Editor’s Note: Each week in December we’ll be unveiling another nominee for Blast’s 2010 Game of the Year Award, here’s our first — Rockstar’s wild western opus, Red Dead Redemption. Keep checking back each week until the final week, when we reveal the winner along with all of the yearly award winners.
When it was released in 2008, Grand Theft Auto IV developers Rockstar Games were applauded for creating a truly believable, living world full of people, cars and skyscrapers – just like the real world. Now, two years later, they give us Red Dead Redemption, and even though there are portions where you won’t see another living soul, it’s still every bit a believable world – sometimes even more so.
Filled with fantastic visuals, rewarding gameplay, a huge world and some of the most climactic gameplay in recent memory; Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption is a stunning example of what a video game could and should be in this modern age.
The Frontier town of Armadillo and it’s nearby territories is a truly expansive world, and it’s highly unlikely that you’ll run out of things to do in between missions. In fact, much like its big city brethren, exploring the world is often times more fun than the main missions. You’ll find most of your activities inside the town itself as you can play poker, drink at the saloon, and rob banks – and that’s just the beginning. As you venture out to the territories, you’re sure to find things to keep you busy. Hell; there’s even a herd of buffalo or two running around the frontier.
What makes the world most interesting is the fact that the world itself changes with your actions. Play as the typical cowboy hero type and you’ll be applauded as you walk into town and the townsfolk will more than likely look the other way while you break small rules, like stealing horses for a greater good. On the other hand, if you choose to take the outlaw role, you’re sure to experience a much different landscape. People will cower from you and will be sure to alert the proper authorities to your presence. One of the coolest parts of this mechanic is the bounty hunter gameplay; you can take a wanted poster down off a wall and hunt down the fugitive (earning respect and notoriety in the process) or you can be hunted down by posse’s as they role into town, guns blazing as they search for you and the reward money associated. Oh, and try to tell me you’re not having a blast as you rob a stage coach on the frontier.
One of the things we found most interesting about RDR is how it rewards player’s persistence throughout the game. While Rockstar’s previous games encouraged players to switch cars at their whim, Red Dead Redemption rewards players who stay with the same horse for long periods of time by granting it extra long health bars and stamina. This may seem like a small aspect of gameplay, but it actually goes a long way in making the game feel like an authentic western. Think about it, did The Lone Ranger trade out Silver every chance he got?
I’m going to be honest, often when picking up a new Grand Theft Auto game; I skip the plot for days at a time just to truly experience the world – that didn’t happen here. Now, that’s not because the game lacked an interesting world, far from it in fact, I just actually found myself engrossed in the plot and the climactic moments in it. The majority of the story-arcs deal with hunting down specific members of your former gang and more often than not, the events of these sequences rival those of big budget, Hollywood movies. The most fun of these sequences are when you’re able to use the “dead-eye” shooting mechanic which lets you pin-point just where you want your shots to go, much like a duel.
In a game where you’re going to be spending a lot of time looking at open frontier’s and not a lot of living beings, you better have something pretty to look at, and luckily Red Dead Redemption has some of the best visuals I’ve seen of this console generation. Everything is superbly detailed and animated and I can’t say enough about the weather effects, particularly the lighting storms that spawn up – be it a bit too frequently – in the distance. It’s easy to forget what you’re goal is and get lost in the grand scope of the gorgeous vistas on display here.
The game also features a fully developed multiplayer suite. Sure, there modes are mostly the standard deathmatch and team bouts, but what’s different here is the fact that you have the entire map as your playground. Unlike in GTA IV, where you only had access to certain points in the maps, you can free-roam here, and have fights throughout the entire expansive world. I was really surprised that each game started with a draw mode where each player lines up next to each other and waits for all hell to break loose, it makes the entire game feel different.
The definition of a truly living, breathing game world, Red Dead Redemption is quite simply a video gaming experience.