Warning : This review will contain spoilers. Why anyone would read a review for a six-year-old game they haven’t played yet is beyond me, but I’d be giving people on the Internet too much credit if I didn’t include a disclaimer. So…there you go.
“Every man has a right to change, a chance at forgiveness.”
The year is 1911. John Marston’s family is kidnapped by a group of ruthless Government agents. In order to secure their safety, John must revisit his past and hunt down each of his former gang members. He meets several people along the way who will help him.
So far, I can tell almost immediately that the graphics are a bit dated. The graphics were at the top of their game back in 2010, but we’ve come a long way since then. However, I am playing a last generation game, so I completely understand the graphical difference here. That’s not to say the game isn’t impressive, though. There’s still a lot to adore here. There tends to be some lag during horseback riding. Draw distance is quite impressive here. The worst lag I encountered was upon using the scope on the sniper rifle; the frame-rate just diminishes. Red Dead Redemption does feature a gorgeous day-night cycle with dynamic weather, which features some of the best sunrises and sunsets I’ve ever seen in a video game.
The weapons in Red Dead Redemption seem very similar to Grand Theft Auto V. The white reticle dot is the same and everything. It would be safe to bet that the combat in this game was a test for Rockstar’s next GTA installment. While there’s plenty of guns to choose from, I mainly used rifles and shotguns.
So far, I’ve been helping a woman named Bonnie MacFarlane around on her family’s ranch, herding cattle, watching the grounds at night, and lassoing and breaking in wild horses. Catching horses was a bit frustrating for me. The controls didn’t seem to work too well. Then I realized that I wasn’t holding R2 down, so I was basically throwing out the lasso and then dropping it. Once I figured this out, breaking horses was a cakewalk. There are several different horses to find and break throughout the game; each with their own characteristics.
Much like GTA, there are strangers to help and random events that will occur throughout the game. Since I’m new to the game, and I’m taking in all of the scenery, most of the time I miss what’s going on with a random event and I’m dead before I can even react. You see, not everyone is nice in New Austin. Some folks will even stop you on purpose or use a lady in distress to convince you to pull over. Once you’re off your horse, you’re dead. That is, unless you give the robbers your money or use Dead Eye Targeting to take all of them out in swift precision.
Part of the main attractions of Red Dead Redemption are survival skills and hunting. Being out in the Wild West can be rough, and towns aren’t always close by. If you find yourself in trouble, you’ll have to use your skills to create a makeshift camp area for the night, or you can always fast-travel to a safe location. Expect to hunt everything from birds to bears in this game. Herbs can also be collected. Treasure maps help locate treasure all throughout the game, getting progressively more difficult than the last. Mostly, all of the items collected will only be used to sell for money back in towns.
It would appear that this game has taken a few steps back from recent Rockstar games. I find it very strange that John can’t swim. What happens when you try? DEAD. Thieves’ Landing is the worst for this, as I keep missing the bridge in the middle of town when I’m riding fast on my horse and dodging people. Sometimes I’m going so fast, that I end up in the water. I guess no one could swim in 1911? If that’s the case, good on you Rockstar for being historically accurate.
The game takes place in three different territories : New Austin, Nuevo Paraiso, and West Elizabeth. America is basically what you’d expect from a Western atmosphere. Mexico isn’t quite what I was expecting, and it’s easily the longest story section of the game. Unfortunately, Mexico drags on for a bit too long for me. John ends up being the quintessential errand-boy; helping people from both sides of the war, and neither are suspicious about it. Of course, almost everyone promises to help John to find his former gang members, but most of the time, they have their own agendas. Of course!
Each of the territories have several little townships which have doctors, general stores, gunsmiths, tailors, saloons, and some even have movie theaters. Probably the best thing about these locations are the games, such as horseshoes, five finger fillet, and table games such as Poker, Blackjack, Liar’s Dice. Liar’s Dice was easily my favorite, as it was very fun, easy to pick up, and even easier to win. Everyone knows about the table games, but this is the first time I’ve ever heard of Liar’s Dice. The game is actually very simple. A player will put in their bid, and then the the other players can either increase the bid, or call the original bidder’s bluff. If the bid is true, whomever called the bluff loses a die. Repeat until players lose all die.
Marston eventually tracks down Williamson, Escuella, and van der Linde, with the help of his new acquaintances. John states that his former gang members were “good men who turned bad.” Williamson and Escuella I didn’t care for, because I knew they were bad. However, I felt for Dutch Van der Linde. Dutch, much like Harvey Dent, thought he could be a decent man in an indecent time. He attempted to be the Robin Hood of the Wild West; robbing from the rich and giving to the needy. Unfortunately, Dutch finds out the hard way that his methods simply don’t work. It not only drives Dutch to madness, but it also drives everyone away from him. He becomes isolated and flees to Cochinay where he leads a gang of savages.
