After 7 days, 10 hours and 22 minutes the core story of Red Dead Redemption is finally complete, I have a bunch of Stranger missions, bounties and challenges left unfinished and I feel that the game has been well worth the investment of time it took to play it. Yes it has problems, there are some glitches and bugs here and there but none of them are truly game-breaking. This is a keeper and deserves to be on anyone’s game shelf, played more than once and thoroughly enjoyed. I can play on even after the story is over and there’s the multiplayer too. The bottom line is this game is the best open world/sandbox game yet and certainly Rockstar’s finest achievement to-date.Story
I’m sure anyone who has followed the game and seen the videos put out by Rockstar over the last year or so, will know by now the story of John Marston, outlaw and now indentured to the US Government’s more shady types. John has to capture/kill his former brother in arms Bill Williamson or terrible harm will befall those he loves, his wife and son. Travelling back to the past that he so desperately wanted to leave behind, John embarks on a twisted story that has more kinks than an Armadillo cat-house. The story is told with finesse and superb direction, a truly epic tale with heart and soul, a story of the West’s last and final days when the old ways are encroached by the new, new weapons, the first motor cars and the death of the frontier gun-slinging cowboys.Gameplay
The action takes place on foot and horseback in third person across three massive sprawling territories, New Austin, Mexico and West Elizabeth. The comparisons to GTA IV are there but the game is so-much more than just a re-skin, whilst GTA IV was a fairly decent title and garnered fairly high scores, Red Dead Redemption truly deserves the scores and praise it gets. It is a highly engaging game and it pulls you in and immerses you into the Old West in 1911 and doesn’t let go until you watch the credits roll, and even then there’s still things to do to keep you occupied even in single player.
At the heart of the game are Rockstar’s very tightly crafted story missions that are definitely a lot of fun, there’s a good mid-mission checkpoint system implemented here and frustration levels are rarely way too high. They challenge the player’s skill in a variety of ways and always keep the action at an adrenaline charged high, from epic shootouts to sweeping chases. The formula is similar to GTA IV but it has been polished, you will go from person to person working their story arc until you progress further along the path, that part is linear but it’s the way you can tackle the missions that leaves room for invention. However there are other tricks that Rockstar uses to keep the player firmly immersed and focussed on the game world. Many of these impact your Honour and Fame respectively.
1. Random emergent events: a catch-all category for ambient events that happen regardless of story, based on Honour and Fame. These might take the form of a hooker being beaten by a client, a bunch of wolves/predators chasing down a poor guy/girl in the wilderness, robbers, opportunists, horse thieves and many more. There are quite a few and they all trigger now and then just when you think you’re going to have an easy night or day of it.
2. Various side missions: There are bounties to collect, horses to wrangle and break, nightwatch jobs to take on, duels to fight and so on.
3. Stranger Missions: Just like in GTA IV there are Strangers that pop up through the course of the story, signified by question mark upon the map. Their missions can be started then completed at any point but some of them are multi-stage and trigger only after a certain amount of game time has passed or story has been completed. There’s a wide variety to these missions and some of them are truly excellent.
4. Challenges: Hunting, Sharpshooting, Survivalist and Treasure Hunting are all possible in Red Dead Redemption. There are 10 levels of each and there’s a reward for mid-point and completion for each one. Complete all levels of every challenge and there’s the Legend of the West accolade for you to gain.
5. Games and diversions: From Texas Hold’Em Poker to Blackjack, Liars Dice and more there are plenty of things to do once you have them unlocked. None of these have been implemented in a throw-away manner; they are real versions of the games with their own rules and game mechanics.
6. Outlaw things: Rob banks, safes, other people, steal horses and shoot people you don’t like (prepare to have a dip in Honour and a Bounty on your head though, unless you sneak a bandanna on beforehand)
7. Collect costumes: some of these are multi-stage challenges with specific goals listed in your journal; these will be unlocked once the criteria are met. Some of these outfits give in-game bonuses.
8. Outlaw camps: these are special challenges that often unlock after you’ve completed a story mission at a specific location marked on the game world map.
We talked about Honour and Fame; these are the two statistics that govern your life in the world of Red Dead. Honour is gained and lost for the deeds that you do, whilst you can never lose Fame you can certainly take a dip in honour. Red Dead allows you to play how you want, you can be a noble heroic ex-outlaw determined to leave the life he once knew behind and play it straight, a mix of both good and evil or downright evil. As you do things in the world your Honour and Fame will grow and more jobs will be available for you, the seedier side of things will make you much richer but you may end up doing jail time or being gunned down by the law as your Honour drops. Some shops may close their doors to you; others might welcome you with open arms. Bounties placed on your head will not go away and the world won’t just forget your Wanted level this time, you’ll need to pay fines, bribe witnesses or shoot them (when no one else can see).
There are houses to buy, properties to rent and each one of these allows you to change costume, save the game and replenish your stocks of ammo for the various weapons in the game. There’s a thriving economy in Red Dead, one that actually takes into account rare and interesting items such as animal parts gained from hunting and skinning. There are over 35 species of animals in Red Dead and all of these can be killed/hunted and skinned, take the skins/parts to another area where the animal is less common and you’ll get more money for the pelt and so on. Shops buy/sell goods and there are gunsmiths, general stores, doctors and tailors to visit in the world and the various locations throughout the huge landscape. There’s a train to ride and coach travel to get to further locations in the world.