By Adam M. Cook
Game Reviewer/Web Editor
Game: Red Dead Redemption
Release Date (U.S.): May 18, 2010
Developers: Rockstar San Diego
Platforms: Xbox 360, Playstation 3
“Tombstone.” “Lonesome Dove.” “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.” Imagine these movies and similar western movies, legends and stories you know, wrangle them all together and you end up with Rockstar Games’ “Red Dead Redemption,” the second installment of the “Red Dead” series.
This western-style, first-person shooter game lets players feel as if they are horse-breaking, bounty-hunting roughnecks. It’s a time when America was in a state of change, where corruption, greed and little effective law enforcement were the norm, and the person with the fastest pistols had the upper hand. (No gun pun intended.)
Set in the Southwest border region of the United States in 1911, this game tells the story of John Marston, a former outlaw who is taken from his family and peaceful life to do some “dirty work” for corrupt U.S. government officials. These lawmen hold Marston’s family hostage until he helps them track down notorious killers, some of which are Marston’s former “associates.” They want Marston because he is a dangerous man who knows how to deal with cold-blooded murderers. This gives Marston a chance to settle some unfinished business.
Main missions involve objectives that go along the main story line. Side missions consist of situations where Marston completes tasks for strangers he encounters, whether it’s helping a store owner retrieve stolen goods or helping a traveler save his wife from rebels. Hunting, sharpshooter and survivalist challenges are also available. Throughout the game players collect various weapons such as rope, pistols, shotguns, rifles, Molotov cocktails, knives and even dynamite. There are also games that can be played within the game like Poker (Hold’em), Blackjack, Liar’s Dice, Five Finger Fillet, arm wrestling and more. Players complete certain tasks to build their reputation and unlock outfits that give them freedoms throughout the map. “Wanted” posters, which can be found in most towns throughout the game, present the face of a bounty you can collect. Tear these posters down and bring the bounty back to the designated town to get paid. On top of that, there are ranching jobs available like herding cattle and breaking horses. One nifty feature is the “Dead-Eye” mode, which temporarily makes everything move in slow motion, allowing you to mark each target. This can really come in handy when there are multiple targets that need to be dealt with quickly. You can also play Multiplayer where you can fight or team up with other players in a public session to infiltrate gang hideouts, participate in shootouts between posses of players or just explore.
Over the course of his journey, Marston meets a variety of colorful characters like ranchers, cowboys, natives, marshals, gang members, gun slingers, bandits, rebels, U.S. Army soldiers, Mexican Army soldiers, prostitutes, treasure hunters and more. Just as you would expect from Rockstar Games, these characters can come off as kind, hateful, friendly, deadly, intelligent, gullible, hilarious, psychotic or creepy. Whether the player herding cattle for the lovely, but rough rancher Miss Bonnie MacFarlane or helping grizzled lawman legend Landon Ricketts take on an entire gang.
The game designers did not skimp on the picture quality. Players travel through a wide range of different landscapes and environments. Hundreds of stars are visible at night. The video quality is so sharp that players can see each leaf of a tree branch sway gently in the wind. From places where tumbleweeds roll in the dry desert to places where the trees tower over the snowy forests, the player can get the full experience, especially when it appears water droplets are landing your screen as you ride through a storm or near rapids. There is even a point in the game where, upon crossing the border into Mexico, the player will hear José González’s song “Far Away,” one of the tracks from the Red Dead Redemption soundtrack. Over 20 types of wildlife are found in areas across the map, from snakes, armadillos, beavers, and skunks, to bobcats, cougars, elk, big horns and even bears. Be careful! These beasts and critters can sneak up on you if you don’t stay vigilant.