games / Reviews

Red Dead Redemption (Xbox 360) Review

June 6, 2010 | Posted by Todd Vote

Game: Red Dead Redemption
Published by: Rockstar Games
Developed by: Rockstar San Diego
Genre: Western Adventure
Players: 1 (offline), 1-16 players online
Rated M For Mature

The fabled American Wild West, where the men were men. A time when the easiest way to travel was a horse and buggy, or if you could afford it you could take the train. It’s 1911 and the wild west once known is slowly becoming a thing of the past, the days of the cowboy seem to be coming to an end. Well to nearly all, except for one John Marston. You see John has tried to put his past as a member of a gang full of outlaws behind him, and we soon find out that forgetting the past is not as easy as all that. You see Marston is charged with bringing his old gang to justice, and it will be no easy task. These are some of the most vile men in the country.

So Marston is out to bring his old running buddies to justice, and doing so spans a big chunk of America, and even leaks over into Mexico in a mapped area that I would say is roughly about the size of Texas, give or take. I mean this map is huge!! I may be way off on the size scale, but believe me when I say there are over 90 areas to discover. 94 if memory serves me correct.

The townships you’ll come across will represent everything from the war torn Mexico, to cities that perfectly represent most folk’s ideas about the Wild West, to cities that show the advances of modern society, and does a fine job of showing how outdated the supposed wild west mentality is at the time the game takes place. I love how the game teeters on the end of the wild west, and the dawn of industrialization, it creates an interesting dynamic in the game.


This guy never should have stole that horse.

So after initially starting up the game, the first thing I notice are the sprawling landscapes on display. This game is beautiful, the backdrops are all breathtaking, and worth taking a moment to “breathe it all in”. The second thing I noticed is that this game most definitely promotes ADD. Many, many, many times I found myself setting a way-point to a main story mission only to be sidetracked by hunting, strangers, or one of the abundant world events. For most of my first hours into the game, I found myself highly distracted with all that there is on offer in this game. It’s a rare occasion in a sandbox style game where the side missions and side stories hold as much intrigue for me as the main story does, but lo and behold, here I was skinning my 309th animal carcass, and Bill Williams is still terrorizing the country-side. I didn’t care, I had me some critters to be killin’.

In addition to the hunting side missions, there are also the stranger tasks, and these work very similar to meetings with random characters in the GTA games. You talk to them, do something for them, side mission complete. Where these differ from the similar experience in GTA titles, is the fact that these aren’t as cut and dry as simply giving the character a ride, or helping them with one thing. Some of these stranger missions will sprawl throughout the majority of the game.

I remember one of the first stranger missions I started (marked by black and white question marks on your map), was entitled “I Know You”. This mission started near the beginning of the game, and I didn’t finish it up till near the very end, you just never know when or where the next step in any one of these missions will pop up. It added a nice variety from the main game, and several of the stories are very intriguing, such as the “I Know You” mission I mentioned above.

See, look at that, even in the review when trying to talk about the main story I get distracted with all the things there are to do in this game, but I suppose that speaks to the quality of the side tasks, but I want to touch on a couple more aspects of this before getting back to the main story, first is the treasure hunting. Xbox Live has a video on the treasure hunting. I advise instead of watching this, to simply get in a party chat with a friend or two, each fire up the single player campaign, and working through communications to find each of the ten treasures. We lost several hours of gaming time finding all of these, but I noted afterward that it only felt like a bit of time, and the working together made it really fun.


The Campfire… Quickest way to travel, remember it.

Lastly, outside of the main story I want to touch on the games and daily jobs you can do. You can play Texas Hold ‘Em, Liars Dice, Blackjack, Horseshoes, and my favorite, the Finger Fillet game. Each of these gives you the opportunity to earn some extra cash to help with purchasing guns and maps and things of that nature. Several towns also feature a night watch job that you can do in which you and a trusty canine will patrol the town looking for any asshole who needs to be handled. Some towns also offer a job of breaking horses, in which you help out local farmers in doing just that, lasso a horse in a stable, break it, collect money. If ever in the game you are short on cash, keep these games and jobs in mind, they can give you that bit of quick cash you may need without having to run out and find a world event to do.

By now you may be wondering what the actual campaign has to offer, as it must really suck if I was so easily distracted. Early on in the game I would have agreed with you, as the early missions consist mostly of cattle herding, and breaking horses, peppered in with a few horse races. Not exactly an exciting start to a game, with the cattle herding being particularly boring. But just stick with it till you open the town of Amarillo, things really start to pick up and the distractions of the side missions become less and less frequent.

The story is engaging, and proves once again how good Rockstar is at painting parallels between their games and the real world, the story of the game plays on politics, government power and the how the abuse of these things can be detrimental to progress as a whole. While the game certainly presents some real world overtones and references, you never feel as if someone is beating you over the head with their own political agenda, so much as using these things to drive the story forward. It works well for the era they are trying to portray in the game.

