In-Depth Red Dead Redemption Preview- Ride 'Em Cowboy
Written Tuesday, December 15, 2009 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
Set at the turn of the 1900s, Redemption’s setting marks a period in American history where amid massive turmoil; great change was beginning to shape the nation. Burgeoning technology and communication meant word travelled fast and smoke-belching trains chugged along the country’s railroads moving people and resources up and down the big country.
Placed at the centre of all of this emerging chaos, your decision is solely whether you come down on the side of law and order, or violent, unhinged anarchy. And it’s this duality that takes centre stage during our demonstration, where fame and honour acts as your moral barometer, tracking your actions, both good and bad.
Our run through opens with protagonist and former outlaw, John Marston, squatting by a makeshift campsite, which acts as a mobile save point that you’re able to deploy anywhere at anytime. As dawn breaks, Marston kicks sand over the dying embers and saddles up on his horse, which is handily spawned whenever you set up camp.
Riding out into the badlands, Marston follows a treasure map that is little more than a vague line drawing of a distinctive curved rock formation. For the purposes of our demonstration, said craggy shape is just a short canter away and just beyond lays a small, unassuming pile of stones. Carefully lifting the stones reveals a hidden chest containing a cache of gold and another primitively scrawled treasure map for us to track down. There’ll be plenty of these maps to unearth in the full game, so you’ll be able to embark upon treasure hunts between missions if you’ve the inclination.
Next, an apparently injured man limps towards us beckoning for help, only to then pull us down from our horse and make off with it. Luckily, this particular horse has been well trained meaning a whistle is all it takes to make the horse buck the thief from the saddle and return to its rightful owner. Animals play an important part in Redemption, as you’re able to tame and train wild horses, skin coyotes and wolves to sell their pelts and eat their (tangy-flavoured) flesh. Or if you’re a bit sadistic, you can indiscriminately shoot them. We’d advise steering clear of bears, however.
Further down the trail, Marston reaches his destination – a bustling Mexican market town called Chuparosa. With it being mid-morning, the market is at its most active, buzzing with activity as shopkeepers gut fish and decapitate chickens while the town’s inhabitants go about their daily business. Like Assassin’s Creed, the locale is alive and buzzing with local colour that adds genuine character and personality to the game’s many settlements.
After perusing the stalls, Marston sidles up to the entrance of the local cantina where an official is busy nailing up a wanted poster. Naturally, we tear it down, activating a bounty hunt mission that sets us off on the trail of the wanted felon, marked on the map as a red skull icon.
While it’s possible to fast travel to locations via stagecoach, riding through the evocative landscape on horseback is invariably the preferable option, simply to soak up the sepia-hued majesty of the Old West. After a picturesque journey to our waypoint, we find a group of bandits harbouring our quarry in a burned out safehouse in the middle of nowhere. With his quickdraw gunplay skills, Marston is a lethal shot, and once he’s racked up enough kills, he’s able to unleash his slow-motion Deadeye function, which highlights targets with red crosses before letting rip with a fatally accurate bullet barrage.
With the accomplices duly dispatched, the target makes a break for it, making a futile run down an isolated dirt trail. Marston quickly reacts, putting a bullet into his leg as he flees. His vain attempt to limp away offers us the perfect opportunity to throw a lasso around him and hogtie his sorry ass before slumping him onto the back of our horse to transport him back to the Chuparosa lawmen.
Returning the bandit alive grants the full reward, even with the nasty leg wound we inflicted, chalking up another boost to Marston’s fame and honour. The more bounty missions you complete, the tougher they’ll gradually get, but the bigger the rewards you’ll reap. You can even loot the still warm corpses of anyone you kill to gain some extra dollars while you’re at it.
Upon our return to Chuparosa at nightfall, the market stalls have been packed away and the hive of activity has shifted into the cantina where poker games, blackjack, alcohol and hookers are in plentiful supply. Of course, if you want to, you can gamble, drink and ‘mess around’ with the prostitutes. You can even protect or abuse the ladies of questionable virtue depending upon the kind of moral path you want to tread through the game.
Once we leave, the night sky is a breathtaking sight and it’s under a blanket of stars that we set up camp. Campsites can be upgraded by purchasing various paraphernalia from the stores that appear alongside your campfire, granting extra supplies to take into missions. While at the store, you can also pick up ammunition, weaponry and clothing items like bandanas, as well as upgrades to your camp and other useful accoutrements.
Covering your face with a bandana for instance, allows you to adopt a veil of anonymity that enables you to commit crimes without giving away your identity. Donning the disguise, we aid a group of freedom fighters who wreak all kinds of havoc as they tear into Chuparosa at daybreak. Our actions place a bounty upon our head, attracting unwanted attention from the local law enforcement.
Once out of the city walls, removing the disguise reduces the heat and the extent of the wanted radius on your mini-map, although you’ll still be regarded with suspicion whenever you return to Chuparosa. There are ways to clear your name completely, such as wiring money from the nearest telegraph station or being granted a pardon letter. Failure to shift your wanted status means being relentlessly stalked by ragtag posses and lawmen, making life exceedingly difficult for yourself.
Helping a sheriff fulfil his objective to kill Augusto the Pimp (wanted for having a dodgy name, presumably), fortuitously grants us a pardon letter even though the lawman sadly dies in crossfire during the mission. After the intense shootout dies down, the vultures start circling overhead waiting to feed on the carrion below, showing that even people end up being part of the ecosystem eventually.
All of the tasks we’ve been shown thus far have been entirely separate from the game’s central narrative, so we finish with an action-packed story objective. Meeting up with famed and charismatic rebel leader Abraham Reyes, we head to a fort in Nuevo Paraiso to retrieve a valuable weapons cache. Exploding into the compound using a wagon full of dynamite causes dozens of guards to instantly crawl out of the woodwork, but Marston makes short work of them by shooting a few conveniently placed TNT crates.
Once the coast is clear, Marston climbs the fortress walls, manning a cannon to defend the precious weapon supply. An entire army quickly descends upon the fort, with horses and wagons plaguing the destroyed entrance. A few well-aimed cannon balls reduce the horses to glue and the wagons to splinters in mere minutes, successfully concluding the mission and maxing out Marston’s fame status. Breathtaking.
Amazingly, everything we’ve detailed in this preview has taken place over one single day in-game. During the space of just over an hour or so, we’ve seen a whole array of activities, but have yet to scratch the surface of what Red Dead Redemption has to offer. We can’t wait to finally go hands-on with the game in the new year, if only for the fantastic looking gunplay that appears to be robust and satisfying with body specific damage and realistic reactions courtesy of NaturalMotion’s superb Euphoria tech. There’s also hand-to-hand combat and knife fighting to look forward to, as well as countless mini-games and distractions to keep you occupied.
As sandbox games go, Redemption is unfinished but already effortlessly nails the Wild West setting to astonishing effect, providing a genuinely captivating and visually stunning sense of time and place that recalls every great Spaghetti Western movie you’ve ever seen.
Red Dead Redemption should have you reaching for a fistful of dollars in April 2010 when the game finally launches. It’s most definitely high time you get excited.