From the makers of GTA, Rockstar takes you into the Old West for its latest sandbox game Red Dead Redemption.
As much as I love the GTA games they do seem to be giving us a bit of the same old gaming experiences with a couple of new ideals thrown in here and there and some of them (like the constant dating in GTA4) are an unwelcome addition, so it was nice to play something which although is similar in some ways on a whole it’s a completely refreshing change.
You play as John Marston a reformed outlaw who is on the hunt for his old gang members. As soon as the long opener finishes and you step out of the train into the world for the first time you can tell this is going to be one of those games that will take up hours of your life.
My first impressions of the game were the graphics; everything about it looks so natural and beautiful, from sun rise to sunset and into the night and weather experiences everything around you feels right especially the sun, it’s worth watching the sunset just to see the landscape change around you and watch as the sun blinds your vision for a few seconds before it disappears just like in real life. You can tell that a lot of care and attention have been dedicated into making this game the way it is.
Camera movement isn’t the best around and the controls have been passed over from the GTA games but it works (although I would have been happier if you didn’t have to tap the A button to run). The same applies while riding a horse, you will tap to gallop and hold to regain lost stamina, if you tap to much your horse will buck you off but as well as a stamina bar your house will give you warning before this happens.
Navigation is easy, you can click waypoints on the map and you will get a trail to follow, if you can’t be bothered to ride your horse long distances you can go into a town and take a stage coach, just like the Taxi system in GTA4. While traveling around you will come across a lot of the games wildlife, from Birds to bears there are lots of different animals which you can ride or hunt but they all interact with the landscape and other people traveling through. While hunting though you may be attacked by some of RDR’s more deadly creatures that will creep up on you and attack or even kill when you least expected but I felt this was necessary as this is what would happen if you were out in the middle of nowhere. Dying in RDR isn’t much of a problem, you will wake up in the nearest town with no real progress lost, however if you shoot an innocent or a member of the law and get a big enough bounty on your head you may be caught and thrown into jail. This will lose you money and property so be good 😉
Aside from the main storyline the towns and surrounding deserts are full of things to do. Betting can make and lose you money; these games and consist of arm wrestling, horse shoe throwing, poker, blackjack, and liars dice can be found in the towns and shooting birds outside the towns. Some of the other town mini games you can pick up involve taming horses, duels & bounty hunting but you will come across other things as you travel which normally involve bandits, saving people from animals etc. these are a welcome diversion when you want to take a break from the main story. None of these are necessary and you could run through the game within 15 hours if you do remove all the side quests. On top of all that there are strangers missions you can take part in, as you travel around a “?” will appear on you map and all you have to do is find the person and chat to them to accept. The main missions will appear with the person’s initials just like they did in GTA.
The soundtrack to this game is old Weston music quietly played in the background which is perfect for the game atmosphere and surroundings. The only time I have heard a song with singing played was my first trip over the border into Mexico and while this was a strange add on after playing for hours it was a lovely addition.
There are bugs in this game and I know some are worse than others but I really have not had any that have affected my game play that much or to any point of annoyance. The only quibbles I have with RDR are the fact that you cannot swim at all and if you happen to fall into a deep river you die instantly. The other problem I had was in the middle of a shootout when I had people on my side and it was dark, if you shoot someone on your side they all turn on you and focus their attacks on you rather than your enemies.
The little touches are brilliant, In the middle of nowhere in Mexico I seen a women crying over her dead partner, while I watched as she then turned the gun on herself and pulled the trigger. I also had seen a man chasing a bear through the woods hunting it down! There are also little things you can choose to help or ignore and you have the freedom to choose if you want to help good guys or bad guys which affects your honor and fame within the game.
Overall this has been the best gaming experience of this year so far and a contender for game of the year.