Red Dead Redemption First Impressions

We saddled up for a tour of Rockstar's latest Wild West shooter. Find out how the west was won, Red Dead-style.

It's been almost five years since the release of the original Red Dead Revolver, so it's been a long wait for a sequel. That game is called Red Dead Redemption, and it is currently being developed at Rockstar San Diego, the outfit responsible for Midnight Club, Table Tennis and Midtown Madness. We managed to sneak a look at a work-in-progress build of the game at Rockstar's London office, and can report back on what we saw.

Redemption takes place roughly 50 years after Revolver, just after the turn of the twentieth century. The story follows John Marston, a reformed career criminal, who is forced to do the bidding of the newly-formed Bureau of Investigation thanks to an apparently deadly ultimatum. Rockstar was deliberately vague on the details of the plot, but we do know that Marston's quest will take him to three areas in the game: the frontier, Great Plains, and south of the border to Mexico. Rockstar has always had desires to return to the Wild West according to Hamish Brown, Rockstar London's PR representative for the day. He claims that Redemption is just as ambitious as any of the Grand Theft Auto games, with wide open plains and a bigger world than any Rockstar game to date.

Our demo of the game started out in a typical western setting: brown dirt, scrub bushes, distant monoliths, and some suspicious-looking cowboys loitering around the outskirts of a ghost town. It seems that a friend of Marston's, Bonnie, has been kidnapped by outlaws, and in exchange he needs to deliver a sheriff and his prisoner over to them. Somewhere along the way, the deal goes sour and Marston and his posse need to shoot their way through town to rescue Bonnie before she‘s hanged. Thankfully, you have a healthy range of weapons at your disposal, including six shooters, shotguns, carbines, rifles, knives, axes, Gatling guns, and TNT.

Fans of the previous game will be familiar with Dead Eye, which makes a return appearance in Redemption. This bullet time mode allows you to take precise aim at enemies whether you’re on foot or in the saddle. When using single-handed weapons you'll also be able to line up several targets on one or multiple enemies at a time. Redemption features a regenerative health system, so hiding behind cover for a few seconds is enough to heal your wounds. We're told the cover system will be similar to the one in GTA, and the natural environment will provide protection including rocks, vegetation, and even dead carcasses.

While you'll be able to traverse great distances thanks to coaches and trains, horseback will also play a major part. Each horse will have different abilities; if you steal one from town it should be in fairly well-kept condition, or you can choose to rough it and train a wild stallion instead. No game set in the wilderness would be complete without some wildlife and Redemption features plenty of varmints to shoot. A dedicated "ecology" system ensures you'll encounter snakes, armadillos, cougars, wolves, coyotes, mountain lions, buzzards and even bears along your journey.

In addition to randomly generated animals, we're told there'll be hundreds of procedural events as you explore the world. On our journey into another town we saw a woman whose stagecoach had broken down. On closer inspection, however, it was actually an ambush with several bandits appearing from behind the coach. Heading down the road, we saw a man being mauled by a pack of coyotes--you can choose to help him, but you risk having the pack turn on you instead. These events take place randomly around the clock but they're not all dangerous--expect to get the occasional friendly invite such as sharing a campfire meal with some pilgrims after dark. If you fancy human companionship, you'll be please to know that a multiplayer mode has been confirmed, although no details were revealed during our demo.

You can trade with merchants in towns, buying and selling a variety of goods including general supplies, weapons and even animal skins you've collected. We strolled into an abandoned saloon during the day, which turns into a rowdy, honky-tonk location at night once the townsfolk have knocked off work. While the sun's up, however, they'll get about their business and you can observe them going about their daily chores if you so desire. While you’re in town you're able to play a range of mini games and gamble your money away in poker. In one mini game, we saw Marston try his hand, quite literally, in a wager of good ol' five finger fillet. Using the A and B buttons for knife stabs, each round gets subsequently faster, and harder, which can easily result in a painful flesh wound. As with all the best Rockstar open-world games, Marston will be able to wreak havoc on the towns, but Redemption will have a robust law enforcement system in place to stop any law-breakers.

