If I’ve learned anything from Final Fantasy XII, it’s that any game, no matter what the publisher and their track record might be, can take a horrible turn for the worse. Rarely do I buy games anymore and when I do, I’m often left with a rumble in the gut while I ask myself why I just pissed away 60$ on a piece of plastic when I could have leased it for nickels on the dollar. Look, when I first heard of Red Dead Redemption, I was far from being sold. Another shallow western spaghetti shooter with no soul. We’ve seen many of those before, right?
The least I could say is, so far, I’ve been proven wrong. From to moment I’ve picked up the game, my butt has not left the couch until it was forced to do so by the looming challenge of going to work the following day.
The hype around Red Dead Redemption was one of the greatest I’ve seen to date. Hanging around Justin.tv as I usually do, browsing from one channel to the next, the next big game on everyone’s mind was RDR. On the 18th, Redemption’s release date, JTV was flooded with RDR streams and I took notice. I dropped in and out of several and started to discover why people were so enthralled.
This game has soul. It has character, it has charm, wit and a healthy dose of western ambiance populated with many colorful characters. The story picks up after the main character, John Marston, gets a bullet in the chest from an old friend and wakes up after being saved by a passer-by. While it’s a slow start, the pacing following that introduction is flawless. Unlike many open-world games, you’ll not be thrown in with the sharks equipped like a dolphin (if that makes any sense).
RDR is lovingly compared to Grand Theft Auto with horses (e.g., Grand Theft Carriage); a comparison that I think is inapt, but it does have some roots. RDR runs on the same engine as Grand Theft Auto IV did, and it sure feels that way. Everything has a rigid, solid weight. Movement is slow and heavy, as it should be. If you’re familiar with GTAIV, you’ll feel right at home. Of course, RDR also shares the same strengths and weaknesses that GTA did: very high quality characters on low-resolution textures. This becomes painfully apparent in the game’s first cut-scene which takes place in a train. Your character’s crisp, sharp textures stick out like a sore thumb against the train’s muddy, compressed textures. From a distance, they both look as equally detailed.
The rest of the game looks as you’d expect from the engine. Long viewing distances, great lighting effects and high poly modeling all around. There we no noticeable framerate issues except during rainfall, where it would dip in the 20s. I’ve yet to try to Playstation 3 version, but I hear the performance on both consoles is similar despite the slightly lower resolution on the PS3 port.
Everything is not cotton candy and dandies
If there’s one thing I need to nitpick on, it’s the lack of proper explanations on some of the mini games. At some point, a NPC standing on the side of the bar in the quaint little town of Armadillo calls me over and denigrates me. Being the badass antagonist that I am, them’s be fightin’ words. A duel ensues. The instructions quickly flash by on the top left corner. I only notice said instructions at the last second and they fade away. I eventually notice that I can move the gun using the right stick and do something with the left and right triggers, but the exact method of dueling still baffles me, and I am not alone.
This trend tends to repeat itself over and over again as you make your way throughout the game and discover new mini-games.
Strange things happenin’ around these parts
At some point in the early game, I was trying to complete various challenges requiring me to go hunt for deer and rabbit. I rode into the wilderness and randomly stumbled onto a man strewn over the corpse of what I assume was his late wife, who was likely killed by the neighboring coyotes. The man cries out loud. I move in closer, but seeing no interaction options, leave him be and start walking away. A few short paces later, I hear the familiar clicking sound of a revolver cocking. The man applies the revolver to his temple and pulls the trigger. I stood there, mouth agape at what I had just seen. The man killed himself over the loss of his wife; in terms of video gaming, how awesome is that? Granted, tragedies as these aren’t so awesome in reality, but from a video game stand-point, it was a very poignant scene and one I never would have expected to encounter, let alone in the wilderness.
Events like these scatter the world of Red Dead Revolver. From public hangings to drunken men beating up prostitutes to outlaws being chased by law-men, there is no shortage of random occurrences to be lived and in many cases, to interact with.
If you’re still debating whether you should pick this up or not, then I’m not sure what else I can say to sell you this game. It looks amazing, it sounds amazing and the entire world is rich and alive with the sounds of the ‘ole west. Do it. You can thank me later. I’ve yet to try the multiplayer, so drop me a line on XBOX Live and let’s free roam for a while and skin us some bears. As always, you can find me on XBOX Live as Steelfrogg. Later!