Red Dead Redemption Preview
Despite the apparent awesomeness of the 2010 lineup, it would be a mistake to ignore Red Dead Redemption, which is already shaping up to be the single best Western-themed shooter ever made. And you know, after learning a lot more about the gameplay, I’m immediately reminded of the stellar Assassin’s Creed II, simply because the freedom involved is most reminiscent of the wandering, open-world setup we find in ACII. Heck, there are even treasures to find, as there were in ACII (even though finding them in Rockstar’s Western will involve a bit more in the way of player attention). The bottom line is that RDR has all the potential in the world: you play as John Marsten, a reformed outlaw who can’t quite escape his shady past. If you’re a fan of movies in this same genre, you won’t be surprised to see stagecoach chases, classic gunfights with both six-shooters and rifles, train robberies, and much, much more. Furthermore, the environment – the turn of the 20th century on the US/Mexico border – is the perfect atmosphere.
Rockstar is taking a cue from their famed GTA franchise in setting up RDR, as I just mentioned. You will wander across three very large territories and each area is loaded with stuff to do; NPCs to interact with, quests to attempt, and treasures to nab. Man, it really does sound a lot like ACII, doesn’t it? But the point is that you’re not really restricted to the main storyline and if you wish to cause mayhem, you can do exactly that. If you’re not the biggest fan of your new do-gooder status, maybe you want to kill off a few townspeople, or maybe you’d rather let them be and practice your aim via hunting excursion. As is the case with most sandbox-type games, the extra stuff and side missions will undoubtedly take up a lot of your time, especially if they’re entertaining and the rewards are well worth the effort. And depending on your actions in town, your notoriety will increase or decrease; it’s called the “honor” level and you’ll want to keep a close eye…
For instance, you can help the local authorities take down an outlaw…or you can turn on the authorities yourself. If you wish to help, your honor level will rise and this will have a direct impact on how civilians and other people in the world of RDR respond to your presence. If you continue to keep up the evil charade, few will want to stop and chat and maybe none will ask for your assistance. Personally, I’ve always liked the idea of hunting for buried treasure and although it’s more of a pirate thing, it works in the Wild West, too. You will locate treasure maps during your travels (some you can buy, others are rewards for completed quests) but this process goes well beyond simply going to a spot on your map. It will show you a certain location and it could seem entirely random; like a piece of the landscape with only a somewhat distinct landmark. Remember those hidden packages you’d have to find in inFamous, where it would show you a snapshot of the package’s general vicinity but not the exact spot? Yeah, something like that.
The storyline progresses along with news of your exploits, so don’t take your reputation lightly. If you commit enough atrocities, the authorities will be out to end your reign of random terror. But hey, there’s always corruption in the West and bribery and the simple task of paying your own bounty can get you off the hook. Or maybe it’s only a matter of changing your outfit: go rob the bank with a mask in the form of a bandanna, leave town, take off the bandanna, and your wanted level drops. However, there is a flip side to this coin: say you do all these good deeds and everyone loves you. Yeah, well, not everyone loves a heroic figure and you may run across bad dude wannabes who wish to take you down a peg. Obviously, there will always be confrontations in RDR; something will always be happening and chances are, you’ll be at the center of the action. My only question involves the dueling mechanic. I know there will be duels but what kind of system will they implement…? The one in Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood was cool, but a little quirky…
The good news is that Red Dead Redemption won’t be here until April 27. I say that’s “good” news because of the huge number of blockbusters on tap for the first quarter of next year; this way, Rockstar’s potentially AAA Western doesn’t have to face off against the likes of Final Fantasy XIII, Heavy Rain, or God of War III. By the time RDR rolls around, you’ll be craving exactly what it offers. Oh, it’s true.
12/21/2009 Ben Dutka