In my younger years, there were two types of films I couldn’t stand: patriotic war films and westerns. These were the kind of movies that played on miserable, wet, half-term holiday afternoons when there was simply nothing else to watch. Obviously, as I’ve gotten older I’ve come to appreciate their historical contexts and individual charms. The reason I bring them up now, is because of what Red Dead Redemption did.
Red Dead Redemption made westerns cool.
Developed by Rockstar San Diego and published by Rockstar North on May 18th 2010, Red Dead Redemption remains one of Rockstar’s most popular titles. I’d never played a Rockstar game prior to picking up Red Dead, but I’m glad I gave it a chance, as it remains one of my favourite games of all time.
Believe it or not, Red Dead Redemption is actually a spiritual sequel to a little known PS2 game called Red Dead Revolver. Set on the Western Frontier during the early 20th century, Red Dead Redemption follows the tale of ex-outlaw John Marston and his quest to hunt down and kill his old gang in a bid to gain reprieve for his past crimes. I won’t give much away but the game’s story takes a classic western tale of the search for redemption and twists it into a narrative that explores everything from the birth of modernism, government corruption, hopeless revolutions and more.
There’s a reason why this game is remembered so fondly. Its varied cast of characters, its surprisingly sophisticated story, its authentic western atmosphere, its addictive and immersive gameplay, all of these elements come together to make a truly amazing experience.
Possibly the game’s greatest feat is its atmosphere: the use of the soundtrack is ingenious, it really helps set the tone for an adventure in the old west. The game’s art style is gritty, dirty and yet scenes when you’re riding through giant canyons or midnight deserts just overwhelm you with incredible beauty. The world feels so alive and genuine: from the boarder of Mexico to the fictional state of New Austin, it’s all there to explore.
The gameplay is the usual Rockstar fair, which is not to say that it isn’t good, but it doesn’t blow you away. The story missions usually involve travelling somewhere or watching an event take place and responding to it. The game’s combat still holds up very well with its use of AI keeping you on your toes and the dead eye technique (slowing down time and selecting targets to shoot) is still fun to use. Aside from story missions, just like most Rockstar titles the rest of the game is made up of exploring, collecting and playing mini-games. All of this stays fresh for a surprisingly long time, You’ll be able to spend an obscene amount of hours collecting herbs. This is because the atmosphere is so tangible: what might be boring in most games feel enjoyable here.
There is some argument to be had surrounding some uncomfortable racial stereotypes and some unsavoury content involving prostitutes, but this seems to be a recurring theme with Rockstar, and it doesn’t sully the game as a whole.
Shortly after the games release the DLC expansion pack Undead Nightmare came out and like the main game is well worth purchasing. Undead Nightmare is more of a bizarre ‘what if’ scenario than a continuation of Red Dead’s story. You once again play John Marston but this time rather than battling outlaws, he’s taking on zombies, of course. For such a tired concept Undead Nightmare really excels. It knows how stupid it is and runs with it. Again, the game has amazing atmosphere, sometimes even succeeding in being quite scary. For the amount of content you get it’s well worth dropping a few extra pounds and getting it. Or, just grab a copy of Red Dead Redemption’s Game of the Year edition which currently sells for around £15-£20 depending on which version you’re getting.
So, you haven’t played it yet, I couldn’t recommend it enough. Happy 5th birthday Red Dead Redemption.
Red Dead Redemption was created by Rockstar and distributed by Rockstar Games.
Imaged credited to gearnuke.com