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Submitted by Chris Leyton on May 28 2009 - 21:56

TVG takes an early look at Rockstar's majestic return tot he Wild West...

Rockstar Games takes a trip back to the Wild West with the recently announced (and slightly delayed) Red Dead Redemption, and from what we've seen things are already looking considerably different from the adventures of 'Red' back in 2004.

Following a montage of clips from a range of Western movies to give an indication of the style and influences Rockstar San Diego are drawing upon, we got our first glimpse of the game in action.  Now we're not exactly Western movie buffs (we didn't notice Clint Eastwood or John Wayne if that's worth anything), but we do feel that the Wild West provides the perfect setting for an enjoyable video game: guns, lawlessness, saloons,   what more could you want?  The original, Red Dead Revolver, was an enjoyable blast, but never intended to be more then that, whilst the less said about Activision's Gun the better.  With the sequel Rockstar are not only taking a switch to their favoured sandbox genre, but also a darker story with richer characters that will lift Red Dead Redemption closer to its masterpiece, GTA IV.  Niko's adventures in Liberty City set a new benchmark for what's possible with the highly versatile RAGE game engine, a standard that Rockstar is hoping to eclipse with Red Dead Redemption.

Set approximately 50 years after the events of Red Dead Revolver at the turn of the 19th century, Redemption takes place during a pivotal time in American history.  The onslaught of the industrial revolution and the establishment of a federal government has put the squeeze on the Wild West, establishing a setting that should provide for plenty of uncertainty and dramatic opportunities.  The star of the game, John Marston, is a character who shares much in common with Niko Bellic.  A partially reformed outlaw, who seeks to ditch his background in a ruthless gang and begin a new life with his young family.  Things are never so simple in a Rockstar title.  When posed with a horrific ultimatum by the Bureau (the origins of the FBI), Marston is pulled back into action.  Rockstar refused to elaborate beyond that, but we should expect considerably more depth than its predecessor's deliberate one-dimensional characters and spaghetti western aspirations.

Split into three different areas - Frontier, Plains, and Mexico - we're told that Red Dead Redemption is possibly the largest game Rockstar has ever undertaken; quite a statement when you consider the vastness of San Andreas.  But from our first glimpse we're inclined to believe them, it's certainly far larger and grander than GTA IV's Liberty City.  Despite the game being at a considerably early stage, we were instantly impressed by the visual style and presentation.  The sense of a vast game world is portrayed with beautiful vistas and embellished with numerous little details: heat haze creates the timeless Western feel as tumbleweed rolls across the barren landscape.  Cliffs looming on the distant horizon are there to be discovered, presenting a game world that almost begs to be explored.  Obviously there are no cars, helicopters, or planes to get from A to B, but we can expect plenty of horses, stagecoaches, and wagons as methods of transport to cross such epic landscapes.  Striving for such a vast game world is commendable, though it brings potential pitfalls, which fortunately Rockstar appears to be well on top of.  A beautiful, epic game world is one thing, but it's the turn of the 20th century, and if there's nothing but tumbleweed in between then it's not going to make for a very satisfying experience.  Rockstar San Diego is hoping to address such a potential dilemma with a couple of features identified during the demonstration.

Firstly, procedural events.  We saw numerous occasions when this kicked into play, ranging from coyotes preying on an old man, to a pack of cowboys charging past with a person tied up behind.  Another example showcased how much these should add to the overall experience, with a broken carriage and a seemingly desperate female occupant calling out for assistance.  No sooner had Marston stepped from his horse when a group of cowboys emerged from behind the carriage and a quick gunfight followed.  Rockstar assures us that these events are created entirely on-the-fly, which was supported by the fact that the events had been different every time they'd demonstrated the game.  These aren't necessarily just random events however, as we're told that your actions will influence the townsfolks' reactions in the various towns dotted across the landscape.  We didn't see this in action, but we're hopeful that it will provide a tangible link between the main storyline and the procedural events.

