Action Open-World Review

Red Dead Redemption – Review | Gonna Paint Yer Wagon

Back before gamers had to purchase Grand Theft Auto V over and over again, Rockstar Games were known for putting out various high-quality action games, Bully and Max Payne 3 for example. One series, that bizarrely started life under Capcom’s watchful eye, won the hearts of edgy kids and western loving fathers everywhere with the second “Red Dead” title, Red Dead Redemption. Cowfolk have been clamoring to see the town of Armadillo again, and Rockstar has finally taken note and re-released Red Dead Redemption on Nintendo Switch and Playstation 4. Saddle up cowboy, it’s hunting time.

Red Dead Redemption - Western Town

Wanna Be A Cowboy Baby?

Red Dead Redemption is the tale of the outlaw John Marsden, who has seemingly hung up his life as a “free man” and is working for the Government. “The Man” wants John to use his well-honed gunslinging skills and connections to track down members of his old outlaw gang, starting with Bill Williamson.

John is a bit more of a civilized modern man and thinks Bill would be more receptive to memory lane than a bullet to the brain. Bill on the other hand has no time for John and his big words, and adds more than a few holes to poor John’s body.  As luck would have it, a few locals heard the commotion and managed to patch John back together, thus starting this spaghetti western story of betrayal, bullets, and bar fights with just about every Western trope you and your ranch could ever need!

Red Dead Redemption was the title that cemented Rockstar as cinematic masters. As good as previous titles were, Red Dead Redemption manages to hit just about every emotion, every unexpected twist, and grab the player. This is also magnified if you go into this after playing Red Dead Redemption 2, which is a prequel that has you play as a member of the gang John is now hunting.

John is an incredibly likable character. You’ll meet all sorts of characters on your quest, including vile government men who make you wonder who the real bad guys are, and bizarre one-time side characters. Brilliantly, every character feels natural and believable within the Wild West setting.

While the main narrative is fantastic, there are also many side stories which expand on the world and John’s character, as well offering either comedic relief or being quite dark at points. A true narrative spectrum.

Red Dead Redemption - Story Scene

Remember Body Harvest?

Red Dead Redemption is a Third-Person Open World adventure, as expected from the developers who somewhat pioneered the genre with titles such as Body Harvest on the Nintendo 64, and a niche series called Grand Theft Auto.

You’re given a giant Wild West map with free reign over where you go to a point. Later parts of the map become accessible as you progress the story, and while you can technically access the full map from the get-go, the game slaps with you a “Wanted Dead or Alive” notoriety status if you venture to a later area. The NPCs become rather bounty hungry when they see that.

You have main story missions signposted on your map and minimap. These progress the narrative along, gradually opening up more of the map, and unlocking new features and abilities for John to use to help him hunt down his old crew. The main missions tend to have more set pieces and stories compared to the many “Stranger Stories”, which act as side quests and usually provide resources and interesting little tales that don’t quite have a place in this tale of redemption.

Red Dead Redemption - Shooting Enemies

Dead Eye Ringer

Controls are simple and intuitive, you’ll be riding your stallion and lassoing the local crime gang in no time. Should you forget the more complex controls, the game does remind you at the time what to press.

One of the iconic features of the Red Dead series is the “Dead Eye” feature. This allows you to slow time down to a crawl and target body parts to shoot at as soon as you come out of it. Successful shots in real-time, and items such as herbs, can increase or regenerate your Dead Eye meter. It is such a lifesaver in some of the more hectic shoot outs.

There are plenty of weapons to find throughout the world, either purchased or relocated by force from a previous owner, and they all have a beautiful authenticity and kick to them. As cool as the six-shooters are, you’ll soon learn that they aren’t the tool for every job.

Should the stranger stories or the main quest tire you out, there are also many mini-games ranging from poker to treasure hunting, horse rearing, five finger filet, and horseshoes to keep you suitably distracted while your prey dies of old age. Fight smart not hard Mr Marston.

Bountiful Bounty

Speaking of prey, the Wild West has plenty for you to hunt, either to craft new items or for sport. There are many challenges such as “hunt x amount of animals”, and these offer your character buffs when completed. Just a little more content for you to work through.

For further immersion there is the Honor system. Just because John was an outlaw doesn’t make him an animal. Actions such as mugging people, harming women, and randomly killing people give you negative honor, whereas doing “the right thing” nets you rewards like extra pay in jobs and generally less hostile townsfolk.

Red Dead Redemption has quite a slow start, but soon kicks into gear and takes you on a wild journey of around 20 or so hours, many more should you decide to do everything. You can then add even more to that thanks to the Undead Nightmare expansion, which you can jump into at any time.

Cowboys, Zombies, Bears, Oh My

Undead Nightmare sees John towards the end of the main narrative, having to take on hordes of zombies across the map as a mysterious virus has taken hold. It’s not gripping in the same way the main story is, but there is still enough charm and character there to keep you engaged throughout and it stops the pack feeling thrown together.  Back when this was released Rockstar did push out the boat with its DLC packs. This isn’t just a case of slapping zombies into the game and calling it a day.

Undead Nightmare is more of a story addition with the inclusion of zombie enemies. It doesn’t add much in the way of gameplay aside from making resources a little more scarce, and having a torch as a weapon to burn the undead hordes to stop them from feasting on your brains. Still, it’s a hefty expansion and there isn’t much better than the combination of Western and Horror in my humble opinion!

This port is missing the online multiplayer which is a shame, especially for people who haven’t had the chance to experience it. Aside from that, this is the complete Red Dead Redemption experience, ideal for those chasing nostalgia and those who have only been in Arthur Morgan’s boots and wondered what comes next.

Beautiful Yet Rugged

Red Dead Redemption is a beautiful game, but very representative at times of the generation of consoles it released on. While some tidying up of assets has been done this is a by-the-books port of the game and its content, rather than that much clamored for “Remaster”. Considering the case of the GTA Trilogy, this may just have been the right move.

The game can look downright beautiful as the sun is creeping over the mountains and the stream runs by while you watch a train in the distance. The calm moments pierce through in a game that can, more often than not, be quite chaotic.

The character models are incredibly hit-and-miss, sometimes they look fine and other times they feel like they were imported from a different game. Despite running on the same engine as GTA IV I don’t feel the animations were quite as good as in that title either.

The frame rate was a near-consistent 30fps with only minimal drops, and I didn’t experience a single crash. My only issue was screen tearing, which happened quite a bit. I’ve always been sensitive to it and it got on my nerves throughout.

Sound is outstanding here. Guns carry an echo in open areas, animals cry out, and the many characters you’ll come across are all fantastically voice-acted, especially our lead John Marsden who manages to be one of the most charming playable characters in gaming. There isn’t a plethora of licensed songs here, but the music is well-placed when it kicks in and helps you live out a true The Good, Bad, And The Ugly fantasy.

Red Dead Redemption - Riding Horses


Red Dead Redemption is hailed as one of the best games ever made, as is its sequel, and this is a strong reminder as to why. It’s aged brilliantly and is easily a game I would suggest everyone needs to play.

Sadly, the lack of multiplayer and the higher price tag do seem to be sticking points for some. But with the sheer amount of content and quality, it still offers fair value for an unmissable gaming experience.


Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PS4

Looking for more action games? Check out our review of BlazBlue: Entropy Effect.

Many thanks go to Rockstar Games for providing a Nintendo Switch review code for this title.

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