Red Dead Redemption: Legends & Killers gameplay preview
5th Aug 2010 | 16:00
Since Red Dead Redemption whipped up such a sandstorm, it would have been perfectly reasonable for Rockstar to consider its work well and truly done, pack its suitcases with money and jet of to bathe in the golden sun of glory.
But the developer seems to think that, as far as Red Dead's online is concerned, there's even more it can offer.
Last month wannabe cowboys were treated to some co-op additions to multiplayer - which provided a solid extension and, for the pleasing price of zero, left people happy enough.
Rockstar's since made its commitment to the game known by outlining a long-term plan for Red Dead DLC. The next installation, 'Legends & Killers' is almost upon us - only this time it's going to cost you.
Legendary Value or Cash Killer?
But let's not spoil things by thinking about the green just yet, what's on offer in Legends & Killers?
Well, the biggest portion of the fun comes from the arrival of the Tomahawk - a small throwing axe that will either kill your opponent first time or stick beautifully into one of his or her limbs. It's a win/win weapon so long as it isn't spinning in your direction.
We actually can't overstate how satisfying the Tomahawk is as a weapon. When you're playing a map like Rio Bravo, where players are nipping around in close quarters between jagged rocks, the 'Hawk has to be the weapon of choice. Turning a blind corner to come face to face with an axe wielding sheriff brings a sharp swell of tension before your now highly trained trigger-finger twitches into action and embeds a chunky bit of metal in the poor guy's frontal lobe.
But it's not all about point-blank bludgeoning (it mostly is); the more skilful scalpers among you will soon find you're a dab hand at long range axing. To pull this off you need some proper technique. Typically the Tomahawk is a close range weapon but get your trajectory right and you can arc it through the skies and into some sucker's horse as he rides towards you. Wedge it into the rider himself and you'll get a pat on the back, friend.
The cherry on the Tomahawk shaped cake is that, as long as the hit isn't fatal, players will run around with axes sticking out of limbs until they take one to a main organ. Think about the crossbow in Time Splitters; it's pleasing to a similar extent.
Red Dead Revisited
Enough about axe-wounds - there's more to Legends & Killers than that; namely new characters and new maps. Rockstar's also offering new Trophies and Achievements, and eight new skins, including playable characters from Red Dead Revolver such as Red Harlow and Jack Swift. It's the nine new locations that make the difference though and we were permitted to mess around in six of them.
Obviously the new areas aren't brand new; you'll no doubt have had a good explore of them during Red Dead Redemption's single player campaign, but a diverse range has been carefully selected to add new dynamics to the multiplayer mode's various match types.
We've already mentioned Rio Bravo, where nooks and crannies make for a great Shootout with everyone naturally leaning towards the axe for sudden in your face encounters and Fort Mercer's interiors and courtyards are similarly quite condensed suiting players handy with a shotgun.
Escalara, on the other hand, is larger with more high and low points for strategic play. We played in a Gang Shootout in the village and soon found that if we got as many team-mates as possible on the highest roofs and towers we could pretty much sit back and leisurely pick off opponents whilst talking about goats or something. Losing the race to the top, however, meant a very arduous and death filled journey ahead.
Similarly the more modern town of Blackwater offers streets, alleyways and rooftops for tactical attacks. For a game mode like Hold Your Own (capture the sack) picking the right route is crucial and defending your teams sack from a high point, or even hiding on a rooftop in the opposition's area can be a real game winner.
Hold Your Own in Tall Trees - the vast, relatively flat woodland that Marston navigates towards the end of his journey - is a different game entirely. Firstly you'll definitely need a horse to get from one end of the map to the other and since there are very few places to hide it's all about co-ordinated team attacks and maybe a fancy formation.
Thieves' Landing hosted a round of Grab The Bag (one bag fought for by two teams) and, in this dank, dingy setting, control of the couple of narrow bridges between both sides will give you a real advantage. Clearing the way from range before making a mad dash for the sack is the way to win.
So what Rockstar's offering with Legends & Killers is a few new tactical slants on the multiplayer's original modes by way of maps that encourage a certain kind of play, that and the unadulterated joy of spinning axes into your mates' legs. The maps do fulfil the objective, the new skins offer some bolts of nostalgia and the Tomahawks are definitely the best fun since dragging someone along the ground with a lasso.
But then comes the matter of the bill. At £7.99 or 800 Microsoft points we start to wonder whether slightly new approaches to old game modes are really enough. Sure there are players out there that will happily shell out for new maps alone; they did for Modern Warfare 2 so they will for Red Dead.
For us though, a new game mode or two would have helped prise our wallets open. Who knows? Maybe the remaining three maps will hit the spot - but right now the price stings like a small axe to the face.