Will Preston

The most authentic wild west experience without getting dysentery

by on Feb.16, 2011, under Review, Video Games

It’s hard when you’re a man who loves guns in video games. Let me rephrase that. It’s hard when you’re a man who loves first person shooters about modern war. This is one reason I left Red Dead Redemption alone for a while. When I finally came round to playing it after being stubborn, I immediately felt guilty about not playing it sooner. In a way, the game itself was my redemption. Wild West games seem to barely exist today. From memory, apart from this game, I can only call out Gun and Call of Jaurez, which are both good games. What does that say about the genre? Either that there are either not enough games about the wild west, or these games have pretty much covered all the good points.

More manly than Raoul Moat drinking petrol

What makes Red Dead Redemption a superb title though is that the game plays out like Grand Theft Auto 4 should have played. Even the in game cut scenes were a joy to watch, despite that they were technically interrupting my game. That’s what grabbed me from the beginning. The long introduction see’s John Marston (who needs to win some kind of award for best character in a game, at least!) get off a train in the year 1911 (the last days of the wild west) with two moody government types. He’s on a mission from the government to capture his old outlaw friends to earn his redemption, but not before being shot and nursed back to health by a nearby rancher. The story shares a few similarities with the GTA series in the sense that your character is a man of questionable ethics who starts out with nothing in a strange land, apart from a vendetta.

"it says here that the treasure is buried under a rock..."

One thing that GTA didn’t have is the survival and RPG elements of Red Dead Redemption. Marston learns new skills and improves as the game progresses, which is fitting considering that each settlement is surrounded with harsh wilderness. You need to improve to survive in this game. Playing with a GTA hat on doesn’t get you by on its own. It takes more than just abiding the law to not get you killed. Various wildlife waits in the bushes to take you down when you least expect it. And there’s a lot. It starts out shooting groups of coyotes until you’re up against cougars and even a big old bear. And even then, you’ll probably be too distracted by the scenery to actually defend yourself.

I always thought Toy Story did the best 'Draw!' joke...

Never before have I seen a sky so wonderfully rendered since Fallout 3. The night looks enchanting whilst the sunny days feel hot even through the screen. Even the rain made me shiver. I can save time by just stating that the graphics are the best yet. The gameplay is almost the same to GTA, except cars (horses in this time) handle way differently and you now have bullet time. No, I’m not calling it Dead Eye! The side quests are a nice distraction too. There are different kinds of gambling, various mini-games and the chance to become a bounty hunter. Not that the main quest is boring. It starts off a bit slow as you do odd jobs for the rancher who saved you, but the game changes gears at several points before it gets too repetitive.

The narrative progresses well until the last hour of the game where everything happens at once and I was left with a gaping jaw and a tear in my eye. It was that damn good, but I won’t spoil anything for you. The only problem I encountered was the game was a little too easy in places. Since your health and bullet time recharge, and ammo is more abundant than carbon dioxide, there becomes no major difficulty apart from moving out of the way when someone starts shooting. In a way, I was kind of looking forward to the situation where I run out of ammo and forced to use the knife and stealth path. Despite this flaw, the game still lasted a long time and it didn’t really ruin my experience.

There’s also a multiplayer mode that I’ve yet to try as well as the popular zombie mode (Red Dead Undead?), but the £40 price is worth the main game alone. It took me a week of intense playing to finish this game, and even then I still wasn’t tired of what was possibly the most perfect gaming experience I’ve had in the last few years.

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