Since the dawn of video games, companies have tried to make a good Wild West experience in digital form. From Outlaw, Stampede, Mad Dog McCree, and Badlands, to Wild Arms, Darkwatch, Dead Man’s Hand, and GUN, some have been good, and some have been little more than horse pucky. Grand Theft Auto masterminds Rockstar Games even took a stab at the genre when they picked up Capcom’s cancelled Red Dead Revolver and reworked it into a spaghetti western – which garnered a relatively faithful fan base. Rockstar is returning to the saddle once again and releasing Red Dead Redemption, and from what I’ve seen so far, gamers might not want to holster their six-shooters just yet.
Starting fresh with Rockstar’s RAGE engine, Redemption is a much more ambitious project – one red-blooded Rockstar fans will appreciate. The world of Red Dead Redemption will be an open one, akin to Grand Theft Auto or Bully, and the territories will be made up of three new areas including the Frontier, Mexico, and the North – a Colorado/Wyoming type locale. Rockstar promises that everything you see you can ride to – mountain ranges, valleys, trails, deserts, and more. Not only that, but as far as square miles, this will be the largest world Rockstar has ever crafted.
In development for a few years, Redemption will have nothing to do with the original, include all new characters, and will take place in a new time period - first decade of the 1900’s. During this time, The West is closing in around the outlaws and snuffing them out. The Government has formed the bureau of investigations - which later will become the Federal Bureau of Investigations – to regulate the Wild West. However, back then, the Bureau was just as brutal and vicious as the outlaws they faced. There was a very grey area of what was good and evil back then, which suits our new lead character – John Marston – just fine.
Marston used to ride with a nasty band of outlaws, but after making a boat-load of cash, he hung up his pistols and settled down and built a farm and is raising a family with his wife. That is until the Bureau shows up and gives him an ultimatum where he has to hunt down his old gang. Determined to keep his family freedoms safe, he sets out to conquer these tasks so he can return home and back to normalcy.
Much like a Grand Theft Auto, the game will be mission based, and we were privy to a variety of different missions including a prisoner exchange gone wrong, a stage coach escape, fire-fights, and more. The action was seemingly fast paced and quite exciting, seeing Marston diving in and out of cover, targeting enemies, and saving prisoners.
Combat has been overhauled, and Redemption now utilizes a cover system where Marston can blind fire. The Dead Eye system will return, where gamers will be able to slow down time, mark a number of targets, and then fire off a number of rounds in rapid succession. Once you unlock Dead Eye, you can now use it with your rifle as well as your revolver. As you progress through the game and upgrade Dead-Eye, you’ll be able to mark up to six different targets with one handed firearms showing off the true prowess of a ruthless marksman.
Not surprisingly, the game will be pretty bloody, and to appease the Jack Thompsons of the world, will be rated M. Marston will be able to target and shoot a guy’s limbs off, or blow off an enemy’s Stetson. On the stage coach battle the demoer unloaded a barrage of bullets into a horse’s head instead of taking out the cowboy, relegating the horse into giblets of cat food, collapsing the beast and rider. Pretty awesome, indeed.
Weaponry will vary from different pistols and rifles, and each will have a different level of accuracy and stopping power. Horses will be your main mode of transportation although your trusty steed can be killed. You can buy more from town, steal them (horse jacking!), or even lasso one in from the wild, break it and it’s yours. There will also be stage coaches, steam trains, and steam boats, which we’re going to bargain will be the faster way to travel across longer stretches of land.
Redemption’s open world will feature seamless interiors and exteriors, and, much like old-west films, you’ll be able to roll into a house, and shoot through windows. With the new cover system, this will be pretty nifty. Saloon moments will surely get you reaching for your Young Guns soundtrack to kick out some Jovi. But towns aren’t just for combat, and will allow you to do numerous things such as sell the pelts of animals you killed, buy new weaponry, and play saloon games such as poker and five finger fillet. Rockstar is promising a lot to do in the world, much like their better known franchises.
Exploring the world is highly encouraged, and the game will incorporate a dynamic event system including hundreds of events like train and stage coach robberies, pumas attacking travelers, or stranded settlers on the side of the road. You’ll have the option of helping or hindering a situation, and while Rockstar won’t be getting all KOTOR on your ass where you’ll take a good or evil path, a new notoriety system will come into play where what you do in the world will effect how people react to you. It won’t affect what kind of missions you do, but it will change how people relate to you and how you interact with them, or how you approach a situation or problem.
Even though we didn’t actually get to play the game, we’re rather quite impressed with how Red Dead Redemption is shaping up. Granted, the music, dialog, and many facets of the game weren’t shown – including the multiplayer and dueling system, the game looks pretty damn good. Rockstar is billing this as the Grand Theft Auto of the Wild West, and while that’s quite a lofty bar to set for a Wild West game – let alone any title - I’ll be dropping quite a few Yeehaws in the office if they are successful.