*GOTY2010 - Action GOTY - Most Mojo - Multiplatform GOTY - Best Character 2010 - GOTY 2010

Rockstar Games have taken their tried and true sandbox formula and brought it to the Wild West - but have they crafted a new experience, or is 'Red Dead Redemption' simply GTA 4 on horses?

You are Lone Ranger
I have always been a big fan of Westerns. Ever since getting together with other "Lone Ranger" wannabes in my neighbourhood to play Cowboys & Indians, or just donning my coonskin cap and pretending to shoot at various forms of wildlife in my backyard, I wanted to be a real frontiersman. I’ve pretty much tried to absorb every possible game that places you in the saddle throughout my gaming lifetime - from 'Express Raider' to the more recent 'Call of Juarez' series. The point of this nostalgic rant is - this is the game I’ve been vying for my whole life.

Never before has a game so perfectly captured the essence of the vigilante cowboy - one part honourable, one part ruthless, and a little bit of everything in between. You take the reins as 'John Marston,' a man with a troubled past who has retired from his outlaw ways and is now trying to find some sort of peace. Unfortunately, the government intends to speed up this redemptive process by holding his wife and son captive until he delivers them the remaining members of his former gang that are still very active. The game begins with John confronting one the of these gang members and failing to take him down. After being shot and left to die, he is found by the MacFarlane family and brought back to their ranch to recover.

This is where you start to take control over John. You begin to repay the MacFarlanes for their hospitality by completing various tasks on their ranch, like herding cattle, getting rid of scavengers, and breaking horses. These missions play out as a tutorial for the games various mechanics and introduce you to John’s rugged yet soft nature. I found it to be a fantastic way to start the game - learning the controls, while at the same time becoming deeply interested in the character you’re controlling. The beauty and depth of the scenery also help to immediately immerse you in the world. I found myself spending time after every mission just looking around. Sometimes I’d see something off in the distance and quickly spur my horse on to investigate.

Never before have I gotten so attached to a game so quickly. The cast of characters in this game is incredible. The voice acting is also top notch. On top of all that, the characters animations, although not fully life-like, sync up so well with the voice over that it keeps you invested in what’s happening. Speaking of audio - the way music is used in this game adds so much to the mood. You don’t have a radio station constantly blabbering at you all the time, and for the most part music is non-existent. The moments when music does come singing through your speakers become so much more meaningful and memorable because of this. Thank you Rockstar audio team!

Rootin’ Tootin’ Shootin’
The controls in Red Dead feel a lot more responsive than in most sandbox games, but they are still a little stiff and awkward at times. On the other hand, riding a horse is a rapturous experience. Although I loved driving around in cars and on motorcycles in 'Grand Theft Auto 4' (as you can probably guess from the first paragraph), gunning down people from the saddle is a fantasy of mine.

The weapons in the game are a breath of fresh air too. The standard rocket launchers and uzis have been replaced with 6 shooters and bolt-action rifles. My main issue with the game is that its far too easy. By default, anytime you pull the left trigger, you lock onto the nearest target. Pulling the left trigger, shooting a few bullets, then pulling the left trigger again allows you to easily mow down a large group. You’re also given something called ‘Dead Eye’ which works like the bullet time did in 'Max Payne,' giving you even more time to take down your foes. Luckily, for those who find they are plowing through the game without dying like I did, there’s an expert targeting mode which does away with the lock-on targeting. Unfortunately I still found things far too easy. The only times I died were because of my own stupidity and not game difficulty.

I was also kind of sad that you can’t swim in the game. I’m not really sure what the thought process behind not including this was. It would have been great to be able to wade across rivers with your horse without having to find a bridge - but its not a deal breaker.

Into the Wild
The wildlife in this game is fantastic. Filled with several moments of unscripted surprises where you will be riding down the road and stop to watch a bunny hoping across, only to see a cougar snatch it up a few seconds later. Watching the various animals coexist is outstanding, however, better than watching them, you can join in the carnivore evolution. Killing and skinning animals is very satisfying part of the game, so if that sort of thing makes you squeamish, then this probably isn’t the game for you. You can also pick different types of flowers, which plays into some of the games challenges which I’ll discuss later.

The only issue I had with the environment was the lack of people inhabiting it. Certainly 'John Marston' can’t be the only lonely traveler navigating the land of New Austin! Although you do run across individuals here and there, I thought the numbers could have been increased a little bit.

Another problem with spending a lot of time outside of town is that you’re bound to run into some of the games famous glitches. Type ‘Red Dead Redemption Glitch’ into YouTube and you will find all kinds of hilarious videos of flying goats and mountable women (hi-oh!). The issue is that although they are very funny, it does pull you out of the game. If the glitches didn’t go beyond modeling issues I wouldn’t have minded, but there were a few times that glitches caused me to be unable to finish a mission-- they were not funny at all. There have been lots of reported cases of this. I wish that Rockstar would have debugged the game a little more. However, the overall the quality of the story and characters quickly makes you forgot about any flaws you may encounter.

