Thursday, June 24, 2010

Red Dead Redemption Review

Today I have for you a review of the latest and well...latest Rockstar Sandbox Mini-Game Waste Time'a'thon title Red Dead Redemption!

Rather sit here and ramble like I normally would I'll go ahead and break this review into arbitrary categories.

Story: In Red Dead Redemption you play as John Marston (presumably of the Mars colony Marstons) a man trying to escape his troubled past who is called upon by the U.S. government to hunt down and kill his old crime pals. If he manages to kill is former outlaw comrades then he will gain the ability to return home to his wife and son and live happily ever after. I suppose this is the whole "Redemption" part of the game. I would tell you what happens next but I assure you the other characters in the game will tell you at great length exactly what the hell is going on. This is not to say that the story by any means is BAD, it actually is quite good and compelling enough to want to play through it. The problem is that there is almost a little too much of it.

The Opening Sequence (Minor spoilers ahead, this is a review after all you twit): In recent gaming history developers have decided that the point of the opening sequence of a game is to hook you in as if it were a movie rather than something you play. When you're trying to tell a story with a game this makes sense but sometimes you find yourself telling more story than actually allowing the player to PLAY the GAME. You start off on a train listening to old people, a preacher, and the spawn of Satan (a nice young lady) chat about their atheist tendencies, the weather, piles of cow dung and how they probably hate Indians. I imagine this is supposed to be a critical look at Americas past and the moral ambiguity of the time but it all came off as BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH. I found myself wondering why I didn't just go to some pretentious coffee shop where I would have gotten the same experience. Anyway, the long boring cut scene ends and you get control of your character with the direction "Walk to the saloon." and you think "Awesome now I get to play!". Unfortunately this probably would have been better labeled as a quick time event that read "Press X To Continue Cut Scene™". So I get to the Saloon and enter another cut scene. Blah blah blah BLAH BLAH BLAH. I decided to make some popcorn at this point thinking I had accidentally wandered into a Hideo Kojima game. Then I get to ride on a horse, ho ho! Surely the game begins now! You get on the horse and press and hold X to continue the cut scene. You see the X allows you to auto follow your guide on the horse freeing you up to pay attention to the following 8 minutes of dialogue on your long horse ride to your first objective whereupon you are promptly shot in another cut scene and then wake up to even more cut scenes. Needless to say Rockstar really wants you to understand the story, the weather, the feelings of your neighbors and how to create extensive exposition.

Controls: After all the blithering and subsequent bouts of blithering that follow from other characters you find yourself playing an actual game. Let's be clear before I start here, this is an ACTION game. That means that ACTION will occur. Seldom during an ACTION packed game do you find it necessary to be strolling leisurely about. John's default speed is grandma slow where he casually walks about and turns at awkward angles to ensure that you will not only not be able to make it up 4 inch tall steps but you also will hit the wall 18 times before you successfully enter a building. To further infuriate you the game asks you to HOLD DOWN X to run and then asks you to tap x repeatedly in order to sprint faster. So that's joystick to stroll, hold x to jog, and tap x furiously to run away. This is basically annoying when you find yourself accidentally walking around in gun fights because you forgot that the controls for running are retarded. Speaking of combat, the gun play in the game is not the bee's knees either. You've got a simple 3rd person gun control set up with the shoulder buttons, L1 to ready, R1 to shoot, fantastic. That's easy enough. The issue comes in from the auto lock on mechanic. Supposedly this is to help you aim, but actually it just confuses you. Sometimes the lock on works, momentarily, as it follows what you were kind of trying to aim at for all of a second before drifting off presumably because John got bored and his crippling ADD diverted his attention to the floor. The are other times where the auto lock on doesn't seem to work at all causing you to drop aim in an attempt to lock on again instead of just trying to aim yourself. Honestly they should have just dropped the feature and let the player PLAY the game. Heaven forbid that you actually have to aim at something to hit it. I suppose the game was trying to take the Final Fantasy approach to game design where there is as little game as possible to actually play without having to not call it a Video GAME. Oh well, at least there are horses right? Surely some part of this game has fluid controls. I suppose the controls of the horse are fluid if you find driving a tractor through a pit of tar a natural way to steer a horse. Rockstar has had a long tradition of making vehicles of any sort almost humanly impossible to actually work right, so it's no surprise that after ruining cars, bikes, motorcycles, helicopters and walking that they would move on to ride-able animals. I'm looking forward to Grand Theft Ostrich Races where the Ostrich handles like a brick glued to the back of a kitten.

