There were those who doubted that Rockstar could improve further on the legacy it set with the Grand Theft Auto series (myself included), but lo and behold! - once again Rockstar has delivered with an explosive and impressive open-world action-adventure that will undoubtedly go down as one of the best Western's in gaming history.
Red Dead Redemption is an American Western based in 1911; the Wild West is in its "endangered" days, and like most things in their final hours of glory, the American West is portrayed in a most brilliant array. In the single-player campaign mode you will get to play as two characters. The first is John Marston, who is a retired outlaw who finds himself being exploited by the powers-to-be in government (due to his history as an outlaw and partner of a particular target of interest) and is set off on the obligatory task of hunting down an old "friend" from his past so that he (John) may be safely reunited with his family. In the latter part of the game you will get to play as the second character, Jack, John Marston's son. To avoid giving away any spoilers, I will not elaborate on Jack's role in the game. The story is compelling and robust in nature, transitioning from one scenario to another (and from John to his son Jack) in a such a fluid manner that it makes one wonder if Red Dead Redemption was actually at some point a fully-scripted movie before it was abruptly converted into a game. This free-roam action-adventure features a large roaming area (map) centered around the town of Armadillo in what is most likely New Mexico or Texas (given that part of the map includes Mexico just south of where you start).
The single-player campaign is filled with hours of gun-wielding, self-indulging game-play, whether it's through the main campaign or the random-but-addicting side-quests; the story never leaves you bored or wanting more, and always keeps you running (or galloping) through canyons and across prairies for some form of violent and bloody redemption. Fast-travel available via stagecoaches that are located in various settlements around the map and there is an arsenal of weapons and "tools of the trade" available at your disposal including sniper rifles, revolvers, lassoes', repeater rifles', shotguns' and more.... much more. You get to ride horses of all breeds, chariots, stagecoaches, and other forms of transportation on which you can either be the primary rider, or passenger riding shotgun; in both cases you can shoot with whatever weapon you fancy as you speed across dangerous and bumpy plateaus'.
The health-system in the game is a lot like the Gears of War or Rainbow Six series in which if you take damage, your screen will turn red with some sign of which direction you are taking direction from; if you take too much damage, the screen will continue to get redder with blood until you die, but if you take cover, your character will gradually recover until the screen is clear (of blood) again. There is a stamina bar for any mode-of-transportation you commandeer in the game, and for good reason too as it makes the various races you are bound to take part in a lot more challenging and exciting. The stamina bar that is in-play while riding steeds also adds to the suspense of evading bands of war mongering gangs who are bound to chase you on more than one occasion during your campaign. These routine engagements with bandits are made more interesting and desirable with a unique feature called "Dead-Eye" which is essentially a targeting system that slows down time, allowing you to make precision strikes with your firearm on various parts of your opponents body. Through this feature it is possible for you to shoot a gun out of your opponent's hand during a duel (yes, there are duels!), or even shoot their hat off without actually shooting them in the head (for which there are in-game challenges and achievement points for doing).
There is also the "Honor" points system which will bring back memories of "Knights of the Old Republic" as Red Dead Redemption is a game in which you get to control your social environment with the actions you chose to take (even inaction is a choice in this game and will lead to various consequences). If you help a stranger or chose the moral high ground in a quest, you gain honor points; likewise, if you lasso prostitutes and shoot random strangers in bars, you will lose honor points. There is a clear advantage in having a lot of fame in the game as it equals lower costs at stores like the doctor's office, general store, and weapon smith. High honor also makes it easier to pay off marshals outside of town if you have committed a crime and makes citizens less likely to look the other way when you decide to do questionable acts such as dropping a lassoed stranger off your horse and shooting them in the leg on the outskirts of town. Likewise, having poor honor makes you deal with higher prices in stores and more suspicious and irritable marshals. But for anyone who has played Knights of the old Republic, you know how easy and desirable it is to be a very morally destitute individual sometimes.... So if you do decide you want to have a quick and temporary swing over to the dark side, there are in-game cheats available that allow you to go on a killing spree with infinite ammo and invincibility - the perfect combination for any uninhibited and unabated blood-letting rampage. I would suggest that you not indulge in the in-game cheats too often for any extended duration of time for the following reasons: 1) it will probably raise some sort of red flag with your family and friends; but more importantly 2) the lack of danger to your life and the nonexistent possibility of death will at some point kill the replay of value even the best games.
Continuing on with game-play, there are those few tedious moments that can make the game drag, such as the instances where you find yourself hunting game in the wild. You will need to do this on horse-back for the most part since it requires roaming large areas of wilderness in order to find a straggling pair of deer here and there. While hunting prey, there is a lot of getting on and off your horse to skin animals that you have just shot since you can only skin them while you are on foot. This can get annoying since you are most likely on the horse when you shoot your prey as many of the animals such as deer move too fast to chase on foot (unless you use Dead Eye). Also, it is rare to make more than 2 kills right next to each other and equally hard to find a large herd of animals gathered together close enough to make it enjoyable. However annoying it may be at times, hunting animals is a worthwhile venture as it is essential to completing a variety of challenges as well as making money; the pelts you skin off various animals will bring you a good amount of cash at the general store. There are also a few random glitches in the game when crouching in brambles or looting corpses but nothing that takes away from the awesomeness of the game in any way.
There is also the highly interactive Multiplayer mode that features various game types including one called "Free Roam" which brings out the "Wild" in the Wild West theme of the game. The online "Free Roam" is a truly free, fun-filled experience in which you can team up with friends and strangers alike to take on a variety of challenges that range from hunting down wild boars and ravenous wolves to clearing a canyon of menacing bandits. You will also get to shoot it out with other players online either as a lone gunman or as part of a gang. The online multiplayer experience will only get better as Rockstar is set to release new and free downloadable content (DLC) called "Outlaws to the End" on June 22nd, 2010 which will include a host of new co-op side missions as well as other exciting treats. In providing a significant add-on such as this new DLC for free (especially in a time when expansions/add-ons come at a minimum price of $5.00), it shows that Rockstar is really willing to go above and beyond in offering a one-of-a-kind game-playing experience.
Red Dead Redemption's storyline is fluid, the gameplay is clean, the visuals are breathtaking, and the sound effects are exhilarating. As for the audio dialogue... it is superb in and delivered in a way that brings life and authenticity to this awe-inspiring game and the well-conceived world in which it thrives. In addition to this, Red Dead Redemption's (in-game) Original Sound Track is composed perfectly for this American Western; just like a great composition compliments a great movie, such is the case with this game.
In conclusion, Rockstar Games have really taken their open-world gaming capabilities to the next level with this offering, making this Western stand out from all its competition within the action-adventure genre. This is truly a must-buy.