In a way, this change of pace really helped me feel connected to John Marston and his wild adventures. It also helped me realize just how large and interesting Red Dead's world really is. While this may not be the first western to go for that open-world sandbox game, it's definitely the first to get it right. When I reviewed Activision's GUN, I was disappointed by how small the world was. You could ride across the world in just a few minutes; it felt like it was the size of a sports stadium. That is not the case with Red Dead Redemption. It's going to take you more than fifteen minutes to go from one end to the other, and even then you won't even be close to seeing all there is to see in this world. And just like Rockstar's other open-world games, Red Dead is brought to life with people and animals roaming the landscape. It's hard not to be impressed with how successful the developers were to delivering on the ambitious scope of this Wild West world.
The change of scenery also allows Rockstar to deviate a little when it comes to creating missions and introducing new characters. As much as I love Grand Theft Auto, even I will admit that there's a certain amount of repetition associated with the mission structure. Even though they try to change it up, GTA still gets into a rut where you're doing the same things you've done in multiple other games. I didn't have that problem with Red Dead Redemption. While there are a few missions that feel like they could have been in GTA, most of the action feels fresh. Heck, even the traditional stuff feels new thanks to the 1911 setting.
I'm struck by just how much I enjoyed the characters this world introduces me to. For the most part, the cast is full of low-lifes and other social outcasts. There's a dirty grave robber who is in search of treasure. There's a drug-addicted professor trying to get by in the big city. We meet a drunk Irishman who seems all too eager to play into stereotypes. From beginning to end, Red Dead is full of colorful characters that range from funny to deadly serious. These are the same types of characters you would see in any other Rockstar title, only I had no problem believing that these characters existed a hundred years ago.
Beyond the 57 missions, this western adventure features a number of cool mini-games. The game comes with poker, blackjack, horseshoes and all kinds of other western-inspired activities. Even more interesting are the hunting challenges, which give you an opportunity to track down specific types of animals and kill them in very specific ways. This means that you'll eventually have to take down a mountain lion with nothing but a knife and a prayer. This, along with tracking down wanted fugitives, will keep you playing long after you're done with the twenty-or-so hours it takes to beat the story.
With each new game they make, Rockstar Games is becoming more ambitious with their online offerings. Red Dead Redemption marks the company's most impressive online mode, allowing people to meet up and play inside of the game's gigantic world. Red Dead supports 16-players online, which includes a number of fun competitive modes. Best of all, coming hot on the heels of the game's release, Rockstar is uploading a special online co-op mode that will include new missions. No matter how you shoot it, you're going to get your money's worth with Red Dead Redemption.
Visually the game is running on the same engine that powered Grand Theft Auto IV, so many of the same problems people had with that game are apparent here. The characters look a little boxy and we get the occasional stiff animation. However, the style more than makes up for some visual imperfections. Once you get on your horse you'll be amazed by how good the world around you looks. And it's diverse, too. Every inch of the game is unique, which is a hard achievement to pull off when you're playing with nothing but miles of open land. Each town has its own atmosphere and the game gives you more than enough reason to explore the entire map.
Page 2 of 3