and even cougars, wolves, and grizzly bears that you can hunt and skin and sell for money. Hunting is actually a pretty fun diversion in this game, but be warned - standing around in one place too long usually attracts predators, and nothing sucks more than turning around from skinning your prize elk and having 4-5 cougars or 2-3 grizzly bears charging up from behind you.

Thankfully, the shooting mechanics are up to the task. By holding the left trigger, you bring out your weapon and a super friendly auto-targeting system targets an enemy as long as your crosshair was in the neighborhood to begin with. You can then tweak your aim to hit a leg or arm (to shoot the gun out of someone's hand) or go for a head shot. You also have a special slo-mo precision targeting ability called Dead Eye where you press in the right stick to enter slo-mo and can then mark targets that John will shoot for you. Either way, the shooting is well done and surprisingly satisfying when you take out a group of enemies in one smooth succession of head shots.

Missions

Rockstar
The actual missions you'll have to do are surprisingly varied. You'll catch wild horses. Drive cattle cross country. Clear out gang hideouts. Steal weapons. Sell snake oil. Rescue kidnapped people. Help Mexican rebels. And more. Perhaps most interestingly, the main missions in the game are rarely anything criminal.

You might be killing people, but in doing so you help more than just yourself, which is a big difference from the Grand Theft Auto world where the characters are more selfish. John Marston used to be a bad guy, but he isn't anymore. And I liked that. The player can, of course, do whatever they want and kill innocents and steal and be a bad guy, but that isn't really what Red Dead Redemption is about. You get the impression early on that life is hard enough for these people, and making it harder by being a bad guy just isn't all that fun.

The fact that RDR offers so much optional stuff to do certainly helps keep you interested. The Achievements reward you for going out of your way to do things, like killing one of every animal, killing all the buffalo, or skinning 18 bears. You can also play poker, blackjack, liar's dice, horseshoes, and more. There are ambient challenges that have you collecting specific flowers, or showing off your hunting and sharpshooting skills. You can also find a number of different outfits and even use treasure maps to uncover hidden riches. There is a ton of stuff to do here. Just riding your horse around is fun and enjoyable as well.

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