For reference, at the writing of this review I have only played through being an honorable man. I do plan to play through again and play basically as the complete Jerk and be as dishonorable as possible.
If you haven’t really heard of RDR, in a nutshell, it’s GTA meets western and outlaws. If you like GTA and you like shooting stuff and shooting stuff in bullet time, this game is worth picking up ASAP.
Overall Score : 95/100
BUY - If you like the GTA Games you will more than likely love RDR and there is enough things to do to keep you fairly busy for a long while as well as replay value of changing up whatever you played through as the first time.
Score : 98/100
The opening cinematic starts by showing your character John Marston being escorted by what appears to be a sheriff, to a train. John gets on the train and the rest of the cinematic is John eavesdropping on the conversations of the people in the seat in front of him as well as behind him.
When you get off the train your told to go to the saloon where you meet Jake (last name) who is to act as your guide to Fort Mercer. Jake takes you outside to the horses, which he has ready to ride. You head out and by listening to some of the banter back and forth between Jake and John you learn little bits of information such as that Fort Mercer is next to abandoned besides outlaws.
You arrive at Fort Mercer and Jake parts ways with you and you head towards the town. After a short cut scene, you learn that the bandit he is talking to is one of John’s old friends. John is shot and falls to the ground. After a fade to black, two people are seen picking up John and putting him in the back of a horse drawn wagon.
John gets1 fixed up by a Doctor paid for by Mrs. Bonnie MacFarlane, who runs a ranch that you’re going to work a bit of your debt off at. In the cut scene dialogue between John and Bonnie, she asks him what he will do now (since he got beat by his old friend) and he replies with, “Gonna go after him the unkind way”. Going the route of the old fashioned, “Get people for a team to wipe out outlaws – with style” is what he plans on doing.
Having finished the game, as much as I love the character John Marston, I also hate him as well. There was most definitely times where I was just screaming at him to just shoot someone because you just know that you’re getting continually screwed by everyone and that until they are done with you, you’re basically everyone’s gopher. I’d love to go a little bit more in depth here about the character and how he develops (which is quite a bit in my opinion) but I don’t want to ruin it cause it’s pretty tied to the story itself.
**I couldn’t really find anything to take points off of game play. There was times were I was hating things such as invisible walls on cliffs, but definitely thanked the developers when I didn’t realize a cliff was there and it was one that would have killed me for sure, but as far as game play goes, the length, amount of things to do and sheer size of the map just compliment this game very well.**
Game Length –
With so much to do in RDR, You can easily amuse yourself for hours just doing side missions, challenges, and helping strangers, not including a bunch of other things you can keep yourself busy doing too. Main story wise there is probably about (estimation) 15 hours of just story (this includes traveling mostly by camp or coach when possible.). At 75% complete and just having finished the storyline I was at just about 19 hours of playtime. In Rockstar sandbox fashion, there is always a lot of extra things to do even after you finish the storyline.
As far as quests go, it’s either the main storyline or side quests where someone will run up to you and say something along the lines of, “Someone stole something, go get it back for me!” or “I don’t like the look of your face. Let’s duel.” More or less. There are actual side quests that have you look for people or find things someone has lost as well as help law enforcement/strangers with clearing out a gang hideout. Although as stated later on, there is TONS of things to keep you busy during and after the game is done.
The map in RDR is straight up, HUGE. This place is so big that I would venture to guess that going straight across it would take probably 10 minutes straight if not more, and there are two of these huge places to travel throughout the game. You more or less start out in Armadillo and end up at the Macfarlane ranch from there. After that its free roam (not that it wasn’t before) and free game if you so choose.
Interface and Controls –
Score : 95/100
General Interface (In Game)
The interface for in game is really simple, which for this type of game, is exactly what they needed. They didn’t need a health bar, ammo bar and lots of other things that some games have (and sometimes do horribly wrong, but that’s another story.), they elected to go with basically bare bones. All you have is the classic GTA mini map in the bottom right, with some colorful lines skirting the outside. The blue one on the left of the mini map is your horses stamina (when this reaches nothing, you either get bucked off the horse or slow to an almost stop.) and the red one on the right tells you how much “Dead-eye” you have left. (which is your bullet time “kill everything around you before it has time to blink” tool for the game.) Really that is all you need, when you draw your gun or shoot, how much ammo you have in your clip and how much ammo left are displayed above your mini map in a (example) 5/124 fashion.
Movement and general controls are pretty much copy paste from the previous GTA games by Rockstar which is by no means bad, it’s great because you don’t have a whole lot to learn or a steep learning curve if you’ve spent any amount of time playing that series.
Selecting guns is fairly simple, it takes a little getting used to but it seems that more and more games are starting to use this technique for weapon selection, which is to hold a Bumper in this case the left bumper and then spin the right thumb stick around to your desired weapon. It’s quick to bring up and change weapons, but it’s all so a little sloppy as sometimes you don’t get it perfectly on the weapon you want and you end up bringing out your lasso when you need your throwing weapon or putting your weapons away for fists when you need your rifle.
