Red Dead Redemption Hands-On

We downed a tequila in preparation for our first hands-on with Red Dead Redemption.

With the recent furore over alleged working conditions at Rockstar San Diego, questions could obviously be asked about Red Dead Redemption's development. Thankfully, our recent visit to Rockstar's London office revealed that the game was looking not only very polished at this stage, but every bit as promising as we'd seen before. We watched as Rockstar walked us through a mission in Mexico, and then we were let loose on a couple of missions in North America.

Red Dead Redemption takes place in the early 1900s, and you take control of John Marston, a reformed criminal now living happily on a farm with his family. Marston is faced with an ultimatum when the Bureau, a forerunner to what will become the FBI, forces him to track down his former gang members. They take his family as insurance, and while reluctant, Marston takes the journey across New Austin and West Elizabeth in North America and across Nuevo Paraiso in Mexico to hunt down his former partners in crime.

Rockstar introduced us to the game via a short demo, which took place on the Mexican side of the border. It was quite far into the main game according to our representatives, and Marston was helping the Mexican army take back a fort from some insurgents. The rebels had the advantage as they were on higher ground, but our Rockstar rep was able to take most of them out with the rifle. The combat is cover-based and not entirely dissimilar to Grand Theft Auto IV's--no surprise, given that the two games are powered using the same engine.

Red Dead does have plenty of its own refinements, though. For instance, the health system is regenerative, so all you need to do is take cover when you're beginning to approach death. The weapons are also authentic to the period, with Marston able to carry up to six different sidearms from a selection of shotguns, sawn-offs, sniper rifles, and pistols. The signature move is dead eye, where you can slow down time and take precise shots at multiple assailants. You can unleash dead eye at any time, but you need to kill enemies in order to fill up your bar.

As our Rockstar man fought his way up the hill towards the fort, he encountered a number of opportunities to show us the close-up kills. Using a pistol, you can make Marston shoot someone point-blank in the chest; and with a rifle, he'll point it upwards at the enemy's head and blow his brains out. It was a fairly tough battle overall, and it looked as though the Rockstar representative was close to death a couple of times, but he made it up the hill intact to recapture the fort. A cutscene ended the section with Marston meeting an obnoxious mid-ranking general called DeSanta. The general had his men murder the remaining rebels before boasting to Marston of his success.

Thankfully, when we got to play, we were introduced to a much gentler section from earlier in the game. We got a chance to familiarise ourselves with the controls, which on-foot are very similar to those in GTAIV. However, there's a huge emphasis on using horses in this game, and you need to learn how to ride a stallion, tie him up when you stop off at places, and whistle for him when he gets lost. Once we were acquainted with our steed, we picked up a mission to kill Bill Williamson and the Walton gang, enlisting the help of Sheriff Johnson to do so. We escorted the lawman on horseback, and the game features a one-button follow technique to allow you to maintain pace with another rider.

The gang battle was a much simpler affair than the Mexican encounter and clearly acted as a tutorial for the combat in the game. It was fairly simple to take out the majority of enemies using shoot and cover, but when it came to Williamson, we were instructed to injure him or kill him outright. Killing him will win you the mission and earn you a reward, but injuring him and tying him to the back of your horse will earn you more cash. There are many ways that you can approach each mission, and all your activity feeds into the fame and honour system. Your actions will make you more famous in the gameworld, but your moral approach to each situation will affect non-player character responses. If you're evil, then you'll probably earn more money, but the law will be less forgiving towards you, while do-gooders will see the police turning a blind eye to the occasional infraction but will earn less money overall.

Just as GTAIV captured the buzz of a real-life city, Red Dead Redemption looks to have captured the Wild West. While there are large expanses of desert, they're filled with an incredible amount of activity, from civilians in carriages getting held up, to wild animals roaming around looking for food. Of course, this being a Rockstar open-world game, you can interact with everything. For instance, you can save the civilians to earn a reward, or you can kill them and steal their property. You can also kill the animals and skin them for goods to sell in town, and these towns also look to be highly interactive. You can spend money in the stores, upgrade your weapons, or wipe out the entire population to turn it into a ghost town, only to see it slowly repopulate over time.

