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Saturday, 10 April 2010

Preview- Red Dead Redemption

Released: 21st May 2010
Format(s): Xbox 360, PS3

I wait with baited breath for Rockstar's latest, Red Dead Redemption, coming to PS3 and Xbox 360 in just under 6 weeks' time. Lazily referred to as “GTA with horses” because of its sandbox roots, third-person game play and its Western genre trappings- the successor to Red Dead Revolver is so, so much more than that. And here's why...

First of all, the game is developed by Rockstar San Diego and published by Rockstar Games- a signifier of quality if ever there was one. The team in San Diego, having worked loyally on the Red Dead and Midnight Club series for many years, also originally developed the 'RAGE' engine, on which many of Rockstar's games are based- including none other than GTA IV.

Red Dead Redemption is set in the back country of the Western American plains, 1911. John Marston, a former outlaw, is where the focus of the game lies. Given an ultimatum by Government agents, Marston must capture or kill his former gang mates including his old friend and gang leader, Bill Williamson. If he fails to comply, his family will pay the price. Judging by the screen shots, Redemption's true character lies in its location- a huge amount of detail seems to have gone into the game's sprawling wilderness, with the world populated by fully realised towns, reactionary characters and, of course, as is necessary in open world gaming, chance encounters that stick in the mind. These procedurally generated nuggets can happen any place and at any time in RDD. Do you intervene at the hold up you come across at the bank, help out a woman in need? Whatever you decide to take on, the scale is huge and incredibly diversified. Yes, this is one of those games, like Fallout 3, that will populate discussion threads on unique encounters that players are witnessing.

Other tasks within the game include hunting the varied wildlife in the game (over 40 have been named) which, after skinned, can be sold to stores around the map for the meat. Rare plants and flora can also be gathered, harvested and sold. If these sort of menial tasks don't take your fancy however, how about a game of Hold 'Em Poker for a bit of extra cash? Or, for those treasure hunters out there, treasure maps can be bought or found in the game. With little more than a sketch or description of the area the treasure is located, players will have to work hard in order to turn that effort and those long hours into hard, solid gold.

Like many other games of this type, a morality meter is also presented. Do the right thing and your 'honour' will rise- affecting the way those within the game react to your presence, which may mean discounts at stores, for instance. Break the law however, and Marston will have a bounty put on his head, only taken off if the bounty is paid or he is excused through some other means.

With just over a month to wait, Red Dead Redemption really ought to be on your mind. Here's a game play video that illustrates perfectly what you could be missing...

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