Reader Review: Red Dead Redemption

Do you have what it takes to get a review published right here on Kotaku? Joshua does, as he hogties a donkey lady.

Yes, that’s right, we’re now publishing reader reviews here on Kotaku. This is your chance to deliver sensible game purchasing advice to the rest of the Kotaku community.

And thanks to the very kind chaps at Madman Entertainment, purveyor of all kinds of cool, indie and esoteric film, the best reader review we publish each month will win a prize pack containing ten of the latest Madman DVD releases.

This review was submitted by Joshua Shuvalov. If you’ve played Red Dead Redemption, or just want to ask Josh more about it, leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Red Dead Redemption (360)

This Western themed RPG is the latest innovation from sandbox giant Rockstar, placing you at the crux of political and technological events in the early 1900s that stretch to the limits of American borders and beyond. One wonders whether this historical (and oddly non-urban) approach to the classic GTA formula will really end the string of sadly disappointing epics from Rockstar in recent years?


Glory To The Story: A decent gaming story is rare. But a damn good one is almost unprecedented. Cues from spaghetti westerns and some truly fine (and disturbingly mature) scripting/voice acting make for a roaring good yarn to back up (and in many ways exceed in importance) the endless bloodbath caused by the barrels of your guns. The romantic intrigues and gritty crises in the last days of the west are utilised to make what, without the gamer, would be cinema.

Out On The Range: The open and somewhat relaxing atmosphere of this game has no equal in my experience. To simply take a horse and ride across the land is a real joy. Groups of animals flock across in the screen begging to be interacted with (themselves forming an important economic resource with their pelts and meat), as do legions of interesting strangers and events. In fact, hunting and incidental side-challenges in this game are one of the most absurdly fun things I’ve done on the Xbox, and really cements the frontier feel to the game.

Gunslinging: In short, taking a few cues from VATS in Fallout 3 for the “bullet time” system and Call of Duty’s “left trigger spasm” aiming system has really helped the gunfights to be more fluid and epic than GTA’s.

No Cars: Sandbox games are notoriously reliant on cars, but here the beautifully animated and implemented horses make a real difference. Horseback gunfights are enjoyable in a way drive-bys could never compete with, being so much more fluidic and unconstrained by blocky cars and streets.

Multiplayer: An afterthought, one would think, but the gang shootouts and awesome posse free-roaming add endless perseverance to a game that lasts something like two dozen hours played alone.


Criticising It: Although I’m sure the story’s slow pace will disappoint the more mayhem-orientated gamers that recent sandbox games have been focusing on.

In short, this is a unexpectedly great game. Not mentioned above are the endless things now standard in RPGs that this game did perfectly: a morality system that matters, side missions that range from amusing distractions to haunting justice dispersion, and a great save/fast travel system. It’s full of endless incidental "wow" moments (a knife fight with a cougar!) and intentional “woah” moments (“I met a NPC whose life ethos means he’s more comfortable with the dead”). If you like a near perfect adventure (and have the slightest enjoyment of the western genre or a good story), your RPG gaming dollars are better spent nowhere else.

Reviewed by: Joshua Shuvalov

You can have your Reader Review published on Kotaku. Send your review to us at the usual address. Make sure it’s written in the same format as above and in under 500 words - yes, we’ve upped the word limit. We’ll publish the best ones we get and the best of the month will win a Madman DVD prize pack.


    Hope they get up some DLC where I can get a John Wayne skin or Clint for my badass drifter.

    I agree with everything Joshua said about RDR but I don't get why he believes Rockstar have made crappy games recently. GTA4 was fantastic!

      Try GTA4 on the PC. It's a big pile of do-do, after Rockstar broke it with the latest patch.

      eh, it wasn't bad, in fact it was somewhat good. but certainly "sadly disappointing". I just felt it didn't live up to expectations the way previous ones had.

    Great review - I find it disheartening reading professional reviewers state that it is "just GTAIV Wild West", since when did games become so good that comparing something to the amazing GTAIV can sound negative?
    I would hope for the day that all games were "just" like GTAIV and by extension Red Dead Redemption. Rockstar outdid themselves with this one.

      its definetly not GTAIV wild west and thats because GTAIV was boring they took all the phone out of what made 3 VC and SA so much fun

      they tried to go serious since saints row was doing the stupid fun things, and while gta4 had nice charachters it was a effort for me to finish off the storyline

      no such problems with RDR tho(but now i feel like playing VC or 3 again :( )

    Is Red Dead Redemption a RPG?

    I know there was that whole RPG genre definition article... but could it really be described as one??

      You know after posting this i had the same conundrum- there's no level up system or anything. on the other hand, you collect innumerable items that enhance your abilities more than the average shooter development. Also, with the random events, extensive free roam mission tree and various unlockables... there's too much focus on developing a character to not say it's RPG on some level. More so than GTA anyhow.

    This is such a brilliant game, I just bought it myself the other day.

    GTA IV was a terrible game. Red Dead Redemption, however, is an excellent game. I'm not even a fan of the Wild West theme, but the gameplay and storyline hooked me.

    Jack kills this game dead...

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