Video Game Review: ‘Red Dead Redemption’ is Early Frontrunner For Game of the Year

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HollywoodChicago.com Video Game Rating: 5.0/5.0
Video Game Rating: 5.0/5.0

CHICAGO – Rarely has a game lived up to the advance hype as completely as “Red Dead Redemption,” the very unique title that will be influential in so many ways that they’re almost hard to count. There have been titles that pushed the gaming world forward in terms of single-player campaigns or multi-player experiences or gameplay or graphics, but “Red Dead Redemption” is a masterpiece on every discernable level. It’s doubtful you’ll play anything better all year.

It’s downright hilarious to read the naysayers trying to pick apart the little things that may hold “Red Dead Redemption” back from a perfect score. You can’t swim seems to be the only one gaining any traction. Yes, this is a game that is so perfect that the fact that your character never learned how to doggy paddle is the only thing message board trolls seem to be able to pick apart. “Red Dead Redemption” is bulletproof.

Red Dead Redemption
Red Dead Redemption
Photo credit: Rockstar

Your character, John Marston, is not. Brilliantly voiced by Rob Wiethoff, Marston is a former outlaw near the border at the turn of the century. We meet Marston as he’s being ushered out of town on a train and sent to New Austin to capture the notorious Bill Williamson. Marston and Williamson used to be partners in crime, but this doesn’t stop Bill from shooting John and leaving him for dead in the game’s opening scenes.

Red Dead Redemption
Red Dead Redemption
Photo credit: Rockstar

John is discovered by the lovely Bonnie MacFarlane and the single-player campaign begins with the player finding their spurs on her ranch. Horse-riding, shooting coyotes, and even lassoing runaway stallions has never been so fun. It’s here where the single-player campaign begins to reveal its remarkable depth. “Red Dead Redemption” is a sandbox game like no other (even if it has been called “Grand Theft Horse” and “Grand Theft Stagecoach” as it comes from the developers of “Grand Theft Auto IV”).

For the next several hours, Marston will ride back and forth across the county of New Austin and eventually across the border, completing a series of story missions and side missions. Or merely playing poker, blackjack, or other games in one of the many towns. Or picking flowers. Or skinning wild animals. Or starting a duel. The freedom of game experience in “Red Dead Redemption” is simply jaw-dropping.

There have been sandbox games in the past with a large quantity of side missions to personalize the experience but they almost always seem like mere distractions from the “A plot” or the missions that push forward the story. Such is not the case with “Red Dead Redemption”. The side missions, which can be as banal-sounding as lassoing and breaking wild horses, add atmosphere to the world of the game and depth to its characters. This is one of the most well-written games ever made in its subplots as much as its main story.

And it’s easily one of the most visually striking as well. Like “GTA,” a lot of the game is spent getting from point A to point B, but the world of New Austin is so amazingly detailed and beautiful to look at that one never minds the journey. Every visual element from the character models to the way it feels like your horse’s feet are actually hitting the road has been perfectly conceived, designed, and executed. And I’ll never get over the beauty of the horizon and the way the clouds feel almost real as they darken and unleash rain.

Red Dead Redemption
Red Dead Redemption
Photo credit: Rockstar

“Red Dead Redemption” would be a solid Game of the Year contender with its single-player campaign alone but the title also boasts one of the most revolutionary and impressive multi-player experiences that you’ll ever have.

The player starts in “Free Roam,” which means you’re merely roaming the New Austin countryside not unlike in the single-player campaign but with other players over every hill. You can visit towns and play games, band together to form posses, and, of course, kill at will, which seemed to be the basic drive of most players in the first few weeks.

From “Free Roam,” it’s also easy to jump into “Quick Match” multi-player experiences like “Grab the Bag” (a variation on the traditional “Capture the Flag” of many MP titles) and “Hold Your Own” (which is basically “Deathmatch”). The shootout games are incredibly addictive although they do suffer a bit from some small maps that can become easily overcrowded with characters, resulting in a ‘spawn-twitch-die’ scenario a bit too often. However, most of the maps are remarkably well-designed variations on locations from the story and will entertain you for hours.

Ultimately, that’s the best word for “Red Dead Redemption” — entertain. By now, you’ve probably read about how revolutionary and masterful the game is but many of the critics are missing the fact that it is, above all else, straight-up entertaining. Like an amazing spaghetti western brought to life or a few days spent in the town of Deadwood, your time in “Red Dead Redemption” is transportative, addictive, and different every time you play it. One day, you may be in the mood merely to waste some time with Liar’s Dice, Blackjack, or a few “Stranger” stories (side missions in which you help locals that you meet along your path). The next time you pick up the controller, you may be ready for something more intense.

