Red Dead Redemption, developed by Rockstar San Diego, is set for release next week, and the anticipation is reaching a fever pitch. The minds behind Grand Theft Auto have proved numerous times that they can make a rich open world game, to say the least. Based on what Rockstar has shown so far, there is growing evidence to suggest Red Dead Redemption will be their best offering to date. For starters, the game is set on the western frontier of turn-of-the-century America, or as it's more commonly known, the wild west. In addition, Redemption boasts a thriving, incredibly detailed world full of dynamic side missions, and some fresh multiplayer modes to boot.
The Western Setting
The wild west is an especially interesting setting for Red Dead Redemption because games have barely scratched the surface of this historical period. The only other western themed, recent release I can think of is Call of Juarez. While that series did a decent job of creating an enjoyable western atmosphere, it was ultimately a fairly standard, linear experience. The idea of an open world game, set in the wild west, made by Rcokstar, is certainly enough to peak my interest. Fortunately, the story of Red Dead's protagonist, John Marsten, also seems intriguing. A man with a checkered past, Marsten finds the law has caught up with him, and in order to protect his family, he will have to take down his former partners in crime.
A Living, Breathing World
Grand Theft Auto IV raised the bar for the current generation sandbox. Red Dead Redemption looks as though it will uphold the same high standards with gorgeous visuals, expansive environments, and an incredible attention to detail. Redemption's game world spans a vast area, covering desert, forest and mountainous regions of the American southwest. The world is so massive it stretches all the way to areas of Mexico, which represent a sizable portion of the experience, from the southern American states. The scope and variety of the environment is quite impressive.
Dynamic Side Missions
While taking a break from Marsten's quest there are a ton of other adventures to pursue. The side missions are randomly generated, dynamic events which will help keep the player guessing as to what they might run into next. These events could consistent of hunting wild animals, rescuing a couple from bandits, chasing down bounties, gambling, fighting gangs and/or the law, or preventing an execution. The amount of options available, outside of the core plot, will make it easy for players to get lost in the world for hours on end. Random distractions aside, there is good reason to carefully consider how each situation is approached. A morality system based on your actions in these side missions will effect the way people perceive you. For instance, having a reputation as a tough badass will make wannabe thugs more likely to challenge you to a duel.
Free Roaming Multiplayer
Rockstar is attempting to reinvent sandbox online multiplayer with Red Dead Redemption. The most striking new feature is the free roaming mode. This mode gives players the entire world map to explore with their friends or solo as they please. Joining a posse will open up cooperative missions such as raiding a sheriff's station or challenging another posse. The leader of a posse can set waypoints, thereby deciding what adventures the group will undertake. However, the system is very flexible - any member of the group can jump in or out of the posse seamlessly and go on to pursue their own interests. For example, if a member breaks off to kill civilians, the marshals will focus their attention solely on that one person, not the group. Bottom line, free roaming mode is set up to give players complete freedom to shape their experience.
All of the features mentioned above are only a fraction of the overall game. Of course, along with the side missions, there is a full narrative to the single player campaign. There are also more traditional online competitive modes such as deathmatch and capture the flag, if free roam feels too unfocused. From what we've seen, Red Dead Redemption is shaping up to be a fully featured package, offering an expansion of the ideas developed in Grand Theft Auto, adapted for a western setting. Be sure to check out our final review of Red Dead Redemption in the coming days.