This review put me in a weird position. I had to play a game I had no real motivation to play and continue doing so. For a lot of people, Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption was highly anticipated and hyped. I was not one of those people. My view of Red Dead Redemption before playing it was that it would be another “sand-box” type game with an old western theme. The fact it was made by Rockstar only helped that. To be honest, sand-box titles usually don’t garner my attention. Also, I have never been a fan or the whole “cowboy” phenomenon or the “wild west” era and setting. This game had its work cut out for it if it was going to get my personal approval. So how did Red Dead Redemption fare? Read on and find out.
Like usual, I will list the flaws of this game first. First are the controls. They are annoying. The “Quick Switch” weapon feature is not at all quick. I found it to be down right finicky. Numerous times, I would switch weapons only to find that the original weapon was still equipped or some other random weapon. Also, why do I have to use this faux weapon wheel to be in hand-to-hand mode? If I am not holding anything, shouldn’t I automatically be in hand-to-hand mode? I seriously don’t see why the lasso is on the weapon wheel either. I am sure you noticed I keep calling it a weapon wheel. Well, that is what they clearly were going for. Unfortunately, it fails in comparison with Resistance 1′s weapon wheel.
I guess swimming was impossible in the wild west. I say that because in this game, you can not do it. If you end up in water, prepare to go back to your last save. This confused me because there really is a lot you can do in this game. Why would they make swimming impossible? My guess is that the lack of swimming is used to cordon off the southern half of the map (based on Mexico) until the few bridges are completed. It just feels out of place in this game. I mean really, you want me to believe I am in control of a person capable of changing the very world around him and he can’t even swim? Also, there are minor hiccups the game’s graphics such as screen tearing and vanishing objects. Rockstar is said to be working on addressing them via patch.
With that said, what this game does well far outshines its flaws. The graphics in this game are gorgeous. What do I mean by this? Not the silly, illogical, fanboy view of graphics where they count arbitrary pixel totals. No, I mean the lighting, weather effects, and scenery. Looking off into the horizon in front of you really is a sight to behold. You can go everywhere you can see. That alone speaks volumes because you can see a lot. The horizon is the limit. There are no load times as you travel from one area to the next. It seems like real travel.
The soundtrack didn’t stand out to me, but it got the job done. It has a distinctive Western sound. Sound effects are very well done in this game. The ambient sounds you hear while walking around the world are dynamic to your situation. You can tell when you are in a populated town, ghost town, or a completely unsettled area based on the sounds around you. Seeing as this is the wild west you can expect to run across many wild animals. They are all well incorporated as well. You have to watch your step for fear of getting bitten by a rattlesnake. Go to the wrong area and you may find yourself face to face with a bear…you do not want that.
The pacing of the game is spot on. It never drags or feels rushed. I don’t want to give away important details of the story so I will give you a cautious synopsis. Marston (the main character) has a troubled past he has been trying to pay his dues for and move on from. His true motives are slowly revealed as the story progresses via each interaction with other characters in the game. New characters receive ample time and attention needed to make the player care about them. Rockstar did a great job with the dialogue and animations in this game.
Gameplay is solid both on foot and on horseback, but the game really shines on horseback and you will spend a good amount of time playing via this dynamic. I chose to play with the aiming set on expert and I enjoyed it. It takes some getting used to but is feels very rewarding and is the quite realistic. The ‘Dead Eye’ is your standard slow-motion mode. It isn’t something you haven’t seen before, but it fits well in the game. It allows the player to become a “quick draw McGraw” if you will. Melee combat is completely sub-par in both style and substance…period. Thankfully, you will rarely have to let your fists do the talking. The cover system is not flawless, but it more than gets the job done. Gun-play via horseback or riding shotgun on a stagecoach is splendid. The game offers users a lot of ways to be the person they want to be and to get tasks done. Take your pick (just don’t include swimming).
Personally, this is not a game I am going to give a lot of time. Objectively, it is a great game. It has very few flaws and is executed well. If you have even the slightest interest in Western films, history, or culture, you should buy this game. It has an abundance of references to them all. This game looks and plays beautifully. It is easily the best video game Western out there. I can see this game garnering a lot of praise and fans as time goes on. It has something for everybody. You do not have to just do the story and side missions and quests seem to be completely unscripted for the most part. There are even other activities users can do to pass time. These include hunting (yes, all those animals you come across can be hunted), fishing, and even games like horseshoe and poker. I would have people give this game a chance. Even if you are like me and aren’t a fan, you will see the objective greatness that is offered in this title.