PS3 Review – Red Dead Redemption

May 25, 2010Written by Joseph Peterson

Red Dead Redemption was developed by Rockstar San Diego and Rockstar North and follows the same open world gameplay as the Grand Theft Auto franchise which has made Rockstar famous over the years. Many might believe that this is essentially just Grand Theft Auto with an Old West setting and while there are some similarities between the two series, Red Dead Redemption features a plethora of new features, a gripping atmosphere, and most of all, a main character you’ll actually connect with.

Step into the boots of John Marston, the gritty, tough guy type who fits the atmosphere of the game perfectly. Marston is an ex-gang member and a self-described “robin hood” of the wild west, however, after being left for dead by his fellow gang members during a robbery gone awry, he’s left the life of crime and got himself a family and a farm. That fairy-tale story is short-lived, as the government is threatening Martson’s family unless John helps locate Bill Williamson, an old “friend” of John’s and member of his old gang. Despite his past and his bloodstained hands, Marston is the type of guy you want to see win. He’s polite, he’s a man of honor, a man of respect – at one point I Marston says to a lady of the night “Sorry Miss, but I’m married”. A far cry from the so-called heroes from other Rockstar titles.

Martson isn’t the only part of Red Dead Redemption brimming with personality. The land itself takes on a life of its own. At first glance the land may seem barren, deserted, and look like it’s going to be a bore traversing the sandy paths through the countryside. That isn’t the case at all. Even though there you can fast-travel to many of the areas in RDR, you won’t want to, instead, you’ll want to soak in the beautiful scenery and interact with the land itself. You could walk the same path between the same towns as many number of times as you want, and you wouldn’t have the same experience twice. You could be attacked by coyote, you could stumble across some Wild Feverfew, you could find a damsel in distress, or even a lawman chasing down a criminal for bounty. There is never a dull moment in the countryside with plenty of distractions from the main story to keep you busy. Though they may not impact the story as much as other events, they can certainly spell the end for Marston.

Each and every character, sans maybe one or two, offers up an exciting new branch of storyline. Unlike the GTA-series, you wont feel as though you are visiting one character too much. The missions are well spaced out and are always enjoyable. Missions are just the tip of the iceberg as Marston can also venture into towns to go gambling, have himself a drink, participate in a standoff, and even run gangs out of areas that they have taken over. This does not include the random encounters that will pop up while traversing across the map hunting the various animals that roam the west. While out in the plains, players will see others attacked by animals, asked to help out on individual matters, and even see public hangings. This game is as authentic as it gets for a title set in the old west.

This is not all that you will find to do in the vast world of Red Dead Redemption as there are plenty of mini games to keep your interest. Liar’s Dice, Horseshoes, Texas Hold ’em, just to name a few. The mini games are actually very well done and it’s this kind of attention to the small things that really draws your attention. My personal favorite would be Texas Hold ’em without a doubt as I have already found myself putting in plenty of hours into getting the best cards. There is also “jobs” that the player can take on. These include both Nightwatch and Horsebreaking jobs, both of which are a lot of fun. Nightwatch consists of you patrolling the town and making sure there is no wrongdoing going on for that particular night. In my personal experiences I was instructed to follow a dog while he sniffed out anything bad going on within the town. These can be both big and small crimes. I personally tended to get a lot of horse thieves trying to get away on horseback. Simply subdue them by lassoing or shooting them tends to do the trick.

One of the most important commodities in the game is money and one of the best ways to make it is to go hunting. Once you kill an animal its time to skin it for it’s fur and meat to then turn around and sell for easy money. This is an easy way to line your pockets with some quick money so you can go gamble it all away. You’ll see everything from hawks and vultures, to snakes and armadillos, wolves and coyote, rabbits and raccoons, to bears and cougars. Some are dangerous, some might as well fall down and die at your feet.

You’ll use your money to buy maps to the local towns, supplies for Martson and his horse, or weapons for Marston’s arsenal. Marston will be able to wield a variety of weapons, each serving a different purpose in battle. Although, Martson has his trusty six-shooter with him at all times, I found that the rifles and repeaters were much more useful weaponry. You’ll get a sniper rifle late in the game and it never proves to be all that useful. The most deadly weapon at Marston’s disposal is not a gun at all, it’s Red Dead Redemption’s “Dead Eye” system, that allows Martson to slow down time and take aim at multiple targets at once. When you press the button to shoot, Martson will then fire at each target with speed and precision. You’ll find yourself almost over-using this throughout the game, as many of the battles are tough and have you outnumbered. This allows you to even the odds much more quickly.

Aside from the bad ass weaponry that Martson will have at his disposal, what would a game set in the western-era be without a lasso? As you progress through the game this is just one of the things that you will unlock. You can pretty much use it on anything, most-enjoyably, people to hogtie them. It will come in very handy in some of the jobs that you will take on throughout the game.

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