X360A Review: Red Dead Redemption's Liars and Cheats DLC
Written Friday, September 24, 2010 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
In the Old West, you can bet your bottom dollar that the saloons were full of liars and cheats, whether they were playing cards, womanising, double crossing, killing or illegal horse racing, there was always something unlawful and underhand going on. That’s our understanding based upon movie westerns and playing Red Dead Redemption of course, and now appropriately, Red Dead’s 'Liars and Cheats' DLC is now available from the Xbox Live Marketplace.
In Red Dead Redemption, some of the most dull and grinding missions were the ones that involved horse racing, so it was with a great deal of trepidation that we approached the new online multiplayer horse races in the Liars and Cheats pack. In short, they're one of the most frustrating experiences we've had online in recent memory, but for some reason it remains strangely compulsive, mainly because you can shoot you rivals from their horse.
Winning races invariably boils down to surviving a completely random crapshoot, as bullets fly everywhere, people fall off their steeds and you learn to properly manage your horse's stamina lest you get unceremoniously thrown from the saddle. Managing to hustle your way into first place means you'll instantly be the primary target for the rest of the pack, so winning is really just a completely arbitrary outcome based on luck more than anything else.
Playing a hand of poker or a quick game of Liar's Dice online is a far more civilised and gentlemanly pursuit in comparison and a nice break from being constantly shot in the spine. Both gambling games work in exactly the same way as they do in single-player, albeit with the human brain working a bit slower than the skippable AI, so be prepared to do a lot of waiting. Somewhat irritatingly, there's also an in-game 'buy-in' fee required to play, which for poker is a modest $10, but for Liar's Dice, you need to whack down $200, which is a lot for one game. Still, you get a daily allowance meaning that you can get in at least one game a day.
Red Dead Redemption's excellent free-roam has also been expanded in Liars and Cheats with seven new gang hideouts to tackle, which range from the small, like Venter's Place, to the slightly larger, like Critchley's Ranch. There are still plenty of enemies to shoot to ribbons though and taking the hideouts on as a posse is still as deliriously fun as always. The player with the highest score at the end of a gang hideout also gets the new Explosive Rifle for their troubles, which packs a hell of a punch. Hanging on to it for any amount of time is difficult though, so while overpowered, the Explosive Rifle isn't conducive to going off on massive rampages. As with the tomahawk from Legends & Killers, the appeal of the Explosive Rifle really lies in the new single-player challenges.
Stronghold matches round out the Liars and Cheats pack, giving players a crack at a Battlefield-style Conquest mode, where a team of attackers take on a team of defenders for control over a series of flags at tactical points on the map. Again, there are certain frustrations you'll encounter in this mode, such as being unable to use your stronghold's cannons until the nearby flag has been taken, leading us to ask, what's the point in even having them in the first place? As a result, the Stronghold matches we played mostly consisted of being relentlessly bombarded by cannon fire from the opposing side, which lead to countless deaths and little to no progress. Thank goodness then for a sedentary game of poker, which is a perfect retreat from a multiplayer match gone awry.
If all of this content isn't quite enough to convince you to part with 800 Microsoft Points, then there's also a host of new gunslinger skins from the single-player story, including John Marston, Irish, Seth and more. For the asking price, there's quite a lot of new stuff then, although the brilliantly named achievements are completely ludicrous. Finishing one horse race in first place is a major ask, but coming first in every race in a single Grand Prix? Now that's a tough one for a meagre 10 Gamerscore. We'd recommend just playing the game for enjoyment and letting the cheevos come on their own.
All in all, Liars and Cheats represents sound value for money, offering plenty of new and interesting stuff for the price, but some of the new game types might test your patience a bit. However, it's worth bearing in mind that most modes are better played in a posse and when frustration does set in, you can always play some poker to cool off for a few minutes, because as you well know, it's a whole different kind of lawless frontier online.