Rockstar Games. Chances are you’ve fallen hard for one of their titles, and as a result lost several days of avid gaming to it. Red Dead Redemption saw their first big, open-world foray into the Wild West, in what has since fast become Rockstar’s trademark fashion.
However, before I go any further, you may be interested to know that Red Dead Redemption is not the first game in the “Red Dead” series. In fact, the franchise’s humble beginnings started a generation before, with the much overlooked Red Dead Revolver.
There was no open-world setting, instead you fought through a series of gunfights and rested in the little town of Brimstone in between, which you could explore at your pleasure. Truth be told, the game was pretty mediocre, and this makes it even more surprising that Red Dead Redemption turned out to be the game it did.
And what a game. You assume the role of John Marston, a former outlaw who is forced to cooperate with the authorities. He is drafted in to bring law and order to the badlands of the Wild West, as the way of the cowboy is dying out. As John is now very much a family man, and with them under threat, he has no choice but to follow the orders given to him.
What follows is a huge, open-world adventure across the American frontier set in the early 1900s. John is forced to hunt down the members of his former gang which, in the end, takes a heavy toll. The storytelling is sublime, and the last hour or so is exciting, tense and heartbreaking all at the same time.
It’s safe to say that Red Dead Redemption, much like its predecessor, is all about the gunfights. You play from a third-person perspective throughout, and can make use of carts, horses and trains to get around more quickly.
John Marston’s signature move is the “dead eye” mechanic. This allows him to effectively stop time, and line up several shots with pinpoint accuracy. Then, shortly after, he will let off all the rounds in quick succession, effectively tearing through any enemies in his way. It’s an incredibly satisfying trick to pull off, which never gets dull.
As entertaining as the main missions are, the true joy of Red Dead Redemption is found in the exploration and the fact you’ll stumble across all sorts of random events as you do. Whether this is intervening in a robbery or getting attacked by wild animals, it’s up to you how you react in each situation.
There is also a “Wanted” system, which some may recognise from another Rockstar franchise – Grand Theft Auto – which works in very much the same way. On the flip side, you can also hunt other wanted figures for bounties by approaching their poster in the nearest town.
Away from all of this, to pass the time you can play some mini-games too. Whether it’s Poker or Five Finger Fillet, these provide a surprising amount of depth that is separate from the main story. The combination of all of these elements realised an open-world quite like no other before it, and Red Dead Redemption’s rich, vibrant setting felt ahead of its time.
If that isn’t enough, there is also Multiplayer on offer too. With plenty of different game modes to choose from, including firm favourites such as deathmatch and capture the flag, you can get a maximum of 16 players into the mix. However, the most exciting parts of the Multiplayer mode are the open-world elements, which allow you and your new friends to break off and explore the open world, in many similar ways to the single player campaign.
In the year or so after release, there was a steady stream of DLC released for the game. However, the most substantial add-on was Undead Nightmare. This, again, has you paying as John Marston, and gives the game world as you know it a zombie horror makeover. It contains a good few hours of gameplay too that’s well worth shooting through.
Red Dead Redemption scooped numerous awards and set a new benchmark for open-world gaming. It showed just what could be achieved in terms of free choice and exploration for the player. It really remains a wonderful achievement. However, Rockstar wasn’t finished there.
Flash forward to October 2018 and the long awaited Red Dead Redemption 2, which is actually a prequel, finally arrived. The hype had been truly mad, people had wanted the game for years. It’s existence was finally confirmed when Rockstar revealed a couple of images online which sent the rumour mill into overdrive. After a delay of around a year after it’s original targeted release, Red Dead Redemption 2 was finally ready. And it delivered in spades.
But we’re here for the experience from back in 2010 and Red Dead Redemption represented a huge leap forward, just as Grand Theft Auto 4 had done a couple of years before it. However, this time the game tapped into every childhood boy’s dream – to be a cowboy. Despite the release of its successor, which updated the franchise in so many ways, Red Dead Redemption remains a joy to play to this very day.
If you haven’t yet played Red Dead Redemption on Xbox then you don’t know what you’re missing. The Xbox Store will provide the downloads you need.