Reader Review: Red Dead Redemption

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

Red Dead Redemption (PS3)

Read Dead Redemption is the spiritual successor to Red Dead Revolver by Rockstar (San Diego). Using the same basic open-world framework and gameplay mechanics as Grand Theft Auto 4, the player is John Marsten: an outlaw trying to turn over a new leaf, but being played like a hand of cards by higher powers.

Loved

Wide Open Spaces: Red Dead Redemption has presented a truly beautiful, detailed and convincing representation of the American West. I lived in Arizona for many years and can personally vouch for the authenticity of most of the landscapes presented.

Procedural Encounters: Sometimes the desert is empty, hauntingly so. Other times it's teeming with wildlife and random strangers to divert your attention. This is a remarkably entertaining variety of experience. The experience of hunting seems fairly genuine, unlike an MMO where there are always animals everywhere.

Gunplay: There are lots and lots of guns in this game, but none of them are out of place. In a gaming world of plasma cannons and multiple assault rifles, the economy of a single-shot rifle was really refreshing. There were the repeater rifles, but these weren’t fully automatic weapons either. The sound effects on the various kinds of weapons combined with the one-or-two shot kills gave the shoot outs some real oomph!

Riding Shotgun: Seriously, riding in a stagecoach flying down dirt tracks blasting rustlers or outlaws with my Winchester never got old.

Hated

Rookie Mistakes: The storytelling here is not as refined as I’ve come to expect in these big-budget titles. One of the first rules of effective storytelling is “Show, don’t tell.” The game gets off on a bad foot when we are simply told that Marsten’s family have been kidnapped, so we’re obliged to carry out their orders. This fundamental error troubles the entire plot, as it establishes (or rather, doesn’t) Marsten’s motivations for doing anything. I as a player had no idea what his family were like, I never saw them, didn’t see them kidnapped and so have no emotional connection to them at all. This could have been rectified with a simple cut-scene, or better yet, with a Mass Effect 2 style opening episode.

Grit in my Spaghetti: The game is a bit confused between the comedy of an over-the-top spaghetti Western and the grit and something darker and more meaningful. The entire cast of the first chapter (other than the MacFarlanes) are painful caricatures that a hardened outlaw like Marsten wouldn’t have allied himself with in a million years. He certainly wouldn’t have made himself errand-boy for them. The middle chapter is more balanced, and the third becomes increasingly dark.

They built a fantastic platform here—I just wish Rockstar had let the writers polish the story a bit more.

Reviewed by: Adam Ruch

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.


Comments

    To add to your storytelling complaint - it was also annoying how disjointed the story becomes if you do the missions in the "wrong" order. I would talk to a new character and my character would say "mr X told me to speak to you about our plan to do y" - even though mr x hadn't told me anything of the sort and I didn't even know what the plan was yet.

    The game is still ace though.

    When I played, I assumed the past had been obscured intentionally to gave the player less motivation to be either good or bad.

    With little or no backstory about where Marsden currently is in his life, you're free to either take out your frustrations about your untouchable controllers on passers-by, or try to reform your criminal past by helping whoever you meet.

    But I agree the game could have used a prologue tutorial level with John returning to an empty house, scaring away his stock during a gunfight and eventually leaving uncle to care for the farm.

    I loved Red Dead, truly an awesome game, my only issues were with the horse AI at times, Nigel West Dickens being so damned lazy and the falling physics which were extremely sensitive imo. The things that stood out for me were the awesome soundtrack, Tumbleweed's haunted feel (the mysterious light sources were a wonderful touch), not giving that religious lady medicine and the Mexicans.

    Personally I liked the different approach to story telling. Finding out about Marston through how he interacted with others was an interesting way to do it. It also gave the early stages of the game that "mysterious stranger walks into town" Western vibe.

    Rock on. I just noticed I spelled his name wrong throughout this entire piece. Way to destroy my own credibility. AWESOME. It is apparently John Marston, with an O not an E. Dammit.

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