Another element that should ensure there's plenty of activity in the journey between missions is the fact that Rockstar San Diego has been working tirelessly to integrate a full ecology within the game.  Beyond the customary vultures circling above dead bodies, we also saw plenty of rattlesnakes and coyotes, alongside the promise of bears, cougars, wolves, armadillos, and rabbits.  It's survival of the fittest out there, with bigger animals preying on the smaller ones, most of which can be hunted by the player and skinned to sell at the various shops.

Animals, particularly the horses, also showcased the adaptations Rockstar San Diego has made to the physics based animation technology, NaturalMotion's Euphoria, which made a startling appearance in GTA IV.  The result not only brings horses that behave with the same conviction as Liberty City's citizens, but also the chance of flying spectacularly from your mount as the horse collapses with dramatic realism during gunfights.  There are many different breeds of horses to find, some will be faster, some will be stronger, and others will be more obedient.  They'll prefer a well worn path instead of hurting their hooves away from the beaten track, and can be spurred into running faster at the risk of a possible injury.  Such attention to what will be the main method of transport, highlights the efforts Rockstar San Diego is paying to every aspect of the game.

The first of three missions featured in the demonstration involved Marston trying to rescue a friend named Bonnie, who's been taken hostage in an exchange for a notorious prisoner.  With the local Marshall providing assistance, Marston discovers Bonnie tied in a noose and within a split-second the chair is kicked out beneath her and the somewhat inevitable set-up takes place.  Making a return form the original is the 'Dead Eye' mechanic, which temporarily slows down time to gain a little extra precision with any weapon featured in the game.  Alternatively the trusty pistol allows you to paint multiple targets on an opponent (as many bullets in the chamber) and pull the trigger to unleash a quick barrage of fire.  The frantic shootout also provided a look at the covering system, which promises to be much more fluid and useful then it was in Red Dead Revolver.  Marston had no problems taking cover behind a wide range of different sized objects, even those that are moving, we're reliably informed by a Rockstar representative.

Following a successful rescue, the demonstration rolled into the ramshackled town of Armadillo.  Unlike the wilderness, towns will be governed by a robust law system, which we suspect will play similarly to that of GTA IV's.  As the townsfolk go about their business, reacting to Marston based upon your actions, towns provide plenty of places to buy and sell your wares, and the chance to play the odd occasional mini-game.  '5 Fingered Fillet' is a test of reactions, the classic game of stabbing a knife between the fingers of an outstretched palm, mastered by Bishop in James Cameron's Aliens.  We also noted what seemed to be a drinking mini-game in the saloon, but never got the chance to see this in action. 

It wasn't long before we were coming to the assistance of a dodgy dealer, selling dubious snake oil to a disgruntled group of locals.  Stepping aboard his carriage, the challenge was to protect the merchant and his goods in a classic on-rails shooting section.  Although riding shotgun is an accustomed Rockstar experience, it provided plenty of opportunity to witness the evolved Euphoria technology in action.  Before the demonstration came to its conclusion we had one final mission to sample in Mexico.  Teaming up with the Mexican Army, Marston is challenged to protect the mail train on its route while riding on horseback.  Keeping up with the train while blasting the banditos from their horses was handled effectively by holding onto the A button.  It's difficult to form too much of an opinion on the missions until we actually get our hands on the game, but they appear to at least offer the customary levels of action and variety that we've come to expect from Rockstar.

Although it's early days, Red Dead Redemption is showing plenty of potential and should easily reach the standards of Rockstar's previous open-world efforts.  We didn't really get the chance to see too much of the game in action, but what we saw certainly left us craving for more.  Finally, a decent Western video game might be on the horizon.

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By: peterw

Added:Mon 08th Nov 2010 04:07, Post No: 171

If your games are lacking that zombie feel, "Red Dead Redemption" has you covered. The "Undead Nightmare" extension pack adds zombies to the game.The pack provides new tasks while turning the entire world into a zombie world. In slightly less than a month, a disk pack that allows "Undead Nightmare" to be played alone could be accessible for purchase.


