43 Reviews

Red Dead Redemption

Where the Buffalo roam

[CVG's Red Dead Redemption review is based on the Xbox 360 version]

Rockstar has claimed that that Red Dead Redemption is the ultimate sandbox game - and dozens of hours in, we can't help but agree. It's immersive, engrossing and superbly addictive. In fact, this review almost didn't happen at all; we were too busy playing cowboys.

Let us get you up to speed. You take on the role of scarred-face, five o'clock shadow-donning ex-outlaw John Marston.

Red Dead Redemption review

John went straight after being left for dead by his old gang. He got married, had a kid and settled down. If David Cameron was campaigning in the Wild West - all that 'we'll mend your lawless, gang-cowered society' stuff - John could well have been his poster boy.

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But things didn't quite stay Waltons-perfect for our antihero. Red Dead Redemption would be a pretty boring video game if it did, after all.

Three years after his vow to remain legal, Marston's wife and son are kidnapped by federal agents - who give the grizzled cowboy an ultimatum. They want him to track down his former gang members. In return, they'll let his family go rather than kill them. It's one of those unreasonable deal things.

You get dumped in the small town of Armadillo with the whole of the Wild West stretching out around you... and so begins your quest to find your former friends and clean up the dusty streets along the way.

The first thing that ropes you into Red Dead Redemption is the stunning environment in front of you. There's an immense detail in the world - from the dust clouds on the ground to the sunlight streaming between mountains towards the end of the day.

Trotting to the edge of a cliff will force you to put a few minutes aside to admire the serene view... before dealing with the gang leader hogtied to the back of your horse.

The journey there - indeed, anywhere - is the best thing Red Dead Redemption has to offer. It's a massive game. It's also massively empty - but that's okay.

In a way, Red Dead Redemption works better than GTA because it's based on naturally sparser environments. Niko Bellic was constantly bombarded with stressful, urgent urban surroundings. John Marston roams in simpler times, which house simpler lives.

In a densely populated modern day metropolis, the limitations of the AI are exposed - simply because there are so many more examples of them.

Red Dead Redemption review

Red Dead Redemption may not necessarily be a technological leap when it comes to imitating a working society, then. But this is the Wild West; where cowboys hunched on bar stools playing five finger fillet or outlaws watching the world go by on a terrace are all that's needed to create a really authentic and believable world.

As you gallop over the Great Plains, having a lone cowboy ride past with a simple 'Howdy' every five minutes is an incredibly simple and tiny event - but it makes all the difference.

Once you start to move beyond New Austin (the classic imagining of the Wild West) your surroundings change - and smart nods to bygone culture are plentiful. Head south towards your Mexican friends under military rule and there's a wash of civil unrest and a noticeable change in culture.

West Elizabeth, meanwhile, is further along than New Austin when it comes to technology - with the motorcar and early stages of effective government representing the gradual death of the old West.

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