The right side of wrong
Set at the turn of the 20th century, Grand Theft Auto maker Rockstar's beautiful, bloody and action-packed take on the Wild West puts you in the shoes of reformed outlaw John Marston. The stubble-wearing, scar-faced ex-con went straight and started a family after being left for dead by his old gang, but as you take control he's about to embark on a mission that could easily see him slip into his old ways.
Marston's wife and kid have been kidnapped by federal agents who won't return them safely until you track down your former gang members and kill an old friend. And so you set off on an epic journey across an open-world environment of frontier towns and rolling prairies, picking your own path through what turns out to be arguably this year's best action adventure title to date.
While the setting couldn't be more different to that of a city-based Grand Theft Auto title, there's no attention to detail spared in Red Dead Redemption's world, which is bursting with character and things to do. Its sandy deserts, swampy settlements and perilous mountain passes even boast a fully functioning ecology system, meaning they're teeming with wildlife that you can interact with.
You'd be forgiven for worrying that one prairie would look much the same as the next, but there's impressive variety between locations and each of the three main areas (New Austin, Nuevo Paraiso and West Elizabeth) offer distinct local characters and wildlife, making it one of the most convincing open-world environments yet created.
Gameplay offers a mixture of story missions, side quests and exploration. Within the opening few hours you'll get to grips with your rope and gun, lassoing villains and shooting bandits using a highly satisfying mechanic that mixes free-aim and lock-on capabilities. You'll also familiarise yourself with riding, horses being one of your primary modes of travel. Many of the story missions bring to mind classic cowboy movie scenes, so you'll get to perform jailbreaks, clean out gang hideouts and ride speeding mine carts and steam trains.
Get involved... or don't!
Varied side quests will see you rescuing terrorised innocents, reclaiming stolen goods or capturing escaped criminals, but it's up to you how much you get involved in these types of activities. You might prefer to partake in a hand of poker, visit the local saloon, or leisurely explore the game world hunting wildlife and blowing things up. All of these options merely reinforce the feeling that you're just one cog in a lifelike, fully-functioning world.
Red Dead Redemption also supports multiplayer, offering familiar game-types like deathmatch, team deathmatch and capture the flag, plus a free roaming mode which throws challenges at you and your friends on-the-fly.
It's a strange quibble to have with a game, but Red Dead Redemption's scope and seemingly limitless possibilities could be its one true flaw. To really get the most out of the experience you'll need to complete the main story, but it's a very long title, especially if you find yourself easily distracted from the main missions by the wealth of temptations on offer.
How the West was won
Nevertheless, Red Dead Redemption a game that action fans simply can't afford to ignore. Rockstar's managed the seemingly impossible feat of stepping out of the giant shadow it created with open-world king Grand Theft Auto to produce the best action adventure title released so far this year, and one that stands tall alongside the top games the genre has to offer.
- Arguably the most impressive open-world game to date.
- There's so much to do you're spoilt for choice.
- Great characters and story.
- Western theme might not be universally appealing.
- Missions can get slightly repetitive after 20 hours of play.
- It's so big, some people might never actually finish it!
Review by: Tom 'Gun-Slinger' Ivan
Version Tested: Xbox 360
Review Published: 19.05.10