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Red Dead Redemption: Final Smack

Red Dead Redemption is maybe the best game Rockstar has made in terms of raw quality. It is definitely an evolution from the GTA style open-world game and it features a story with actual emotional depth. It’s an impressive feat and a good game overall. But this is marred by some bad design decisions and a really frustrating middle section that brings out the same standard problems of all the GTAs. And perhaps more importantly, other games, notably Fallout 3, have gone much further in terms of open world design, and so as much as an advance on the old model Red Dead may be, it’s still feels outdated compared with what other companies such as Bethesda and BioWare have done to transform open-world play. Details within.


– The story is actually quite good. John Marston is a genuinely compelling character and most of the major NPCs are believable and interesting. There are a few fallbacks on stereotypes from the bad old days, but by and large there is care in moving the story beyond cliche and video game cheesiness. In particular, the end of the game is a pretty incredible bit of interactive narrative in a few ways.

– Landscapes are gorgeous, full stop. The artists in this game are generally good, and the models are acceptable in terms of their creepiness and stiffness. But the landscapes take the prize here. Nothing makes you feel like you are in the Old West more than the wide open skies and twinkling stars. It is absolutely worth it to ride around in the wilderness for a couple of minutes to realize just how perfectly Rockstar has captured the spirit of the frontier in this game.

– Gameplay is pretty solid throughout. Combat remains interesting for quite a while, although it does get repetitive towards the end. But there are also lots of different kinds of activities from wrangling to herding to poker to Gatling guns to races, there is enough variety that you are regularly seeing new things.


– Mexico sucks. The missions are far too far apart and it takes forever to get from place to place. The narrative is way too caught up in a political subplot that has no place in the overall story of the Western gunslinger. The whole section is a slog, which is a real shame since there is some truly great stuff once you get past it.

– The old, horrible save structure from the GTA series returns. You only save at mission end and when you actively choose to at a save location. The awful scenario this creates is when you take a ten-minute ride across the landscape to get to a quest only to die halfway through and then respawn back across the country and having to redo the whole journey. This is not rocket science, Rockstar. Just let me save when I start ANY mission.

– The big issue is that the interactive parts of the narrative are based on an outdated model that disrupts the story. The most critical problem is that you can play your character as a good guy or a bad guy, but the plot doesn’t register these choices in the main plot, so John is often forced to do altruistic or evil things despite any consistent character the player has created through play. I constantly was forced to do things I found distasteful even though I was trying to be noble. This is something that Bethesda’s recent games have found the perfect pitch on.

– There are some bad mechanics, like the five-finger fillet, but honestly in a game with so many different mechanics, it’s unfair to pick on it for one or two weak ones.


Red Dead Redemption is a fun evocative game with a long slump in the middle and scattering of frustrating moments throughout. It’s a new mark for Rockstar’s open-world ideas, but it’s beat to the punch by innovations in other games. Still, I enjoyed the game a lot and if you like GTA, you will love this game. Worth a purchase if you are an open-world fan or want to play around in your favorite western. And if you do, hold on through the bad parts. The end is worth it.

Posted in Hardcore, Reviews.

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  1. Heath says

    I liked this game. It was a lot of fun. It was definitely over hyped. I don’t feel like it was leaps and bounds away from being GTA Horse.

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  2. shadow assasin says

    Its da best game ever. 3ven better than GTA.

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