Let’s get this out of the way right now: I’m an open world addict. In an era dominated by shooters with campaign modes that last all of a couple hours then proceed to shift the focus on multiplayer death matches, I find the idea of sand box story progression completely refreshing. As a gamer, I’d even call the experience therapeutic. I almost can’t even explain it. There’s this omnipresence of freedom when I pick up a controller and turn on games like Grand Theft Auto IV or Fallout 3, as opposed to the restrictive narratives and on-rails storytelling that games like Call of Duty and Halo present us with, that feels so immersive and enjoyable. Quite honestly, it’s something that remains unparalleled in the gaming industry.

For the last nine years, Rockstar Games have revolutionized open world gaming. Starting with Grand Theft Auto III on the PS2 and leading to the 2007 smash hit, Grand Theft Auto IV, their games have given us an unprecedented amount of freedom. Between the vast landscapes that have evoked hours of deviating from the course and aimless exploration, to actual in-game worlds that felt ALIVE because of its inhabitants receiving their own individual AI, these games have given us a sense of realism like nothing before it ever could. So the question that has been asked since 2007 has been solely this: what’s next?

Our answer ships in eight days: Red Dead Redemption.

Redemption's attention to detail is glorious.

This is a game that fell under the industry radar while everyone’s eyeballs remained glued to their TV screens, watching Niko Bellic blow shit up in Liberty City. When “Untitled Red Dead Revolver Sequel” and “Untitled Old West Project” appeared in publications across the globe with the dreaded TBA situated in the release date column to the right, the masses collectively shrugged their shoulders as the general consensus of games like Red Dead Revolver was, and remains to this day, very underwhelming. You see, Red Dead Revolver was a third-person action-adventure set in the Wild Wild West with a very linear structure and unattractive graphics, (even for its time it was one of the game’s biggest complaints), and over the years it simply hasn’t aged well.

Red Dead Redemption, however, seems to be completely different. In… every way imaginable. While ‘Revolver was an unfinished Capcom game that Rockstar purchased the rights to, finished, and shipped out with seemingly half-assed results, ‘Redemption is a game that has been built from the ground up. Using the RAGE engine and integrating itself with the EUPHORIA physics engine as seen in Grand Theft Auto IV, ‘Redemption departs from ‘Revolver’s story of Red Harlow and jumps right into a brand new story centering on protagonist James Marston. That said, the only common denominator shared between these two games is in title and title alone. They are, at best, distant cousins twice removed by a loveless marriage. So if your perception of ‘Redemption is predicated on anything ‘Revolver may have done to upset your disposition on its indirect sequel, then I ask that you do yourself a favor and eliminate that thought process right now.

Judging from what I’ve read through previews and game trailers, the story is primarily about revenge; a familiar constituent in storytelling that Rockstar shines at exceedingly well. In the process of discovering every twist and turn in the single-player story, there’s an absurd amount of frivolities to take part in that will suck countless hours out of you like you never thought possible. You can hunt animals in the wild and trade skins for money, deal with ill-mannered drunkards in saloons across towns, or if you’re feeling like a total bad ass, you can rob horse carriages blind like your name was “The Outlaw” Jesse James. Yes. You read right. Much like the good/evil system seen in games like Fallout 3, you can be an “outlaw” or “hero” in ‘Redemption, and the results of your path of choice will directly affect much of the game experience. Point your guns at too many toothless hookers and you’ll soon have a modest bounty in place with your name on it. Murder too many innocent civilians and rob too many horse carriages, local law enforcement will post a bounty on your ass and hire assassins to deal with you. The good news is this: if you can eliminate any eye witnesses while doing said bad deeds, then you need not worry about any bounties. While I haven’t heard much of the rewards for doing GOOD deeds in the game, I’m sure it will be an equally satisfying experience.

Posses run rampant in Redemption.

Oh yeah. There’s also this little thing called MULTIPLAYER MODE; something its “predecessor” never had and a band wagon Rockstar Games never jumped on until GTAIV. Speaking of GTAIV, for those of you that were familiar with its multiplayer mode, you can probably suspect what is in store for ’Redemption. Only difference here is, ’Redemption seems to have refined the often clunky multiplayer experience we saw with GTAIV. With ‘Redemption, you have teams of people playing together called “posses”, where you and your friends can attempt multiplayer missions together and level up your characters individually to strengthen your posse collectively. Again, you read right — there’s a new leveling system in place, giving this fusion of gaming styles an added RPG element to it. It’s an interesting dynamic to a feature that has been too often weakened by the random pairing of teams, thereby inhibiting the multiplayer experience with anonymity and a lack of cohesiveness. Something I wish other multiplayer modes in various games would begin to rectify.

In essence, the next eight days can’t go by fast enough. By my estimation, Red Dead Redemption is easily the most anticipated game of the year yet. Rockstar Games is set to once again revolutionize the world of open world gaming in a way we never thought possible. Just last month I pre-ordered my copy online from GameStop… and if any of you reading this haven’t done the same? I ask you this…

… what the HELL are you waiting for?!

Red Dead Redemption ships to stores May 18th and will be available for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 consoles.

Source: G4TV.com, Incgamers.com, StickSkills.com