Xbox red-dead-redemption-preview

Published on January 25th, 2010 | by prime

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Red Dead Redemption – Preview

Let’s get one thing straight…Red Dead Redemption is different. This is not a pastiche; a humorous parody of Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood. Nor is it GTA with cowboys and injuns. This is the most serious, ambitious and formidable game that Rockstar has ever attempted. And the way things are shaping up, it could just be the best.

The game itself is a Wild West epic set in the sprawling outback of Texas, California and Mexico circa 1906, a once-lawless land that is struggling to find its own identity as it’s squeezed by industrialization and terrorized by marauding bandits. There’s political uprising, murder, brutality and solitude. This is the birth of America.

The demonstration began in the morning, with Marston rising from his hastily put together camp to see the sun rising auspiciously over the scorched rocky desert. This is Nuevo Paraiso, the Mexican third of Red Dead Redemption’s turn-of-the-century America, and it’s a beautiful place. Well, if wide open spaces and roaming animals are your type of thing. Instead of throwing us straight into story missions though, Rockstar wanted us to experience a true day-in-the-life, and to show off the random and emergent occurrences that happen as you trot through the open world atop your trusty steed. We saw a horse-jacking attempt, a cougar attack, a prison escape and an outback execution in just a few short in-game hours, all of which happened without any scripting or prompting at all.

Rockstar is promising some 200 of these events that can happen at any point, serving to flesh out a true living, breathing, violent and intimidating version of the West. Every single one of these events could be interfered with, should you wish, from skinning an animal for its pelt to shooting the prisoners or the guards during the escape. You take on Red Dead Redemption how you see fit, with only an honor system and a fame ‘meter’ governing how civilians, lawmen and bandits react to you on your travels. It’s reminiscent of Fallout, but far more dynamic and far more organic.

Of course, this is the sequel to Red Dead Revolver, and it wasn’t long before that we saw some shootin’, and we dare say some rootin’. Redemption maintains the ‘Dead Eye’ mechanic that proved so popular before, meaning Marston can slow down time and quickly mark targets, before snapping back real-time and hitting every one of them with his faultless aim. It’s probably the most videogamey conceit in the whole thing, but adds spice to the shootouts.

If Red Dead Redemption can live up to its promise, it’ll be a strong contender for 2010’s Game of the Year

The actual gunplay is reminiscent of GTA IV, with cover, a subtle blend of auto-aim and free shooting, and of course the sublime NaturalMotion ragdoll animations, which give everything such weight and realism. Even the animals.

Missions on show

The story missions on show involved a Mexican rebel leader who had to be rescued from a heavily guarded impound. It was exciting to see the gunplay, physics and even a horse-back chase in action, but without proper hands-on, it’s hard to judge how well the combat handles.

Instead, let us revel in the open world. The charming little town of Chuparosa, with its lively market place, grimy bordello and bounty bulletin board covered in wanted posters (which of course, you can choose to take on). The treasure maps that don’t just mark an X on your map, but give you an impressionistic sketch of the location of… who knows? Or how about the thunderous clatter of hooves as you gallop across the outback atop your horse, just looking for America. For someone who has grown up with the imagery and iconography of the West, this is already a truly staggering achievement. Red Dead Redemption is going to be a strong contender for 2010’s game of the year.

As the night draws in though, the desert becomes a dangerous place, and Marston’s day comes full circle. He sets up camp again. The fire is lit, the stars are in the sky and the horse is safely tied up. Wherever he lays his hat is his home. Game saved. Time to exhale. A new dawn is coming.

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