Howdy partners, I'm here to yak my craw about this rootin - tootin - shootin game by them thar folks at Rockstar. That's right cowpokes, I be talkin about Red Dead Revolver.
Shooting from the hip.
I often think that the industry goes around in several circles, a little like the movie industry actually. They pick a subject and pump out 3-4 games based on the same theme, this is usually true of the classic genres, like Sci Fi, Fantasy and Horror.
But there seems to be a lack of good old Wild West 'YEE HAW' games out there, how fortunate for us that good ol'Rockstar San Diego have seen the light and created RDR.
So put some beans on the fire and listen to what ol'Wolf has to say about this interesting little gem from them thar talented developers.
Read any review of mine (Go on I dare you...go on!) and you'll find that I don't pull punches when it comes to things I find lacking (At least I don't think I do), you'll find that I can't stand certain things in games and I'm uber vocal about it when I get started, one of those things I can't stand is lack of story. So I'm already giving RDR extra points for just having a really good and brilliantly portrayed spaghetti western plot.
You begin the game as young Red who's down on his momma and poppa's farm, learning how to be a real Cowboy. This is the tutorial really and gets you used to the shooting and aiming system. RDR being a 3rd person action adventure with the emphasis on classic gunslinging bravado.
Red's father was one of the fastest guns in the West, and he's got a few enemies, including the General - who sends some goons in to rough things up a bit. Since this is Rockstar, right away you can expect to be plunged into the action and help your folks defend the old homestead.
Red gets to kill a fair few folk and you will eventually trigger a scene involving the nefarious General, I won't say anymore except that it's a classic Western moment. The journey of young boy to man begins.
RDR is a 3rd person action adventure as stated previously and it doesn't suffer for it, the controls are fairly straightforwards and the main character reacts well enough to the input. Notice I said main character, this might give you an idea about where things are going. Unlike a lot of their previous games, in RDR you don't just get to play with Red all the time, you can find yourself as the story unfolds, controlling a number of different characters.
From the rather British Jack Swift and the totally mean Annie Oakley to the silent and deadly Shadow Wolf (How I love that name) the game unfolds through several viewpoints and story driven missions. But for purposes of this review I'm going to leave a lot of this ambiguous so I don't spoil things.
The game uses a mixture of cinematic storytelling and outright run and gun action to tell the tale of Red and the others, you are introduced early on to several of the cooler concepts, concepts that are perfect for this kind of game.
Cover: One of my major gripes with any game is how cover and concealment is implemented, it's one of those things I feel is vital to the success of any 3rd person game that has any kind of gun combat in it. Thankfully RDR takes full advantage of cover and implements it very well, so you can pop behind something and take pot shots, zipping back into safety and leaving your enemies dead in the dust.
Dead Eye: Red's a gunslinger that takes after his pa, so to help you become the fastest gun in the West, the game introduces a new feature known as the Dead Eye. One could compare it to bullet time but that would be a shallow comparison. Slow motion effects are nothing really new, but the way that DE is implemented in RDR is pretty funky.
Time slows down for a short while and while it does so, the graphics degrade into a sepia toned old spaghetti western style, this effect really does set the tone and helps to immerse you in the era of blood and bullets.
While time is slow you can target a number of vital locations and sometimes, depending on the speed you move at and the weapon equipped, a number of enemies. When time resumes then Red fires off a volley of lethal shots at the poor suckers. Like I said, kind of like bullet time but not.
The Showdown: The camera switches to a hip view and then you have to draw, aim and lock onto the target, the lock on locations are based on colour and if you've got a red target then that's a critical hit. If you can get several critical hits quickly enough you can put most targets into a pine box. It's not easy to do and it will take several attempts to get right, let alone master.
The game is also packed with things to unlock, extra characters, new weapons and in a kind of RPG added twist you can often go to town and buy things in game with the money Red makes from missions (Bounties usually) - these can be weapons, new levels for the games Deathmatch style mode and so forth.
The missions themselves are also based on who you're playing, they vary from character to character. Red's often involve shooting the bad guys and bringing in the Bounties while Annie must defend her farm, Shadow Wolf must use stealth and guile. There's a nice mix of gameplay here and it really does shine forth. Several of the missions are also Boss Fights and require a little more thought that your average games.
The good, the bad and the ugly
I've seen a lot of people griping about the look of RDR and I can kind of see where they're coming from, the whole thing looks washed out and retro to most people and the levels aren't exactly an architectural designers dream come true. But that's not the point, the point is that the game in my eyes doesn't suffer from these lower resolution textures and retro looks.
I think that's the idea, from the scratchy 'Film Effect' filter that seems to be a trademark of most Rockstar games. Manhunt for instance had a video filter effect and several special cam effects were included in both GTA 3 and GTA Vice City.
RDR sets out graphically to recreate those spaghetti western moments and by the use of degraded textures and a slightly lower poly count on the models, it does an admirable job of that particular task.
The game has blood in it and the blood is low key but effective, there's a number of nice touches as well, when shot in the head - apart from the spray of blood and I think brain, heh heh heh, way to go Rockstar - there bad guys also lose their hats.
The models are functional and again have a retro look to them, they feel Olde Worlde and they look great when placed in the dusty and grimy environments. The animations are spot on and some of the death animations are excellent, my personal favourite is when a mook is shot in the head, he kind of stands there for a moment, before toppling over to hit the dirt - true Eastwood style.
And yes, to my eyes, Red does look a bit like our good old Clint.
I can hear a pin drop
The music that accompanies the game is typical Western style and fits perfectly, it warbles nicely as you explore and suddenly bursts into life as the good old gunfight erupts around you.
Spot effects and weapon sounds are suitably realised and the game bursts with that kind of atmosphere, you can also hear the bullets ricocheting off the nearby rocks at times with a satisfying 'pee-owww' noise.
The voice acting varies from great to ok-ish, Red has a gravelly Eastwood sound to his voice and the script is nicely done as well. I would however only expect this from Rockstar and would have been highly disappointed at them if it were not so.
How to win friends and shoot the heck out of em
Rockstar have also packed RDR with a Showdown Mode that allows you to go head to head with computer opponents, or even team up with a CPU controlled buddy for some good old non-story based shooting action.
If that doesn't float your boat you can invite some friends around and shoot them instead in the Showdown mode. I can't help but think that this is a bit of a tag on. It is LIVE aware but only for communication and that lets it down for the old X-LIVE crowd. But still, I'd rather it had some features for MP than none at all.
I would have liked to see Co-op mode where you could team up with a pardner and go shoot some bad-guys between you, but the game doesn't have that sadly.
This is just an overview of Rockstar's latest baby and it's pretty good, it has a few niggles and suffers at times from framerate issues. The game's engine isn't as robust as it should be and there are some AI problems with the enemies, and a lack of an INGAME SAVE when you beat Bosses...this can lead to having to repeat certain things if it's a multi-stage fight...but overall it's not enough to send it into the oblivion of crapness where certain titles belong. It gets a YEE HAW from me and should belong on anyone's shelf that's a fan of classic Westerns or just likes to shoot from the hip.