If a film buff asked me to describe The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly in one word, that word would be “Epic.” And if you want one word from me that describes Red Dead Redemption, well then it would also be “Epic.” Everything about Red Dead Redemption is as close to perfect as one can get. The story, the gameplay, the open-world, the multiplayer, everything is top-notch and draws you in. It’s a truly fantastic video game that defines what an open-world game should be. That’s why I spent well over 200 hours playing through single player and multiplayer, reaching 100% completion in single player and reaching level 50 in multiplayer.
The story is the best that I have encountered in an open-world game. John Marston is, to me, the best character in a video game since Revan in Knights of the Old Republic. He’s the former outlaw looking to make right and raise his family on his ranch. And that’s how I approached the game. I did some dirty things in the name of fun, but as far as the overall story of the game was concerned, my John Marston did find redemption and was a “good man.” This play-through style made the ending something truly special, definitely more satisfying and emotional than 99% of films made over the past two decades.
The world of Red Dead Redemption adds a lot to the story. You become John Marston and live in this world. It’s not just the backdrop where you’re free to explore but not really do anything other than get to the next mission starting point. The characters are alive and getting side-tracked on your way to one of the next story missions is super-easy and welcome because it feels real for the time period the game takes place in. People need help in this game, and unlike most where you’d just shoot them for the fun of it, you actually take the time to help these characters (or at least you do if you’re not a complete ass playing as the outlaw).
Never in a million years would I have thought that I wanted to play horseshoes in a video game, and yet I spent several hours playing games of horseshoes. And not just horseshoes, but poker, blackjack, arm wrestling, and five finger fillet as well. I used to play the Cabela’s hunting games a lot, and I have to say that I had more fun freely hunting in this game than I ever did with a dedicated hunting game. It is super easy to spend three hours out in the woods hunting game and not even realize it. And if you want spooky, try going into Tall Trees at night on foot and end up getting chased by four bears as you attempt to stab at them with a knife. All of these side activities are a blast, and they really add to the overall experience of being sucked into this world Rockstar San Diego has created.
The world is by no means massive, but yet it almost always seemed so. Your horse can get you where ever you need to go fast enough, and of course there’s quick travel via camping, stage coach, or you can just sit and ride the train. I usually preferred to ride the horse, and by that I mean at a slow walking pace and not a full blown sprint. This is a stark contrast to most open-world games in which I’d drive around in a car as fast as possible. The reason is simple: the world of Red Dead Redemption is beautiful, lively, and dangerous, all of which simply means that taking your time strolling along the trails and soaking it all in is just as fun as anything else and something that adds to the experience of sucking you in.
Getting back to the story, it’s filled with great cut-scenes, great voice work, and a fantastic supporting cast of characters that are easy to love, or that you love to hate because there just so darn dirty for lack of a better word (even your allies). I have zero complaints with the campaign. It’s the right length and its a great story, made even better if you play the game they way I did.
In addition to all of this single player stuff is a really addictive and satisfying online multiplayer. Having said that and having spent well over 200 hours playing the game, I spent virtually no time playing the competitive modes and had no desire too. Nor do I feel like I missed out on something by choosing not to do those modes. For me, Free Roam was a blast. Get together with some friends or random players and go hunting or clear out the gang-hideouts, or even just go on a rampage and start shooting cops for as long you can before getting taken down. There’s a ton of fun to be had in Free Roam, which is the best multiplayer mode/world I’ve seen from a sandbox game. There’s also the co-op missions that I spent a lot of time with, mostly with fellow staff member Q, and we kicked ass getting gold medals on all the missions.
If, for whatever reason, you have not experienced Red Dead Redemption, then you really need to make it a top priority as far as gaming is concerned. Not only was Red Dead Redemption my Game of the Year for 2010, it has also become my favorite video game of all time, taking the spot over from Knights of the Old Republic. Red Dead Redemption is a masterpiece and hands down, the best sandbox game to date.