RETRO – You will project yourself in the Wild West, like you have never done it before. Red Dead Redemption is not only a true masterpiece from the makers of Grand Theft Auto, but also a perfect representation of the world which inspired so many perfect western movies and so few good western themed games so far.
If you thought, that nothing can surpass their Grand Theft Auto IV, boy, you are in for a surprise. It wasn’t a perfect “birth” for the game though: there were some shadows lurking over the production. If you have followed the news, you are already aware, that the wives of the makers of the game wrote an angry open letter to Rockstar, because their husbands were extremely overworked.
There were even some naysayers in the team, who told that the game will be a disaster. Well, the truth is that Red Dead Redemption is extremely far from being a disaster: it’s one of the best games Rockstar made since a long time.
Once Upon a Time in America
The story of the game – as always – is excellent. Fortunately Rockstar shied away from trying hard to make an imitation of the Sergio Leone movies, and there are only a few nice homages to the movies of the great Italian director. John Marston, the hero of the game is a rough and stubbly former outlaw, with a few thick scars on his face. However, his bad boy attitude may be misleading: it’s up to you, what you make of him through the missions: hero or villain? It’s a nice excuse, if you want to play though the game twice, and trust me: you will want to.
At the beginning of the game, Marston enters a lawless land, and tries to catch some of his former friends and gang members. He gets shot, but gets on his feet quickly, thanks the nursing of a pretty and young, blonde ranch owner, Bonnie Macfarlane. From this point Marston will assist anyone, who needs his help – like in any Grand Theft Auto game.
A Fistful of Dollars
At the beginning of the game, our hero has to work for only a fistful of dollars. The first missions bring us almost nothing, but fortunately we have many other ways of getting or winning money. You can enter the bar, and play poker – one of the best simulated pokers I have seen in any game so far. You can also play five finger fillets with some shady characters: if you miss a move, you can almost feel Marston’s pain, while hitting your own finger with the knife.
Beside games, you can kill animals and sell their meet and fur for cash. They live in the enormous prairies outside the towns, hunting each other – some of them also attack our hero and his horse. Of course, you can follow the main occupation of Marston as well: bounty hunting. There are wanted posters in many towns hinting the whereabouts of the criminals, who you can hunt down dead or alive. You can also herd cattle, chase and break mustangs, search for treasure and take part in sharpshooting challenges. Of course, you can try to follow the main storyline only, but it’s almost impossible that you will not lose yourself in this living and breathing world of Wild West.
The God, the Bad and the Ugly
Red Dead Redemption has not only a huge world, a top notch story and tons of side missions, but also an excellent fame system. You can choose to be an inglorious bastard, rob banks and stagecoaches, assault women, sleep with whores (you have a wife, so it counts as a bad action here) and generally do evil things, or follow to the law, catch killers, and save helpless people.
Alongside the morality meter, there is also a separate fame bar, which tracks your actions. The citizens you meet will recognize you and react to your renown. The freedom to do what you want in this game is massive, and you’ll feel rewarded by exploring all the possibilities.
Of course, that wouldn’t be a Rockstar game, if there wasn’t some sort of controversy in it: some actions of the villain Marston will probably raise a few scandals and wake up our sleeping “friend”: Jack Thompson.
“Keep your lovin’ brother happy!”
The attention to detail in the game is absolutely first class. The world of the Wild West comes alive with citizens arguing in the streets, drunken cowboys assaulting prostitutes, bandits dragging miserable souls with horses. Of course, you can interact in any way you want, and your actions will be remembered. The world is also visually impressive – even if the engine (used to death in the GTA IV games and Table Tennis) is a little outdated.
There are beautiful sunsets on desolate prairies, where the rustic towns are hiding with the usual western buildings in them. The characters are generally great looking, even if some NPCs are not so detailed. Besides graphics, I must also mention the fantastic soundtrack and the superb voice acting.
How the West was Won
Rockstar’s effort is the by far the best in the line of western themed games. There are some occasional bugs here and there, but there is so much effort in every aspect of the game, that I feel almost ashamed for mentioning them. All in all Red Dead Redemption was a true winner and definitely the Game of the Year of 2010.