by Ben Lelievre
previewed on X360
The Wild West
Among all the cinematographic clichés, there are some that the video game industry seem to avoid at all costs. You will find plenty of science-fiction, war or crime themed games on the shelves of your local GameStop. But let's say you are walking in with an urge of old school Clint-Eastwood Western action, who will step up to satisfy your needs? Rockstar Games will because... Rockstar Games always steps up when it is time to propose different things. They had already tried out the genre in 2004 with the fun, but rather limited Red Dead Revolver. Their newest opus Red Dead Redemption will come out on retailers shelves on April 27. With it, Rockstar San Diego revisits the Far-West with a vengeance and with the power of the PS3 and the X360 to back up their efforts.
The Wild West is a cinematographic genre that is rich with clichés. Cowboys, Indians, sheriffs, duels at sunset. But what cliché movie is complete without a satisfying revenge story? The plot of Red Dead Redemption is all about that. This is the story of John Marston, a former outlaw that is hired to re-establish order at the Southern border of the United States. In his way will be his former partner Bill Williamson, with whom he used to have a successful business.
Rockstar Games returns to their open-world sandbox style and the game will be lead but not limited to its main plotline. John will encounter people that need his help along the way, including rebel soldier Abraham Raias who will need John's assistance at planning a revolution against the Mexican army. Sounds exciting, doesn't it? The Western setting will be applied to what could be a battle of an epic grandeur. Unlike the trend in video games design, you will not be thrown into an epic setting, but rather build it from the ground up. You know, in the Wild Wild West that's how legends are made.
Stampeding with a Rockstar twist
When you pop a new Rockstar game into your console you can expect two things. First of all, it will rock the standards boat. They haven't released a title that was sub-par to the market in years. The second thing that you can expect is innovation. With a setting that begs for new ideas, what will Red Dead Redemption offer that will be new to the gamers? Will it raise video games standards the way Grand Theft Auto did?
The game will be played from a 3rd person perspective and will have three regions to explore. The first two are in the United States, the last one is situated on the Mexican border. As there will be scripted missions, the player will have his load of random encounters. The road wasn't a safe place back then and John Marston will face daily perils while traveling from one city to another. An interesting addition that Rockstar is making to Red Dead Redemption is that random encounters aren't all hostile. You will get ambushed and attacked by animals but you will also witness hangings, answer pleas for help, etc. Another confirmed option is the return of ‘Dead Eye Mode’, which is commonly known as ‘bullet time’.
Of course, no Rockstar sandbox game is complete without a set of mini-games. Red Dead Redemption offers showdowns, gambling, cattle herding, bounty hunting and even... five finger fillet. For those who don't know what five finger fillet is, it is the game you play when you put a hand on the table and hammer a knife in between your five fingers as fast as you can. Never had the guts to play five finger fillet in real life? Well, you will be able to play it in Red Dead Revolver and keep your precious fingers attached to your hand.
Rockstar’s best little sweatshop in town?
Unfortunately the release of Red Dead Redemption has been clouded by scandal and indignation. If you eat your cereals with milk, flip the carton and check behind. There is a good chance you will see the face of a Rockstar San Diego developer. It is hard nowadays to talk about Rockstar without talking about the San Diego incident. The wives of their employees have yet to see their husbands in 2010. Knowing that gamers are usually conscious buyers you can't dodge the question. Do I want to encourage the type of behavior Rockstar Games showed to their San Diego employees?
In all humility, I think this has been blown out of proportions. If you get far enough in the video games industry you will learn about something called `crunch time’, a three to six months period where employees of any developing company undergo crazy shifts without being paid overtime. It is a part of the rules of engagement. You won't see a company that doesn't do it. Deadlines are crucial and people have to work together to make them. Everybody needs to pitch in. It's good, once in a while that a scandal like this explodes in the media though. It reminds employers not to abuse of the ‘crunch time’ rule.
Despite the scandal, I think this title will be totally worth your sixty-odd dollars. Rockstar Games have a long lasting tradition of making quality games and Red Dead Redemption will be a fresh and original addition to the Rockstar roster of impressive titles. Admit it, don't you want to duel at sundown with the scum of the West?