Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Red Dead Redemption

I should start a website called "The Poor Gamer," where I review videogames a year or two after they come out, since I only buy and play and comment on used games I buy after the price has come way down. Anyway, I picked up Red Dead Redemption a little while ago, Rockstar's open-world Western game, and it's ok.

That isn't to say it's bad, of course, just that it isn't the second-coming of Christ, as some videogame reviewers would have you believed, delivered from on high by God himself, and placed into the hands of gamers everywhere to bring peace to the face of the world. Then again, I'm not a professional game reviewer, so I don't assign seemingly arbitrary scores to games like "93.7" or some such nonsense. I tend to grade games by three different ranks: Great, ok, or bad. A great game is one that is, well, great, and keeps me hooked and coming back to play again and again, for weeks or months at a time. An ok game is fun, but maybe missing something or has some weird design choices, or just lacking in something that keeps me from really getting hooked. And a bad game is one that just isn't any fun, so I won't play it. Red Dead Redemption was just ok. I like it and respect the hell out of it, but it's just missing that crucial x factor that makes me really want to play it all the time, no matter what. At this point, I keep playing it because I bought it and because I don't mind it. You know, it's ok.

Graphically, however, it's extraordinary. This may, in fact, be the best looking game I've ever played. From the moment it begins and your cowboy main character steps off the train into a town straight out of the wild west, I was enthralled by the visual splendor. The character designs and animations are detailed and fluid and incredibly lifelike. The buildings -- both in and out -- are gorgeous and perfectly capture the feel of the old west. And the landscapes, from the rolling hills to the windswept deserts to the roaring rivers, were impeccably designed and brought to life. This game is so beautiful, I actually took a video of it with my ipod just so I could share some of the sweeping vistas:

The game itself, however, is just a little lacking. It's basically Grand Theft Auto with cowboys instead of gangsters, or maybe something closer to Grand Theft Horse and Carriage. The controls feel the same (and are just as wacky and obtuse), the structure is identical, and the tongue in cheek dialogue and quirky point of view is the same. The only real differences between this Rockstar game and their more famous one (other than the change to a Western setting) is that this time around there is a bit more of a penalty for breaking the law, since your fame and honor meeting goes down, effecting the gameplay, and also because the main character is now some kind of honorable man with a wife and kids back home who doesn't want to break the law or sleep with all of the hookers populating the game's saloons. Where's the fun in that?

He does kill bad guys, however, which is often very fun, even though the targeting system feels awkward, just like it did in GTA 4. Horseback riding has some wonderful animation and great sound effects, but it gets old real fast, since there is so much of it, the world is so expansive, and because it's just not that much fun. Your character can also join various poker games around town, which is a lot of fun and where I seem to spend most of my time. It seems silly that I'm spending most of my time in a videogame having my character play a card game, but there you go. It's actually a very fun and well done poker simulator.

The game is fun in small doses, since the western setting is so perfectly realized, the graphics are outstanding, and some of the missions are ok (the ones that involve shooting people), even if they all tend to blur together and get tedious as you go on. Still, it's worth checking out of only for how cool it is to ride your horse into the sunset as an old train engine whizzes by. But it's just ok.


Justin Garrett Blum said...

"I should start a website called 'The Poor Gamer,'..."

I wish there weren't such a glut of video game websites out there and that you could actually make money reviewing games. Otherwise, I'd say we should totally make that site.

Justin Garrett Blum said...

heh. Somebody actually bought the domain name (though you can still have .net if you want it!). When you go there, it just redirects you to Google.