Red Dead Redemption

Red Dead Redemption
Red Dead Redemption Cover
Platforms Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Genre Third-person horse riding Western
MtAMinutes to Action 7
Keep Playing? Yes
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I played the first hour of Red Dead Revolver last year, mostly in preparation for what was going to be one of the biggest game releases of the year, Red Dead Redemption. I didn’t really like the start of the game too much, it felt cliched and reminded me a lot of Rising Zan: Samurai Gunman in the way the gameplay and story were structured. Pro-tip: that’s not a good comparison.

But here I am, finally, with the first hour of Red Dead Redemption. Rockstar essentially threw out everything but the Western setting of Revolver during development of Redemption, and it definitely shows. While Revolver felt like an arcade game at times, Redemption really does feel like Grand Theft Equine.

Released last May, Red Dead Redemption has sold many copies and reaped many awards, but so did Grand Theft Auto IV, and I could only stomach about a dozen hours of that monster before giving up due to its tedious amount of relationship balancing and all-too-realistic driving gameplay. But if any company has been able to learn from their mistakes in the past, Rockstar Games is that developer. Let’s ride into the first hour of Red Dead Redemption for the Xbox 360.

Minute by Minute

00 - I create a new save game and the first hour of Red Dead Redemption begins. Loading... “Exobus in America.”

01 - A ferry is docking at some port and a bunch of people ramble off, including what looks to be our hero. A red car is lifted off too. Looks like our man has a small posse surrounding him.

02 - Rockstar Games Presents... Or he’s in custody of these two men, hard to tell. The title screen fades in and out and then a train is shown leaving town. The music is very Western but ominous and foreboding. Some women on the train behind our hero comment on how civilization has finally been brought to this wild land.

03 - In front of him are a priest and young woman discussing eternity.

04 - The various bits of scenery being shown is beautiful, it’s obvious that a ton of work went into the world. Can’t wait to explore it.

06 - Our hero hasn’t said a word but the conversations around him continue on. We arrive at Armadillo Station, apparently our final destination. I get control and am told to head to the saloon. The onscreen text is obnoxiously small. My mini map is still usable though. I head into the tavern and a man calls out to me. John Marston is my name.

07 - Jake is a friend of a friend and is ready to go somewhere... we hop on a pair of horses and head out of town. The game flashes some instructions in the corner but my television cuts most of the small words off. Been meaning to fix that... Holding the A button matches your speed to Jake though.

09 - John Marston and Jake talk on the road, mostly about our hero’s past at Blackwater.

red Dead Redemption John Marston

10 - They discuss one of Jake’s friends seeing an automobile, “times are changing fast, that’s for sure,” Marston remarks.

12 - We’re heading for Fort Mercer, Mr. Marston is looking for someone, but won’t tell Jake who it is. We arrive at the fort and Jake and I part ways.

14 - The fort is supposedly held by some gang, but it looks empty. John yells for Bill Williamson, I think he wants to kill him? Bill pops out and points his gun at John.

16 - Sounds like these two had a lot of history, but had a big falling out. John moves for his gun and is shot by one of Bill’s men!

17 - Scene switches to a bit later that day near dusk, vultures already have their eye on John, but some people roll by in a carriage and pick me up. “The Government Boy” achievement unlocked. Loading “New Friends, Old Problems.” I think that achievement name has revealed a lot more than what any of the story has so far.

18 - John’s alive and laid out on a bed, the woman who grabbed him comes in and asks him some questions. Geez, he’s been out for a few days now. The woman’s name is Bonnie McFarlane. John tells Bonnie he’s still going to go after Bill.

red Dead Redemption John Marston Rock Horse

20 - I regain control at Bonnie’s ranch, looks like a small town. Graphics are great, dust is being kicked up, textures are detailed, trains roll by in the distance. Excellent audio design, too.

21 - I approach Bonnie at her house to start earning back the money they spent on healing me up. Fifteen whole dollars!

22 - We mosey through the ranch, it has its own general store and horse corral. Can’t believe there’s a train station, too, big place. I hitch my horse and continue to follow Bonnie on foot.

25 - Back inside the house so John can rest, we’re about to go out and patrol the perimeter of the ranch. She gives me a rifle and John remarks it’s a good weapon. He feels better with a gun in his hands. The starry sky is gorgeous.

27 - We’re hunting rabbits in the garden, shooting spooks the horses.

