We've had our first glimpse at Rockstar's Red Dead Redemption. But what we've seen left us with more questions than answers.
I saw the same demo that Michael wrote about recently and so instead of repeating what he's described, I thought I'd cover some of the things Rockstar didn't show us.
Just how dark is it going to be? The setting for Redemption is the early 20th century, so we're looking at the dying days of the "wild west". The frontier is being marginalised by the nascent expansion of industrialisation, rendering the role of the gunslinger increasingly redundant. If Red Dead Revolver was The Good, The Bad & The Ugly then Redemption - ironically - sounds more Unforgiven. To be true to its sources of inspiration, Redemption could end up telling a pretty depressing tale. How far is Rockstar willing to go?
How morally ambiguous are things going to get? The whole point of the latter-day western is to explore the moral ambiguity of the outlaw. We were shown situations where you could seemingly choose whether to help innocent people being accosted by bandits or even hinder the law as they pursued those same bandits. Just how your actions feed into the world and supply meaningful consequences, we don't know. Whether there's any sort of moral gauge, again, we don't know. I do hope Rockstar refuse to follow the current trend of tying moral choices to character progression or other play mechanics. Nothing would ruin the ethical greyness of the setting more than a Fallout style Karma meter or - worse - the blatant binary choices of inFamous. Let us just explore this world and let our actions deliver moral feedback at a narrative level.
How interesting is the world going to be? The demo we saw took place across a large expanse of desolate desert. Rocky hills broke up the horizon, a few tiny settlements dotted the landscape, various animals went about their business, and cacti, tumbleweeds and small clumps of vegetation grew here and there. But there wasn't a huge amount of variety. Fair enough, that's what this part of the world at that point in time was like. But for gamers used to the bustle of Liberty City, how compelling is this vast nothingness going to be? Switching the series from straight-up shooter to more of an open world or sandbox experience should benefit the setting. Part of the appeal of the western is the idea of just surviving, of being out there alone, and of having to rely on yourself and no one else. Just how compatible that concept is with our expectations of a contemporary action game is something Rockstar is hopefully grappling with right now.
Personally, I felt some Far Cry 2 vibes from my time with Red Dead Redemption. I dig the sense of isolation and the way you can seemingly explore at your own pace. I dig the ambition of the setting and the cinematic inspirations Rockstar has chosen. I can't wait to see some more and discover whether the next preview build answers some of those questions... and hopefully providing the answers I want to hear.
What do you want from Red Dead Redemption? Do you like the way Rockstar has moved away from the linear shooter formula of the original? Or are you worried it'll have lost its identity and feel too much like GTA?