by Brandon Waldenberg
previewed on PS3
Gamers with a love for Wild West settings have a hard time seeing their wishes fulfilled in recent years. With the notable exception of the Call of Juarez games, it has been poor pickings indeed. This will change soon as a genre defining Western game is about to arrive. Red Dead Redemption is looking to continue Rockstar’s fine tradition of open ended sandbox games, this time set in the Wild West.
The game takes place in the days leading up to the Civil War putting the player in the shoes of a new protagonist by the name of John Marston. A former highwayman himself, Marston has joined the forces of justice to clear the American Frontier. This is done with plenty of violence and gunplay while Marston pursues a former member of his gang, Bill Williamson, across the expansive Western landscape.
Red Dead Redemption promises an experience that works and improves on everything from Red Dead Revolver. The technology available to breathe life into the Wild West has vastly improved since the previous game. Players can now choose from a wide range of different weapons in their hunt for lawlessness. Dynamite, Gatling guns and machine gun pistols allow players to choose how they enter and gain control over the battlefield. Marston can deliver massive damage from afar with a buffalo rifle, or blow baddies away up close with a shotgun. This kind of variety is important when Red Dead’s main gameplay is delivered through gun fights, both small and large scale.
Whether on foot, by horse or by train, the shootouts are spectacular, fulfilling every classic Western cliché. Dead Eye, one of the main features from the first game, is back and looking pretty bad ass. Dead Eye starts off as a simple enough bullet time mechanic but becomes more advanced as you plow through the game. Eventually Marston is able to fire off a string of bullets, raining a hail of lead on multiple enemies. When Marston is riding backwards on a horse being chased by a gang, this feature will surely come in handy.
Painting the West
Epic plains and snow covered mountain scapes will really let the new game have the kind of variety that its predecessor lacked. The development team are doing a great job of really distilling the beauty of the West into this game. Every corner you take, their love of the setting and dedication to crafting a believable game world can be seen and felt. Thanks to the Euphoria engine, models look and act realistically. Simply watching the horses run freely is a sight to behold. You can see muscles ripple on their flanks as their hooves pound across the ground in a level of detail that I have never encountered in any game. A lot of effort has also been put into the game’s physics. Watching Marston drop bandits with a revolver could not be more entertaining and, more importantly, more life-like (in a cliché kind of way, of course).
Marston will be able to explore trading posts, cities, and bandit camps in a large area in his search for his former comrades. The game boasts a wide variety of different gameplay styles that players can partake in. Racing across the plains on horses or riding mining carts at fast speeds, Redemption will always have something new to offer. One of the most important aspects of any sandbox game is how much freedom the player has when exploring the game world. The developers went out of their way to make exploration surprising and dynamic. Anything may happen at any time. Players should always be on the lookout for random animal attacks and coach robberies to complicate their travels across the West. Often, bounties are posted on fugitives that can be hunted down for money. In contrast, you can also help bandits to take down big heists for your own benefit. Add to all of this a morality system and you have a game with some serious replayability.
A little stiff, perhaps?
I loved the first Red Dead and this sequel improves on everything from before. The game is epic in every definition of the word, taking players across the scenic West and allowing them to choose between being a law abiding marshal or a money grubbing bandit. Redemption looks gorgeous and its gameplay is fast paced and action-packed, exactly what you would hope from a Western-themed game. My only concern is that Marston himself looks a little stiff in gameplay when shooting and taking cover.