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Red Dead Redemption Review

Red Dead Redemption pack shot
Developer:Rockstar San Diego
Publisher:Take Two
Platform:Xbox 360
Official Site:http://www.rockstargames.com/reddeadredemption
Release Date:May 21st, 2010 (UK)
Reviewer:Andy Hemphill (Bandit)
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As a child, who didn't play Cowboys and Indians? Who didn't want to get on a horse and ride into the setting sun, shoot down outlaws as they try to escape, or get into a brutal barroom fistfight? Even if this wasn't your childhood dream, you're going to love Red Dead Redemption.

Springing from the minds of Rockstar, the creatives behind the Grand Theft Auto series, RDD is not 'GTA 4 on horses', far from it.

Rather than being a derivative of the venerable series, RDD cherry-picks the best of the other title and has created a world of its own, filled with all the tongue-in-cheek humour, outlandish characters, brutal action and brilliant story you could want.

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Rather than being a derivative of the venerable series, RDD cherry-picks the best of the other title and has created a world of its own, filled with all the tongue-in-cheek humour, outlandish characters, brutal action and brilliant story you could want.

Along the way Marston makes a bunch of friends and enemies, brokers some bad deals and, if you don't watch what you're doing, can end up on the wrong side of the law.

Clocking in at a good 20 hours, the main adventure is a rollercoaster of Wild West action movie cliché's. There's a heist, a train robbery, bounty hunting and showdowns at high noon. The difference is that you chose how things pan out - do you shoot the gun out of the upstart kid's hand, or put two in his chest and one between the eyes?

This element of choice is what sets the game apart from its contemporaries. Two systems - fame and honour - dictate how the world around Marston responds to him. Commit a crime and your fame might rise - but your honour drops and the lawmen will be out for your blood. Save a damsel in distress and the townsfolk will love you and offer you a discount at their stores, but the gangs roaming the plains will make a beeline for you.

More often than not you'll find yourself walking the grey line - not a saviour, but not a too much of a sinner either.

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As in GTA, the game world is strewn with new faces to meet, shoot or do jobs for. Completing these varied objectives advances the story and gives Marston the chance to bury his bloodstained past, one body at a time.

If, on the other hand, you feel like going exploring, a dizzying variety of random events can befall you. There could be a stagecoach robbery going on, a woman being attacked by cougars or a gang of escaped convicts tearing up a town. The choices you face define the character you create.

Also like GTA4, if Marston is spotted committing a crime and the eyewitnesses aren't killed first, the lawmen will come calling, chasing you like they did in the previous game, but unlike Niko's adventure, if you escape your crimes remain on file, and paying off the fine at a telegraph office or doing the time is your only option.

The world Marston inhabits is a dying era. The West is gradually becoming more industrial, and though the horse is still king, trains and stagecoaches are becoming abundant. That said, the wilds are home to a huge array of animals: from vultures to coyotes to black bears, all of which can be hunted, skinned and sold for cash, if they don't kill you first.

There are also prides of wild horses wandering the plains and capturing, breaking and mounting your own stallion is a joy in itself - and simply done via a little minigame. Other minigames on offer include poker, blackjack and liar's dice, horseshoes and five finger fillet (though killing your opponent when you lose is frowned upon, as I found out fairly early on...)

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The controls for getting around will seem familiar to GTA fans, as there is very little difference between the two. The cover system is a lot more refined this time however, playing as something more akin to Gears of War, and the gunplay has also had an overhaul: Marston is an expert shot with pistols, repeater rifles, shotguns and his lasso, and can pick off a moving target on the ground, or on horseback, with one shot.

Pulling the left trigger locks the reticule on to the target you were looking at, and manipulating the left stick allows you to aim higher or lower - perhaps to take a target out in one go, or merely to pop him in the foot, making it much easier to hogtie him, slip him on your horse and drag him in for the bounty.

The mounts themselves take a little getting used to, but after a few missteps controlling the beasts becomes pretty simple. They can move at quite a lick, jump over any obstacles and can be spurred into action when you need a quick getaway.

Staying on the same horse for a while will upgrade its limited stamina bar, but don't get too attached to them, as you're likely to ride one off a cliff or have it got shot from under you pretty quickly, then you can skin it for its vitals - the West was a brutal place.

You can also get about on stagecoaches or via the trains, or you can make camp and fast-travel around the map - the decision is yours.

The game's multiplayer is another slice of fried gold. Like GTA4, the game places you in a persistent 'free roam' environment where you can fool around with your friends, team up to complete missions against the AI, engage in shootouts on horseback and generally cause trouble, all with very little lag or texturing problems.

The options for character customisation are pretty limited however, and playing through the levels only unlocks a few new mounts and character skins, but as you're going to be too busy blowing gangs away anyway, it's not really much of a problem.

Graphically the game is quite the looker. The graphics engine renders water, sand and towns in equal beauty, with very little texture drop in and a draw distance that is just begging to be admired, especially from the top of a cliff on horseback.


Red Dead Redemption is a brilliant game, and well worth your time and money. A stellar singleplayer campaign and an addictive multiplayer will absorb hours of your time, and the persistent world John Marston lives in is both charming and challenging in the same breath. While there are still a few bugs to iron out, Rockstar's masterpiece is sure to be an experience to remember. Saddle up, partner.

The bottom line
9.0 / 10

Good stuff

  • Great story
  • Brilliant gameplay
  • Fun multiplayer

Not so good stuff

  • Occasionally buggy
  • Limited multiplayer character customisation

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