you got a purdy mouth

Red Dead Redemption, the newest major rockstar title to come out after GTA IV, is a game set in 1911 detailing the exploits of a former outlaw, John Marston, as he attempts to kill his former gang-members in order to get his wife and son back. In true GTA fashion, what unfolds is a somewhat odd and increasingly violent adventure across the dying Old West in true sarcastic Rockstar fashion.

Red Dead Redemption is an experience of the Old West first, a free-roaming GTA title second, and a third-person shooter third.

I’ll detail the multiplayer first, since I was not terribly impressed nor disappointed in it.

The multiplayer is exactly what they said it would be. The world (which is gorgeous, by the way) acts as a gigantic multiplayer lobby where you can talk and mess around with friends as well as start up various gametypes. While it does not look to big when you glance at the map, it is actually supposed to be about 4 times the size of GTAIVs Liberty City. This of course, is somewhat lampshaded by the fact that RDRs world is nowhere near as vertical as most sandbox games’. Since you cannot do most of the actions that are present in the single player, however, multiplayer comes across as a bit of an empty experience, even with the ability to gain EXP.

Were they to fill the world with the same amount of content as the single player holds, the multiplayer could have been truly exceptional, but unfortunately either technical limitations or lack of effort prevented Rockstar from populating the multiplayer modes. A shame, since I would have liked to play Texas Hold Em’ or any other sorts of minigames with people online.

As I stated before, Red Dead Redemption is an experience. It’s a very thought-out simulation of the Old West. So much detail is put into the world in order to draw you in, one can get lost just exploring. I was even unfortunate enough to catch a dog pissing on someone’s lawn for crying out loud.

It is not just meaningless little details that go on as you traverse about the game world either. At random points in your travels, John will encounter anything from Highway Robberies (some of which he can join in), unlawful hangings, and wild animal attacks. The game draws you into its’ world and does not let go.

Truly there are a lot of game aspects to get used to, but the game’s story presents them naturally into the story so that not only do you not have to sit through “tutorials” when starting a new game, but it never feels like the pacing is thrown off by a new gameplay mechanic.

As with any other Rockstar title, there are a myriad of random activities to spend your time with in Red Dead Redemption, most of which involve gambling of some sort. The games detailed are easy to control and play according to the real rules, though Marston’s ability to cheat at Poker is probably easier in-game than it would be in real life. John Marston is also a skilled hunter, and can “harvest” any animal he encounters in the game, grizzlies included. The fact that some of these animals don’t go down without a fight leads to a sense of paranoia as you travel the wilderness. You never know when 4 bears will attack you en masse in Tall Trees, or when a Cougar or two will sneak up on you around Armadillo. Add on story missions and the random “Stranger” encounters that entertained me to no end, and you’ll rarely find yourself bored in Red Dead Redemption. Did I mention that you could get John completely smashed?

The audio, as well, serves to heighten the experience. Aside from a random insert song when you accomplish your “objective”, most of the music is simply background stuff that fits in perfectly with the area you’re in, though more often than not I found the wilderness soundtrack a bit creepy. The voice-acting is also generally fantastic. John Marston and all the major characters he speaks with are very in-character, though when traveling through Mexico I was a bit annoyed that the Spanish went UNtranslated. With subtitles no less.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Western without gunplay, and RDR makes it simple and precise. The entire game engine is modified off of GTAIV, so the cover system and aiming systems work, but they have been improved to make things smoother. In addition, the Health bar has been removed in favor of a CoD style regen system. Just find cover and heal. Speaking of the cover system, it has been improved from its predecessor in GTAIV, so it’s even easier than before, though still not quite up to the level of Gears or Uncharted.

There are less than ten actual gun “types” in game, with a variation of stats among each type to populate things. I found lugging around 30-something guns to be a bit redundant at the end, but I’m not complaining. The pistol, repeater rifle, and shotgun are your standards with various extra tools like a Lasso, hunting knife, explosives, and binoculars thrown in for good measure. Strangely, the sniper rifle is a different category from the normal rifle as well. Every gun feels different when you shoot it, thankfully, and you really feel the impact when you connect your shots thanks to the physics system. THere is also the “Dead Eye” aiming system, where you slow down time and proceed to “Mark and Execute” your targets. After getting a weapon with a higher clip later on in the game, you’re essentially capable of taking out entire gangs in a matter of seconds. THe Dead Eye meter on the right of the radar also refills very easily, so unlike most shooter gimmicks in video gaming, you’ll find yourself using this ability quite a bit. The fact that all of your gunplay is available on horseback is also very convenient, though you sacrifice cover for mobility.

