The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
With high noon duels, lawless frontiers, and gruff leading men, the
Western genre seemingly has all the essential pieces to make a smooth
transition into video games. But as past six-shooters like Dead Man’s
Hand, Call of Juarez, Gun, and Red Dead Revolver found out, dressing
your scruffy hero in a duster and giving him a revolver isn’t enough to
captivate audiences accustomed to firing rocket-propelled grenades and
light machine guns. For Rockstar’s first full-fledged effort in the
genre (the company purchased Red Dead Revolver from Capcom), it decided
to do what it does best – explore the topic at hand with an immersive
Red Dead Redemption is set during the birth of the
20th century, where the expansion-minded federal government is moving
swiftly to domesticate the untamed frontier. With railroads and telegram
lines connecting previously isolated communities, the new cowboys are
exploitative businessmen and aggressive legislators aiming to expand
their power bases. To keep this development moving along unabated, the
feds have created the Agency, a new branch of law enforcement determined
to rid the outer territories of the violent gangs running rampant.
Marston used to be one of those outlaws; he’s got the scars and
practiced trigger finger to prove it. But after his gang left him for
dead during a robbery gone awry, Marston embraced the quiet life,
settling on a ranch, taking a wife, and having his first child. Like his
spiritual predecessor, Grand Theft Auto IV protagonist Niko Bellic,
Marston eventually discovers that running from his past doesn’t mean he
can escape it. Using evidence of his past transgressions against him,
the Agency makes a persuasive proposition: Hunt down the last living
members his former gang, or kiss family life goodbye. Marston
begrudgingly grabs his six-shooter and heads out in search of his
long-lost brothers in arms.
While Red Dead Redemption’s setup
reads like a Clint Eastwood script, the gameplay construct is pulled
straight from Grand Theft Auto. In order to track down and confront his
wayward outlaw friends, Marston has to consort with an unsavory cast of
snake oil salesmen, drunks, grave robbers, washed up gunslingers,
dissidents, and corrupt politicians. Assistance doesn’t come easy, as
Marston must complete fetch quests and rack up kill counts to earn their
trust before they divulge any useful information. Those who tired of
the errand boy mission structure of Grand Theft Auto IV won’t find any
solace in Red Dead – to get what he needs, Marston helps peddle cure-all
tonics, aids in finding a lost treasure, puts in time herding cattle on
the ranch, and rescues kidnapped citizens. The game is at its best when
it embraces gunpowder-centric missions that only a Western era game can
deliver; my favorites include assaulting a gang stronghold with a posse
of regulators, protecting a supply train on horseback, and fighting up a
treacherous mountainside to locate an enemy camp.
limitations of the era’s weaponry, Red Dead’s gunplay is surprisingly
exciting. Each weapon – from six-shooters and repeaters to sniper rifles
and Gatling guns – has a distinct feel, and the hit detection system
couples with Natural Motion’s Euphoria animation technology to create
visceral shootouts. Shotgun blasts blow enemies violently backward,
sniper shots to the shoulder spin bandits around, and if you nail a
fleeing enemy in the leg, he’ll feebly crawl toward the nearest cover.
When large groups of bandits descend on your position, you can activate
the slow-motion Dead Eye ability to paint a large swath of enemies and
watch in awe as Marston effortlessly puts them all in an early grave.
Less practiced gunslingers can stick with the friendly snap-to auto-aim
mechanic borrowed from GTA IV, but if you want to up the challenge, I
suggest turning it off.
Email the author Matt Bertz, or follow on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and Game Informer.