Developer: Rockstar San Diego
Westerns rock! Take all that's good about the film medium and mix it with satire and social commentary (Rockstar style) and you’ll have RDR. You've maybe heard it described as Grand Theft Auto: Wild West, and while that’s essentially true, they’re both sandbox games sharing many features, it’s also a disservice to the scope and underlying heart of Red Dead, which is something that GTA lacked.
You control John Marston, a visibly scarred former outlaw who now plays by the rules, mostly. He still carries a gun and can kill a man if need be but in truth Marston is a friendly, politically neutral character. It’s up to the player to define his morality and guide his choices much of the time.
The story is carried along by successive events. Missions and tasks are triggered by people you meet. That takes you over a large open-world map that's mostly deserted prairies with the occasional town or community encampment scattered throughout. The game world feels alive. The towns in particular are microcosms of the larger whole. The violence you’ll encounter there, the domestic abuse and greed, is something you can actively stop if the notion takes you.
It may seem initially time-consuming to have to travel from town to town on horseback but it soon becomes apparent that it’s the journey, those lengthy moments of solitude, that make the game special. It gives you time to get emotionally attached to Marston and makes it all the more important that tasks are completed successfully. The loneliness becomes the very thing that drives you onward, as weird as that sounds.
There are dozens of diverse side-missions and lengthy lists to pass the time between missions. You’ll be herding cattle, hunting bounties, hunting treasure, gambling at saloons, brawling, collecting flowers (really) and much more.
The music is an integral part of the experience and representative of different regions. The voice acting is also top class, full of pathos and wry, sarcastic humour when needed. The varying cast of ranchers, bandits, renegades, law-men and general nut-jobs keep things fresh.
Online multiplayer is another great feature. You’ll be traversing the same terrain but there’ll be other players. You can team up for unique co-op missions, or go it alone to clear an area of bandits for some greedy exp points. There are the usual death-match games too if that kind of thing gives you wood.
If you don’t make it to the end of the story you’ll be missing out on perhaps the best part; the climax is the most emotional that Rockstar have ever produced.
Available on PS3 and Xbox 360 on disc or as a D/L from the stores.
5 hog-tied whores out of 5