Red Dead Redemption(RDR) is an open world western adventure game created by Rockstar and released on the PS3 and Xbox 360 consoles. Rockstar, famous for its synonymous Grand Theft Auto(GTA) series of videogames, brings GTA style gameplay to the western genre. This review will focus on core gameplay and story of the RDR GOTY edition; it will not focus on multiplayer or the Undead Nightmare downloadable content(DLC).
You play as John Marston, a reformed outlaw, who has been blackmailed by an unscrupulous government agency to facilitate retiring his former posse. With his new life and family at stake, John needs to apprehend his former partners in crime - dead or alive. The unforgiving western frontier is full of hardship and sorrow and you'll decide if John continues on his path of reform or devolve into his former criminality.
RDR's storyline follows Rockstar's familiar, capital letter on the map, mission based formula; by completing "named" missions the story slowly unfolds. Gamers who have played previous Rockstar titles will feel right at home, but some might be dismayed at the lack of innovative storytelling techniques. RDR is an open free-roam world, so players may at any time: ride around and experience random encounters; shoot random Mexicans or banditos; participate in mini-games, gunfights, gambling and bounty hunting; lasso horses and people; or just go hunt wild animals.
There is so much to do in RDR I don't think any review could do the content justice. It would take weeks of strenuous playing to fully cover the expansive RDR world and the content it contains. Unfortunately, some of the random encounters do get tiresome; if I see another random "damsel in distress" I'm just going to shoot her and ride away with a smile. Mini-games are also hit and miss, some are good, like poker, and others are frustratingly bad, like five finger fillet. Missions also follow the basic formula of - ride here, shoot people and ride back.
I'm forever going to have a problem with console controls and shooters. RDR really overtaxes the controller and it does take some time to acclimatise. Playing the GOTY edition's hardcore difficulty mode is no easy task; hardcore mode turns off auto aim, reduces player health and slows health regeneration; hardcore mode forces you to rely on medicines and snake oils to survive against the uncannily accurate and numerous AI. Normal difficulty features a snap-to auto aim system that would probably make RDR much easier and balance the AI's accuracy nicely. RDR also features a "Dead-Eye" slow time mode, allowing players to call shots on one or more targets.
Overall, RDR is a decent adventure with a tonne of mini challenges and lengthy story that takes hours to complete. The artwork and world design is detailed and engrossing, but the storyline and mission rewards left me flat. I would've liked Rockstar to have spent more time developing the players relationship with John Marston, RDR's impact would've been much better; and personally, I felt more for Bonnie McFarlane than John because her character is fully developed.
RDR GOTY edition also features a zombie Undead Nightmare DLC and weighty multiplayer scenarios. This review doesn't cover RDR GOTY's extended features, but with all these additions RDR is probably one of the best time sinks for the PS3 or Xbox 360.