burjeffton--defunct's Red Dead Redemption (Xbox 360) review

Nothing is Forgiven

 "My side ain't chosen. My side was given."   
 
Every now and then a game comes along that defines a genre. Rewrites it, if you will. There have been many attempts at the western genre in videogame history but few have succeeded to capture the essence of the old west. Enter Red Dead Redemption; It's a game that not only sets the standard in the artform of western, but raises the bar for the open world gaming genre as a whole. 
 

 Lovely sunsets and graphic violence. Everybody wins!

John Marston, our checkered protagonist, is doing his best to walk the line. Once a gang member, he has settled down and reformed his ways. But his past continues to catch up with him and he is forced into harrowing situations of murder, robbery and even enforcement of the law he once defied. Marston encounters a myriad of colorful characters and settings, challenging his honor and his character with each step. As his fame grows, so will the consequences of his actions... leading to a shocking and twisted ending. 

 The first thing that jumps out to newcomers is the incredible design of the world in Read Dead. Spanning across cacti filled deserts, sweeping vistas, snowy mountaintops and abandoned mining towns, RDR captures the wild west in amazing detail. Each setting is filled with the appropriate wildlife and local citizens. The attention paid to sound is equally impressive. (Note: I played this game with headphones) The voice acting and facial animations are some of the best currently in videogames, giving each scene in Marston's quest a truly cinematic feel. 
 
  
  

Gameplay in RDR has been designed on the same engine Grand Theft Auto succeeded with, so most players will adapt quickly to the controls and combat scheme. Marston drops in and out of cover effortlessly, making gunplay a breeze. An auto-lock targeting system enables quick and deadly gunplay, and a "Deadeye" system slows down the fights temporarily to allow Marston to unload entire clips into enemies with exact precision. It's tight, sleek and easy to use. Although horses provide for the main form of transport, trains and stagecoaches have been added to give Marston options during his journey. Choices do have some consequences. For example, killing innocents will put a bounty on your head and the local (and even federal) authorities will eventually come looking for you. Also, having a low level of honor will cause guns and medicine to cost more at local stores - as opposed to getting a discount for being a charitable saint. 
 
 This is going to end badly.
Much has been made of the multiplayer component of Read Dead, and it most definitely delivers on the hype. From basic Free Roam to standard Deathmatch, the game offers hundreds of hours of entertainment outside of the single player experience. New Co-op campaigns (free download) add a further component for teams of 4 or less to build up XP and rank their character up. Furthermore, Rockstar is delivering more DLC to add weapons, unlockable characters and new map areas to do battle in. In the end, the multiplayer makes the game an incredible value for $60. 
 
What makes Red Dead Redemption great is not one or two amazing details, but the accumulation of them over the course of the game. So much attention was paid to the design, gameplay and story that it's hard not to be drawn into John Marston's journey. Rockstar Games has once again defined the genre and raised the bar. Pick this one up - you won't regret it.
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