- 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.
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.
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.
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.