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Red Dead Review

Set in 1911, Red Dead Redemption is one of only a few games in the western genre. Why aren't there more games in this genre, I don't know. Frankly, I don't care, because this is the only one that matters. It's just that good.

You play as John Marston, a man who has lived his life in the classic outlaw fashion. He's robbed banks, shot Indians and ridden horses all his life. But his gang members betrayed him. Left him for dead. So he decided to turn his life around. Start a family. Go straight. Unfortunately, it wasn't so easy. His past has caught up with him. The government is holding his family hostage, and he won't see them again unless he hunts down and kills his old gang buddies. This is where Red Dead Redemption starts.

The storyline is engaging. It's full of memorable characters, standard western cliches and emotion. For me, the last one is what matters most. Rockstar have built this story out of emotion, and they expect you to care about the characters, your actions and the overall outcome. They succeeded in this. I won't spoil anything for those who haven't played the game, but it does get pretty emotional at certain times. The ending is especially unique. It's unlike anything I've experienced in a game before, and it will stay with me for a long time. Everything comes together for something truly memorable.

But the story is not the only thing that is memorable. The overall atmosphere is the best I have ever seen. No exceptions. As you ride up to an abandoned house, you really get the feeling that it was once somebodies home. As you're riding across the plains you'll spot birds in the distance, the setting sun making them all the more visible and easy to spot. The sky darkens and rain starts to fall. You want to get out of the rain, even though it has no effect on anything. The thunder rumbling in the distance makes you want to snuggle down somewhere and sleep through the storm.

The first thing that makes up this atmosphere is the game world itself. First of all, the map is huge. Even after over 50 hours of play time, there were interesting places I was stumbling across for the first time. The world also contains varied environments: plains, deserts, swamps, woods and mountains. And in each of these environments live animals. These animals you can hunt, and sell their skins and meat for money. They aren't just there as a source of income through. They are there to make the world feel more real. This is an alive world, and the animals reinforce that. The only other Rockstar game with this kind of scope was GTA San Andreas. It was filled with open space, but it all felt empty. There is none of that here. You could be walking through a featureless desert and it would not feel empty, because you can see the hawks flying overhead, hear the coyotes barking and chasing each other.

Not only that, but the world is full of interesting places to visit. Classical western towns like Armadillo, Mexican villages like Chuparosa and the beginnings of a modern city: Blackwater. These places are filled with life. Dogs barking and running around, chickens pecking at the ground, raccoons sneaking around at night trying to find something to steal. But of course, there are the people too. The sheriff, putting up wanted posters outside the prison. Prostitutes selling themselves to anybody who will listen. Drunks staggering around the street. The people are just as important as the animals in making up this world.

The next part the atmosphere is the graphics. They are, simply put, amazing. I have it on 360, but I know the graphics are nowhere near as good on the PS3 (my brother has it on PS3. He has a much better TV than I do, and the 360 version is still better on mine) Usually I would say that the graphical difference doesn't matter, but it really does. This is the first game where I would say that graphics are as important to me as gameplay. Because they pull you into the world, and they keep you there. At the time of writing there are a few graphical glitches, but they are so minor that it's hardly worth mentioning.

The final part of the excellent atmosphere is the sounds. Hawks screeching from above, a train chugging past, wolves howling. These all serve to immerse you further into the world. And the music! The music is authentic western music, usually not worth mentioning, but the way it is used is just so perfect. Not to mention the typical saloon music you'll here as you pass a saloon in town. I thought I would miss the radio from the GTA games while riding across the plains, but I don't.

The gameplay is typical of a Rockstar game: varied and excellent. Dueling is fun, though I only really got the hang of it once I looked it up online. I probably should have read the tutorial more carefully. Everything else, from shootouts to riding your horse, feels polished and smooth. The only criticism I have on this part is that changing weapons in a hurry takes a bit of getting used to. The animations and physics have been stepped up a notch from GTA IV, and the difference is noticeable. While taking cover, John will flinch and duck as bullets come flying towards him. It really makes it feel more real.

Red Dead Redemption is a game that I hope I never forget. It's the best game I have played all year, and quite possible the best I have ever played. It really deserves all the praise it gets. And from me, it gets a 10.


Freek said...

Yo dawg, is it worth a buy ?

TurboPhoenix said...

1,000 times yes!

Anonymous said...

I agree 100%! I especially like the part of your review about the landscapes, weather, and sounds. They have the same effect on me. Spot on review!

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