Speaking of horses, aside from two trips in old 1800-style Automobiles, you spend the majority of the game travelling on horseback or being pulled by horses on a carriage. While not exactly as exciting as riding on a motorcycle or in a helicopter, the fact that the driving system for horses operates independently of the aiming system is wonderful. Think of it like using a tank in a first person shooter. The horses operate on a stamina system and are classified in three tiers, those being fast, medium and slow. (unfortunately, there was no “bear cavalry” tier) Fairly basic stuff, you tap A (or X) to gallop, much like sprinting on foot, and can continue to go at full speed until you run out of stamina, which is the bar on the left of the radar. Very much like Zelda, though if you deplete the bar completely your horse just bucks you off, much to my suprise in the beginning of the game. On a similar note, the cow-herding minigames you take part in are also very similar to Zelda (Twilight Princess), though on a larger scale. You start off with a fairly normal horse, but through “breaking them in”, you can find faster ones, or just ones that have a better color scheme. This is one of the few minigames that did not require a bet. There’s also the “fight a grizzly bear” with your hunting knife”, but that one doesn’t result in a steed unfortunately. (hint, hint Rockstar)

Like any good Sandbox game, there are authorities present to make sure you don’t rampage all over the map without some form of consequences. In this case it consists of US Marshalls, the Army, and bounty hunters, in addition to their Mexican counterparts.

There are three “meters” that track your progress throughout the game. There is “Fame”, which tracks how well-known you are to people in the world, “Honor”, which tracks your reputation in the world as a result of your deeds, and of course the “Wanted” meter, which indicates how badly the government wants to poke holes in you.

The Wanted meter is the simplest, in that it is very similar to the star meter introduced in GTA, and still holds the “line-of-sight” mechanic introduced in GTAIV. Performing illegal or morally questionable acts results in a wanted level that increases in severity depending on how much your “bounty” is worth. $100 bounties will get a couple of cops chasing after you while $1000 bounties will get full-blown posses and expeditionary forces after you. They are dropped by either your death, your surrender, or by paying off the bounty at a telegraph office with either your own funds or with a pardon letter. If only real life were that simple…

The second meter, “Fame”, doesn’t actually play a large part in the game beyond getting you a discount at stores and having to deal with more NPCs challenging you to duels.

The Honor meter is a more complicated and annoying aspect of the game. Often-times you’ll make a mistake in-game and end up losing a huge amount of honor as a result. This can seem annoying if you’re trying to be “heroic”, but you gain so much honor from the story that it actually doesn’t really matter. Now, if you’re trying to be a complete scumbag while playing the game, then you might be troubled, as you have to constantly commit dastardly deeds (such as the “dastardly” achievement of placing an innocent hogtied woman on some railroad tracks) in order to get back to where you were before. It’s clear what the developers define as “canon” for John’s character.

Speaking of John’s character, I actually found him to be quite likeable. He is easily my favorite Rockstar protagonist… and I must also state that his game mechanics make him one of the most badass game protagonists ever.

As for the rest of the characters, they are either badass and snarky, much like John himself, morally oblivious, or just damn insane. This translates well into the story. The world has a severely dark undertone that you can feel when making your way from mission to mission. This is not the romantic wild west that you dreamt about in your childhood. This is the (mostly) real thing that generally destroyed so many men back during that period.

Similarly to GTAIV, which was a parody of modern city-living, this game is a parody of many of the trope-ful ideas of living in the Old West. The game positively loves to shoot down your hopeful ideas about the characters and the setting, even to the end. But you come back laughing your head off, gunsblazing, so it works.

That’s not to say that the game does not have it’s own technical issues, multipe complaints of bugs prompted RockStar to release a patch soon after release, and I even heard reports of both a “Donkey Woman” steed and a “Dueling Dog” on youtube. However, more often that not, the bugs I have heard about and experienced are typically more hilarious than they are bothersome. In the first place, I did not experience any technical malfunctions in the game until I unlocked the third area around the game’s “city” of Blackwater.

Another major issue in the game, for me at least, is the fall damage. You can’t fall 5 feet without maiming yourself it seems. While it doesn’t come up too often given the “flat” nature of the world, it still pissed me off when I couldn’t get to my enemies because they were down a hill from me.

Despite these flaws however, the game sends its message clearly about the old west. This game displays what really went on during this time period by playing on it with sarcasm through character dialogue. It is the small talk between characters traversing the world in which you get the REAL story of this game. While I absolutely deplore the ending of this game (Jack isn’t designed NEARLY as well as John is), it does get the message across.

“Sure, civilization may be dull, but the alternative, Mr. Marston, is hell.”

Red Dead Redemption, the newest major

rockstar title to come out after GTA IV,

is a game set in 1911 detailing the

exploits of a former outlaw, John

Marston, as he attempts to kill his

former gang-members in order to get his

wife and son back. In true GTA fashion,

what unfolds is a somewhat odd and

increasingly violent adventure across the

dying Old West in true sarcastic Rockstar

fashion.