Next, we saw Marston take a trip south, where his services were requested by the Mexican Army to protect a supply train. Riding alongside the train, the aim is to take out rebels while defending the train. You can jump off your trusty stead onto the moving train (and back again) or even highjack other horses on the move. The scenery south of the border looks splendid, with rivers, palm trees, ridges, gorges and huge valleys showing off the Rage engine's technical prowess. The draw distances look particularly impressive, spanning huge valleys and finishing in the far distance with majestic mountain ranges. The world will also be populated with forests, rivers, plains, bustling towns, small outposts, Indian reservations, and possibly even some snow. There’ll also be a dynamic weather system and day/night cycle in the game.

The Wild West story follows John Marston's path to redemption.

The game will also boast a physics engine that's a hybrid of Rage and NaturalMotion's Euphoria, which will be applied to Marston, NPCs, and even animals to make their animation more lifelike. Anyone familiar with GTA will instantly recognise the health/map gauge in the bottom-left corner of the screen. However, this time around it comes complete with an added horse life gauge. The sounds of Redemption appear to be just as authentic as its graphics, and we heard plenty of ambient western-themed music and effects which helped to create an atmosphere of tension.

Red Dead Redemption is riding into town this year on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. We're certain to get behind the reins soon, so keep an eye out for more coverage in the coming months.

Written By

Former staff writer for GameSpot.co.uk, now marketing guy for a certain major online retailer....

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Discussion

238 comments
spence404
spence404

bout time someone did a good western :) Huge hit if done right!! can't wait!

IRISH_VANDAL
IRISH_VANDAL

so should we expect maybe, do i dare say RS, CO-OP? to sweet. doubt it, but RS u are really starting to shine like u have always done. DOWN WITH EA!!!!!!!!!!!!

IRISH_VANDAL
IRISH_VANDAL

holy cow, you can go and save a girl in distress and get ambushed? help out some old man with a pack of coyotes? sign me up. a trading system? from town to town i would hope. will it effect economy? gunfights(mano-a-mano), the graphics look amazing if all of it has been in game action(which RS did atleast do with GTA). BIGGEST STATEMENT HERE I SEEN ----> If you fancy human companionship, you'll be please to know that a multiplayer mode has been confirmed, although no details were revealed during our demo.

koospetoors
koospetoors

Nothing better than a proper western game,can't wait!

Ignee
Ignee

If someone told me to randomly describe what I thought would be the perfect game. It would be something very close to how this sounds.

kenrabs
kenrabs

Just saw the trailor on TV. Hope it plays as good as it looks.

NFD
NFD

Cool. Loved the first game

ROCKit2
ROCKit2

this game looks badass!

sublimesurf
sublimesurf

i cant believe how awesome this game sounds!!! like a western gta 4. i think this will be the best game ever!

5169
5169

i cant wait this game looks bloody allsome

Joemama246
Joemama246

Yes, it is a free roaming game, just read it closely, I just wish you could make your own character...

keyblade42
keyblade42

Ahh man it got pushed back to 2010? Ah well, I'm sure they have their reasons. GTA4 got pushed back a bit..and it came out a freaking legend.

CruiserCaptain
CruiserCaptain

Okay, I must admit that i had high hopes for the first game...it was fun up to a point. Some of the enemies were dumb as h*ll, and if we all remember correwctly, once you completed the game there was literally NOTHING to do. It lost all replay value....seriously, no odd jobs, not hunts, no nothing...just wander between the two or three towns...with NOTHING. SO I have hopes, i really would like to see a Western game with the open ended diversity of all the GTA's and great replay value....give us a world. And the team play, well if they could do as they have done with GTA IV and allow free roam for chaos, and some great team games, well then...you got yourself another costumer...

Froce712
Froce712

I liked the first game, but I think I'm gonna love the second game :)

notniv
notniv

this game can not be released fast enough. i am going to lose sleep because of this game and i love it.

