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    Review: Red Dead Redemption

    A few years removed from spiritual predecessor Grand Theft Auto 4, Red Dead Redemption is Rockstar's latest offering in a long line of open world crime games. And while RDR is set some hundred-odd years before the GTA series, the setting may be the only major difference between games. Does this work in Redemption's favor or not? Read on to find out.

    RDR has you take control of John Marston, former badass cowboy with good manners and a penchant for doing the right thing. Spike Lee would be proud. The story itself is pretty good; great writing, top notch voice acting, et al contribute to a very western feeling game. The pace is a little slow, especially at the beginning, but I guess classic westerns aren't supposed to be lightning quick and action packed. Slowly but surely, John's tale unfolds as the game progresses. Rescued from the brink of death by a few unknown do-gooders, Mr. Marston takes it upon himself to work off the debt to his creditors by helping with the usual fare of side missions, now customized to fit the western theme. Rustle some cattle, tame wild stallions, chase off local petty criminals, and so on. Feels like side missions we'd see in a GTA game, don't it? Mr. Marston's Johnny-be-good methods continue as the game progresses, helping strangers on their daily tasks to benefit his own means, whether the payback may be information, weapons, faster horses, or various other forms of assistance.

    Gameplay has a similar pace, feeling a bit slow and methodical when gunslinging. The default method of aiming puts the game on EZ-mode, as drawing your gun immediately locks onto your target. Flick the analog up slightly and BOOM, instant headshot. Veteran gamers might want to turn on advanced aiming mode and forgo in automatic lock-ons. Of interest to the shooting mechanic is "Dead Eye Mode" where you enter bullet time and paint targets on different body parts of your allies/enemies/civilians/animals, knocking them off in rapid succession after disengaging the mode. And of course, it wouldn't be a GTA game--err, I mean it wouldn't be an open world game without the bevy of side missions and activities to keep you from progressing the main storyline. Blackjack, poker, dice games, five finger fillet, horseshoes, you name it, John can do it. Except having sex with whores. You see, Mr. Marston is a wholesome family man, and the strong, whorehouse element of the west does not appeal to him. Yuppie.

    Multiplayer isn't bad if you have some friends to play with. You can join a posse and "free roam" the entire game world, fighting against other human player posses, or tackling NPC strongholds. Deathmatches and CTF equivalents are triggered from free roam, where you have to ride into a town and initiate the desired game type. However it seems different towns house different game types, so if you want deathmatch, and the town closest to you has CTF, get back on your horse and ride, boy. I'm a bit annoyed that they chose to do it this way, because if you don't have any friends to play with, free roam is kind of a bore. So you have to take a good 5-10 minutes to explore the world and find your desired game type, then another 5-10 minutes to find a suitable amount of players to fill the game. Give me instant action any day. The one thing I really liked about the multiplayer though, is how every game (aside from the free roam) starts with a good ol' Mexican standoff. Last man standing gets first crack on the map's weapons and vantage points. Now we're thinking outside of the box, Rockstar.

    Graphically, RDR will make your jaw drop. The vistas of the old west have never looked better. Breathtaking sunrises, dreamy sun sets, and starry skies which will make you want to hold a telescope up to your TV to pick out the constellations. Explore the world and find a cliff, high above the foxes, wolves, and bears, some place where it's just you and the eagles. Shoot the eagles down, scavenge their feathers to sell later, then kick back and watch the awe-inspiring skies progress as the day winds up and back down. 

    Overall, Red Dead Redemption is a good game, but it's not for me. It feels like a reskinned Grand Theft Auto clone, for better or for worse. Rockstar could've and should have taken care to add some more elements to make it feel fresh. Granted the story is good, the western setting just seems like a new coat of paint on an old house. I would've liked to have seen an option to skip past those long, slow horse rides when you accompany someone to a mission, which are more often then not filled with pointless chatter that you can hardly hear. Also a tightening of the fighting system; streamlining the run/cover/shoot mechanic, maybe adding some sort of quick draw on top of the dead-eye aiming. And I know Rockstar is going for realism, but it wouldn't hurt to make handling Mr. Marston feel a little more fluid, I don't know if a man who can safely shoot a nickel out of a mouse's ass would stumble around the frontier like an old drunk. 

    Buy it if: You love Grand Theft Auto, you're willing to spend 40+ hours exploring the world, gambling, and doing side missions, you want a long game to play through to completion
    Don't buy it if: You play games an hour at a time, you have gaming ADD, you like fast furious action
    Value out of $60: $60, if you're a completionist, $40 if not
    The Score: 7 outta 10 Blasters!

    Reader Comments (2)

    I"m obsessed with this game! I love lasso'ing bad guys and hog tying them as their gang tries to fight me and rescue their leader.

    I hear you about the travelling from place to place, but I got to admit that I kind of enjoy the drawn out aspecf of having to ride my horse to each mission whilst observing the "Vistas of the Old West"

    Great review!

    August 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterProofmeister

    I was like playing in real scenarios with this one and really I can sense the hard work for developing this game! I can;t sleep because of this game its way too awesome! Hard to resist!

    November 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRjabrium

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