For those who are late to the Red Dead Redemption party (2010), this is a good ol' tale of revenge in the American West set in the year 1911. John Marston, former ruffian and gang member, is tasked by the federal government to apprehend his old partner in crime, Bill Williamson. Mister Marston must comply because his wife and son are being held hostage by the feds until he fulfils his good deed.
As soon as you begin to roam the expansive sandbox environment you quickly learn that you need to gather the support of the people in order to take down your nemesis, Bill Williamson. Your actions in the world are judged by the authorities so you can either play as the good guy who stands for justice or you can become an infamous villain with a bounty on your head for all of the horrible atrocities that you commit.
Horses are a necessity to get around. You can call them to you by whistling. To make the horse sprint faster you tap the 'A' button however this can tire the poor animal and if the horse is too exhausted he/she will buck you off. When you obtain rope you will spend a lot of time galloping about with some poor guy being dragged in the dirt.
Be wary though because in your travels you will meet a variety of native animals, some of which fight back. Shoot birds out of the sky and pluck feathers from their corpses or riddle a bear with holes and skin it for its hide. Part of the money-making process is to hunt wild creatures and to sell their bits to a trader.
Most towns have general stores and gun shops so you can buy better weaponry and stock up on health items.
There are a lot of guns to choose from. Mister Marston is able to carry several different types at the same time, which is very generous. Some might say too generous. You can wreak havoc with revolvers, repeater rifles, shotguns, sniper rifles, dynamite sticks and more.
To make the game even more generous John Marston has the 'dead eye' ability. Dead eye enables a targeting mode where real-time slows to a crawl and you can tag specific targets. When you are finished tagging, or when your dead eye meter is depleted, the game snaps back to normal speed and your gunslinger fires a few rapid rounds.
This is a necessary skill to use throughout several escort missions because the number of bandits that harass you and your friends is just ludicrous. Shooting on horseback is extremely difficult without it.
The dead eye ability does make the game too easy if over-used.
As a one-man army with safehouses that help replenish your ammunition reserves, buying ammo is not necessary. Safehouses are where you save the game. You can either rent a bed or purchase a house. At first this idea is really cool. The novelty wears off very quickly though because you cannot save at any time. This is frustrating when you only want to play for a few minutes. Red Dead Redemption becomes a commitment rather than a brief respite.
If you need a break from the campaign there are other ways to fill your coffers. Locals will often need your help with herding cows, retrieving items or handling nasty situations. An old man out in the middle of nowhere, for example, is constructing a bouquet for his wedding anniversary however he needs help with picking specific flowers. You can agree to find what he needs in exchange for some money and a positive bump to your overall honour rating.
Wanted posters can activate bounty hunter missions and there are poker tables to gamble.
This Rockstar title takes a more mature direction when compared to the Grand Theft Auto franchise. There are two key female characters that really shine as a testament to the quality of writing in this epic yarn, Bonnie MacFarlane and Mrs Abigail Marston.
John Marston's focus is doing what he needs to do to see his family again and so one of the first characters we meet is the young Bonnie MacFarlane who aids in John Marston's recovery when he fails to take down Bill Williamson.
John honours his marital vows by making it clear that he is a married man and as a show of thanks, John helps improve the MacFarlane ranch. He returns to the ranch later on when he finds his wife, Abigail. There is a scene where Abigail is briefly jealous and Bonnie is left both happy but disappointed, which is mostly expressed through body language. The storytelling throughout the game is fantastic.
There are many strange and wonderful characters that inhabit the world. Along the way we meet a charlatan salesman who deals in alternative medicines and potions and an arrogant general of the Mexican army.
Over 20 hours of gaming awaits.
The game of the year edition comes with Undead Nightmare which answers the question: what if there was a zombie outbreak in the game? This expansion was fun for five minutes.
The Red Dead Redemption experience is perfection as it is.