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June 10, 2010
Red Dead Redemption - PS3 Review
Release Distributor Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
21/5/2010RockstarRockstarRockstar San Diego12-16
Media HDD Space Resolution Sound Format Tilt Controls OFLC Rating

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John Marsten in Red Dead Redemption.
Before I get into the meat of this review I have a little confession to make. Red Dead Redemption was a game I did not want to review. Why? Quite simply because I knew it was going to suck more hours out of my life then I could really afford at the moment. You see, Rockstar doesn't just create a 10 hour game, not even 20, but something that you could literally spend weeks playing, and this game doesn't disappoint in that regard.

With Futuregamez's two other reviewers Chris and Michael pre-ordering their copies it was up to me to play through the game and give my opinions, and they're mighty positive. Ultimately I place Red Dead Redemption into one of those "must have" game categories without question.

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Riding horses with your posse.
Six years after Red Dead Revolver hit the PS2 we have a new entry into this franchise, although the game stands totally apart besides title. This game is set in America during the early 1900's. The era of the cowboy is coming to an end. When federal agents threaten his family, former outlaw John Marston is sent across the American frontier to help bring the rule of law.

While this is an open-world sandbox styled game there is still a series of missions to complete in a set order, separated by a series of, often lengthy, cut scenes. If you're familiar with most sandbox styled games, and that of course includes Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto IV then you should have a good understanding of the games structure.

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Using the mine cart for transport.
As we mentioned above the gameplay in Red Dead Redemption is best described as taking a very similar format as Rockstar's other hit title, Grand Theft Auto IV, but set it in the Wild West. Again this is a third person action adventure title with the games main character, John Marston, completing a series of missions, and side missions if you desire, in order to complete the lengthy story. Naturally there are some changes to the gameplay with cars on city streets replaced with horses and carrages. Townships are fairly small and the land area is quite large which means you'll be traversing around the wilderness quite a bit, but it's a wilderness that looks gorgeous, and is filled with wildlife, some of which won't hesitate to take a bite of the games hero.

But Red Dead Redemption isn't just about the main story as there is plenty to do to keep you occupied. We lost a few hours playing poker, but also dabbled in the old horseshoe toss, played some blackjack, enjoyed some races and hunted outlaws for the bounties. There is just so much to do here besides the main story. Oh did I mention looking for herbs, hunting animals for meat or pelts, purchasing properties, collecting items to create new outfits for John to wear. Of course you can expect some Mexican standoff styled duals to the death too!

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Rounding up some wild horses.
Naturally combat plays a large role in this game and Rockstar have put in a fair amount of effort into this game with a wide range of weapons from pistols, rifles, shotguns, knives, and even a lasso to tie up your enemies. A little late on you get access to a little more firepower by way of cannons, gatling guns and dynamite. The game does include a slight auto-aim system which is most useful however the most fun has to do with the bullet-time styled "Dead-Eye" targeting system. By pressing R3 the screen will go orange, and you have a few seconds to move your targeting reticule over the enemies, this will line up several shots to either a single enemies, or multiple ones before automatically firing off the volley of shots.

Besides the single player game there is also a large focus from Rockstar on the multi-player aspect. Supporting up to 16 players in a match each event starts with a rather entertaining Mexican standoff styled shootout. The winner gets to grab some goodies while those cut down in the gunfight will respawn in different parts of the map. Depending on your performance in online matches you will be able to move up in the 50 levels of rankings. The higher you move up in the rankings the newer skins, weapons, mounts, characters and challenges. When you start the game, you'll only have an old donkey to ride around on, as you move up the rankings you'll get horses, or even better...

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Taking cover behind the wagon.
When you start up the online game you will enter a lobby system which allows you to walk around and form a posse of up to 8 players which can then enter the online matches in a variety of game modes including Free Roam, Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Gold Rush, and Team Gold Rush. The latter two modes are essentially a Capture-The-Flag styled individual or team based battle where you grab bags of gold and must return them to select points on the map. The more you grab though the slower you will be making you a bigger target for the opposition.

