Video Games

Rockstar kicks it western-style with new action game

After seemingly conquering the sandbox action genre with 2008’s stellar Grand Theft Auto IV, Rockstar Games is back in style with Red Dead Redemption.  It’s, well, another open-world game (it is what Rockstar does best, after all) but this one is set in 1911 during the last days of the Old West.

You play Clint Eastwood- er, John Marston, a former outlaw who is forced to hunt down his former outlaw posse and bring them to justice. Along the way you make new friends and re-encounter old enemies, save the occasional whore, rescue horses from and thwart cattle rustlers.

The story is nothing short of great, with plenty of interesting characters and depth — but what else can be expected from a Rockstar game?  There are plenty of times when characters start waxing poetic about how the Old West is changing and how much they all hate the government — and then you start blasting away outlaws together, all the while continuing to rant and rave. The voice acting is excellent, aside from a few southern accents that are straight out of the cliché handbook. John Marston’s voice is particularly good, whether it’s his dry wit or his angry yells — he’s always believable, and in the end it’s John who keeps your attention through this long and bloody western.

Unfortunately, Marston doesn’t control as well as he speaks.  I almost gave up on the game numerous times because of shoddy controls and glitches.  Multiple times after killing a bounty the body would slide off of a cliff or into a lake, failing the mission when it was perfectly completed. What little platforming the game makes you perform is even more difficult; getting Marston on top of a building is like trying to make a drunken hobo perform acrobatics.  It’s not pretty and there’s a lot of falling and cursing. It’s hard to forgive a game that has control issues, because it’s the direct link between the player and their character, but every other aspect of Red Dead Redemption is nearly perfect everywhere else so I can let it slide.  However, if Rockstar recycles this control scheme yet again (there is very little difference between how GTA IV controls and Redemption) it will be unforgivable.

Oh, but how Redemption redeems itself.  The graphics, and the art of the Old West itself, are very nearly picture-perfect.  The cutscenes aren’t really where the game shines — in fact, they’re the weakest part of the visuals overall — but the world itself looks epic. Every time the sun rises and sets it actually looks almost as beautiful as it does in real life, and the trails are complete with wild animals and blowing tumbleweeds.  Heat shimmers over towns and valleys as you pass by, and every animation, whether it’s mounting a horse or sliding into cover, is completely fluid and lifelike.  There is really no other sandbox game that comes close to Redemption’s level of graphical expertise.

Overall, Red Dead Redemption is definitely worth the purchase.  I didn’t even go into the multiplayer, but it’s a blast as well, complete with a leveling system á la Modern Warfare.  Pick up your boots and grab your gun, because this Old West is brutal.

Rockstar Games
Red Dead Redemption
Rated M for Mature
Verdict: A– because of shoddy controls.  Otherwise excellent.

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