DannyC_pt
DannyC_pt

I want it and I want it now! Kaleb_B, I was asking myself the same thing. Is this a free roaming game, with a main plot but an open feel like GTA4, or is it more mission structured? I hope it gives you a lot of freedom to explore the countryside. Since food was used as healing in GTA4, the idea of hunting in the wild is really cool. If you're hurt then you'll need to shoot some varmints in order to restore health. Now that's cool!!! (Oh, btw, I'm against hunting in the real world, don't eat rabbit because it reminds me of cats (love cats), plus I'm against shooting things and stealing cars... and all that other stuff you get to do in Rockstar games LOL)

bigjoe8181
bigjoe8181

come on dudes when has rockstar ever let us down??? manhunt grand theft, bully, the warriors, red dead revolver, they're all classics games for people who want ambiance and life plus great storytelling in games! go! rockstar! i know they won't let me down :)

Pwnd56
Pwnd56

Imagine the protagonist and niko in a deathmatch.

Pwnd56
Pwnd56

the only thing that is related to this that sucks is: It probably will be M= I will not get to play it for years. LOOKS EPIC!!!

paystation
paystation

is this online cause if it is am geting it

denolitions
denolitions

i havent really been interested in western stuff before, but this has definitely got me interested!!

Kaleb_B
Kaleb_B

is this a free roaming game?

Hobbitslayer18
Hobbitslayer18

Looks good but I have to see it myself first when it's finished, because it's easy to ruin a game and hard to make it good.

OminousShadow87
OminousShadow87

It looks like a must-buy...sounds nothing like the original though...other than the dead-eye (oh boy!...)

keyblade42
keyblade42

God this game looks and sounds amazing. I love going west and seeing all the stuff about the wild west days. This is a must have for me.

itsnivlem
itsnivlem

for all the people saying that Red won't be in it... maybe he'll make a cameo... and he'll give you the famous Revolver...

itsnivlem
itsnivlem

i wish rockstar would make a game in like every great era. like in medieval times and caveman stuff, life how B.C. looked like and like a game where you're actually an animal like say a lion in africa that would be awesome.

gPiOrzeL
gPiOrzeL

Rockstar and no blood?:P i hope that is just cenzored for comercial usage :)

TJP2010
TJP2010

oh and there better be blood. o.o

TJP2010
TJP2010

Hmm.. this reminds me alot like GUN, great open world. this just has better graphics, and of course, ROCKSTARS MAKING IT!? =DDD MUST buy.!!

ooNaruto
ooNaruto

Kinda disappointing that their replacing Red with a new protagonist. Red was badass with his whisker beard thing. But what could they do if they added him anyway, he killed off the governor in the first. Ah well, this one is a must have for me! Is it just me, or does character customization sound cool for MP online?

TrevCubsOr21
TrevCubsOr21

this is gonna be so good... red dead revolver was one of my favs

Hamada-LFC
Hamada-LFC

O.M.G! I'm so gonna buy this game!!!!!

samt2992
samt2992

ITs GTA gone COW COW. Love it.

Osawa666
Osawa666

Rockstar you know what the people wants Red Dead looks like one bad ass western Game

pallex85
pallex85

so is it GTA and RDR mixed or something?

fraggerman
fraggerman

Well, it is rockstar we know they won't disappoint us.

muzza93
muzza93

Yes bring on the Westerns! I played GUN that was mad, this looks better than call of juarez, yeah boi

swinaltap
swinaltap

Hope this is as good as it looks.....

FlashCharge
FlashCharge

This is about as western as it gets. I agree WOW! Hope the mechanics work well and that it is a fun play. Will definitely keep an eye glued to this one.

snaker49
snaker49

wow, this game looks freakin awesome. It better be GTA: Wild Wild West.

hlm2
hlm2

First game was awesome, this one looks better! Pity Reds not in it though....

BigGhost_AJT
BigGhost_AJT

Never played the first but this one seems pretty robust.

Samagorny
Samagorny

there better be bots for online and 4 player splitscreen

ren2250
ren2250

this game is gonna b terrific, biggest open-world they've ever made means bigger than san andreas...which is awesome

Sam_Fisher
Sam_Fisher

The voice at the end of the trailer saying "No one needs to kill anyone, Bill" totally sounds like Bill Paxton.