Article By Sam LeGassick (www.thewildbore.blogspot.com)
A loose sequel to PS2's "Red Dead Revolver", this game follows the same 'spaghetti western' concept that it's predecessor laid out. Except this time, they've blown it wide open.
If you haven't already heard of this, it's an open sandbox game (which means you can go anywhere at any time and do anything) that takes place in the Wild West of 1911. You play John who was left for dead by his old gang and has been asked by the government to hunt down his old compadres.
What you immediately notice about this game is the incredible graphics. Rolling landscapes, wildlife, the weather, the cities and the bustling people look incredible. You are literally stepping into a fully interactive Western. Not only that, but the acting, the straightforward plot (unlike GTA's often confusing storyline) and pretty much everything about this game is near perfect.
But that's the problem, it's NEAR perfect. A lot of review sites have been going crazy over this game calling it one of the greatest games ever, and I'd agree if it wasn't for some niggling bits. Seeing as most of the people reading this review would perhaps have already read about or bought this game, then let me go through the bad points first, because I'm sorry to say that even though it lives up to the hype, I do have some issues with it.
Firstly, the horse riding. It works much in the same way as Shadow Of The Colossus, tapping the button to go faster, but yet because of your horse's stamina, you can't do it for too long. Which is fine except, there's a lot of it. At first you'll love taking in the scenery and travelling about (the world here is HUGE)but after a while you just want to get from A to B, which is lucky that they have stagecoaches (taxis) or you could use your 'campsite', but I felt it relied somewhat on you wanting to spend the next ten minutes or so just riding around. Which at first is amazing, but after 20 or so hours, you just want to get things going. Also when you are shooting and riding, your horse will slow down or stop or end up going somewhere else, I felt they should have left it so your horse keeps going onwards if you're aiming instead of leaving you pushing buttons and trying to aim and fire at the same time.
Also I found many a glitch, at some points having to re-load a previous save because I couldn't do anything the glitch was so bad. This is understandable for a game as complex as this, but still, it shouldn't happen. I also had a problem with some of the side games, firstly the bounty hunter which I got stuck into straight away but couldn't figure out how to take them alive, that was until further down the line I found out that you get given a lassoo. But then, unless you have a blood fetish, it's so easy to take the bounties alive that it becomes a chore. In fact, that's an overall issue I had with the whole game. It's almost way too easy. The covering system helps, but along with your auto-lock-on and Dead Eye which slows down time - you're pretty much sorted from the off. I rarely died in a gun battle but annoyingly would perhaps die by chasing a bounty, and then getting mauled by an animal to death which is SO annoying I can't tell you. Especially since half the time you can't even hear them!
Many people have also dubbed this GTA in the West, which essentially is what it is, but there's a lot GTA offers that Red Dead doesn't. Firstly, this might sound strange but, I can't sleep with prostitutes. Why not?! If I beat someone up or kill them, I'm almost automatically hunted down, very different from GTA. But then, I chose the way of the light, and it is possible to go the evil way, though I'd say this time round the good way is probably more interesting than the evil. I don't think I'll quite go the way of the outlaw because you get rated in Fame and Honour and since you work on getting it up, you don't wanna bring it back down, so it feels like you choose either one way or the other from the off, which I found irritating. Sometimes I wanna go bad, but unless I want to make a seperate save, this isn't going to happen.
Another annoying aspect is the Master Shooter/Hunter/Survivalist etc. where you have to kill, collect, and ... pick flowers. This is fine but you have to do it in a certain order and you might have killed a whole bunch of animals, skinned them etc., but none of it counts because you didn't kill those 2 rabbits to get you up to Level 3 first. So when I was left after doing the main game missions to do these extra bits, I had to keep travelling around and re-doing things I'd already done at some point. Couldn't they have them listed out separately like in other games? Not have it all in an order?
There was also the case of the weapons. I had so many weapons, I couldn't begin tell you. To be frank, it was more than what was needed; although it is better to have them than to not, they could have made them slightly more different perhaps because one rifle seemed as good as the next. Then there's the money side. At the beginning money is hard to come by, as is always the case, but soon enough you're rolling in it. I never had an issue with money during the game and this is for the following reasons: if you kill and skin enough animals, you can make a huge amount, especially with animals like bears and horses. If you're any good at poker at all, you can clear up (the poker game is fantastic) but the five finger knife thing you can really make some money at. After winning against a couple of people you can make a $100 bet, which is a lot in the game, and the button sequence is the same. So if I ever needed money, I'd just do that - it's too easy. The Liar's Dice and Blackjack aren't quite so guaranteed but good fun nonetheless.
Also, once you think you've finished the game, you start doing more mundane things like herding cattle etc. until a final battle. But it all shattered the dream for me, I wanted John to kind of waltz in and waltz out, that he was from somewhere else in the big wild west when actually, sorry if this might ruin it for you, he lives just down the road. I didn't want to actually see his family or his farm or anything like that. Then once all that's done and you've finished the main game, you're left to do all the stuff you wanted to do except something's different ... hmm ... I won't ruin it for you, but I would have preferred to do it all before completing the game. You'll see what I mean ...
There's a bit of variety in the game, but not as much as I'd prefer. Whether it's breaking horses, nightwatch duty, the confusing arm wrestling game, or duelling with other gunslingers there's enough to keep you busy but just falls short of the amount that GTA has. But then this is the main problem, it's not GTA and I just feel as open as this game is, they could have made it even bigger. Not in size, but in scope. The world in there is so incredibly thought out and well-made that it stuns people into submission but, in fact, this game is ever-so-slightly flawed and I feel, though this is an amazing game, I think Rockstar will come out with a new Red Dead that will truly advance on this game at some point in the future.
The multiplayer aspect of this looks incredible too. Whether riding in your posse or doing certain missions, you'll be hard pressed to get bored. There has even been talk of downloadable co-op content on the horizon and for that I cannot wait.
Overall, all the side quests, plots and shootouts are great and feel like they have come right out of a true spaghetti western. The graphics incredible, the gameplay smooth and everything about it makes other sandbox games feel like dirt on your shoe. It is an incredible game and will probably be the best you'll play this year. I initially played this game thinking nothing could ever beat it, but after the 22 hours of gameplay I've already invested into it, I can see room for improvement and that's why it can't get 10/10. However, it's a game that you'll always find yourself coming back to and anyone who has ever loved Western films, whether you're into games or not, should pick up and play this game. You'll be hooked whoever you might be, I guarantee it mister.