Posted by: Paul | June 8, 2010

Red Dead Redemption

I’ve only just begun my journey into the Wild West, but I’m thoroughly enjoying it.

Red Dead Redemption attracted me from its early previews with breathtaking images of the wide open expanses of arid scrubland and mountain that are yours to explore. And now it’s arrived, talk about ‘open world’ – I’ve never experienced one in a game which is quite as expansive. It’s a little daunting, if I’m honest. Standing atop the cliffs at Hennigan’s Stead looking down towards the distant settlement of Armadillo, clearly a couple of miles away, the thought crosses my mind that most games would have taken you from here to there via a cutscene or some other device. Here though, you just whistle for your horse, mount up, and ride down the narrow, dusty trail – maybe bagging a couple of deer on your way. A Western has never felt so close or so authentic.

If you’ve played any of the Grand Theft Auto games, RDR will feel very natural to pick up and play. The control system is almost identical, with improved (for me) targeting mechanisms over GTA4. Rockstar have taken one or two leaves from Uncharted’s book and employed a simple cover system which gives you one-button access to nearby objects, allowing you to pop out to take potshots at your assailants before popping back in again when they return fire.

I’m really not very far into the game yet so can’t comment on the story but the quality of both the MoCap and the voice acting is extremely high. The men are suitably grizzled and the ladies sassy – so far, so Western.

Though there have been other Western games, it’s still not a popular genre for developers and on the strength of this you have to wonder why, and also to predict a flood of new titles in the next couple of years utilising the same subject matter. Where I think RDR succeeds is in its exact period setting – at the close of the 19th Century, when the ‘Old West’ is dying out, and new technologies are becoming available via the ever-expanding railroad. It’s this crossover which has given Rockstar the extra license it needs to keep both the weapons and the scenarios up to date and entertaining, while still retaining some period charm – they’ve not been hamstrung by the inability to keep things convincing by bringing in inventions which could clearly not have been made by that time. The world hangs together in an engaging, cohesive, and above all immersive way.

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