With ever-changing multiplayer and with DLC a very strong likelihood given how notably the “GTA IV” team released entirely new chapters for their landmark title, “Red Dead Redemption” feels like it will be an addiction that’s hard to shake for months and possibly even years to come. If you own a PS3 or Xbox 360 and do not play “Red Dead Redemption,” you are missing a glimpse at the future of video games. What are you waiting for?

‘Red Dead Redemption’ was released by Rockstar Games and developed by Rockstar San Diego. It is rated M (Mature). The version reviewed was for the Xbox 360, but the title is also available for the PS3. It was released on May 18th, 2010.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

By BRIAN TALLERICO
Content Director
HollywoodChicago.com
brian@hollywoodchicago.com

curt's picture

I am enjoying this game as

I am enjoying this game as well but i think it only fair to note that there’s more bugs in this game than buzzards in New Austin.

I haven’t had a single session where I wasn’t exiting the game and relaunching just to work around some sort of glitch.

Menus not loading, horse disappearing when I need it for a mission, etc.

Don’t forget to mention the severely shallow side missions. Every time you do a gang hideout, it’s exactly the same. Same guys behind the same rocks. Every time that half-naked chick begs for a ride she steals your horse and you have to gun her down…now I totally ignore her cause I know it won’t turn out any differently.

I also wish this game were deeper in forcing the player to have to do some figuring out… for example: when I’m hunting down a fugitive, I don’t have to try to find him, there’s a big red skull pointing me right to him. Every time i had to go into the mountains to find some poor lost soul, there’s a big purple ‘?’ pointing the way. Every time I go hunting for gold (the deepest of side-missions) there’s the same obvious pile of rocks that practically glows for me to come claim my treasure.

This game is great but far from perfect.

If you’re gonna give a review, I think it important that you actually give a FULL review. But thanks anyway!

BrianTT's picture

System?

Even though we disagree, I’m curious which console you’re playing on because I’ve played for HOURS and run into nothing more glitchy than a rare see-through wall when things are moving too fast. Certainly nothing as drastic as “I haven’t had a single session where I wasn’t exiting the game and relaunching just to work around some sort of glitch.” If I had that experience, I wouldn’t simply not mention it. Are you playing the Xbox version or PS3?

Also, begging that the side missions be as complex and in-depth as the story missions seems oddly demanding to me and not something I would include in a “FULL review.” Yeah, they practically walk you through them but they’re designed to add atmosphere and kill time between story missions. It’s not a game about a bounty hunter or a treasure collector. If those side missions seem too easy, don’t do them.

Brian Tallerico

Curt's picture

I’m on the 360. And I

I’m on the 360. And I have to admit that I’m not attached to xbox live as I’ve recently moved so there’s probably an update that would cure my ailments…but it does show how “shipped” titles are not truly polished or complete.

I don’t necessarily want the side-missions to compete with the actual plot but I also don’t want the atmosphere in this “revolutionary” game to be so shallow.

I admit, I do have high expectations; especially from Rockstar.

I disagree, it is about a bounty hunter. That’s his whole purpose in the game - to hunt down Williamson (if that’s the guy’s name).

Let me assure you….I sit at work, every day, waiting to go home and play this game. So, I’m a satisfied customer and Rockstar fan. I just thought it worth mentioning.

cat's picture

this game beats all others

I play on the PS3 and have not had one glitch or bug yet…most the ones you hear about come from the XBox (no surprise there). Clearly this review of the game is dead on! Excellent game! And the character is not a bounty hunter - he just wants to get his family back and is doing all he can to make that happen. Very fun, intense, and realistic game - I even find myself leaning to the side during a gun fight to try to “see” around corners. The side missions are good as they give you something small to do if you don’t want to start a full mission yet (such as while waiting until daylight in the game before taking on a whole gang of bandits - not as easy in the dark). Red Dead well deserves game of the year and I am hoping for a sequel or prequel to come out next - will be first in line for either!

Dave's picture

Inspiring Spaghetti Western Love?

This game looks beyond amazing! If it’s inspiring some Spaghetti Western love, you should check out my Spaghetti Western Concept Rap album, called “Showdown at the BK Corral.” It’s basically an epic Spaghetti Western over 9 tracks - very influenced by Morricone. I’d love to hear what you think of it! You can download it for free at sunsetparkriders.com

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