Red Dead Redemption Hands-on
After getting our hands on the game at PAX East, we took Red Dead Redemption off our radar and put it onto the list of our most anticipated games of the year.
Early Saturday morning, I was lucky enough to get some time with the latest build of Rockstar Games’ Red Dead Redemption. Coming from the teams over at Rockstar New York and Rockstar San Diego, Red Dead Redemption is the follow up to the 2004 third-person western Red Dead Revolver and easily one of the most anticipated games of the next few months, if not all of 2010.
Saving multiplayer details for a later date, Rockstar had a short portion of the game available for me to play that showcased the dynamic open world, the unique gunplay, some of the cinematic sequences, and the horse back riding. Although the game is going to be released for both the Playstation 3 and the Xbox 360, the demo available to me was played on the Xbox 360.
The demo began with John Marston, a slightly aging cowboy and the game’s central character, standing atop a desert hill surrounded by tufts of grass and cactus clutching for life in the arid climates of the early 1900s American West. Miles upon miles away, the horizon is being rimmed in a glimmer of early morning light, sending long shadows across distant mountainsides and ramshackle farm houses. Two wild mustangs gallop over small dips and rises in the countryside as an elderly man sitting on a wagon full of wooden crates spurs his horses forward. At times, dust could be seen hanging in the air as the sun continued to rise. John smacks at a fly buzzing around his neck as tumbleweed rolls behind him, down the edge of the hill and out of sight.
This was not a cut scene. The developer I was speaking to had simply let the game sit for a minute or two as we talked. A lot was already happening considering we hadn’t even gotten into the actual gameplay.
Some missions and activities throughout the game are day-night contextual meaning that they can only be done before or after sunset. In this particular case, it seemed that for the purposes of the demonstration the developer wanted to wait for the sun to rise in order to simply make it easier for me to take in everything the world had to offer as well as showcase the game’s stunning draw distance and lighting effects. Like many open world games, you access missions by approaching an icon displayed on the mini map, and in this regard, Red Dead Redemption was no different.
With a simple press of up on the D-pad, John put two fingers between his lips and whistled for his horse that approached quickly thereafter. The developer let me in on a secret that I can’t wait to employ in the full game: If an enemy steals your horse, which can and more than likely will happen at one point or another throughout the game, whistle while it’s still in earshot and it will buck, sending the enemy flying to the ground where you can easily but a bullet or two into them (or even hogtie him if you’re into that kind of thing).
Now on my horse, I was able to get a feel for the riding system which promised to be not only a means of transportation but a focal point of many activities and combat situations throughout the game. I began riding in a straight line towards the icon, rather than using the rough roads that intertwine themselves through the vast distances of all three of the game’s territories. The horse could be spurred on with the push of a button but pushing your horse to hard can lead to it slowing to a near crawl and even eventually bucking you off its back and down onto the dusty desert floor. The horse was well animated and the controls were tight. I had very little trouble navigated the terrain while on horseback which is a huge plus considering the problematic controls commonly experienced with vehicles in open world titles (I’m talking about you, Just Cause 2).
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