Sandbox Game? Check! Run around killing anyone you want? Check! Rockstar Games? Check! The Wild Wild West? Check!... wait what? That's right! Rockstar Games brings us something the gaming industry has been deprived of for a long long time. A top notch, quality, open world game that we've come to expect from them, in a setting that's been aced in all entertainment mediums save for this one. Till now. In Red Dead Redemption, you're John Marston, a former gang member forced to track down your once-friends-now-enemies in one of the greatest settings for story telling, the old American West.
Read Dead Redemption does a lot of things good. Firstly, the story is entertaining and interesting and keeps you moseying for more! You've been sent out to hunt down your former brother in crime by the government. It's not an epic story, but it's got enough to chew on and keep you going. Aside from the main story there is plenty else to do in New Austin. In true "wild west" fashion, you never know what to expect around the next bend. Thieves, armed bandits, wild animals, gambling and just straight up wanted men, all of which could see you face down in the dirt pretty quickly. On top of dying, you can spend a vast amount of time acquiring money, hunting animals or playing poker, horseshoes, liars dice and more, all in an attempt to get through the enormous amount of challenges, and side quests presented similar to the Grand Theft Auto series.
One of the things Rockstar absolutely nailed is the environment and atmosphere the game creates through it's stunning visuals and perfectly suited soundtrack. Sitting in town listening to a single harmonica play, or standing in the middle of the wilderness surrounded by howling coyotes, you're never short on ear and eye candy! I've never been really big on "It has to look great", I could be happy with "it's good enough", however it's clear they went to great lengths to get that authentic look and feel while you're our riding. It's almost like you're there.
Once you're done playing with yourself, there's only one real way to experience the wild west; with a posee! Red Dead Redemption's online modes are a complete game in and of themselves. Typical deathmatch, and capture the flag style multiplayer are one option for you, and they start off with a Mexican Standoff where you're all standing in a circle and suddenly, your'e all opening fire! However, where this game's multiplayer really shines for me is in the Free Roam mode, which is an online "lobby" of sorts, gone mental! Free Roam is exactly what it sounds like, you're free to roam around New Austin doing pretty much anything you want with or against your friends. From this mode you can go into the cities and launch game types, depending on the settings of the free roam you're in. What's really cool however is that you can join posees with your friends, which is a temporary "clan" or sorts and you can run around completing different challenges together (that are not the same as the single player ones), attacking other posees or just generally terrorizing citizens and becoming public enemy number one. There's little in terms of story telling, however as I mentioned doing the challenges available, like clearing gang hideouts, accumulating large bounties on your head, or collecting different items give you plenty to do with your friends.
When it comes to your reputation, again the way of the old west is king. People talk, and your Fame and Honor can grow both positively or negatively, and affects how the people of the world interact with you. Killing people, doing jobs, challenges, helping strangers, and the decisions you make in general, all affect both your Fame and your Honor which in turn affect things like prices of good, or if store keepers will even do business with you. It allows you to play through the game as you like, by being the killer turned "nice guy" who helps old ladies find their husbands to a cold soulless individual out to get the job done by any means necessary, and all the roads in between.
Not much to really gripe on, though there are definitely some things I felt were lacking. The typical Rockstar Game character movement is present in the game, and while it's far from horrible, it does make the multiplayer as well as any delicate maneuvers a little cumbersome. The movements and controls just don't feel as fluid as I'd like them to be, it makes falling off roofs, and running into walls and doors happens a little too easy, especially on your -and-run-off-cliffs horse.
Next on the complaints list is how often the story telling gets fractured by all the interruptions. John Marston is a very patient man apparently. It takes quite awhile before you really start getting down to business, and while I see why they went this way, I felt they could have done a better job of pacing. There are some rather long stretches where you're running around helping everyone and their sister just to get a small piece of information that probably could have been procured with a gun to the head or a stack of cash. It feels like John is being a little too helpful looking for a payoff that keeps getting put off by one thing or another. Another aspect of the story telling that bugged me were the times where there some banter between the characters either while riding together, or just general standing around, meanwhile there is clearly something strange going on ahead, but the characters don't make mention of it until they're right on top of it. For example, at one point early in the game I was riding with one of the characters who was chatting about something they've already told me a few times, and right infront of us I could see a large amount of smoke but wasn't sure if it was a graphical error or not because the character wasn't acknowledging what was clearly evident.
Lastly, the Free-for-all multiplayer modes are fun, but they got old for me pretty quickly. There wasn't anything there to keep me wanting to play it, and the janky controls and movements made killing each other rely a little too much on luck once we got into close range combat. There were also a few games for me of the Capture the Flag style called "Money Grab" where the bags of money ( flags ) weren't re-spawning properly, and the game just turned into a pointless game of killing each other in a small amount of space. Needless to say I died quickly and often.
Are any of these game changing? No... just a little annoying.
So you're probably expecting the worst part of the game now right? Well the fact is there really isn't anything ugly to gripe about. If I had to describe something as "ugly" it would have to be the sometimes unpolished graphics and glitches that come about far too often. It wasn't rare to come across enemies stuck below the ground, trains speeding down the tracks with their "passengers" left behind floating above the ground, horses pulling buggies down the road only the buggies, reins and driver are floating above my head. Again there's nothing that breaks the game, at least not yet, and it's not something that stops me from enjoying the moment and the game as a whole, it's just a little on the ugly side and feels like it could have used a little more polish.
In the end, if you haven't played or at least looked into this game, you need to do yourself a favor and do it! It's the perfect setting for a video game set in an open world and it's done by arguably the best team to do it, and they definitely pulled it off. Red Dead Redemption is exactly what you'd expect from the Old West and brings you on an adventure you're going to enjoy every step of the way, either on the path they've set out for you, or on the one you carve yourself! Months of gameplay and challenges lie ahead in a game that brings entertainment, value and good old fashion cussing! And I sirs and madams, couldn't be enjoying myself more.
The Way I See It: Buy it!! Buy it now and mosey on over and wrangle up some cows! It's great!