Cowboys and Indians doesn’t really make sense in relation to Red Dead Redemption, yes there are native Americans (kind of), but those of us in the know affectionately refer to the NPC’s of that programmed ethnicity as savages. Red Dead is more like Cowboys and Mexicans, or Cowboys and the Federal Law man. Plenty of promise, but do random encounters with damsels in distress and packs of roving wolves make for fun times in the old west or something less compelling?

John Marston was a bit of a rascal in his earlier life, and as the protagonist, his story unravels throughout the game. Married, with a child, Marston is forced to hunt down the members of his old gang in exchange for the return of his family. The government wants the wild west to be made less wild, John’s roll in this is clearing out some of the rabble. Most of the early game is with out particular details, by the end everything is almost comprehensively explained, some night terror flash backs would have been cool to see how bad he really was before trying to change his life, but I don’t think Marston is the sort of man to have nightmares, actually I think he is the person that appears in other peoples nightmares.

If open worlds are your thing, Red Dead has you pretty much covered. The world is almost open from the beginning, or rather there is more than enough space to roam around in until Mexico becomes open and the plains accessible. If anything the slight spatial limitation at the beginning is helpful in not overwhelming you. The open spaces are vast and while the area is large I never felt like it took too long to cross the distances. Clouds, lighting, shadows, mountainous regions, grassy plains, all this plus the eye of the devil! Sunsets are more impressive over the landscapes as volumetric clouds refract the light, mountains become shrouded, it’s beautiful, and sitting on a horse atop a cliff overlooking a valley of cacti and hearing the wolves howling is something almost tangible. Easily the most complete and diverse world packed into a video game that I have experienced.

Missions are structured around the story but there is plenty to keep you occupied throughout the game. There are side missions that pop up from time to time that can involve strangers or law keeping duties. My favourite part of the game were the challenges. Treasure hunting, animal hunting, survivalist  preparations, there’s a good amount of game time to be sunk in here. Hunting animals and skinning them to sell their meat/claws/horns/hides also ads to your funds.

There is an issue with screen tearing that I noticed on the PS3 version, also, the frame rate does drop occasionally, there were two points where I found it frustrating, at the other times it was simply something I noticed. A few times my load also started in a texture free environment with the camera detaching its self from the character and floating into oblivion, a quick reload seemed to solve this. For all the NPC’s and animals and the large area of load free areas I am surprised that these are the only real issues I found.

I’d estimate that I spend a good 25 hours playing before I reached the “end” of the game. I still have a few challenges to do and want to go see if I can help the buffalo on their road towards extinction. The story is somewhat predictable, a struggle against authority, cleaning up loose ends from your past, and that same past coming back to bite you in the ass. The ending is fitting, and tidies up the whole package nicely, but still allows the player to continue playing in the world.

Closing Comments

I feel like I should stop here, the minutia really doesn’t change what I think about Red Dead, and I could quite easily go on and on about it. This is a game that I think almost anyone would be justified in purchasing, it has an incredible single player experience, and the multiplayer functionality to boot (which I unfortunately haven’t had the time to play as I have found the single player so enjoyable) It’s just one extra reason to purchase it if you have some friends (fellow Mashers) to share it with. It’s not completely perfect but it’s good enough to make it a must buy in my opinion, easily the most compelling game experience this year and not one that I think will be topped in the near future.

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