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After months and months of previews, trailers, hype and a very strange bar of promotional soap, Red Dead Redemption is here.

Unlike Rockstar’s massively popular Grand Theft Auto franchise, Red Dead Redemption finally takes us out of the all-too-familiar city environment that most of us live in everyday anyways, and heads out to the vast landscapes of the Wild West.

Does Red Dead Redemption take the free-roam genre to a new level, or is this new attempt shooting blanks?

Read the full review after the jump.

Red Dead Redemption puts you in the shoes of bounty hunter and ex gang-banger John Marsden during the first years of the 20th century.

The government, using his family as leverage, has left him with no choice but to track down an old-gang member friend of his and bring him in. Things quickly go to pot, and so the story of John Marston begins. You will travel to many new locations, meet some very colourful characters and be exposed to the Wild West like never before.

Red Dead Redemption is a massive game, really massive. What really shines is that while games like GTA gave you cities, Red Dead Redemption opens up huge outdoor landscapes, complete with flora, fauna, small towns and travelers. It’s huge.

The gameplay and combat systems in Red Dead Redemption are not too dissimilar to games that you have played in the past, specifically the GTA titles (yes I will be comparing RDR with GTA quite often). You have a complete arsenal of pistols, shotguns, rifles and so on but there are some major differences that make RDR stand out from the rest.

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A “dead-eye” meter allows the player to slow time down and display the shooting skills of Clint Eastwood’s film characters after about 25 Red Bulls. As you progress through the game, your ability with the dead-eye meter evolves, ultimately allowing you to manually tag multiple areas on an enemy, as well as multiple enemies, in an almost Splinter Cell: Conviction kind of way. The meter is not unlimited, but filled by getting kills and so on. For multiplayer you cannot slow down, but the ability to tag multiple areas and targets and then unleash a huge burst of shots comes in more than handy on most occasions.

The combat system is complimented by a great cover system as well as horseback firefights. In the Wild West, horses were the main mode of transportation and in Red Dead Redemption it’s no different. A very clever system has been implemented into the horse riding that allows you to basically tap the A (X360) or X (PS3) button to increase the horses speed, and then hold the button to maintain it. This allows the player to keep his horse moving, so that he can aim and fire from his horse in a way that you will all be familiar with from Western movies.

One of the other new features in RDR is the lasso, which from horseback or on foot allows you to rope-up criminals or even horses. Once a criminal has been lassoed, you are able to “hogtie” the assailant (or random victim) and even put them on the back of your horse for a special delivery to the prison (or train track).

Horses play a very crucial role in Red Dead Redemption, as you will be traveling a heck of a lot between locations. While quick travel options are available, you may find yourself traveling manually very often, and this is down to some very good decisions from Rockstar.

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Red Dead Redemptions main story is the obvious main goal of the game, but this game gives you tons and tons of things to do at all times, never leaving you bored or wondering what to do next, and this is the reason you will find yourself forgetting about the quick travel options.

Throughout the game, you have challenges that you can complete that range from hunting animals, finding certain plants or performing amazing feats of skill. Complete a hunting challenge (such as shooting and skinning 5 deer) and the next level of hunting challenges will appear, requiring you to hunt a more difficult kind of animal in a possibly more dangerous manner.

You are also given tons of side quests to complete. When traveling you will constantly cross paths with people who are being chased by wild animals, robbed by bandits, looking for something etc. and it is completely up to you to decide if you want to get yourself involved. There are also more structured side quests, in the form of icons on the map that lead you to people with dilemmas that need resolving. These side quests range from simple killing missions, to talking someone out of doing something and so on. As a side note, you can also unlock some very cool outfits for your character by completing a checklist of requirements.

There are also extra activities that can be done, and the potential for your time to disappear is endless. Red Dead Redemption has poker and blackjack games running in many towns, games of horseshoe, night patrols, horse breaking, wanted posters with rewards.

This game truly gives you an almost unlimited amount of fun to be had at all times, allowing you to pursue whatever you are in the mood for, whenever you are in the mood for it. Play a solid game of Texas Hold ‘Em for 2 hours? Sure, why not.

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Red Dead Redemption
Summary
9.5

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Nick De Bruyne

Video games writer, editor and critic since '08. Living and breathing video games, movies and cars since the 80s. Follow me on Twitter if you love tons of gaming talk, and @pennyworthrevs for fun stuff and links.

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