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By: Anonymous

Added:Thu 28th Oct 2010 21:28, Post No: 170

lol have the people at the mental hospital taken the computer away from you, if not they need to, i havnt bought this games yet but by any means GOTY is out and only costs 30 bucks ??? oh you mean £$ well say £/$ then you stupid retard.


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By: Anonymous

Added:Thu 28th Oct 2010 19:44, Post No: 169

because you bought the game for 60 bucks and paid an additional 30 for the dlc, that is milking.

optional you bought it and killed bigfoot omg how cool. a new game already its called agent lets go.


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By: Anonymous

Added:Thu 28th Oct 2010 10:45, Post No: 168

so how are they milking our pockets dry, DLC is optional you know you dont have to buy it lol yet another retard with no inteligence.


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By: Anonymous

Added:Wed 27th Oct 2010 23:08, Post No: 167

wow who cares about a dlc that should have been incluced in the hard earned 60 dollars price tag it came with. oh wow zombie dogs and bigfoot omg omg,  six hours of game play and tons of fuun for 10 bucks. nice rip off rockstar. how bout getting La Noire out sometime with in the net ten years and some news on Agent,  rather than milking this game till the end of time. yea yea its a good game but this dlc should have been included in the original. Lets go already with the next games from you rockstar, stop milking the [#@!?] out of this dam game, oh wait you two months ago that big news is coming SOON, haha yea u guys always say that and never produce, milk milk milk it till it washed our pockets dry, well never getn my 10 bucks.  


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By: Anonymous

Added:Tue 26th Oct 2010 11:01, Post No: 166

good

 

good


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By: Anonymous

Added:Sat 23rd Oct 2010 17:15, Post No: 165

A good debate is always good Free, however i can't say that the scores for GTA 4 were a 98, no way the game was that close to perfection. If for eamble it had the use of the amusement park, a la roller coaster, more interaction with buildings, more weapons, choppers, better police AI then we could talk about a 98, however IMO wasn't close to a 98, more of a 88. Well hopefully after this zombie fest of dlc for the 26th, then we will get some real news on a NEW upcoming rockstar game. But probablby not until they milk the dlc for a month or two, until we gets news. well i wont be buying this dlc, i ave dead rising 2 for zombies and that is a very good game and fun as hell to play, everyone is biting of the zombie thing now, oh yea and they are trying to sell the dlc now with bigfoot, and they will make tons of money from it, but not from me.


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By: Anonymous

Added:Mon 18th Oct 2010 21:15, Post No: 164

man this looks awsome getting to fight some more zombies also it seems more fun to kill zombies and not go to a little girl every day or waiting for a helicopter to save you also it seems better than going through ravanholm wow i could go on and on about this


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By: Anonymous

Added:Mon 18th Oct 2010 13:42, Post No: 163

did you not see the mass amount of pre owned copies lining the shelves of every game shop accross the world. it made a [#@!?] load of money, but its the worst onw in the series.
 
dont get me started on metacritic. its great in theory, but if all it is doing is averaging massivly overblown scores to begin with (most likely because R* marketing lined critics pockets with cash) then its a waste of time. simple as that.
 
and you could argue that publishers dont buy critic scores. well lets just say nothing EVER deserves a 10/10 EVER!. yet gta 4 got that countless time.
 
Just some food for thought


By: freeradical

Added:Sun 17th Oct 2010 16:19, Post No: 162

There have been LA Noire details since then. Edge ran a preview earlier this year, the game looked pinned down for release before Christmas, and then Rockstar took it off the radar again (presumably because they're still not entirely happy with it). You're right on Agent though - there have been no details since E3 '09.

Whatever the case though, if you're going to argue about the quality of GTA IV (which, by the way, got a 98 on Metacritic as well as staggering sales) then there's no hope of us having a reasonable debate.


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