Our hands-on also allowed us some free time to play around in the world, seeing how it reacted to our actions. We sat down at one of the campsites, which act as your save points in the game, and talked to the other people there. We helped a farmer who was being terrorised by a gang, but arrived too late to save his daughter. In the resulting scene, the man cowered over the young girl, so we ran outside to leave him to his mourning. Thankfully, more entertainment was provided by shooting the vultures that began circling over the dead bodies outside.

Whose cart is that? It's mine, dagnabbit.

The final mission we played was certainly the most entertaining. We met a drunk called Irish who helped us steal a Gatling gun. The gun was stored securely in a nearby mine, and once we fought through a large number of enemies, we found it was conveniently stored in a mine cart. So we grabbed hold of the mine cart and rode it back out aboveground, all while popping out of cover to pick off the remaining enemies. Once we'd gone through an Indiana Jones-style chase, we made it out with the item and took it to a getaway wagon to use on a later mission.

Red Dead Redemption is looking very promising, and our taste of the single-player game has left us itching to discover what Rockstar has planned for the multiplayer. Rockstar promises that all will be revealed before release, and with only a couple of months left before it lands on April 27 (April 30 in Europe), we don't have too long to wait. For more on the game, be sure to check out our video preview, and check back soon for more on the game.

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Discussion

274 comments
dkjestrup
dkjestrup

@shawdad I think that's because the later GTAs, especially GTA4, have focused to much on realism and not enough on fun. The Wild West is a fun setting to begin with, and this game looks to be full of humor and awesome extras. I IS SOLDSSSS

JohnisGodd
JohnisGodd

I cant afford Reach and This in the same month....Im so effed.

shawdad
shawdad

@ Evil_Saluki Wild Arms!! :) Seriously, I loved GTA 3 but was quickly bored with all GTA's after, including the latest one. However, back when I was playing GTA3, I was saying to myself: "Self, wouldn't this game be even more awesome if it was a western theme instead of the whole urban thug setting?" And Viola!

Gutterfly
Gutterfly

"wipe out the entire population to turn it into a ghost town, only to see it slowly repopulate over time" I like the sound of that!

shaktiIIIgta
shaktiIIIgta

title didnt contained the word SPOILERS !!!!!!! damn....

Evil_Saluki
Evil_Saluki

I would prefer this if you got to make up your own Cowboy/cowgirl. Not interested in that protagonist. Always wanted a bit of a free roaming western RPG, and don't anyone go saying Wild Arms because I will rip off your arms and legs and swap them round then pin a label on your back saying "look at me, wild arms!"

krislee13
krislee13

Rockstar, horses, the wild west, open world, guns, dynamite. Sounds like an awesome game. I finaly get to live out my wild west fantasies. All that's left is the rifle from quigley down under, Robert Duvall, Clint Eastwood, Diane Lane, and Jackie Chan. "yeah hell of a vision"

DrBlumpkin
DrBlumpkin

God damn there is just too many good games coming out all the time. I barely have time to beat one before another aaa title is out.

chedarcheese190
chedarcheese190

im surprised how little hype there is considering this is a rockstar open world game. there seems to be an increase in hype after a new trailer is released but then it dies down after a week to only the ones who really follow this game (like me) and the cycle continues. on a positive note, less hype=greater chance of me getting it on release date.

downloadthefile
downloadthefile

@myfinalheaven86 If you think CoD MW2 is realistic, you must be wondering why people in the military use assault rifles instead of tactical knife or dual shotguns. I wonder how soldiers can use a chopper gunner or pilot an AC130 with a laptop that they pull from out of no where when they kill a certain number of enemies. It's practically the most unrealistic game available and would never call itself a realistic military sim.

steve_fox_fm3
steve_fox_fm3

ROCK STAR never disapoint thire fans this game looks 2 much great at least 9/10 trust me but now ROCK STAR we want MANHUNT 3.

StJimmy15
StJimmy15

Also, dynamiting horses FTW!!

StJimmy15
StJimmy15

Yeahh, more and more reasons to pre order this game! Fingers crossed for some sort of co op or free mode. Even without those, great looking game.

BFKZ
BFKZ

I think this game will own GTA IV

00Terry00
00Terry00

lol, i guess we'll be hijacking horses instead of cars. Great graphics in my opinion.

THESEL
THESEL

Well, no matter what, it couldn't possibly be worse than Call of Juarez.

muze1
muze1

YEEEEEEEEEEEEES

jenguando
jenguando

Rockstar if you can hear me.You friggin rock!!! Now please allow more realistic blood spatter that actually stains the surrounding and you have pretty much nailed everything.

