The store on Xbox 360 currently has a Spring Sale going on, and among those is Red Dead Redemption, perhaps one of the greatest games of all time.
Red Dead Redemption, made by Rockstar Games, is set in 1911, in the final collapse of the Old West. You play as John Marston, an outlaw-turned-rancher-turned-government lackey, as government officials kidnap his family and force him to hunt down his former gang members. The story is Rockstar at their finest. It’s filled with action, tension and emotion; finally killing Bill Williamson after chasing him across both America and Mexico is incredibly satisfying, and don’t even get me started on the emotional ending (no more shall be said, though it’s become one of the most well-known endings in video game history). The side missions are also fun and enjoyable – be it collecting flowers for a man’s “wife” (you’ll see what I mean), helping an old woman find her husband (again, not how it seems at first), or even the various activities, such as playing horseshoes, poker, or going on night guard duty – it never lacks variety and enjoyment.
The gameplay, while smooth in a few areas, is a little clunky. In Rockstar’s recognisable style, Red Dead is a third-person shooter, and the combat works wonderfully. The weapons feel like guns of old, hitting hard and firing slow. Revolvers, rifles, repeaters and shotguns fill your arsenal, as well as explosives and a trusty lasso. The design of the weapons help to sell the Old West setting, and are a nice change of pace from the usual weapons that Rockstar make. Dead Eye is a special ability that fills up as you kill people, and when filled up allows you to slow time temporarily and select targets, and when it returns to real-time, it unleashes hell on all those you targeted at. It’s a good mechanic that can save you from a possibly bad situation.
The controls though are where the game could use some work. In typical Rockstar fashion, the movement of the characters is clunky and often difficult to control, and I have more often than not run off a cliff due to the poor controlling. It’s not game breaking though and can be managed.
The map is huge, and so at most times you’ll find yourself on a horse. The horses control well, and where the awkward turning of the character is clunky, it fits in well with the horses, and feels realistic. The carriages that you can also drive feel great to use, as if you’re really driving one; they feel heavy, fast and turn hard, leaning as you go round bends.
The environment and graphics are outstanding for its time. Each area, (New Austin, Neuvo Paraíso, and West Elizabeth) feels different from the last, and looks like The Old West. The dusty, dried grasslands of New Austin, the desert wasteland of Neuvo Paraíso, and the lush forests of West Elizabeth; each feels special, and the wildlife found in each makes them all stand out in their own ways.
Animals roam the wilderness, ranging from small foxes to great grizzly bears and powerful boars. Not just there for realism, they are necessary in completing the various challenges, that help unlock new items such as weapons and outfits. A personal favourite of mine was the Master Hunter Challenge, which sent me across the map hunting special creatures. Each challenge has ten stages, the next more tasking than the last; shoot the hats off of 5 people, kill 10 birds from the top of a train, or kill the legendary golden grizzly bear, they add a fun side activity to do when you don’t feel like completing any missions.
Multiplayer is also available to play too, and it is a lot of fun. Multiplayer modes were available, but my favourite part personally was the free-roam, and the ability to join a Posse; a group of eight players that could either run round the map or join a game mode together. What made this special was the ability to have the law enforcement on while in free roam too, and with it being the Old West, players could become lawless outlaws, gunning down law officers and players alike. Running round with seven other players as you were chased across the landscape after gaining a high bounty felt incredible, and a sense of camaraderie and an outlaw-fuelled bond often formed between me and the other Posse members. The only issue is that nowadays, the servers are broken, but this is due to a massive attack Rockstar suffered a few years ago, and the servers have never recovered since. Players control a character of their choice, from a generic bandito or outlaw to famous legends such as Landon Ricketts or John Marston himself (through purchases however). The combat was fun and worked similar to singleplayer, though Dead Eye was changed so that it no longer slowed down time, but you could still lock on. It didn’t charge the same way however, and dead eye refills were scattered across the wilderness at camps, meaning it wasn’t able to spam the ability.
The morality system filtered into the singleplayer too, though in a more detailed manner. Players could often help random strangers with tasks, and sometimes be offered a choice of either helping them selflessly, or taking the selfish option for your own profit. Get this too high and it would have an effect on the world too; most towns would turn you away or charge you highly for store goods (aside from one town, known affectionately as Thieves Landing), people would fear you or challenge you to duels, and even your horse would change to a dark horse, scarred and looking menacing. Do the opposite however, and most towns will welcome you with open arms, offer discounts, and come to you for help. Of course, do-gooders aren’t welcome in Thieves Landing, and so entering the town meant instant gunfire from all around you. It never had a drastic impact on the campaign, but it was a nice addition that changed how you personally played t
Overall, Red Dead Redemption was and still is one of Rockstar’s best games. The beautiful setting, superb multiplayer and world, and one of the most memorable campaigns you’ll ever play, you’d be crazy to not get it while you can. So saddle up cowboy and jump into one of the best games of all time.