Red Dead Redemption (Rockstar; PS3, Xbox 360; rated mature)
John Marston has a job to do in the territory of New Austin if he ever wants to see his wife and son again. The government has “asked” the reformed outlaw to track down and kill members of his former gang. To do so, however, Marston needs help, so he carries out tasks for others in order to gain their favour.
Ranging from the southern U.S. to Mexico, this latest offering from Rockstar Games—described by the developers as the “spiritual successor” to 2004’s Red Dead Revolver—is another tour de force. If you’re familiar with Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto games, you’ll have a good sense of what to expect from Red Dead Redemption. It’s an open world, so you can travel anywhere and do anything, anytime you want.
And in the same way gritty urban environments are so accurately portrayed in the GTA titles, so too is the wild frontier of Redemption. You’re as likely to be trampled by a wild boar as you are to be shot with a six-shooter. This can be a harsh place; at one point, I came across a man weeping beside the body of a woman, and before I could dismount from my horse he had shot himself in the head.
As usual, the characters are fleshed out by exceptional writing and voice acting. If you’re a fan of the TV series Deadwood, you’ll see the influence here in the witty and eloquent dialogue—what I like to call potty-mouthed poetry. For example, the game’s opening sequence includes a conversation between a preacher and his daughter. “I often find it hard to distinguish between a loving act and a hateful one,” the young woman says. “They often seem to be the same thing.”
It’s this kind of moral grey that makes Rockstar games so interesting, and Red Dead Redemption is no exception.