My biggest problems with Red Dead Redemption online is simply the lack of players. Given that the game has now sold over 5 million units worldwide there is certainly a lack of gamers online playing the game - or at least available online. Hopefully with patches to the matchmaking and more people picking this game up (when it gets back in stock) things will improve, but this certainly isn't Modern Warfare in terms of online gamers.

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Now that's one big explosion!
We must point out though that Rockstar has confirmed the release of downloadable content called Outlaws to the End on June 22nd which will allow you to play six all-new co-op side missions. As yet we haven't seen these ourselves however given that they are a free download there's certainly nothing to complain about.

Moving on to the visuals there are certainly some great aspects to Red Dead Redemption, but also a couple of disappointments too - primarily on a technical side for PS3 owners. Using Rockstar's RAGE engine and the Euphoria Engine for animations it's fair to say that no game has ever captured the look and feel of the Wild West like this. The game runs at a fairly constant 30fps only dipping in some of the busiest scenes while there was no visible screen tearing which is a positive.

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It's not just human enemies in the game!
Characters have a wonderful, gritty look and feel to them, while their animation is genuinely engaging and makes you believe in them. Locations too faithfully recreate the era while the lands are rugged and dangerous enough (especially with all the wildlife running around too!) to make you enjoy the sparseness. Speaking of wildlife kudos must go to the developers for putting every bit as much effort into the horses as the human characters - they really are a creature you will bond with. There are other niceties too; the game has a day/night cycle with the landscaping having an entire new look depending on the time; dust, smoke and fire effects have been taken to a new level while the menus even suit the tone of the game perfectly.

The highlight for me though were the cuts scenes. Tying the games missions together, and providing the bulk of the storyline not only are these well scripted and delivered, but they genuinely look fantastic with some great editing and camera work. It's rare to say that a game would meet Hollywood production levels in the cut-scenes, but this achieves that feat.

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Visually Red Dead Redemption looks authentic.
There is, however, one aspect to this game which I must mention. That is simply that while the visuals are fantastic, often breathtaking, the PS3 version is indeed inferior to the XBox 360 version. Not only does the game run at a lower resolution (probably 640p vs 720p on the 360 version), but the amount of scrub and brush is also reduced. We also noticed some draw-in and pop-up in places however when you consider you can view mountains several kilometers away this is understandable. Still, all the main aspects are in place and this is still a great looking title overall.

Not to be outdone the audio in this game is nothing short of exemplary. No matter where you are in the game world it 'sounds' like the Wild West. Occasional gunfire, animals making all manner of noises, horses galloping past, bar fights - it's all there. The music too, composed by Bill Elm and Woody Jackson, suits the tone of the game perfectly. Surpassing all this however is the nigh on perfect dialogue. The characters all 'sound' authentic, not only in terms of the actual scripting, but also the delivery, and the 'gruffness' of the voices. Indeed I would be hard pressed to find another game with such superb voice acting.

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Character models are impressive in RDR.
As expected the game also uses the surround sound channels to good effect and those with a decent setup will certainly benefit in being able to locate enemy gunfire simply by the directional effects.

Red Dead Redemption is another "must have" title from Rockstar. It's a little slower in pacing then GTAIV, but there are improvements in visuals, storytelling and multiplayer that makes this just as worthy a title. Gameplay is entertaining and while the XBox 360 version is technically superior (We recommend that one if you have both systems) there is still no reason not to pick up this PS3 game.

Review By: Dave Warner

GRAPHICSWhile the PS3 version is slightly inferior to the XBox 360 one, this remains a brilliant looking title with great characters, artwork and technology pushing the game.
SOUNDPerfect voice acting, superb effects and atmospheric music. What more could you ask for? Stunning.
GAMEPLAYThink GTAIV, but set in the Wild West. A great story and cutscenes with entertaining missions makes this a very fun title.
VALUEThe main game will take days to finish, then there's the side quests and objectives to complete, and then multi-player.
OVERALLFew would have expected the Wild West to offer such as brilliant, engrossing title. This latest effort from Rockstar really is a delight and an essential for every gamers collection - if you can find a copy in shops still!

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