Red Dead Redemption is an experience of

the Old West first, a free-roaming GTA

title second, and a third-person shooter

third.

I’ll detail the multiplayer first, since

I was not terribly impressed nor

disappointed in it.

The multiplayer is exactly what they said

it would be. The world (which is

gorgeous, by the way) acts as a gigantic

multiplayer lobby where you can talk and

mess around with friends as well as start

up various gametypes. While it does not

look to big when you glance at the map,

it is actually supposed to be about 4

times the size of GTAIVs Liberty City.

This of course, is somewhat lampshaded by

the fact that RDRs world is nowhere near

as vertical as most sandbox games’. Since

you cannot do most of the actions that

are present in the single player,

however, multiplayer comes across as a

bit of an empty experience, even with the

ability to gain EXP.

Were they to fill the world with the same

amount of content as the single player

holds, the multiplayer could have been

truly exceptional, but unfortunately

either technical limitations or lack of

effort prevented Rockstar from populating

the multiplayer modes. A shame, since I

would have liked to play Texas Hold Em’

or any other sorts of minigames with

people online.

As I stated before, Red Dead Redemption

is an experience. It’s a very thought-out

simulation of the Old West. So much

detail is put into the world in order to

draw you in, one can get lost just

exploring. I was even unfortunate enough

to catch a dog pissing on someone’s lawn

for crying out loud.

It is not just meaningless little details

that go on as you traverse about the game

world either. At random points in your

travels, John will encounter anything

from Highway Robberies (some of which he

can join in), unlawful hangings, and wild

animal attacks. The game draws you into

its’ world and does not let go.

Truly there are a lot of game aspects to

get used to, but the game’s story

presents them naturally into the story so

that not only do you not have to sit

through “tutorials” when starting a new

game, but it never feels like the pacing

is thrown off by a new gameplay mechanic.

As with any other Rockstar title, there

are a myriad of random activities to

spend your time with in Red Dead

Redemption, most of which involve

gambling of some sort. The games detailed

are easy to control and play according to

the real rules, though Marston’s ability

to cheat at Poker is probably easier

in-game than it would be in real life.

John Marston is also a skilled hunter,

and can “harvest” any animal he

encounters in the game, grizzlies

included. The fact that some of these

animals don’t go down without a fight

leads to a sense of paranoia as you

travel the wilderness. You never know

when 4 bears will attack you en masse in

Tall Trees, or when a Cougar or two will

sneak up on you around Armadillo. Add on

story missions and the random “Stranger”

encounters that entertained me to no end,

and you’ll rarely find yourself bored in

Red Dead Redemption. Did I mention that

you could get John completely smashed?

The audio, as well, serves to heighten

the experience. Aside from a random

insert song when you accomplish your

“objective”, most of the music is simply

background stuff that fits in perfectly

with the area you’re in, though more

often than not I found the wilderness

soundtrack a bit creepy. The voice-acting

is also generally fantastic. John Marston

and all the major characters he speaks

with are very in-character, though when

traveling through Mexico I was a bit

annoyed that the Spanish went

UNtranslated. With subtitles no less.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Western

without gunplay, and RDR makes it simple

and precise. The entire game engine is

modified off of GTAIV, so the cover

system and aiming systems work, but they

have been improved to make things

smoother. In addition, the Health bar has

been removed in favor of a CoD style

regen system. Just find cover and heal.

Speaking of the cover system, it has been

improved from its predecessor in GTAIV,

so it’s even easier than before, though

still not quite up to the level of Gears

or Uncharted.

There are less than ten actual gun

“types” in game, with a variation of

stats among each type to populate things.

I found lugging around 30-something guns

to be a bit redundant at the end, but I’m

not complaining. The pistol, repeater

rifle, and shotgun are your standards

with various extra tools like a Lasso,

hunting knife, explosives, and binoculars

thrown in for good measure. Strangely,

the sniper rifle is a different category

from the normal rifle as well. Every gun

feels different when you shoot it,

thankfully, and you really feel the

impact when you connect your shots thanks

to the physics system. THere is also the

“Dead Eye” aiming system, where you slow

down time and proceed to “Mark and

Execute” your targets. After getting a

weapon with a higher clip later on in the

game, you’re essentially capable of

taking out entire gangs in a matter of

seconds. THe Dead Eye meter on the right

of the radar also refills very easily, so

unlike most shooter gimmicks in video

gaming, you’ll find yourself using this

ability quite a bit. The fact that all of

your gunplay is available on horseback is

also very convenient, though you

sacrifice cover for mobility.

