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Red Dead Redemption


ESRB Rating: Mature

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Red Dead Redemption

UPC: 710425395741

Platform: Xbox 360

Publisher: Rockstar Games

Developer: Rockstar San Diego

Category: Shooter

Style(s): Third-Person 3D Shooter

Synopsis: Red Dead Redemption is an open-world adventure game, set in the Wild West at the beginning of the 20th century. A well-defined main character and a strong narrative provide the structure for mission-based progression through the adventure, but the sandbox-style game world allows players to explore and interact as they wish, moving from town to town through the harsh wilderness on horseback, by stagecoach, or on a train. Throughout their travels, players can hunt and skin wild animals, gamble, capture bounties, engage in duels, search for treasure, and help those in need.

The game is built on the same Rockstar software engine that runs Grand Theft Auto IV, and the user-directed action-adventure playing style is similar to that of GTA4 as well, although the setting is very different. More of a successor than a direct sequel to 2004's Red Dead Revolver, Redemption puts players in control of a former outlaw looking to make good. John Marston is on a mission to bring an old ally to justice, and perhaps to bring a little law and order to the outposts and boomtowns he passes through along the way. Marston once rode with a gang of outlaws who robbed trains, held folks for ransom, and killed nearly anyone who got in their way, to take whatever they wanted. Now, as part of a bargain to protect his own family back home, he must use his violent skill set to apprehend or gun down a former partner called Bill Williamson -- a bandit at least as ruthless and deadly as Marston ever was. ~ T.J. Deci, All Game Guide

Package Contents: Map

Controls: Joystick/Gamepad

Red Dead Redemption is a refreshing example of what the Grand Theft Auto franchise's free-roaming framework can do outside of a modern day metropolis. The result is one of the most absorbing games you'll play in 2010, assuming you have a modicum of interest in the subject material.

The true star of the game is not compelling protagonist John Marston, expertly voiced by Rob Whiethoff, but rather the atmospheric setting. No longer are you driving loose-handling cars on crowded streets lined with buildings on either side. Instead you'll ride a horse across open prairies, gulches, deserts, and mesas. Each town, hideout, or settlement you'll gallop across is also home to a variety of saints, sinners, suckers, swindlers, and shopkeepers.

The structure is otherwise identical to Grand Theft Auto IV, with missions initiated by characters marked on a map by letter. Every Western archetype is here, from the hard-working ranch owner and snake oil huckster to a weary sheriff and grizzled gunfighter. Each person will have you doing familiar types of objectives, such as escorts or collection runs, most of which involve shooting down -- on horse or from cover -- various bands of outlaws trying to prevent you from reaching your destination.

Cinematic cut-scenes flesh-out each scene-chewing character in detail, but you'll wish the developers abandoned the linear format in favor of a broader quest-based system like in Bethesda's Elder Scrolls series. Once you've completed your group of missions for a certain character, you typically won't be seeing him or her again.

Yet the developers increased the number of things you can do in the world via in-game challenges, something Grand Theft Auto IV sorely lacked. Once you've shot a bear, bird, deer, raccoon, or other critter, you can skin it to sell the hide for cash. Other ways to make money include gathering different plants found scattered across the region, deciphering treasure maps, gambling, or going on bounty hunts. The latter lets you decide whether to shoot the target dead or bring him in alive by hogtieing him and tossing him on back of your horse.

Most of the activities you do will increase your ranking in a specific challenge category, unlocking new objectives to shoot for, literally, as you progress. You can also attempt to lasso and tame wild horses, work odd jobs at ranches, or play games of chance. All of these are optional, of course, but they make you feel more connected to this wonderfully detailed world.

Redemption's control interface is nearly identical to Grand Theft Auto IV, so expect a fair share of awkward moments. The third-person shooting sequences still follow Grand Theft Auto's targeting system, where you use the analog stick to aim a small dot at specific parts of the body.

Since manual aiming is too slow and difficult to be proficient at high speeds, you'll end up using an auto targeting system that automatically centers on the nearest enemy when you draw your gun. This unfortunately makes the combat too easy, while the alternative is too tedious for the sheer number of enemies you'll encounter. There desperately needs to be some middle ground, or better yet, it's time for Rockstar to rework its shooting mechanics.

Fortunately, the developers mix things up a bit by including a slow motion technique called "deadeye" that lets you precisely aim while time moves at a crawl. The one-on-one duels are also cleverly handled, relying on a similar slow-motion effect that adds tension to the timing-based showdowns. Surprisingly (or not surprisingly, depending on your view of Rockstar's past efforts) Red Dead Redemption actually becomes more engaging the more it strays from some of GTA's conventions.

While there are several areas in Redemption that could use improvement, they don't significantly detract from the game's appeal, arguably Rockstar's best since Bully. As you ride across the expansive outdoor terrain, you will stop more than once to admire the scenery, assist fellow travelers from bandits, hunt down an elusive cougar or two, or rest your spurs at a nearby saloon for a poker game. The developers have created a world that feels wholly authentic in a time period that's been criminally underrepresented in video games. Western fans will want to mark this game number one on their most wanted list, number one with a bullet. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide

the game requires Joystick/Gamepad.