Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Is It Just Another Rockstar Title? (Red Dead Redemption Review & Discussion)

I am no die hard fan of Rockstar games, but to be fair I am not adamant about hating them either. The ever popular Grand Theft Auto series has gained massive success over the years and there are some really great idea's brewing in the pot, but at the same time I have always felt that there is still much to be desired. GTA4 was a huge step in the franchise and by far the the installment that I enjoyed the most, so the idea of picking up Red Dead Redemption had been somewhere in the back of my mind for a while now. But after playing the agonizingly boring title, LA Noir, it was extremely difficult to muster up the courage to shell out for this title, especially because when it comes to Rockstar I find a lot of the big reviews for this game to be deceiving to say the least. Well obviously somewhere along the line I buried my fears and rolled the dice. Do I love Red Dead Redemption? Is it ground breaking? Is it better than GTA? Was it worth the money? In reality the answers to these questions are not so simple.


To start things off, the visuals are nothing short of stunning. Even with recent releases such as Skyrim, Red Dead Redemption holds its own as one of the best looking games to date. Often I found myself at the edge of a cliff looking out across the landscape and wanting to just savior the moment. The art style is perfect for this western adventure and there is a lot more to see here than just cacti and miles of sand. Red Dead Redemption offers a rich and authentic environment for you to explore and its all too easy to get lost in the games beauty, sometimes just riding around on your horse and enjoying the view can be entertaining enough. When it comes to visuals, its hard to find a game these days that has such an immense amount of detail packed into it, and the land you traverse appears to be alive and thriving, adding to the immersion of the experience. The presentation and story here are great as well. Not perfect, but very enjoyable none the less. The thing that really stands out, is the character depth, especially in the case of protagonist, John Marston who is simply one of the best characters in gaming history. John feels very real and you will grow to love and feel for him as you guide him through this epic tale. Just about every character you will come across in your adventures is memorable and will feel well thought out. All speech is fully voiced and Red Dead Redemption undeniably has some of the best voice acting you will find in a game. The quality of voice acting here is comparable to that which you may find in a lot of animated films and it would be wonderful if this was something we got to see more often in other titles. To go with this great scenery and well defined characters is a Spanish and classic western soundtrack that is amazingly well put together and flawlessly fits the part.
Unfortunately as far as innovation goes I found myself wishing there was a bit more to be had. Red Dead is its own experience yes, but it heavily barrows from the GTA series in a lot of ways. You will travel to town, go through a small and somewhat interesting cut scene which will lay out the upcoming mission for you, you will then ride along with an npc and listen to them babble about some less interesting things before ending up at your destination where you will engage in a short lived but enjoyable gun fight. Rinse and repeat. Though there are some interesting aspects such as hunting, I still find myself wishing that Rockstar would take some more risks and stretch its wings a little. If this is something that has not bothered you in other recent Rockstar titles than this may not be so disappointing to you, but this is something that is really starting to wear on me. One thing I do find to be extremely frustrating in Red Dead Redemption is its lack of a competent auto save feature. The game will often save during missions but to hard save you must build a campfire or be in a house that belongs to you, from these locations you may also fast travel. Unfortunately you cannot build a campfire near a settlement, on flat land or near a road, and you will constantly find yourself unable to build one, only to get on your horse and ride a bit further out to find that you still haven't traveled far enough. This game would have greatly benefited from a more intuitive save mechanic, as well as a more accessible fast travel system.  
Red Dead Redemption feels good but doesn't sport the most solid controls on the market, at times actions will seem fluid and responsive and sometimes not so much, this is especially noticeable when traveling by horseback. You may find yourself wondering why you are creeping along while riding your horse even though you are mashing the button to speed up with a full stamina bar. This doesn't present an enormous problem but can occasionally pull you out of the experience. When a game does some things as well as Red Dead Redemption it is all too easy to crucify some of the smaller short comings you encounter and Red Dead Redemption is a perfect example of this. Like most Rockstar games, combat is always enjoyable but Red Dead Redemption lacks diverse weaponry which can make a lot of the guns feel the same, fortunately though the action can be at times few and far between, it is always fast paced and occasionally challenging. The bullet time like dead eye mechanic can be a lot of fun and adds spice and a breath of fresh air to combat. By far my biggest problem with the game is its flow. To me flow is very important as it affects how much of the game can be digested at once. The flow of Red Dead Redemption is extremely abrupt, even for a Rockstar title and as the game progresses it seemingly gets harder and harder to play for many hours at a time. I would find myself doing a mission and having a great time with it, but by the time the mission came to an end it just seemed a great hassle to travel to my next destination to pick up a new mission. For casual gamers this isn't such a big problem but for hardcore gamers like myself, this can be a huge turn off.
If you are anything like me than a big part of the quality of a game is content and in Red Dead Redemption you will find a lot to do. Random side jobs, catching special horses, hunting and skinning, addictive mini games, completing challenges and finding herbs are just a fraction of what there is to be found in Read Dead Redemption and a lot of this stuff can easily soak up hours of your time. As if all that wasn't enough the multiplayer is a whole new experience of its own. When entering multplayer mode you will be placed in an open world lobby where you can explore the map, gain experience, party up, hunt bandits, duke it out and much, much more. At anytime from this lobby you may open up a menu and join one of a great many different game modes such as death match, capture the flag and poker. There is a lot to do here and all of it is a lot of fun. Multiplayer also has a lot of customization, which can add a lot of fun to free roam and the best part is that free roam can even be accessed from single player. So if you find yourself getting bored with the same ol' same ol' or if the poor flow of the campaign has got you down, getting in the action is only a click and a load screen away.

I can understand how some people could be a little upset over the score I have given Red Dead Redemption, Rockstar fans tend to be very loyal and I'm sure there is a very good reason for this. Keep in mind that in the grand scheme of things this is not a bad score by any means and I'm not saying that Red Dead Redemption is a bad game. Redemption has a lot of really great qualities and the majority of the games qualities are good, unfortunately it is very hard for me to get around some of the games bad qualities and these are areas that just so happen to be very important to me. If poor flow is a deal breaker for you, Red Dead Redemption is not the game you want to be shelling out for, but if you are a fan of recent and similar Rockstar titles, you will probably really enjoy Read Dead Redemption. This is also a great game for casual gamers who may not want to sit in front of a game for more than an hour at a time. 


Pros:

- Amazing visuals 

- Lovable and memorable characters

- A lot of content

- Great audio

Cons:

- Agonizingly bad flow

- Lacks innovation 



Score:

8.4 / 10


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