Thursday, 10 May 2018

Review No. 140 Red Dead Redemption - PS3 (18+)

Strong Points:
Great atmosphere and world building
Likeable hero
Varied cast
The language of the Wild West
Horse riding
Shooting gameplay...
Funny
Lots to do
Great voice acting
Classic Rockstar realism and graphics

Weak Points:
Pacing issues
A lot of the same story trends
...Even if it turns into a bit of an auto-lock sometimes
The amount of people you kill is at ends with the story
Run too fast and you can miss story elements



In-depth Review:

Release Dates:
North America: May 18th, 2010
PAL: May 21, 2010

Controls:
Left Analogue Stick: move character
Right Analogue Stick: move camera
L3: crouch
R3: look behind character/(while aiming) trigger Dead-Eye Targeting
D-Pad: (up) whistle/(right/left) switch shoulder aim/(down) zoom out on mini-map
L1: draw/holster weapon/(hold) open weapon wheel
R1: attach to cover/(in Dead-Eye) mark targets/(when riding horse) pull on reins
L2: aim
R2: shoot/punch
X: (tap) run/(hold) run at same speed
Triangle: mount horse/interact with vehicle
Square: jump/climb/(when riding horse) hitch horse
Circle: reload weapon/focus on important event
Select: open satchel
Start: menu

Red Dead Redemption is definitely a Rockstar game. Vibrant towns, quirky characters, third-person, open world, sandbox gameplay, all of these are hallmarks of the makers of GTA. However, unlike GTA, Red Dead Redemption isn't afraid to drop the pace, and let you really take in everything there is in the world.

In some respects, a slow pace is a great tool, allowing the player to appreciate all the work the developers put into a game. The Western theme lends itself nicely to this idea, and the landscapes and music work well together to create an atmosphere true to the genre. The world feels lived in with NPC's having lives and stories to tell. The language too, is old Western, with many please's, thank you's and sirs taking on different meanings depending on how they are said. Of course, Rockstar's graphics don't take well to the passage of time, so what was once the pinnacle of gaming graphics, does looked slightly aged nowadays, so bear that in mind.

Other times the pace can be frustrating, with you completing mission after mission not really feeling like you've gotten anywhere. Most missions went something like this - Marston needs something, so he talks to the outsiders of society. These outsiders have more power than Marston or just don't care, and so ask for something in return. Marston does one job, asks again, does another job, asks again (a bit more angrily) and finally, after one final job, he gets sort of what he asks for. I'm not saying there weren't variations on this structure, but the main chunk of the game followed this pattern, and there's only so many times you can hear it without getting annoyed at either Marston, the other characters or the developers, for not giving Marston any agency. Yes, I understand that Marston is meant to be playing catch-up all the time, but just his physicality and reputation should be enough to quell certain people's voices, surely.

Talking of Marston, he is both quintessentially Rockstar and completely different. He's as well developed as most movie characters, and is voiced in a completely natural way by Rob Weithoff. He's troubled and an outsider to the rest of the world, just like other Rockstar characters. However, he's not unstable and has seemingly the most 'normal' views of all the characters. This, of course, makes him relatable to us but abnormal to the characters in the game. The rest of the cast is varied and interesting, although I wish we could have focused on some more than they were - after a few missions some of the characters are never seen again.

Game play wise, the game is solid. Red Dead Redemption realises its world is its greatest feature and so keeps the focus on that, allowing shortcuts in gameplay that don't sacrifice any fun. By this I mean that the horses can auto run alongside other characters and you can automatically lock on to people when shooting. While I'll admit the auto-lock shooting does reduce some skill from the shootouts, they're so fast-paced (no-one can take many bullets), and the enemies colour palette so similar to the world, you'll be thankful for it. Dead-eye is also a great addition, allowing precision hits on certain body parts (shoot a leg and they'll be crippled, for example) and giving you a much-needed breather in fights.

Alongside the main story missions and the Stranger missions (which I'd highly recommend completing), there's plenty of extra options to occupy your time. You have bounties to capture, hideouts to clear, poker to play, horseshoes to throw... Much like in any Rockstar world, there's so much extra to do, it can seem overwhelming. I'd suggest trying each activity at least once, as they all have little quirks which differentiate the seemingly mundane and unoriginal in other games and this one (you can duel the poker players, for example).

Conclusion: overall, I enjoyed my time with Red Dead Redemption, and the story of John Marston. I recommend if you have an interest in Rockstar style games or Westerns. Also, if you have the spare time to power through the game in a short amount of time - I had a large gap between playing the first couple of levels and the rest of the game and I believe the game would benefit from the player truly living in the world.

Rating: 80%

Thanks for reading, Satamer.

Note: as with all past games, I try and get into the mindset I would have had if I played the game the first time it came out. However, unconscious bias is a fickle thing, so please take into account the time difference for this review and others. Gaming is constantly evolving!

Note 2: I have only reviewed the single-player aspect of this game. If you want my opinion on the multiplayer portion of this game and other games which also have small multiplayer modes, comment below!

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