Red Dead Redemption is Rockstar Games’ second attempt at a sandbox adventure set in the wild west. To be more accurate, the game is set as the wild of the west has begun to fade and government control is slowly bringing an end to outlaws. You play ex-outlaw John Marston, who has been recruited, not so kindly, by government agents that threaten Marston’s family. They give Marston a mission to hunt down and kill Bill Williamson, an old friend and fellow gang member, in return for his family being returned to him safely.
Game play is fairly straightforward for anyone who has played a Grand Theft Auto game on the latest generation of consoles. The control mechanics are exactly the same. However, this is not a Grand Theft Auto set in the west. While Red Dead Redemption isn’t a Grand Theft Auto on horses it does have some leftovers of its predecessor. What is left behind from its distant cousins is the ability to steal horses, and any acts which would violate law are responded to by the nearest officer of the law.
Red Dead Redemption has several things that it does not share with its distant cousin. One such thing is the fame and honor meter. These meters are not related to one another. Marston can have high fame and negative honor and vice versa; it is all based on how the player plays the game. The more honorable Marston is in his actions will affect how people view him and the type of people he interacts with. Fame has to do with your actions; the more people who see your actions, the faster word of your deed spreads and the more famous you become.
Dead-eye is the second biggest thing that Rockstar has added to the game. Think of it as an adrenaline rush that allows you to at least mentally appear to slow down time. Dead-eye can be leveled to allow you to target more areas during the period where time is slowed down. This is vital during duels as it enables players to assure their victory and gain a greater amount of fame for merely disarming an opponent instead of killing them.
Breaking horses is another Red Dead game play aspect that adds an interesting little bit of flair on an already good game. Breaking horses is a straightforward mini-game. It allows you to catch and tame wild horses as Marston is out and about exploring the world, thus enabling Marston to trade mounts up, so to speak, for a faster or more durable breed of horse. Along with taming horses there are a number of challenges that act as mini-games to keep players engaged during the slower portions of the game and allow them to level up vital skills.
Random encounters are very much a part of this game. They can range from being attacked by any number of the aggressive carnivorous animals of the west to running into a random person needing help. These encounters are randomly-generated; players are unaware of them until they are upon someone calling for help or being ravaged by a mountain lion. The encounters with people can be ignored if a player chooses to. The same works with the wild animals, though ignoring the wild animal attacks is not wise.
Strangers are very much like the random encounters with people needing help, but unlike the random encounters they are unlikely to need you to save their wife, get their horse back or any number of the generic incidents. Strangers generally have much more of a story to them, though they have very little to do with the plot. Strangers’ requests typically send you on a long quest when you attempt to help them, often or not the ending being some comical or elaborate twist, making the entire endeavor worthwhile.
The characters in the game have a depth and breadth that you expect from a game made by Rockstar, but even they seem to shine brighter and act more fluid and lifelike than normal. The landscape is simply stunning as the artists at Rockstar managed to weave and create what can only be described as some of the most visually appealing work to date. The online play is fantastic; the lobby for the many different game modes is the world of Red Dead itself, allowing players to roam freely and complete challenges on their own, gaining experience allowing them to level online and unlock new characters to play as. The main story is twisting and has a depth to it that is often lacking from third or first person shooters.
Even after several large and sweeping patches, the single player can still be fairly glitchy at times. Reports of non-player characters or npcs acting like chickens, or some other random animal, have surfaced. Horses and players getting stuck in hillsides have also been known to occur. Online play is full of hackers. Steps have been taken to lessen the number of hackers, but there are still a fair number. There is also a main story twist that upset a number of players.
Though the game has its occasional glitch or two, it is definitely worthwhile to pick up and play through several times. It is, in many ways, the perfect blend of shooter and open world action games taking the best of both worlds and melding them into a very workable and fun game.
Whim Rating 4.5/5
Photo from Creative Commons