28 - I think I only managed to shoot one, but that’s good enough for her. Nice, shootings coyotes now! It’s kind of hard at first to ride and shoot at the same time, horse just sort of keeps on going... haha.

red Dead Redemption John Marston gun Fight

30 - We’re already done patrolling, so John is heading to bed. I save my game.

32 - I take off to find Bonnie in the morning, my horse hits a carriage and the driver flies out of it! Loading... “Obstacles in our Path.”

34 - Bonnie was on the same train as me (I thought I noticed her two rows ahead of me) and thinks it’s suspicious I’m coming from Blackwater. She challenges me to a horse race to test out my country mettle.

35 - Hey, last night the moon was only half full and now it’s totally full! Suspicious.

39 - Well, I got my butt kicked, maybe if I hadn’t gotten kicked from my horse twice it would have been closer. Need to learn better horse stamina management, this isn’t as simple as Ocarina of Time! Bonnie suggests I talk to the marshal in town about Bill. I think I’ll stick with Bonnie for now.

40 - Bonnie wants a ride into Armadillo in her carriage, I get to drive, of course. Just another reminder you’re playing what is essentially Grand Theft Auto at its core. The mini-map shows the optimal GPS-like path, haha.

red Dead Redemption John Marston Horse Riding Sunset

42 - There are a ton of other riders on the road, but Bonnie and John continue their banter. From on top of a hill I can see the town about a mile out. No fog in the Old West!

45 - We arrive in town and hop out of the carriage, Bonnie points me to the doctor for some medicine.

46 - I buy the meds and try to use them, but it says I’m already at full health. That was nice. Bonnie takes off back for the ranch and leaves me in town. Guess I’ll head to the marshal now. Loading... “Political Realities in Armadillo.”

47 - John walks in on the sleeping marshal and the man in jail wakes him up. Doesn’t seem like too friendly of a guy. Didn’t take long to pull guns on each other after John mentions Fort Mercer.

49 - The sheriff walks in and defuses the situation, he seems to know I’m from Blackwater. John admits he’s here to capture or kill Bill Williamson. It’s out of the sheriff’s jurisdiction, though.

50 - John asks him why he’s not interested in helping, and the sheriff rattles off a half dozen things on his plate, sounds like some missions! John says he’d like to help with some hoods at the saloon.

red Dead Redemption John Marston Cougar

52 - Sheriff explains the situation on the way, and we follow Walton, the leader of the gang. I whistle for my horse (after squinting at the help text in the corner) and we’re on our way.

54 - Out in the plains there are a ton of wild animals, I know you can skin them for... their skin, I guess. Wonder when that will be introduced?

55 - Our sneaking mission is immediately blown when we’re spotted, time to take out some nasties. Aiming is heavily dependent on auto-aim.

57 - We reach Walton and I shoot him in the leg to take him alive. Sheriff is thankful for my help. earn money, fame, and honor. Now I’m standing out in the middle of nowhere... Huh?

59 - I make a campsite to save my game, it also lets me travel back to town!

60 - Back in Armadillo, but that’s the end of the first hour of Red Dead Redemption.

red Dead Redemption John Marston Bartender Saloon Painting

First Hour Summary

Minutes to Action: 7

What I loved: The music stole the first hour, every scene was punctuated with a stellar soundtrack. I’ll readily admit that I don’t have a great musical ear, but I can recognize something good when I hear it. This is a soundtrack I would buy.

The world is a beauty to live in, too. The moment I crested that hill in minute 42 and saw the city of Armadillo from a few miles away I was a believer. There was no fog, not even some desert dust they could have had blowing to obscure the town, honestly didn’t realize this was possible yet. And the immediate area is well detailed, also. Dust kicks up at your feet and animals dash around, giving an awesome sense of a very alive world.

What I liked: Voice work is good, Redemption’s opening is almost entirely void of any main characters speaking, they simply let the extras speak and build the world. Bold, but I think it pays off to give Marston an air of silent mystery. He’s less effective when he does actually speak, and his dialog with Bonnie felt a bit awkward.

What I didn’t like: Speaking of awkward, maneuvering on a horse in a video games has always been... inelegant, to say the least. Red Dead Redemption is no exception and the first few moments on any horse always felt like a challenge. Maybe if they were started positioned facing the other way it would be easier as I wouldn’t have to turn them around. At least it felt better than driving in Grand Theft Auto IV.

Would I keep playing? Yes, the world of Red Dead Redemption is a stupendous place and I want to spend a lot more time in it. I have no idea if I’ll become burned out on it all like I have with some previous Rockstar games, but I’d like to try. Plus, I hear there’s a twist like no other.