Saddle up, it’s gonna be a long ride
Before the eloquent bullet ridden nightlife of Liberty City multiplied itself across America at a disturbingly rapid rate, there was once a simpler time. A time where the nation was covered in tall grass, buffalo, whisky shots and cowboys with attitudes that couldn’t be outsmarted in a battle of wits by Brokeback Mountain references. The gruff and gritty landscapes of the Wild West were once unappealing compared to the tea sipping, weather debating existence forced upon me by the British Empire, yet an engrossing session into the world of Red Dead Redemption will leave anyone wanting to ditch suburbia to live on a diet of toothpicks and Jack Daniels.
Your guide through the sun baked playground of the West is one John Marston, a man with a severe chip on his shoulder. Turning his back on a life of crime and the posse he used to ride with has unintentionally landed him in the hands of the government. With his wife and son kidnapped by federal agents, Marston is forced to bring down the men he once rode with and become much more than America’s most valuable tool.
The plot starts off as a strong opening baiting your intrigue into Mr Marston, it soon evolves into an emotional story with all of America’s oddjobs sucked in. Each story mission leads to its own bitesize climax, and because of these the story as a whole flows flawlessly until its final moments. All the tragedy and victory that showers John develops him into one of the most likeable rogues in gaming, and his entourage of allies are a strong bunch as well. Red Dead Redemption cast ranges from the hilariously manic to the manically violent and all never outperform each other, all making their imprint without stealing Marston’s spotlight.
Jumping into Red Dead Redemption, the first overwhelming feeling encountered upon entering the game world is “Where the hell have all the towns gone?”. The ever stretching wilderness seems like a vast land of nothingness to tame at first, and one that doesn’t seem to be that bad a bitch to tame. It’s tempting to simply fast travel to each major location until the conclusion, yet a little exploration truly goes a long way. The endless horizon of wilderness bolsters many a crime to save the innocent from or even join in on, and a rabid collection of wildlife to chomp you down.
Even the most sun burnt of locations can look sun kissed.
Though the story missions require you to practically gun everything you see down, Mother Nature’s wastelands of America offers a range of challenges that bond together even the most cold hearted cowboy with his faithful steed…making it all the more difficult to cope if your poor horse should die to combat or mishap. Crimes randomly occur throughout the map, and choosing to help either the innocent or the outlaws builds upon your legend of the West, determining your position amongst the civil and the gangs. Though your social standing does not effect the story in the eyes of the corrupt, it’s tiny moments like these which structure the experience as a whole, and altogether makes the game world seem much more organic. John Marston is but yet another protagonist set forth in harms way until 10 hours down the line, where the seemingly generic tasks of skinning animals for cash and helping strangers gather feathers for flying contraptions forms many a memorable moment that serves to strengthen the narrative even further. What seems normal to the average Westerner can be fascinating to the average couch potato, and it’s difficult not to be absorbed with the idea that every problem nowadays can be solved with a lasso and an itchy trigger finger.
It’s not hard to look awesome with a gun in your hand, especially in Red Dead. Unless knocked up to the hardest mode of gunplay, simply pulling your gun out locks it onto the nearest enemy, and can freely be moved about from that point onwards. It doesn’t take long to get the knack of delivering headshot upon headshot, especially if you’re using John’s magical ability to slow down time and lock onto several vital limbs with his ‘Dead Eye’ makes it all the easier to bring upon vigilante justice. Though it’s easy to gun everyone down, it’s also exceptionally easy to get to big for your boots and attempt to take on gang hideouts by yourself and ending up as the bullet mangled corpse, but it’s still undeniably enjoyable, if a little bit simple.
Of course, if the West is too harsh a mistress to ride upon alone, hooking up with friends online can aid those in need of a posse to saddle up with. Though players take up the position of a generic cowpoke with little customisation options, they can feel free to take to the sandbox with a gang of friends to do whatever they wish. Your merry band of thieves could all collect together to place a dagger in your back should you step out of line and gallivant with a decent looking bounty on your head. Free-roaming of the open land is accompanied by generic multi-player modes which don’t pose anything new in terms of multi-player stakes, but each feel that tiny bit fresher with the Old West touch given to them.
Although the graphics engine forces locations to look suitably gruff and harsh to traverse, it never fails to brings out the beauty of the locales. The rural countryside towns like Armadillo compared to the slowly developing city of Blackwater serve a stark contrast on the next step to America’s modernisation, and even the most sun burnt of locations can look sun kissed. The stereotypical twangs of banjos and guitars subtly playing in the background adds to the atmosphere immensely, always playing at the most opportune moments and never feeling out of place.
The increasing varied gameplay, the loveable and despicable cast,the immensely long single player bundled with hours of online content to boot, these are all mechanics of one of the most convincing game worlds created. Red Dead Redemption’s compelling narrative is enough to keep you on board for the long haul, and with so much occurring in the world around you, it’s an experience that’ll live on for months to come. Red Dead Redemption is a dangerous weapon against free-time, and is every bit as real as the world outside your window. It just comes with a two bar fight minimum.
The Bad: Targeting system makes gameplay far too easy