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Red Dead Redemption
From: Rockstar
For: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Genre: Action, Adventure, Sandbox
ESRB Rating: Mature (17+)
Red Dead Redemption
Though Red Dead Redemption plays like a modern Grand Theft Auto set in the Old West, it's not nearly as derivative as that sounds; it's a completely new and completely awesome Western experience.
Posted May 24, 2010
In Red Dead Redemption, you play as John Marston, a Clint Eastwood-ish gunslinger with shady motives and typical anti-hero tendencies, but ultimately evolved to a custom self based on the player's predilections and personal inclinations.

A wide open, go-anywhere, do-anything "sandbox" game in the tradition of modern Grand Theft Auto games - not a knock-off, but a new, original game from the very same developers that started the whole "sandbox" thing - there is simply a TON of stuff to see and do.

There are the standard story missions, of course, and the obligatory side quest missions to puff those out. But there are also great gobs of mini-games-within-the-game, including poker, blackjack and the timeless ditty known five-finger-fillet (where you jab a knife between your splayed-out fingers with as much repetitive rapidity as possible).

For your meandering go-anywhere, do-anything efforts, there are treasures to be found, herbs to be collected, animals to be hunted and so on, all of it providing with you with repute as well as money to spend on new weapons and ammunition. Such self-guided adventures and the missions themselves - a slapdash, poorly-reasoned, often-nonsensical gaggle of the go fetch such-and-such, go capture the escaped prisoner, go rescue the distressed damsel and so on - are always beset by random events like run ins with bears and banditos, townsfolk and riff raff that may or may not help you level up with the "fame" and "honor."

Oh, and there be duels. Too cool.

Thus, even if you're just trying to plow through the game as a campaign (or series of campaigns) it never really feels like one; just you living the life of a gunslinger/bounty hunter/Clint Eastwooder in a particularly action-packed waning-wild-wild-west; a dynamic, breathing world with you in it, man-on-a-mission or otherwise.

There is so much to do, the challenge is not to stay entertained, but to remember what tasks you were suppose to be doing, or where you were suppose to be going before that deer ran across your path or that pack of wolves started chasing you over the hill and you got side-tracked.

Red Dead Redemption looks amazing. You can go everywhere you can see and, importantly, you can see a lot - horizon's the limit - and there are no load times as you travel from one area to the next, the games just flows. Aurally, the soundtrack has that distinctive Western/Mancini thing going on while sound effects, beyond the bang bang of guns and explosives, the industrious cacophony of steam trains, the thunder of sons-of-bitches-on-horseback, are highly nuanced and the howl of a coyote, the growl of a cougar and the rattle of a rattlesnake come off as eerily authentic, completing the completely beautiful experience.

Controls can be a little frustrating at first, mind you, as the weapon "quick switch" feature isn't really quick at all - particularly noticeable when you ride up on a thief and he's shooting you in the face with a shotgun and you realize you have your lasso equipped… oops.

Online, Red Dead Redemption puts a nice little twist on multiplayer. Instead of just offering the predictable "our posse vs your posse," capture the flag or elimination type shooter-fests, online allows you to do missions co-operatively, where you and some friends can go hunting, infiltrate gang hideouts or just explore the sandbox that is the wide open wild west.

And more to that, other online components include the Social Club feature, where challenges are regularly added and your score is compared to other Social Club members who have done the same challenge.

Really, Red Dead Redemption has something for everybody, enough variation that if you're tired of banging out story mission after story mission you just hang the proverbial "gone fishin'" sign... and go hunting. All that is required is a lot of time, making Red Dead Redemption an easily recommended must-have purchase before even a try-before-you-buy rental, which would barely scratch the surface of the game's deep and rewarding, other-life potential.

    Red Dead Redemption Tip: When starting out, you'll want to focus on doing all of Bonnie's ascribed missions until you do the one where you're given a lasso. You'll earn twice as much money capturing people rather then just shooting them dead, and you can't capture people alive without the lasso.

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Bang for your buck:
Great Rental 
Excellent New Purchase 
Excellent Pre-played 
Excellent Bargain-bin Buy 

Score:  4.75  (out of 5)