JackNichols1
JackNichols1

Rockstar own against everyone else they produce the best games ever!

JoE_dE
JoE_dE

Loved Red Dead Revolver, loved GTAIV, love the mix they created here, an awesome game to be indeed! ...I hope Ennio Morricone participates in the soundtrack like in the 1st Red Dead! The music of that game kept me immersed in the theme :)

kairisha102706
kairisha102706

Ok if the year is 1908 in the game, I wonder if they are goin to have the Ford Model A-T Vehicles The Ford Model T came out in 1908 And the Ford Model A came out in 1903 and so on so forth with Model B,C,F,K,R,S,and of course the T...I dunno would be Sick if these were put in as a easter eggs...I Wonder...????

Br0th4d4rkn3SS
Br0th4d4rkn3SS

I got this preordered since Dec... The wait is killing me... slowly

Omaciel
Omaciel

this game is going to be awesome

the-big-zed
the-big-zed

@MyFinalHeaven86 Perhaps so, but in my eyes you lost all your credibility the second you mentioned MW and realism in same sentence. MW is exactly over-the-top action more than anything else.

MyFinalHeaven86
MyFinalHeaven86

@distemper. You are correct in what you say. People just don't fly backwards when being hit by bullets. They proved this on that episode of Mythbusters. Did you ever see that movie "Last Man Standing"? It just looks cool. CODMW's are for realism, but gta & this game are for over-the-top fantasy.

TheFallingOne
TheFallingOne

Oke that video looks cool. But that dam dude keeps telling how great the game is. That just sucks. If I want to know how good the game is I just watch the review -_-

ResistCombine
ResistCombine

@ _distemper i understand what you saying, but think of how frustrating a game would be if one shot completely crippled your own character, we play games for fun, not necessarily hardcore realism.

woonsa
woonsa

WHY NO PC VERSION?!!

pspro95
pspro95

This game is amazing!!I've always wanted to play a western game like this and I can't wait to get my hands on it!!!!!

_distemper
_distemper

@Stillwind04 No, I've never been shot by someone with a revolver, and I've never witnessed someone being shot by a revolver. But as a medical professional, I've received training on the care and management of gunshot wounds, and I can tell you with great confidence that the portrayal of gunshot physics in games and films is highly inaccurate. For one, the "Instant Kill" shot that is so prevalent in games is necessary for game dynamics. But this rarely happens in real life, unless the victim was shot in the head. Most gunshot victims will struggle with their wounds and writhe in pain for several minutes before dying. Secondly, most people engaged in a gunfight who get shot don't realize that they have been shot until much later. I'm not saying that people don't fall down due to a direct hit from a revolver, but they certainly aren't launched backwards or flipped around by the force of the bullet. Finally, most films and games downplay the amount of damage that a bullet can do. Heroes and heroines who get shot in the arm or leg simply use a makeshift bandage to tie up their wounds, while in real life, there is going to be a serious chance of a bone breaking, or the person being incapacitated.

PHATDUDESUPREMZ
PHATDUDESUPREMZ

awsome game cant wait to actually play a quality western shooting game EEEEEHHHHAAAWW ^_^

dukre115
dukre115

It seems pretty good. It might be something that would appeal to older people.

Alezzx73
Alezzx73

i would sell my baby for it.

Stillwind04
Stillwind04

@juzek Not in the Wild West bro. Takes awhile for tech to reach the other side of the country.

Stillwind04
Stillwind04

@_distemper Excuse me sir. But have you been shot by or even witnessed someone being shot by a revolver?

_distemper
_distemper

The game truly looks fantastic. But, I do have a problem with Rockstar's claims of "realism" regarding the physics of an enemy taking a gunshot. The truth is, Red Dead Redemption's gunplay physics are realistic - for a contemporary Hollywood film. In reality, however, people aren't going to be flung backwards/somersaulted by a bullet from a revolver. But, that being said, there are so many differences from real life gun physics and Hollywood gun physics that gameplay would be hindered by it. So, when you're playing Red Dead Redemption, or for that matter, any game concerning guns, remember that you're playing a game that's realistic by Hollywood standards, not real life.

TeToLiN0
TeToLiN0

cant wait its gonna be very awesome

shadowolf612
shadowolf612

looks good. they should make it so when your in a gun fight and you kill the last guy it goes in slow-mo and stuff