After John’s former friends have been dealt with, the agents cut him looose….or so we think. John returns to his home to reunite with his family. Everything seems to be going well; John purchases cattle from MacFarlane’s ranch, and teaches his son Jack how to hunt.
I figured this was the end of the game.
I was wrong.
It’s much to happy to be the ending.
U.S soldiers and lawmen led by Ross start showing up at the house and shooting at the family. John manages to cover his family enough that they are able to escape. John stays behind to deal with the agents, but he quickly finds that he’s outnumbered. John peeps through a crack in the barn door to see Agent Ross and at least a dozen men with their guns drawn. John steps out. Dead Eye is automatically initiated. I begin locking on to targets one-by-one. Before I can target less than half of the enemies, I’m blown away. John meets his fate on this day by Ross and his men. The worst part about it? There was no way around it. I was crushed by this. Turns out, Abigail was right when she said, “the life we led, that doesn’t go away. It’s never over.”
It’s very rare in video games that the main character of the story dies.
But this still isn’t the end.
The game picks up years later, as the role shifts over to Jack Marston. Standing over the graves of John, Abigail (who passed away just three years later), and Uncle (who died in the fight against the agents), Jack is dead-set on revenge against the man who killed his family. Jack heads to Blackwater and talks to an agent about Ross. The agent gives Jack his location. Ross has been retired for many years, but the agency continues to contact him, since he was one of the best. He was also one of the worst. Jack arrives at the Ross home and speaks to his wife. Ross is on a hunting trip in Mexico with his brother. Jack heads down to Mexico and confronts Ross. The confrontation ends in a duel. Revenge has never felt more sweet. Jack turns to face the screen, and the logo “RED DEAD REDEMPTION” pops up.
Surely, this is the end?
Undead Nightmare marks the return of John Marston as he returns home to find his world flipped upside down in what appears to be some sort of twisted alternate reality of the apocalypse. The dead are walking the Earth and feeding on the living! Abigail and Jack get bit, and John rides off to see if he can find a cure and some answers to all of this.
Undead Nightmare changes up the game’s tone a bit, and plays more like a survival horror game. Ammo and places to rest are scarce, so John will have to make every shot count and help survivors clear out the undead in each town in order to make safe territories. The problem with this is that every two or three in-game days or so, I had to drop whatever I was doing to go and save a town that was under attack again. This never ends.
The Four horses of the apocalypse can be found throughout the map, these four special horses have special abilities, and can run forever without getting tired. Apparently if you do everything in the game, you can break a Unicorn! I wanted to do this very badly, but I just didn’t have the time.
A new weapon, the Blunderbuss, is pretty cool : it uses Undead body parts for ammo, and can take out a bunch of zombies at once. Think of it like a Western BFG.
The best part about Undead Nightmare is the end. John still meets his same fate in Red Dead Redemption, but this time, he rises up from his grave as a playable zombie. That’s right; zombie John Marston. He walks crookedly, and makes growling noises. Talking to people like this is hilarious. It’s total fan-service, and I loved it.
All in all, Red Dead Redemption is a fantastic, memorable game with excellent storytelling that I can’t believe I waited six years to play. I decided to jump into the game because there were a lot of rumors circling around about either a remastered version or a sequel. As I am writing this, Red Dead Redemption 2 has been officially announced for a Fall 2017 release by Rockstar, with a trailer coming out this Thursday. The game does have a few flaws with the dated graphics and the duration and story flaws of the Mexico adventure. If it weren’t for Mexico’s flaws, Red Dead would be a perfect game. It’s still a great one. Undead Nightmare’s only flaws are the repetitive nature of saving towns over and over, and the fact that there are just more time-consuming things to do that are too similar to the main game. There’s plenty to see and do for both the main game and the DLC that will keep the player occupied, but I’ve had enough. I spent about 60+ hours overall (50+ with Red Dead Redemption, and 10+ with Undead Nightmare). As much as I’d like to spend another 50+ hours getting the Platinum trophy, it was time to move on to something else. However, now that Red Dead Redemption 2 will be released this time next year, my mind begins to fill with excitement. Early rumors are only heightening my excitement, as people are beginning to think that Read Dead Redemption 2 will not be a sequel, but a prequel focusing on the period when John was a part of Bill Williamson’s gang. I think this would be incredible. However, the reveal picture which is rumored to feature Marston, Williamson, and Escuella doesn’t seem to show a female silhouette (John’s wife Abigail was also part of the gang. They both quit the gang after John was left for dead). Anyway, Thursday will reveal all!
On to Mafia II. Yes II…not III.