‘Red Dead Redemption’ First Look

Rockstar Games has mastered the art of the open-world game with “Grand Theft Auto,” but they always seem to be up for a challenge. In this case, it’s to make an excellent video game set in the Wild West, which no one has really done before. There have been good Western games, but nothing that’s managed to stay in the public eye for all that long. “Red Dead Redemption” is hoping to change all that.

The Basics
“Red Dead Redemption” stars John Marston, an ex-outlaw who has since settled down with his family to live in peace. His past isn’t so easy to escape from, however, as he’s quickly blackmailed by a federal agency known as The Bureau (forbearers of the FBI) and sent off to track down the former members of his gang. Like “GTA,” the good guys aren’t always the ones wearing white, and like any good Wild West story, it’s every man for himself. The game takes place in the first decade of the 20th century (so pre-cars, but post-trains and the telegraph).

The Highs
Wide Open Spaces: The world of “Red Dead Redemption” is massive…larger even than “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.” It’ll be split up across 3 specific regions, but apart from an start-up, there will be no load screens when travelling to different locales. The three areas will be The Frontier (more traditional Wild West), Mexico and The North (which is a bit more mountainous).

Variety = Fun: There’s a lot to do in the world of “RDR” apart from the main story missions. There are card games (natch), as well as some more eclectic gambling, like the old “Don’t hit your fingers with a knife as you stab really fast on a table” game.

Epic Campaign Missions: I saw a few of the game’s story missions, and they seemed on par with the cinematic nature of the GTA series. One had John on horseback, defending a train from Mexican banditos. In another he had to rush into a ghost town to save a girl that’s about to be hanged (shooting out the rope in the nick of time).

Random Encounters: Similar to “Fallout 3,” while you’re riding around the massive world, you’ll come upon random events such as carriage heists and mountain lion attacks. It’s up to you to intervene, and depending on how you carry yourself you’ll gain more “Fame” in the world, which will change the way people react to you.

The Lows
Pop-in and Visuals: The game is set to release in 2010, so there’s still a ton of time to clean things up, but currently the game is looking a little rough around the edges. The character models are solid, but the landscape looks a little low-rez and there appears to be a lot of pop-in on the horizon. Again, there’s little doubt that these issues will be fixed in the final version, but it’s something to keep an eye on.

Final Word
“Red Dead Redemption” is looking extremely promising and the recent delay of the game to 2010 shows that Rockstar really wants to take its time with this one. We still don’t have details on the game’s multiplayer functionality (other than that it exists), but you can be sure we’ll be seeing a lot more of “RDR” in the coming months.