With the ever increasing likelihood of a sequel to Red Dead Redemption to be announced at Gamescom, I found myself yearning to dive back into this game for what seems like the 100th time. Coupled with the fact that the game is now fully backwards compatible with the Xbox One, Red Dead Redemption is a game that, to me, has never once shown its age in either visuals or gameplay, and to say that after a game reaches its 6th birthday is quite an achievement on Rockstar San Diego’s part. Remasters and Remakes are becoming a staple of the 8th generation of consoles, but the massive increase in preowned sales of Red Dead Redemption indicates that we don’t always need an overpriced enhanced edition of a game for it to still make waves across the gaming world.
2010 was a big year for console gaming, we got the Halo: Reach, Mass Effect 2 and of course Red Dead Redemption. Rockstar have a big pedigree, with massive franchises such as Grand Theft Auto and Max Payne (and Table Tennis) but their original Red Dead Revolver game was actually more or less completed by the time Rockstar had acquired the rights from Capcom, and whilst Revolver was still a great game, you could clearly see Rockstar’s aim with Red Dead Redemption was to allow for a more open ended experience which is really what they, as developers excel at.
Though not the only reason, the visuals of this game are still stellar, it can be quite a site when you’re riding through the American Old West’s dustbowls or the Mexican deserts still, and this is even more impressive considering that this was Rockstar’s first real attempt at a ‘rural’ open world setting, and, perhaps due to the success of Redemption’s gameworld, this more rural-like landscape has made its way into their latest title Grand Theft Auto V with the Blaine County region of San Andreas featuring both heavily wooded and desert environments. The level of detail in Rockstar games is always outstanding, but achieving this in a less urbanised setting is even more commendable, and it’s not just these vast stretches of nothingness that are impressive, whether its walking through the dusty town of Armadillo, filled with outlaws and remnants of a dying Old West, or the increasingly modernising town of Blackwater with its almost alien-like appearance of cars and pavement roads, each location feels like it has a backstory and a character to it and its residents, and few games six years later have managed to capture this feeling, even Rockstars own Grand Theft Auto V struggled to match the stark differences between areas of the map.
The gameplay & story remains timeless too in fact, by this point, Rockstar, after finally embracing the magic of checkpoints, nailed the pacing of their mission structure, with early missions easing you into the game mechanics of shooting and riding with a real authenticity as to why your character would be doing these things. For those not familiar with the games story, John Marston is ordered out to find and kill or capture the members of his old gang, and upon encountering one Bill Williamson, he is promptly shot in the guy and left for dead, after waking up with a fresh scar at a nearby ranch, he spends the first 5 -6 hours of this game helping out the ranch hands and the nearby townsfolk of Armadillo. These early hours could have easily been dull and tutorial heavy, but it all feels natural and believable, and this carries through the entire game as you hop from either side of the law, and, once you arrive in the Nuevo Paraíso region of Mexico, either side of the war. Without spoiling anything for those who still haven’t had the pleasure, an intentional slow in the pace during the latter stages of the game works perfectly to lull you into a false sense of security, before quickly turning the tables, and becoming one of the most memorable ending segments of any game I’ve played, a good note – ‘it ain’t over until the credits roll’.
Aside from the main story, Red Dead Redemption is absolutely stuffed with side-missions and activities. Whether its clearing out the 7 gang hideouts scattered across the game world, to completing one of the 19 ‘Strangers’ tasks (another addition carried forward to Grand Theft Auto V) or playing a game of Blackjack in one of the world’s many taverns, there is really no shortage of things to do, but perhaps the most impressive feat is that every single one is fully fleshed out and most importantly, fun. Many games since, in particular almost every single Ubisoft game, has tried to match this amount of things to do but with the impact of feeling bloated and overwhelming to the player, Watch_Dogs and Assassin’s Creed are massive culprits of this.
Perhaps something that is overlooked frequently is the fantastic multiplayer aspect of Red Dead Redemption. It was again, a culmination of all that Rockstar had learnt from the fun but ultimately appallingly balanced and structured multiplayer of Grand Theft Auto IV, and the decision to allow 16 players to roam freely across the entire game world was a masterstroke that was again taken further with Grand Theft Auto Online. The ability to form a posse of your friends within the session to clear gang hideouts or attack other posse’s was fantastic fun and this, coupled with a clear and well balanced progression system cemented Red Dead Redemption as one of the finest examples of multiplayer on the 7th generation of consoles.
I do pray for a re-release of this game on the newer generation of consoles, but I found myself asking the question ‘Does it really need a remaster?’ and yes, while increased graphical fidelity, 60fps and a full 1080p resolution would be welcome, I can’t help but feel that this game could drop onto the Playstation store tomorrow, as it is, and it would still sell copious amounts. I’m perhaps further backed up by the sheer number of people playing the backwards compatible version on the Xbox One, and the uncountable forum posts about the elusive PC Version. It’s clear this game is still very much at the forethought of many gamers minds, and though I’m sure we’re all very anxious to hear news of the new Red Dead game in the works, it’s hard to forget just how good still, Red Dead Redemption really is, I envy those who have yet to experience this masterpiece, and I implore you to pick it up however you can.
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