Red Dead Redemption Hands On Preview28 Jan 2010
Rockstar can’t make bad games, something I am becoming more and more convinced everytime I see Red Dead Redemption.John Marston is your character, and he’s a reformed outlaw living in at the end of the wild west era. It’s a strange time, and Marston, who’s now married and has a son, doesn’t want to go back to his previous life after his so-called gang friends abandoned and left him for dead. But unfortunately the Bureau (later to be known as the FBI) comes a-knockin’ and commission Marston to bring his ex-gang mates to justice. When I say commission, I mean threaten to kill his family. It’s nice to know the Bureau’s methods have changed since then…Now, before we go into the mechanics of the game, let’s just talk about how gorgeous the game world actually is. It’s impressive, and really does capture the feeling of the wilderness and vast open landscapes, as with Rockstar’s other open-world games. There are hills, mountains and other interesting and challenging landscapes to explore, complete with dynamic wildlife. The best thing about these open spaces is they’re so huge you can easily lose yourself in them – and if you do lose yourself, then you’re in more trouble than you may expect. Coyotes will stalk you, vultures will circle you and bears might just attack you, so your wits have to be kept about you at all times.But attention to the time period has also been paid, with political and industrial efforts at the forefront of this changing face of America. In the first mission, I was helping the Mexican Army suppress a rebel faction, pushing them back to their hideout, and then killing them all once they were cornered. Shooting the rebels seemed to be a straight-forward affair, and with guns varying from pistols to double barrel shotguns, the mechanic proved to be a pleasure; even moreso when there are numerous enemies around you and you can just start picking them off with ease.This became more apparent in the next mission, where I was tasked with helping a farmer save his daughter from a gang who’d kidnapped her. On the approach to the prison it became clear that although Red Dead uses the same button mapping as the GTA games, this was no GTA game. Not only were the enemies extremely intelligent and efficient, but the story could change depending on the outcome of the mission. Luckily, I had managed to shoot the bandits and save the girl, with little help from the father, but I later learned that had the father died or the daughter died, it would have had an effect on my honour and fame bars.Fame is something you pick up when you complete missions, or “side-quests” for want of a better phrase. It doesn’t matter if you do good or bad: your fame or notoriety will constantly grow. Depending on how you deal with missions, your level of fame will increase proportionally. If you’re after a morality-esque system, then you’ll find your honour bar will fulfil that desire, but this doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to play the game differently through bad and good paths – instead, you’ll find that doing better things will afford you more opportunity to get better prices on weapons, ammo or accessories, or that you’ll be able to trade in goods for a more favourable price. Ultimately, your job stays the same: bringing in the outlaws you used to roll with.A good example of this was one mission in which I was in search of a man called Bill Williamson. Now, the Bureau had said they wanted him dead or alive, and when I opted to catch him alive by shooting him the leg, I was given more honour points than I would have had if I’d killed him.Yes, I shot him in the leg. Pretty good shooting, I know, and this was even before the use of the bullet-marking system Rockstar has put in place (which becomes available later on in the game). Almost like bullet-time in Max Payne and VATS in Fallout 3, the marking system allows you to slow time down and mark your enemies’ body parts so that you unleash a splatter of bullets from whatever gun you’re holding. This can be really helpful if you don’t necessarily want to kill your enemy. It’s also fun to try and see just how many bullets you can pump into one body. It can also be used tactically; you can shoot the leg of a running horse, or shoot the weapon out of an opponent’s hand to confuse the enemies – which makes it a lot easier for you to then either finish the job or hogtie them with your lasso…And the lasso is great fun. It can be used on anything that can be lassoed. I spent the last part of my hands-on just lassoing and hogtying enemies, leaving them on the ground moaning. And then I’d shoot them in the face.The world is absolutely huge – the biggest Rockstar has done, according to the representative I was sitting with – and we’ve been promised that you won’t run out of things to do. For example, there are a list of challenges you can complete while you’re roaming the wilderness, like killing five birds, or five rabbits, or finding all the bandit hideouts. Whether or not that will tie into the Achievement and trophy systems has yet to be determined, but right now it’s daunting to look at the scale of the map and realise just how big it is, with seemingly nothing to do in it. The towns are far and few between, and Rockstar have been careful not to keep all the action in the town.Not only is Red Dead Redemption a beautiful looking game, it’s also a game which hopes to embody that feeling of the real end of the wild west period, during a really interesting time in the States. Ultimately, though, it’s not the politics or the era that will draw you in, but the gameplay and the characters, which we’ve seen time and time again that Rockstar can do. The attention to little details – the ecosystems around you, the way you interact with the environment and the things you can do – are all reasons Red Dead Redemption looks and feels amazing thus far. How we’ll find this massive world when we’re finally let loose on it has yet to be seen and we’re hoping there’ll be enough to do, but if our time with the game is anything to go by, then we’re going to be just fine.