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Red Dead Redemption Impressions

Red Dead Revolver was the result of two development studios – first handled by Capcom, then picked up by Rockstar after Capcom dropped it. As a result we were left with a very good game, but something that didn’t feel like it was a complete Rockstar product. We’re not total sycophants for Rockstar, but it does have a discernible feel to its games. And as this sequel, Red Dead Redemption, shows with gusto – all it needed was to build the game from the ground up to create something that has real potential.


Our hands-off demo began in the fictional Mexican region of Nuevo Paraiso, with main character John Marston waking up at our portable save point – otherwise known as a camp – and taking off into the dusty wilds. After taking in the striking vistas and an impromptu death at the hands of some wild dogs, we arrived in the town of Chuparosa ready to take on some paid work. Wandering around the town you get a real feel for the place – there’s no doubt that Redemption is a game steeped in atmosphere. From the look through the people that inhabit the area, the flora and fauna – including snakes, bears, vultures and wolves – and the music backing it all up, it’s just engrossing. It just works.

We found a wanted poster on the wall and decided to track down the vagabond to capture him. A short ride away we found the bandit, holed up with some hired help. While we did try our best to bring him in alive, by shooting him in the leg and lassoing him, something went wrong and we ended up killing him with a further bullet to the backside. Still, a payday is a payday. Combat played a lot like GTA IV, even down to the targeting reticule looking very similar and enemies react in the same impressive fashion. After cashing in the bounty we were shown a treasure hunt – rather than X marks the spot, treasure maps show local landmarks and lead the player from there. We don’t know how many of these are in the game, but they could be a wonderful distraction for those who enjoy a bit of exploration. Missions, shopping and more fantastic-looking horses followed and were all of a similar standard – ie really rather impressive.
Backing up the standard play is the honour and fame system. Rather than your usual good/bad split, Redemption measures the two things separately. Honour is affected by how good or bad your behaviour is – if you help the lawmen, save the girl and bring in the bad guy alive then you’re going to be an honourable chap. If you shoot everyone you’re not. Fame is also affected by actions – you will naturally become more famous for your actions as the game progresses, but becoming famous for different reasons affects how people perceive or react to you. An infamous man of no honour is likely to be a target for many people wanting a quick-draw duel, for example. It’s a simple addition to a rather standard feature in games, and while we can’t see it really shaking things up, it could be a nice change.

Rockstar was also keen to demonstrate the emergent gameplay that occurred throughout Redemption. The game world is massive, and even though we’ve yet to see it all we’re certain there’s always something happening wherever you go. You are free to take part in or ignore anything you see, you can help or hinder, rescue or pillage or do as you wish and it all feeds in to the honour/fame system mentioned before.

One example of the emergent gameplay came when riding along, quietly minding our own business. A man approached shouting for help, screaming he had been robbed, so we naturally slowed to aid this poor soul – before we could react, however, the man had thrown John from his horse and bolted. A quick whistle from John caused the horse to rear up, throwing the man from the saddle and a bullet to the face stopped his horse-jacking days for good. It was a short, simple moment but it made our smile very broad indeed.

What we saw still stuck firmly to the Spaghetti Western template, though there are definite touches of the more realistic Deadwood et al thrown in. Things are noticeably grittier, for one. Red Dead Redemption is looking like it will be another winner from Rockstar – atmospheric, good-looking, varied and huge – and we’re very much looking forward to getting our hands on it.

By Ian Dransfield

To view the latest gamplay footage visit www.nowgamer.com now.

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