Friday, June 4

In case you haven't played it: Red Dead Redemption Review (PS3)

Red Dead Redemption is the tragic tale of how the West was finally conquered. John Marston and the outlaw brothers he is now forced to apprehend, are the last of a dying breed. Noble criminals who at their best, looked to feed the needy with the excess of the wealthy in an unforgiving land. As the political and social landscape of the United States changed, they turned on themselves, dividing what was left of the America they knew and holding it to ransom. Marston is forced out of the game after being left for dead. Almost happy to oblige, he attempts to make an honest living with his wife and son. The US government then grows tired of waiting for these fearsome bandits to die, and force the anti-hero to take on his former brothers-in-arms to complete the spread of civilization to the nation's borders.

The Good
Sound Design - For the majority of the single player adventure, Red Dead Redemption features an authentic score that wouldn't sound out of place in any classic western movie. Bereft, for the most part, of the licensed music for which Rockstar titles are usually renowned (via Grand Theft Auto and Midnight Club titles), RDR is a refreshing change of pace from the usual fare. When third party songs are employed on two occasions, they are used to such great effect that I was almost brought to tears. The first time you hear lyrics (Jose Gonzalez, Far Away) is at a time when Marston (and by extension, the player), ventures into a foreign land. Cheated, frustrated and lost. By the time the song fades out and you ride into Chuparosa, you're left with an experience that won't fade from memory anytime soon. On the second occasion (Compass, Jamie Lidell), you can imagine the feelings rushing through Marston's head, and it captures the drama so brilliantly that you will be whipping your horse relentlessy until you reach your destination. Apart from what is, in my opinion, the best videogame soundtrack in recent memory, you'll find the realistic din of firearms, carriages, steam trains, horses and native fauna. This in concert with the exceptional voice acting from central characters, strangers and townspeople really does create the illusion of a living, breathing world for players to explore.

The Landscape - I've explored this previously in the post, Deep Red Bells, so I won't dwell on this too long. If you're travelling with no particular objective you will notice some truly fascinating events that you would be unlikely to see in any other game. You may be riding a horse across Mexico and witness a man being mauled by a pack of wolves. You may be riding though Thieves' Landing and witness a kidnapping or a robbery. As mentioned above, you are walking/riding through a living, breathing representation of the Wild West.

The Story (The beginning and the end) - RDR starts off strong, introducing the MacFarlanes, Marshall Johnson and the town of Armadillo. The early missions quickly acquaint you with all of the game's mechanics and before long you'll confidently accompany companions on horseback; hunt animals and forage for herbs and flowers; and activate and effectively use Dead Eye. Characters like Bonnie MacFarlane and Landon Ricketts are particularly engaging. The final chapter in Blackwater introduces some genuinely funny side characters as well as the main villain, Dutch (!). The conclusion is poignant and cements John Marston's position as one of the great videogame characters.

Everything on the side - The in-game economy, the wealth of ambient tasks and mini-games will absorb hours of your time. There is quite a bit of game to be enjoyed, and while some activities like horseshoe throwing may not tickle your fancy, odds are you will find something peripheral to the main quest that will distract you.

Multiplayer - For impressions please see my previous posts, Draw and Wild Horses. Not content to only provide players with an extensive single player game, Rockstar has provided a comprehensive multiplayer suite which allows you to party (posse) up with friends and traverse the entire map from the single player game in Free Roam mode. You can raid gang hideouts, complete ambient tasks and visit lobbies to participate in more traditional multiplayer match variants such as Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Capture-the-Flag (Bag).

The Bad
The Story (Mexico) - The second third of the tale takes part in Mexico and served only to muddle my perception of the Marston character. When I first left Austin I felt as though he was a good man (I played as an honourable outlaw) with a bit of a mean streak. This is further enforced in the first few missions with Landon Ricketts. The honeymoon ends after your travels with Ricketts however, as you then fight on both sides on the Mexican revolutionary war. The main proponents of this war are obviously corrupt, and they string Marston along with the promise of the men he needs to bring down. After completing so many tasks for so many villains with no return for such a long time, you start to doubt Marston's resolve and his motives.

The Villains - The relationship between Dutch, Escuella, Bill Williamson and Marston is not effectively explored over the course of the game. It would have been interesting if the game incorporated some flashback missions which would have served to develop these characters and an understanding of their past relationship. The original Red Dead Revolver (for better or worse) switched to the perspectives of different characters so frequently, but in Red Dead Redemption the narrative rarely jumps to a different point of view.

A little too easy - The game's default targeting system features an auto-aim system which centres on enemies when you pop out from cover. It drains a great deal of the challenge from the game's many firefights. The auto-aim system also makes the transition to the multiplayer game and leads to some cheap deaths. Further to that, RDR employs a forgiving checkpoint system that also serves to discount the level of skill required to progress through the game. The game features a regenerating health system, but you can also purchase items to heal yourself. Considering that you heal pretty quickly, there was no real need for these recovery items (read: I never used one).

The Ugly
Mission Design - The game borrows too heavily from Rockstar heavyweight, Grand Theft Auto. Considering that horses are not as fast as Porsches (or their GTA equivalents), you should not be required to travel for miles (and miles) in almost every mission. I found this especially painful during my time in Mexico, and it really took some shine off the overall experience.

A mountain of various visual glitches - I rode invisible horses, textures disappeared from NPCs, and the amount of pop-in was at times horrendous. The worst glitch occurred after a cutscene, when a character duplicated. I had two sprites of the same character standing side-by-side and this obviously didn't help immerse me in the game world.