I got Things to Do and People to See!
Just like many of Rockstars other games, there is much to do beyond Marston’s regular duties. You can play Five-Finger Fillet or a little bit of Hold-em, break horses, collect bounties, take down gang hideouts, and that is just the start. There are also challenges to raise your fame, like treasure hunting and skinning specific animals. Every bit of it is a blast, and gives you something to do when you need a break from the main quests.

There are also strangers scattered throughout the world with stories of their own that you can get involved in. Some of them are one time deals, but others have you doing multiple things for them. There are also random people throughout the world who need a quick hand, like a damsel in distress or a man whose horse has been stolen. This is where the new honour system comes into play.

There are lots of opportunities to make choices in this game. Do I go a get the horse back, or simply kill him for bothering me? or do I get the horse, but then keep it for myself? When I collect a bounty should I kill the criminal in cold blood or tie him up and allow the law to deal with him? These choices define how others respond to you. If you’ve been a good boy, you’ll get better deals in the stores. On there other hand, criminals around town will be quick to challenge you to a duel. Bioware really pioneered this idea and if you’ve read my review of 'Mass Effect 2,' you know I’m a big fan of those guys and gals. I would love see this taken to the next level in 'Red Dead Redemption,' however, I never really felt that my decisions had any consequences. It's great to have it in there, I just wish there was more to it.

You’re going down Tex
These days people don’t seem to be satisfied without multiplayer being part of a game. I really feel like a game like this doesn’t need multiplayer at all. I’d love to see the single player get all the attention and make it that much better. That’s an argument for a whole other day however. Its in here, so I may as well talk about.

Before I start, I have to mention that I’ve had major connection issues since the games release. Trying to get into multiplayer has been a real hassle for me. It seems to have sorted itself out since a recent patch, but I still get dropped from matches on occasion. The forums have been buzzing with issues similar to mine. Hopefully Rockstar will patch the game again soon. Some of the issues seem to have to do with router settings and specific types of routers, so if possible, try connecting your Xbox 360 or PS3 directly to your modem and see if that helps. It is a better solution that opening up your routers firewall and making other machines on your network susceptible to danger.

Since 'Red Dead' has guns in it, the standard 'Deathmatch' and 'Capture-the-Flag' game types are here, although the flag has been replaced with a bag of gold. Normally these modes would get boring really fast, but the old western weaponry is refreshing. Blowing a cattleman revolver size hole in my enemies head is very satisfying. I do wish there were a few more modes, like a 'Cops vs Robbers' chase or maybe even a horse race. I know I said that whole spiel about the game not needing multiplayer earlier, but if you’re gonna put it in, you need to go all out.

The multiplayer mode that everyone is raving about is 'Free Roam' mode. This opens the whole world of 'Red Dead Redemption' up to you to do anything you please. You can kill and skin animals, take down gang hideouts, and just explore the terrain like you can in single player, but this time you can do it with a friend. There are challenges you can finish to unlock new character models, and horses as well as titles to display above your head. I personally don’t find it as exhilarating as most people seem too. Taking down gang hideouts with someone else makes it twice as easy, and when there is no challenge, there is no fun to be had - at least for me anyway. I wish there were some full blown co-op missions to take part in, but I know that’s coming later in June (for free I might add!). I also wish you could take part in some of the mini-games, like Hold-em or Blackjack to add more value to its free-roaming package.

'Red Dead Redemption' is a must buy. Every Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 owner should play this game (as long as they’re over 18 and not a member of PETA). The only reasons I can’t give this game a full 10 are the annoying glitches, connection issues and the lack of difficulty. Beyond that, this game is mint. From the beautiful vistas and voice acting to the powerful story and gameplay - I was hooked from beginning to end. I thoroughly enjoyed almost every second, however it wasn’t until I got to the end (which blew me away) that I truly realized just how great the experience had been. Please run out to your local game shop and pick this one up.

  • compelling characters and story
  • amazing voice acting
  • great use of music (and great music to boot!)
  • controls work much better than in GTA 4
  • tons of gameplay to take in
  • addictive multiplayer
  • a little too easy
  • multiplayer connection issues add unnecessary frustration
  • lots of glitches which sometimes provided a good laugh, but other times made me extremely irritated
Quote: "Red Dead Redemption is a must buy. Every Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 owner should play this game (as long as they’re over 18 and not a member of PETA). The only reasons I can’t give this game a full 10 are the annoying glitches, connection issues and the lack of difficulty. Beyond that, this game is mint. "
Reviewed by Mike Baggley | 06.04.10



Rockstar Games

Rockstar San Diego
Rockstar North


US Release
May '10


PS3, X360

Players 1
Online 2-16
5.1 surround
HD 1080p (360)
D/L Content