I will openly admit that I’m not a huge gamer.  I don’t spend dozens of hours each week playing all the latest games, but for the most part I’ve played the biggest hits.  I don’t own many of them, but I try to play as many of them as possible to at least get a feel for them and to know what people are talking about.

This week, I was lucky enough to get my hands on a copy of Red Dead Redemption, a new open-world game by Rockstar.  It came with lots of hype, including a nearly perfect score from IGN.com.

The first thing I noticed about Red Dead Redemption was the ease of play.  If there’s one thing that will turn me off to a video game, it’s the inability to easily control the characters.  When I first started up the game and sat through the opening sequence, which was quite well done but a little too lengthy for my taste (lasted about 5 minutes, and I only had a 20 minute window to play at that moment), I was hoping that it wasn’t going to be too tough to move around, aim at things, ride the horses and such.  Soon after I got off the train, my fears were averted.  I do wish the game had paused itself long enough to tell me what the various buttons did, however, because I ended up shooting someone accidentally before I even got to the saloon.

I swear, I was just trying to talk to him.

When I got to the point in the game where I decided I wanted to actually shoot at people, that part was easy enough for a relative-beginner.  Switching between weapons, staying focused on a target and determining who the viable targets should be, none of it was too challenging, which is good because I’ve found it difficult in other similar games.

As in all open-world games, you’re not too limited by what you do in Red Dead Redemption, and slightly disappointingly to me, there aren’t too many people wandering around the various towns who will actually have a conversation with you.  You can choose to shoot them if you want to, but just keep in mind that you will have a bounty placed on you, at which point the Marshals start showing up from everywhere, and until you get used to the game, it’ll be tough to get away.

Needless to say I didn’t do that much.  Not in storyline mode, anyway.

Speaking of which, the storyline mode in this game is pretty good.  It establishes some decent back-stories for the main two characters, and as you progress through the different objectives presented to you on the main path of the story, you learn tasks which help in other parts of the game while still seeming natural that your character would be involved in doing those things.

As with all open-world games I’ve played (like the great inFamous), there are plenty of side tasks to get involved with, and some of them are more interesting than the main quest – which I eventually got tired of doing, primarily because I didn’t have the game for very long and I wanted to try other aspects of the game instead of just advancing through with the main quest.  There is an interesting aspect of the game involving treasure hunting whereby you find an initial map and it leads you to other maps.  The first location wasn’t tough to find, the second one was more challenging, and I’ve heard there are up to about 8 different locations to find, though I couldn’t figure out the third.

One thing that I did spend a bit too much time doing was playing poker and horseshoes, both of which were well-developed and welcome parts of the game.  I could’ve easily spent dozens of hours with those parts had I actually owned the game.

Poker

As I have friends who bought the game for Playstation 3 (the system on which I got a temporary copy), I decided to give the online version a try.  I was disappointed to find that the progress I had made in the storyline mode didn’t matter when I got to the online mode, but I soon found that it wasn’t tough to do tasks in “Free Roam” to earn far more experience and cooler weapons than I had in the main storyline “off-line” mode.  And although it took me a little bit of time to realize this, I could customize my character a bit in the “Outfitter”, using different character profiles along the way – unlocking more options as I progressed through the game.

I did have a mostly unpleasant experience in the public Online game option on my first day of trying it.  Even though I was supposed to be working together with a couple guys online, and despite my efforts to kill the guys who were shooting at them, the two individuals who were supposed to be part of my Posse were determined to kill me.  I don’t know whether they’re just punks who decided they’d make the experience miserable and frustrating for some random stranger like myself, or whether they were frustrated because I didn’t have a microphone with which to communicate with them, but they killed me repeatedly nevertheless.  It was a good stress reliever when I respawned (came back to life in a slightly different location from where I had previously died) and found myself able to use my shotgun to put them down once each before going to bed.

Until I got a better hang of the game and leveled up quite a bit, I found the Online Private mode a lot more interesting – not just more interesting and more fun than the Online Public mode, but also more fun and interesting than the off-line story mode.

While playing online, I enjoyed search various parts of the map and clearing areas of NPC (Non-Playing Characters / computer bot) gangs in various towns and forts.  I felt like a lawful assassin, sneaking around, trying to find ways to kill 20+ bad guys without dying too many times myself.

One aspect of the game which I tended to enjoy, both in online Free Roam and the off-line side-quests was the hunting of animals.  As you roam around the landscape, by foot or horse or whatever else, you see various critters.  As you read your “Journal” to see what things you could do in order to gain experience, there were various objectives you could meet.  The Hunting objectives would tell you how many of each different animal you needed to kill in order to move on to more challenging Hunting objectives.  You start off by needing to kill five birds, and then you progress to rabbits, deer, coyote, and then more difficult animals to track and kill like cougars.

A word to the wise:  If you’re hunting on horseback, hop off the horse before you shoot at an animal which crosses from one side of the path to another.  The game does not prohibit friendly fire, and you will end up shooting your horse accidentally in the back of the head.  You won’t want to do it, but you will.

I can imagine myself playing this game for hundreds of hours, both the off-line and online versions of it, and barely ever getting tired of it.  In fact, the game hasn’t been out a full week yet, but I’m sure that there are some people out there who have almost put 100 hours into it.  I probably know some people who are 50+ hours involved.  I probably haven’t seen them since Tuesday morning, but they’re having fun.

There are plenty of other aspects of the game I could talk about.  I could say how cool the Dead Eye functionality is, allowing you to slow down time and mark several targets before opening fire on them in a rapid spray of bullets…

Rapid Fire

Rapid Fire

or how cool some of the controls are to allow you to sneak up on people or hide behind items during gunfights…

Hide and Shoot

I could talk about how it’s a neat feature how you can get a bandana to use when you’re doing nefarious tasks and then you can just take it off to remove your Wanted status…

El Bandito

Bandito

There are a lot of aspects of this game that I could go on and on about, but I’ll let some of the other writers here at GuysNation talk about those things, and until they do?  I’d definitely recommend going and getting a copy of this game for yourself… if you don’t mind a little bit of violence, because there’s plenty of blood involved.  The game definitely warrants a really high rating like what was given by IGN.com.  I’m not sure if I would rank it that close to “perfect”, but it’s definitely one of the best games I’ve ever played.