Beautiful Looking, But Clunky Story and Gameplay
I love western films and it is unfortunate that we do not get more games that are set as westerns. Red Dead Redemption is likely the best western we have seen developed to date. If you are familiar with Rock Star open world games then you are going to be right at home in this game. The saying that this is "GTA with horses" is mostly apt.
Mechanically the game has some wonderful points to it that are hampered really by the characteristics of Rock Star's design. The world that the game is set in is flat out gorgeous. The wilderness is well developed and when you happen across a sunset you will be awed. What is different though than a standard GTA game is that the world outside of the immediate towns, while beautiful, does feel a bit empty. Traversing through it is fun at first because of the visual impact, but when you are doing it for the 20th time, you sort of just want to get to your destination and move on.
Story wise I felt the game fell largely short. The initial premise of playing an ex-outlaw going out to hunt down his fellow bandits to save his family is a good one. The execution though is poor and clumsy. The game plays out through a series of side stories with NPC's that you have to interact with. These missions feel so trivial and inane that they simply become frustrating because they break the suspension of disbelief. I would I waste my time with a snake oil salesman to get his wagon. Couldn't I just shoot him and take it? The characters too were so over the top and poorly done that I couldn't help but cringe at the stereotypes. Why our character would be dealing with these bozos was beyond me and made no sense in the context of the game. The only character that I felt any inclination towards Bonnie MacFarlene as she felt like a genuine character and not some cartoon.
I was also frustrated by the final couple of chapters within the game. Without giving away the ending there were three instances where I thought the game was over and it ended up continuing. It simply overstayed its welcome for me.
Mechanically the game works OK, but being that a large portion of the play is shooting, I felt it came up a bit short. The game could have used a "stickier" auto-aim mechanic because I found trying to shoot enemies at a distance frustrating at times. The dead eye mechanism was fun and very useful, but ultimately I just felt the mechanics were not as smooth as they could be. Small things like having to watch the skinning of an animal animation for the 100th time or trying to jump onto your horse while running turned into eye rolling moments. Strange decisions like having to setup a camp in the wilderness to save or fast travel also just added too many steps to mundane tasks. Ultimately these things got in the way through the later parts of the game where I just sort of got sick of them and wanted to move on.
Overall your enjoyment of this game will rest on whether you like Rock Star's style and their GTA games. If those appeal to you (and they do not for me) then it will be a good fit.