9.5/10 - Red Dead Redemption is an essential experience despite it's flaws. This is a great value package containing a campaign that can absorb 20+ hours and an extensive suite of multiplayer activities that can be enjoyed on your own or with a posse of friends.


  1. So much for mine arriving! Come on, Hong Kong.

    But great review. The first thing I might do to extend the life of it is turn aiming to expert-mode. At least try it out before I make any decisions.

    By the by, Red Faction Armageddon got announced! Word on the street is, they're taking a fair chunk of it back underground. Out this year, too!

  2. Cool beans Taz.

    Tris review was good but I have not experienced the amount of graphical glitches that you experienced. I had more sound problems to be honest. In Cutscenes Character voices would be almost mute and background noises like bird squalls would be really loud.

    I'm just gonna get an actual working copy of Left 4 Dead and muck around on that and Deadrising, no new games for a while me thinks as nothing looks interesting, plus ME2 DLC (Normandy F**K YEAH!)

  3. Thanks for the feedback guys.

    Taz - I am hoping Red Fection makes a return to its FPS roots as I could not get into Guerilla, and not for lack of trying.

    Rubes - I never had an issue with the sound, but I had read that quite a few people experienced similar issues.

    Another glitch occurred while I was playing Poker in Chuparosa. The textures for each of my opponents failed to load properly and believe me when I say it's hard to tell if someone is bluffing when they have no facial details!!!

  4. I have not experienced any glitches whatsoever. I may be lucky though. I truly enjoy this game. The aiming system is pretty much exactly the same as GTAIV. Lest be honest, you don't play these games for the difficulty, you play these games because you can whatever tickles your fancy. I love riding in the country side.

    Also, in case you don't know..... POSSE UP BITCHES!!!

    p.s. I am going to get myself a pair of Astro A40s! My god they are so smexy! Also, I am going to get the MGS skin for them!

  5. Trits, they keep asking via the community manager for Red Faction if fans wanted it third or first-person - seems like everyone wanted both, so much like the Battlefront games, you might be able to choose.

    Sam, that's some expensive kit!

  6. Taz - That would be awesome. Star Wars: Battlefront II was a true classic.

    Sambo - That is nutty my friend. A bit too much coin for a headset. If you went and bought the standard Sony bluetooth headset you would have $140 left to spend on games.

  7. Samma you crazy, although they look mad, dude the PS3 headset does a good as job as any. plus 54 bucks.

    Yes I am keen to posse up at some time this weekend.

    I had only a few graphical glitches mainly marsden changing position rapidly in some cut scenes, was funny for the first couple of miinutes then totally ruined experience in some situations. I also hated Mexico.

    By the Way I am "The Mauled" Tribune on RDR multi now as I have competed all hunting Challenges, The mauled is achieved after killing 5 cougars one with melee, which i felt should have been the final hunt but the last one to get "Hunter" is 5 elk and big horn, cougars are far more challenging than elk and rams that just run away, at one point 5 cougars attacked me 4 from the front one from behind, i killed 4 got mauled by the 5 from behind. Love the animals in that game.

  8. Anyone living near a Dick Smith in Queensland, run in for madness. I picked Left 4 Dead 2 (I know the Australian version :( ) for $30. Also picked up Killzone 2 for $30 (non-platinum, original release :) ).

    Other bargains of note:
    Mass Effect 2 - $50
    Band Hero (PS3 / 360) - $30
    Brutal Legend (PS3) - $30
    Wolfenstein (PS3 / 360) - $30
    Mirror's Edge (PS3 / 360) - $10

  9. sweet i'll head to the one in town at 3 on my break, just picked up left for dead 1 without rainbow zombies, the disc was scratched and they all looke like zombies, not as cool as it sounds when they are visible through walls and the game loses all sense of surprise and fear.

    So much for no new games, yes im aware its been out for ages, but as in new i meant purchases.

  10. Tris if mine is sold out and you think its meh, ill gladly take that as a B'Day pressie lol

  11. Its all good the wonderful wife bought it from Brookside, they have like 10 copies left. Sweet deal for Zombie fun, i love zombies.

    I now own Dead Space, Silent Hill, Siren Blood Curse, L4D, L4D2, Zombie Apocolypse, Burn Zombie Burn, Dead Rising, Resident Evil 5 Gold, What am I missing?

  12. I know they are expensive, but my god they are sexy as. TRUE SURROUND SOUND! In a headset! My god I am so excited. I don't care if it is a ridiculous amount of money, they are awesome. Come on Tris, are you telling me you wouldn't love having Snake sound busting on your ear?!

    And I am seriously considering picking up Mirror's Edge. That game looked like it was good fun> Also Brutal Legend might be a goer, but I think I might get bored with it pretty quick.

  13. Busting what Sambo? lol

    Mirror's Edge is a hidden gem, I thoroughly recommend it.

    I might still get Wolfenstein. Rubes, I think you are a zombiepheliac.

  14. Yeah, I'm behind Mirror's Edge as well. Nab that - it's brilliant.

  15. Leave Mirrors Edge Sambo, trust me you wont enjoy it. (previous comment was deleted to fix this beginning as following a more recent conversation with tris while on the psn, i must clean up my community act)

    Zombies are mad fun, they need to make a zombie rpg like mass effect, would be epic!

    Even Star Wars has a Zombie related novel now, hard to find though.

    Wolfenstien could be ok but its a hit or miss situation, demo didnt instill much confidence.

    Brutal Legend = leave on shelf.

    I want more Zombie games!

  16. Busting Sound dude, Snake is busting sound! LOL

    Yeah Mirror's Edge I think will be a goer, I liked the Demo. I popped into Dick Smith on the weekend, and it was nowhere to be found... Sad Face!