Finals time is the best time to get excited about a new video game. Rockstar (makers of the “Grand Theft Auto” series) have announced a sequel to the somewhat unexciting “Red Dead Revolver” game, and it looks very promising. “Red Dead Redemption” is a fresh take on the Western that promises to deliver much more than previous attempts at the genre due to the embracing of new technologies, such as the Euphoria physics engine (the same used for GTA:IV). It will offer an expansive open world with three distinct locales to explore and many missions, diversions, and characters to interact with. Allow me to give my take on the game.
While the idea of a Western game has always appealed to me, previous games like the one upon which this is loosely based, as well as “Gun,” just never looked like very much fun to play. While the game is still being developed, several features have already been mentioned that should make this one better. First is the open world itself, with dynamic day/night cycles and the possibility of massive amounts of exploration. But it’s important to note that it takes much more than this alone to make a good game. I bought “Far Cry 2” based largely on this motivation and was sorely disappointed; you could explore the land, sure, but there was only the very occasional zebra and really nothing else to do. In “Red Dead Redemption,” the developers claim the world will be much more alive, with many wild animals and even the ability to hunt and then sell furs. The example is given of coming across a bandit robbing someone spontaneously, only to see the bandit be mauled by a bear or mountain lion. It’s this kind of random interaction of the environment’s inhabitants that should make the experience much improved.
Also promising is the technology used for horses, carriages, and trains. The animations seem fluid and lifelike and riding your steed shouldn’t feel like you’re stuck on a fixed object instead of a living creature. In addition, you can shoot the horses right out from under your enemies and they’ll fly off realistically (recall the beauty of some of those motorcycle wrecks in GTA:IV). When riding in a carriage or train, you’ll have the ability to take a nap, thereby speeding up the process of getting from one point to the next. These different transportation options should make traversing the open world more bearable and still fun in a distinct way from the cars of so many other games. And you can lasso things.
Questionable is that there’s no real property ownership, and there’s still much that remains to be seen. The inventory system is unknown, and exactly how the posses and marshals will try to track you down is not a certainty. While it’s clear that making “evil” decisions will make people distrust you and can even prevent you from being able to take on certain missions for a while, a good/bad alignment system doesn’t really seem to be in place. These are minor quibbles and shouldn’t be too bad, but the property ownership was my first concern. It would be nice to have a house or two to call my own as I embark on outlaw escapades. Still, after having seen the property systems in both “Far Cry 2” (where every safehouse you owned was exactly the same) and “Fable 2” (where you could buy everything but it was still very unsatisfying), this isn’t going to make or break the game.
Mostly, I’m just looking forward to something new, and I’m confident that the people at Rockstar are capable of making an entertaining game out of these lofty ideas. “Bioshock” was incredibly engrossing because of its unique atmosphere and storyline, even if the gameplay wasn’t revolutionary. This type of game could have the same effect; there will be standard gunplay with the occasional “deadeye” mode (slow-motion, as first witnessed in “Max Payne”), but so much else surrounds the player that it feels more significant than it really is. Now if they can get Clint Eastwood to do some voiceover, I’ll be a happy man.
You can – and should – watch the game’s first trailer on their website.