SEATTLE — Rockstar had themselves a booth that was anything but low-key at the Penny Arcade Expo, despite being tucked away in a corner. With the trailer for The Ballad of Gay Tony blaring and showing on two monitors, along with a big emphasis on the upcoming PSP title, Beaterator, including a professional DJ to show you how it’s done, you could hear the booth before you saw it. Behind closed doors was where Red Dead Redemption’s demo hid though, and that may have been the star of their booth despite its shyer placement.
While no one was able to play the game except for Rockstar’s representatives, Redemption was shown off on a massive screen made up of multiple monitors with the volume cranked, so it was hard to miss what the game was about. You play as John Marston, a former outlaw sent to clean up the outlaws he used to ride with in the early 20th century. You do this in the largest open-world that Rockstar has ever created–yes, larger than even San Andreas.
The thing that stuck out almost immediately was how everyone reacted to being shot or shot at–Rockstar informed us that there were “no canned animations”, so the NPC will react in his death the way you would expect them to, based on how you took them out. The animations and physics involved in this system are also deep–we got a chance to see Marston’s hat shot clean off of his head by an errant rifle blast, and we even saw the world react to the battle when it was over; vultures began to circle and land, ready to feed on the bodies left behind.
Animals like vultures play a large role in Redemption, as you can kill them and skin them so you can sell their pellets. Yes, you can also kill your horse–we saw this accidentally happen, when the Rockstar rep used the Dead Eye, bullet-time aiming system and targeted his horse by mistake–but why would you want to? That horse is going to carry you all around this massive environment, one that spans three themed regions. One is very much like Mexico, the Frontier is like Texas, and the North is like Colorado territory (sans the cannibalism, ninjas and snowmen named Beowulf). Of course, if you do blow your horse away, you can always find a wild horse, lasso it and break it so that it becomes your new steed.
There are other forms of transport, though these don’t work as well for exploration, and are more suited for travel. Coaches, boats, and trains will take you from place to place, depending on where you are in the game world. If you ride around on a horse though, you will get the chance to run from or confront thieves and bandits, which is one way to keep yourself busy as you traverse the southwest.Taking out the thieves may not be such a bad idea either, as the game recognizes whether you fancy yourself a good guy or a bad guy–they will be happy to see you ride into town if you’re the former, but everyone will be running for the hills like you’re Mongo if you’re the latter.
One other thing that impressed me was that there are no loading times between the exterior and interior–this means that, in the example given by Rockstar, you can run into a saloon, start a bar fight, and bring the tussle outside, all without the annoyance or interruption of a loading screen.
Red Dead Redemption isn’t due out until 2010 on both the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, but the game is impressive even at this stage. I will be glad to get my hands on the game to give it a whirl eventually, but even just from a hands-off perspective, this looks like one to watch. Check out the screens in the gallery, and let us know what you think about the open-world adventure.