Speaking of horses, aside from two trips

in old 1800-style Automobiles, you spend

the majority of the game travelling on

horseback or being pulled by horses on a

carriage. While not exactly as exciting

as riding on a motorcycle or in a

helicopter, the fact that the driving

system for horses operates independently

of the aiming system is wonderful. Think

of it like using a tank in a first person

shooter. The horses operate on a stamina

system and are classified in three tiers,

those being fast, medium and slow.

(unfortunately, there was no “bear

cavalry” tier) Fairly basic stuff, you

tap A (or X) to gallop, much like

sprinting on foot, and can continue to go

at full speed until you run out of

stamina, which is the bar on the left of

the radar. Very much like Zelda, though

if you deplete the bar completely your

horse just bucks you off, much to my

suprise in the beginning of the game. On

a similar note, the cow-herding minigames

you take part in are also very similar to

Zelda (Twilight Princess), though on a

larger scale. You start off with a fairly

normal horse, but through “breaking them

in”, you can find faster ones, or just

ones that have a better color scheme.

This is one of the few minigames that did

not require a bet. There’s also the

“fight a grizzly bear” with your hunting

knife”, but that one doesn’t result in a

steed unfortunately. (hint, hint

Rockstar)

Like any good Sandbox game, there are

authorities present to make sure you

don’t rampage all over the map without

some form of consequences. In this case

it consists of US Marshalls, the Army,

and bounty hunters, in addition to their

Mexican counterparts.

There are three “meters” that track your

progress throughout the game. There is

“Fame”, which tracks how well-known you

are to people in the world, “Honor”,

which tracks your reputation in the world

as a result of your deeds, and of course

the “Wanted” meter, which indicates how

badly the government wants to poke holes

in you.

The Wanted meter is the simplest, in that

it is very similar to the star meter

introduced in GTA, and still holds the

“line-of-sight” mechanic introduced in

GTAIV. Performing illegal or morally

questionable acts results in a wanted

level that increases in severity

depending on how much your “bounty” is

worth. $100 bounties will get a couple of

cops chasing after you while $1000

bounties will get full-blown posses and

expeditionary forces after you. They are

dropped by either your death, your

surrender, or by paying off the bounty at

a telegraph office with either your own

funds or with a pardon letter. If only

real life were that simple…

The second meter, “Fame”, doesn’t

actually play a large part in the game

beyond getting you a discount at stores

and having to deal with more NPCs

challenging you to duels.

The Honor meter is a more complicated and

annoying aspect of the game. Often-times

you’ll make a mistake in-game and end up

losing a huge amount of honor as a

result. This can seem annoying if you’re

trying to be “heroic”, but you gain so

much honor from the story that it

actually doesn’t really matter. Now, if

you’re trying to be a complete scumbag

while playing the game, then you might be

troubled, as you have to constantly

commit dastardly deeds (such as the

“dastardly” achievement of placing an

innocent hogtied woman on some railroad

tracks) in order to get back to where you

were before. It’s clear what the

developers define as “canon” for John’s

character.

Speaking of John’s character, I actually

found him to be quite likeable. He is

easily my favorite Rockstar

protagonist… and I must also state that

his game mechanics make him one of the

most badass game protagonists ever.

As for the rest of the characters, they

are either badass and snarky, much like

John himself, morally oblivious, or just

damn insane. This translates well into

the story. The world has a severely dark

undertone that you can feel when making

your way from mission to mission. This is

not the romantic wild west that you

dreamt about in your childhood. This is

the (mostly) real thing that generally

destroyed so many men back during that

period.

Similarly to GTAIV, which was a parody of

modern city-living, this game is a parody

of many of the trope-ful ideas of living

in the Old West. The game positively

loves to shoot down your hopeful ideas

about the characters and the setting,

even to the end. But you come back

laughing your head off, gunsblazing, so

it works.

That’s not to say that the game does not

have it’s own technical issues, multipe

complaints of bugs prompted RockStar to

release a patch soon after release, and I

even heard reports of both a “Donkey

Woman” steed and a “Dueling Dog” on

youtube. However, more often that not,

the bugs I have heard about and

experienced are typically more hilarious

than they are bothersome. In the first

place, I did not experience any technical

malfunctions in the game until I unlocked

the third area around the game’s “city”

of Blackwater.

Another major issue in the game, for me

at least, is the fall damage. You can’t

fall 5 feet without maiming yourself it

seems. While it doesn’t come up too often

given the “flat” nature of the world, it

still pissed me off when I couldn’t get

to my enemies because they were down a

hill from me.

Despite these flaws however, the game

sends its message clearly about the old

west. This game displays what really went

on during this time period by playing on

it with sarcasm through character

dialogue. It is the small talk between

characters traversing the world in which

you get the REAL story of this game.

While I absolutely deplore the ending of

this game (Jack isn’t designed NEARLY as

well as John is), it does get the message

across.

“Sure, civilization may be dull, but the

alternative, Mr. Marston, is hell.”

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