Know why cowboys do that silly bow-legged walk? It ain't because they've got bum grapes from riding bareback across hundreds of miles of prairie land. Nope, them's got huge cowboy balls, and Red Dead's are swinging somewhere around its knees.
This is a red-blooded stud of a game that snorts attitude and sweats atmosphere by the bucket-load. Plus it's a damned handsome sonnuvabitch, guaranteed to charm the snakes out of your boots with its amazing dusty visuals and gorgeously gritty effects.
Who Ordered Duck?
For the most part you play as Red, an hombre who witnesses his family being butchered by bandits at the start. He's understandably miffed and the trouble that follows in his search for the killers is bloody, merciless and feverishly intense.
Rockstar has taken the arcade route with Read Dead, seeing you blast your way through hundreds of dirty bandidos and crazy-ass bosses. But it's not a dumb shooter. You must play clever and shoot sharp to survive - stand out in the open and you'll get gunned down from all angles faster than you can say sarsaparilla.
See, all the levels are rammed with stuff like knackered wagons and boulders that you can duck behind for cover. Hell, you can even kick over tables mid-fight and use 'em for cover. With a simple button press our guy sticks himself to the object that's protecting him from a face full of buckshot.
Once in place you can peer out, target enemies then pounce out and shoot, before ducking back to safety. Point is, unlike many other games that use similar techniques, in Red Dead most of your Wild West weaponry only holds a handful of bullets, and the reload time isn't quick. Not like the endless ammo clips we're all too used to. This spreads the tension on thick and adds extra thrills to the gunfights as you must constantly keep close tabs on your ammo situation, sprinting from cover to cover whenever possible. But Red Dead's more than just a peek-a-boo shooter...
You've heaps of other bad boy skills. Enemies don't merely stay put - they hunt you down, and sometimes you need to stand and fight, which is where the close combat moves come into their element.
One scenario sees you protecting a trio of hookers from some nasty gringos in a mad bar fight. You can punch, kick, grab, slap and bottle folk. Tables and chairs splinter and smash in the chaos. Sure, it's
not the most sophisticated fight engine, but it adds an extra entertaining twist to proceedings.
Dead Eye Joe
However, it's the Dead Eye and Quick Draw action that gives Red Dead its killer edge. Dead Eye works wickedly - rack up kills to charge your special gauge at the bottom of the screen, then go slo-mo and target loads of individual body parts on one or more enemies. There are loads of scenarios when this skill is called upon, like in one early level where a boss slings the Sheriff over his shoulder. You gotta gun the nutter down as he sprints around - without harming the lawman.
As for the Quick Draw, it's inspired! On your travels you're forced to take part in tons of High Noon-style showdowns. The camera pans down behind your holster, with your enemy primed for action dead ahead. You're sweating bullets. Time slows. You flick back on the right analog stick to grip your gun and whip it out by flicking the stick forwards. Then it's a case of pinpointing vital organs on your enemy's body before letting the lead fly. You've got to be super fast and deadly accurate to win. It's a proper rush, especially further into the game when you take on THREE gunmen at once!