Environment: Typically when someone mentions the environment it's so they can complain about oil spills or baby turtle ducks made of gasoline and discarded plastic bottles. However, I mean the actual scenery of the game! Red Dead Redemption sports a rather stunning and vast landscape that features a lot of open area to explore. The plains are rolling and empty (save some animals, random bandits, and even more deadly animals) with the human settlements being sparsely set up all around. This actually gives you a feeling of being in the time period which bodes well with that whole open world concept which Rockstar is known for. I would go as far to say that the more open and less densely populated world is a more interesting environment to explore than the bustling cities in Grand Theft Autos past. The game is simply a delight to look at which in some small part makes up for the failure of some of the actual game play.

Being An Outlaw: One of the features of Rockstar games is often the ability to be an outlaw if you so choose to be. This means you spread mayhem and destruction at will and collect the floating cash piles off the corpses of the innocents you have slaughtered. Unfortunately Red Dead Redemption falls short on the whole Outlaw scope that other Rockstar games have. Allow me to give you an example. Upon first playing this game I found myself in the first town distracted by the little mini games (we'll get to these next). I ended up sitting down and playing poker. Since I am as bad at poker in games as I am in real life I sort of lost my arse off. This lead me to the logical conclusion that I could just kill the other players and claim that they were cheating (they are computers after all) and get away with it. I got up, drew my gun, and they all ran out screaming before I could kill anyone. Then I was WANTED. Rather than allow my prey to escape (I am a sore loser at poker) I waltzed out to hunt them down whereupon I was being shot at by the law. Doing a quick bit of math (I was given 80 bullets to start, there are less than 40 people in this town and each person takes on average 1.2 bullets to kill...) I decided that I should just slaughter the town. So I went on my merry way shooting everyone. I mean EVERYONE (I found this a little bit ironic considering that I shot all these people with no complaint from the main character but whenever I went to skin an animal I had shot he complained like a sissy girl how gross it was, I guess he works for P.E.T.A. or something). After having slaughtered everyone I gleefully walked into the jail broke into the safe looted to place and found a "Letter of Pardon". "What the hell is this?" I wondered as I went to the telegraph to check how bad my bounty was at this point. I remembered shooting the telegraph operator a couple minutes ago but that didn't stop me from approaching the desk and turning in the "Letter of Pardon" to have all my crimes dismissed right away. Assuming my hands were red with the blood of my enemies I can only imagine what sort of government pencil pusher thought that documentation was official when it had bloody hand prints all over it and was probably inked in baby's blood. In short, being an outlaw is unnecessary and far too easy to get rid of. I long for a game where being a murderous jerk off isn't something you can overcome by writing an apology note or doing a bit of charity for the children you orphaned.

Mini-Games: As I mentioned earlier there is a poker mini-game that you can play in an attempt to win cash which is ultimately pointless. There is also a game of horse shoes and a flower picking race (in case you're a girl or of questionable sexual leanings). Hunting and skinning also comes off as a mini game as it serves no purpose beyond selling animal parts for money. If you decide to go hunting for money prepare to hear and endless stream of bitching and moaning from captain planet, I mean John. There are also races in the game which you may as well just give up on since your retarded inbred horse is sooner to fly you to the moon than it is to handle well enough for you to win. There is a fun bit of breaking horses for money that you can do but I was disappointed when I found out that breaking horses didn't mean that I got to beat mine with a bat until it learned how to steer properly. Once again, this is all meant to get you money which is basically completely pointless. You'll find yourself rolling in so much money that you will never have to worry about buying guns, bullets or potions ever. The guns you wont need to buy because you get them on missions, bullets are easy to come by, and the potions regenerate things that already regenerate on their own anyway. I suppose if you find yourself getting cold at night you could just burn all your money in a fire for warmth. (If you ever grow bored of these follow the standard Grand Theft Auto map to the nearest letter to continue the story missions).

Conclusion: All game play flaws aside this game is actually a bit of fun. It's a well told (if not long winded) story with a great looking setting and immersing environment. You will actually want to finish this game if you get beyond the starting town and the Blah fest that precedes it. This is a solid buy for anyone and it has enough value in it that you'll want to play it a few times over if for no other purpose than just exploring the big old sand box that it has to offer you. All I can warn you is BEWARE THE WILD LIFE, if it kills you the game will punish you by sending you all the way back to your last save point which was probably a 30 minute ride in the other direction.

This game gets a solid 4 nerf six shooters out of 6.


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