One big downfall of the game is the time between activating a mission, and the time when a mission actually starts. Many of the missions require quite a bit of travel to do what needs to be done, and while they try to have your character get involved with relevant conversations on the trip to where you are going, I found myself wishing I could skip these travel periods more often than not. Some, later in the game offered the ability to skip ahead to where things start kicking off, but that wasn’t always the case. Luckily, you are able to keep pace with your travel companions by simply holding the A button down and steering in the proper directions. I found this really helped me from traveling too far ahead to fast, and then having to wait for them to catch up.


Draw!

The game controls very well, and is done similarly to GTA, to steal a car steal a horse, you simply walk up to said horse, and push the Y button, any one mounted on the horse is yanked off and you are on your way. Beware though, people don’t take to kindly to horse thieves in these parts, and there is a good chance they will start shooting at you! You use the A button to run, but be sure not to run your horse to hard, or you are going to end up on your ass.

Another very important aspect of the gameplay is using the Dead-Eye(which for some reason I keep calling the Dead-Aim) to take out multiple targets. Dead-Eye serves multiple purposes, activating it will automatically reload your weapon, give you the ability to lock on to multiple targets, and it can also save you from death. If you screen is starting to turn red, and you are taking a beating, activate your Dead-Eye, and it will help you out. It doesn’t give you help, but it slows things down enough that you can take out the assailants, and give yourself time to recover. Dead-Eye is by far your biggest gameplay companion next to your horse.

Red Dead Redemption features a great cast of vocal talents, from top to bottom. Rob Weithoff voices John Marston perfectly as a tired worn out cowboy who just wants to do his job and get home to his family. There are some great lines throughout the game, even from the cast that’s simply there to add a bit of ambiance to the game. Kudos to the entire cast here on a job well done.

The music, as you would expect is very well done. The music really matches that of the old western movies, and helps to draw you into the setting. The queues all hit at appropriate times, and the overall tone just matches the story near perfectly. It seems each new area of the map was given it’s own themes to work with which helped give them a unique feel separating the different areas from one another.

I guess that brings us to the multi-player. Show of hands, who remembers the GTA IV Free Roam? Well if you were like me, you had a complete blast with the free roam for about 45 minutes before you realized that outside of shooting your friends, there really wasn’t shit to do aside from creating your own carnage. Well they fixed that here. The Free Roam here is definitely more pleasing than it was in GTA IV. For example the Free Roam here acts as more of a hub to all other aspects of the multi-player. You and your crew of miscreants can meet up here and posse up. From here there are options to enter gang wars, free for all matches, and other game types. Alternately, if player vs player games aren’t your cup of tea, you have the option of ranking up by taking down gang hideouts, and just overall being an asshole to any NPC’s you come across.


Get out of my gold!

Further more, people in the Free Roam can mess with the law and get themselves recognized as the Most Wanted. What this does is put a bounty on your head collectible by every other player in the game, even your posse can stab you in the back and pick up some quick XP so watch yourself.

With a Legends ranking system that from what I can tell is similar to Prestige Mode in the Call of Duty franchise, there is plenty to keep you busy in this game for months and months to come. My goal? I will unlock the bull for me to ride instead of a horse. That’s a big ass bull right there, and I need to run people over with it. I just need to. In addition to new steeds to ride on, your ranking up also unlocks new character models, handles, and weapons. The more challenges you complete, the more you unlock.

The 411:
There are so many fun things to do in this game. From shotly after it starts you realize that Rockstar really hit this one out of the park. When the side mission things are keeping you from completing the main story, you know they have done something right. Great music, great voice work, amazing visuals this game has it all and manages to carve itself a nice little spot among a crowded sandbox genre.

PROS:

+ Breathtaking scenery

+ Dead-Eye!!

+ Compelling storytelling.

+ Just plain FUN!

CONS:

- Traveling between missions and after accessing a mission can be boring

- I found the aiming system a bit wonky in PvP situations.

Graphics10.0The character models are well drawn and full of detail. The scenery is absolutely gorgeous. Serious take the time to climb high and just put the controller down. The view will change and give you an amazing look at everything.411 Elite Award
Gameplay9.0The only thing that keeps this from being higher is the riding to the missions once they are activated. It can get boring at times.  
Sound10.0Top notch voice work, and a really wonderful score highlight the game. 
Lasting Appeal9.5With the ranking system and plenty to unlock added to a tremendous campaign with so many fun things to do, the game is a keeper. 
Fun Factor 9.5Engaging side stories, hunting, card games? These are just some of the things that will keep you from finishing the main story. The game is a blast! 
Overall9.6   [  Amazing ]  legend

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