In-Depth Red Dead Redemption Preview- Ride 'Em Cowboy
Written Tuesday, December 15, 2009 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
To describe Red Dead Redemption as GTA with cowboys would just be plain lazy. Truth is it’s so much more. That much was made abundantly clear when we visited Rockstar’s London HQ to get an extended hands-off look at the game, which is reportedly much larger and evidently more ambitious than the uber-game maker’s ubiquitous crime saga.
Set at the turn of the 1900s, Redemption’s setting marks a period in American history where amid massive turmoil; great change was beginning to shape the nation. Burgeoning technology and communication meant word travelled fast and smoke-belching trains chugged along the country’s railroads moving people and resources up and down the big country.
Placed at the centre of all of this emerging chaos, your decision is solely whether you come down on the side of law and order, or violent, unhinged anarchy. And it’s this duality that takes centre stage during our demonstration, where fame and honour acts as your moral barometer, tracking your actions, both good and bad.
Our run through opens with protagonist and former outlaw, John Marston, squatting by a makeshift campsite, which acts as a mobile save point that you’re able to deploy anywhere at anytime. As dawn breaks, Marston kicks sand over the dying embers and saddles up on his horse, which is handily spawned whenever you set up camp.
Riding out into the badlands, Marston follows a treasure map that is little more than a vague line drawing of a distinctive curved rock formation. For the purposes of our demonstration, said craggy shape is just a short canter away and just beyond lays a small, unassuming pile of stones. Carefully lifting the stones reveals a hidden chest containing a cache of gold and another primitively scrawled treasure map for us to track down. There’ll be plenty of these maps to unearth in the full game, so you’ll be able to embark upon treasure hunts between missions if you’ve the inclination.
Moving on, Marston makes his way to a distant settlement, distracted by occasional emergent events such as a pack of marauding coyotes (part of the game’s thriving ecosystem) or a group of corrupt military men holding up an innocent vendor’s covered wagon. Whether you choose to get involved in these situations is entirely at your discretion, but doing so adds or subtracts valuable points from your fame and honour levels accordingly. Our man decides to intervene, rescuing the trader from the heavy-handed soldiers, adding positive fame and honour to his reputation as a result.
Next, an apparently injured man limps towards us beckoning for help, only to then pull us down from our horse and make off with it. Luckily, this particular horse has been well trained meaning a whistle is all it takes to make the horse buck the thief from the saddle and return to its rightful owner. Animals play an important part in Redemption, as you’re able to tame and train wild horses, skin coyotes and wolves to sell their pelts and eat their (tangy-flavoured) flesh. Or if you’re a bit sadistic, you can indiscriminately shoot them. We’d advise steering clear of bears, however.
Further down the trail, Marston reaches his destination – a bustling Mexican market town called Chuparosa. With it being mid-morning, the market is at its most active, buzzing with activity as shopkeepers gut fish and decapitate chickens while the town’s inhabitants go about their daily business. Like Assassin’s Creed, the locale is alive and buzzing with local colour that adds genuine character and personality to the game’s many settlements.
After perusing the stalls, Marston sidles up to the entrance of the local cantina where an official is busy nailing up a wanted poster. Naturally, we tear it down, activating a bounty hunt mission that sets us off on the trail of the wanted felon, marked on the map as a red skull icon.
While it’s possible to fast travel to locations via stagecoach, riding through the evocative landscape on horseback is invariably the preferable option, simply to soak up the sepia-hued majesty of the Old West. After a picturesque journey to our waypoint, we find a group of bandits harbouring our quarry in a burned out safehouse in the middle of nowhere. With his quickdraw gunplay skills, Marston is a lethal shot, and once he’s racked up enough kills, he’s able to unleash his slow-motion Deadeye function, which highlights targets with red crosses before letting rip with a fatally accurate bullet barrage.
Once we leave, the night sky is a breathtaking sight and it’s under a blanket of stars that we set up camp. Campsites can be upgraded by purchasing various paraphernalia from the stores that appear alongside your campfire, granting extra supplies to take into missions. While at the store, you can also pick up ammunition, weaponry and clothing items like bandanas, as well as upgrades to your camp and other useful accoutrements.
All of the tasks we’ve been shown thus far have been entirely separate from the game’s central narrative, so we finish with an action-packed story objective. Meeting up with famed and charismatic rebel leader Abraham Reyes, we head to a fort in Nuevo Paraiso to retrieve a valuable weapons cache. Exploding into the compound using a wagon full of dynamite causes dozens of guards to instantly crawl out of the woodwork, but Marston makes short work of them by shooting a few conveniently placed TNT crates.