If feeling similar to Grand Theft Auto IV is a criticism, then it’s one that most developers would kill to achieve. Red Dead Redemption is a slick and expansive wild west adventure.
RDR is an epic cowboy story, with themes as big its horizons, and plenty of action. You play as John Marston, a former outlaw on the trail of his former accomplices. The opening of the game does an excellent job of maintaining an air of mystery around the tight-lipped Marston. You may be controlling him, but you certainly don’t know him. As things progress you get a clearer idea of what’s going on, and you get to define Martson too, by building a reputation through your actions, which other characters react to.
The game is set across a massive expanse of classic wild-west terrain. The three huge regions each contain towns, railroads, mountains and deserts. The bleak beauty of the west is captured perfectly, with stunning sunsets and star-studded nights adding plenty to the realistically drab palette. You must ride to new locations on horse back, and galloping across the plains feels liberating after GTA’s street layouts.
RDR looks to use the same graphics engine as GTA IV. It makes the game feel rather familiar, as does its mix of riding (driving), exploring, shooting and talking (the characters and voice acting are great). There are western-specific extras of course, with quickdraw duels, game-hunting, poker playing and train robbing. Combat has also been polished with rapid, exciting and varied gunfights. However, if you really didn’t enjoy any of GTA IV then you’re unlikely to like this.
There’s plenty to get your teeth into here, and its certainly more than just Grand Theft Horsey. The very different nature of the environment and the more serious themes and plot make sure of that. This game comes with the highest expectations, and though it may not be a revolutionary experience, it’s still one of the best action games of recent years – and the best cowboy game ever.