One thing that got old pretty fast was having to hold A to match pace with another rider such as Bonnie. It does make it easier so you’re not way ahead or way behind the person you’re stuck with in your mission and so you can hear the dialogue, but it seems to be used every other mission.
I did like the horse stamina bar part of the controls as it makes it semi more realistic because a horse can’t run non-stop forever, you either have to pace it or stop to let it rest up a bit. It does make it a pain in some of the race missions.
*Spoiler for a race* If you want to beat the Rathskeller Forks race a little easier, you have to almost always keep your horses’ stamina at full, this means double tapping A to get it going and just getting the timing down as well as staying on the trail all the time. It took me a while to figure it out, Hope it will help you guys as you play.
Pause(Start) and Quick Menu (Select)
The start menu, as in all Rockstar sandbox games, has tons of information and it always seems to be setup nearly the same if not exactly the same every time. (This makes it really easy to understand if you’ve played any of the GTA games since about GTA 3 at least) Some of the main features you will more than likely use in the game are Map (without a doubt as this is the only way to set way points which make camp travel phenomenal), Outfits (which let you not only see what outfits and pieces of outfits you currently have, but let you track outfits so you can see on the map where you need to go for the next piece(s)) and Journal (which has Brief – lets you see what was just said in game if you missed it, Challenges such as Master Hunter, Treasure Hunter, Sharpshooter and Survivalist which all add some time to the game to go through the ranks.)
Select’s menu gives you quick access to 3 things, Consumables, Kit and Provisions. Consumables has things such as Bait (for hunting), Horse Pills and Medicine for starters. Kit has items such as your Basic Campsite, Treasure Maps (which you can collect by saving treasure hunters you come across.) and Newspapers. It’s great to be able to hit one button and be able to pop some medicine if you are hurt and getting shot at from all angles, or just to use the campsite as you run onto some flat ground. Really easy to use and easy to navigate.
RDR is rich in little features to enhance your wild west robbing or heroic adventure, things such as the Dead Eye or even down to the Camp Fire.
Dead-Eye is something that (if you play like me) you will probably be using it every time you have enough gauge to activate it. Dead-Eye is your Bullet time in this game. When you start out, you can only do one target in DE(Dead-Eye) time, but as you progress you unlock/level up and get level’s 2 and 3 which respectively let you more or less swipe your aimer across anything you want to shoot at and unload, and eventually you have to select your own targets but can select quite a few (depends on bullets in clip). Even with DE you’re still more than likely going to die sometimes when you get ganged up on, it happens, just keep trying and you’ll get it eventually.
Campsite acts as a save point and quick transportation letting you travel quickly to a town you have recently visited as well as a place to change outfits. You can access this feature at anytime, granted you aren’t in a town (this includes bandit hideouts unfortunately), near a road or lake. It really does come in handy to make it to say Armadillo or the Ranch when you are far away.
Another great thing for ease of transportation is that you can just click up on the D-Pad to whistle for your horse, which will come running to you(Unless of course, you get thrown off your horse and someone starts to ride away with it, it does happen so be prepared for such things.)
There is tons of little mini games in here as well, besides the little side missions. Western style Duels, Wanted picture hunting (find a wanted poster and go and hunt the person down.), Arm wrestling and games such as Poker and Black Jack as well.
Graphics wise, this game is fairly solid. By no means is it a, “Holy crap look at those extremely life like graphics!” but that has never been a Rockstar strong suit in my opinion. They have come a long way from GTA3 I must say though. No longer can my brother and I mock Rockstar for their “block-handed” characters that made us question how they could carry guns or even open doors with ease, no they have increased graphics substantially from those days and have individual fingers and even pretty decently made hair and muscles.
As I said, they aren’t always completely life like or even fully up to the full capabilities of the consoles, but for the amount of environmental content and rendering that is done alongside of the character and NPC rendering they have done a pretty great job of making believable graphics. When you’re riding a horse, you can see the horse muscles contracting and stretching, you can see a hole in someone’s skull when you get a headshot among other things.
Cut scenes (as far as I could tell) were all using in game character rendering so they are pretty decent but again, not really taking advantage of the console’s capabilities here, but I do understand you can only fit so much on these discs and for a sandbox game I think sticking to one disc and sacrificing a little bit of graphical beauty is probably a good thing to do.
The Bad and the Annoying –
Score : -1
This was just annoying for the end part of the game, now I won’t go far into it cause it might kill some of the story, but let’s just say if Indians were as bullet proof in real life as they are in this game, I have NO IDEA how anyone was able to fight against them…These guys are taking like 3-4 bullets of the highest rifle (non sniper) to kill sometimes while everyone else takes about 1 maybe 2. That being said it’s a small part of the game so it’s not a huge deal.
They did a pretty great job overall of making sure that this game didn’t have a big dose of fail alongside the awesomeness.