For a Few Dollars More
Put on some Ennio Morricone music, preferably the Good the Bad and the Ugly, or For a Few Dollars more because on the 21st of May here in Europe we get our hands on Rockstar's hotly anticipated open world game: Red Dead Redemption.About Red Dead Redemption
Set in a time as the Wild West was losing its innocence and independence, Red Dead Redemption is the story of John Marston and not Red from the original Rockstar hit Ė Red Dead Revolver, it revolves around John who is a reformed outlaw and he must track down and bring to justice his old pal, Bill Willamson. Rockstar have gone the extra mile this time and have managed to push the boundaries of the open world game, putting extra emphasis on genuine exploration of a frontier world that is being racked by serious change, both in terms of social, political and technological aspects.
Rockstar has also managed to do their research whilst making their open world western epic, they have crafted a world that evokes the period of change whilst still retaining the fun of an open world game. There are dozens of tiny details and hidden things to find in Red Dead Redemption, all of them wrapped up in a sense of emergent gameplay that not even GTA IV managed to evoke. For instance you can get hold of a treasure map and unlike many games this will not be a direct waypoint to the shiny gold, no, this is a mini-game itself.
The map is often festooned with a picture or clue that leads you to search for unique landmarks in the 3 distinct and vast areas of this truly epic-looking experience. This coupled with the geographic layout of the various regions provides an interesting and seldom seen experience, the only thing I can vaguely recall that had this kind of treasure hunt was inFAMOUS and that proved to be quite fun.
One of the biggest things about an open world game should be immersion and thankfully Rockstar have taken this to the extreme with Red Dead, they have managed to bring together several interesting ideas, such as Marstonís campsite itself, or the ability to join other campsites and listen in on gossip. They have made hundreds of emergent, context sensitive random events that trigger as you explore the game world. These can be simple bandit attacks on random travellers, or more complex scenes, you might even get your horse stolen.
Many of these events are only triggered if certain circumstances are met, such as day or night, the right conditions are vital for the feeling of seamless integration for these events and Red Dead Redemption looks to have nailed this one quite nicely. Beyond the emergent events there are numerous activities that are in the game, races, hunting, bounty hunting where you can ride out and capture wanted criminals for the law, capturing and breaking wild horses, poker and so much more.
Towns and settlements, cities and outlying regions are all teeming with life, unique and interesting NPCís abound as well as the townsfolk and bandits, and they all have their own AI routines and their own interactions with you as well as each other, fights break out in Saloons and no two events are ever the same. Marstonís actions in the world of Red Dead Redemption affect the people in some way/shape or form, being a bad guy can lead to your character getting so much richer quicker, but also a large bounty on your head, a bounty that other gunslingers might want to try and collect. Not to mention the law, there is a bandanna that you can use to keep your notoriety down.
You gain fame from your deeds (completing lots of challenges) and successful duels, you gain more fame and more people wanting to prove theyíre the fastest gun hear about you. If youíre a good guy then youíll gain the respect and trust of the people along with the fear of the bandits, of course if youíre a bad guy youíll scare the townsfolk witless and you might even find some shops are closed to you, after all, who wants to deal with a known criminal? This helps bring weight to the things that you do and transforms the world from a simple, lets shoot the townsfolk in the middle of a gunfight to one where youíre thinking tactically whilst the lead is flying.
When the leadsí flying itís obvious that Rockstar have kept but tweaked the gun combat from GTA IV. The cover system is better and the inclusion of the Dead Eye targeting system from good old Red Dead Revolver is a welcome addition. There are several levels to it and at the most extreme you can slow down time, plant numerous markers on your enemies before you finish them off in a blaze of hammer-fanning six-shooting that would make Clint Eastwood proud.
Of course for a game set in the Wild West, Rockstar have managed to bring their design skills not only to the environments and systems inside the game, but to the most important feature Ė horses. Usually horses in a game are pretty standard affairs, they have no personality barring one of the usual go from ĎA to Bí and act like a fleshy car. In RDR though they have personalities and AI, drive one too hard and it might buck you and run off or just flatly refuse to move for a while. Whilst on horseback the AI takes care of the little things like avoiding obstacles, jumping over low lying branches and generally trying to keep it and you alive.
You can ride a horse off a cliff, but seriously, you will die and so will the horse.
In a gunfight from the back of a horse, the AI moves up a few notches to make sure that you can keep on shooting and not have to worry about collisions and so forth. How this fares in the final game, we canít wait to find out since this mode of transportation is integral to the experience and well, shooting from horseback just looks utterly badass cool.
Thereís a whole lot more to the game but itís beyond the scope of this spotlight at the moment to cover it, in the allotted segment. Some of the things to look forwards to are challenges that can be unlocked to earn some sweet in-game rewards and more.