An open-world action video game set in the Wild West in the United States, Red Dead Redemption has been called the Grand Theft Auto of Westerns. The publisher and developer Rockstar Games couldn’t be happier with that description. But is it accurate?
In so many ways the answer is a resounding “Yes” but this Western game is also very much its own title with its own conventions, style, and narrative direction.
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The Game Review
Released for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 consoles back in 2010, Red Dead Redemption was an instant hit and follows blockbuster title Red Dead Revolver, released in 2004. Taking place on the American frontier in 1911, the plot centers on John Marston whose family is abducted by the federal government and held in ransom to force Marston to work for the government in bringing three notorious criminals to justice.
Played from a third-person perspective, the world of Red Dead Redemption is a lot more interactive than its predecessor and players will realize that a lot of the meat of the game is found in exploration and interaction with its in-world elements. Travel is mainly accomplished on foot or on a horse with the latter being obviously the faster of the two options. Gunfights are a regular occurrence and the Max Payne-like “Dead Eye” mechanic that allows for multiple targets in one pass through. The player earns prestige from their actions in a game with a “morality” system accompanying what they do and a subsequent reputation resulting from that. Non-player characters will react differently to the player depending on the choices previously made and this will also impact the narrative somewhat.
The main plot is a big chunk of the game but Red Dead Redemption is also filled with a myriad of events in its explorable world. These include public hangings, attacks by wild animals, random encounters of the good and bad variety, as well as shootouts. The game marries Grand Theft Auto’s randomness with the more murderous bent of this version of the Wild West for a game that simultaneously reminds you of the best Japanese role-playing games from the 16-bit era and the open-world extravaganzas that are the GTA games or the living, breathing worlds of MMORPGs.
A massive sixteen player multiplayer mode was originally included in the 2010 release and features both cooperative and competitive modes in a new adaptation of the single-player experience for the multiplayer mode. After its release, there were several downloadable content packages made available for the game as well as the uber-popular zombie mode Undead Nightmare, which ended up becoming a standalone release.
The game was a huge success both commercially and critically, receiving nearly universal praise upon its release, inspiring a sequel, Red Dead Redemption 2, which was announced in 2016 for a release date of October 26, 2018, for Xbox One and PlayStation 4. The gameplay projected for the sequel is expected to largely follow that of the original with some updates for graphics and to accommodate for the new technology released since the initial game’s debut.