Red Dead RedemptionPS4/5, Xbox 360, Switch, PC ¦ action adventure
The lawless west has long since been a regular well to return to for the likes of film, with the western genre just about as dominant as superhero films are now, back in the day.
This was no doubt due to the rich veins of themes that could often be found in them, exploring the notion of hero and villain, law and order, community and new frontiers as they did. All of which lend themselves to a compelling narrative for a video game, and yet it really hadn’t been tackled effectively.
And then in 2004 Rockstar Games, who had attained massive success and notoriety with their Grand Theft Auto franchise, went in a completely different direction with Red Dead Revolver, a game set in the wild, wild west. Although not a huge success, certainly by their lofty standards, it was almost a concept of proof that a western video game was indeed possible.
And so they progressed with the idea further, until they produced a sequel in 2009 for the PS3 and Xbox 360 - Red Dead Redemption. The rest, as they say, is indeed history.
So now we find ourselves in 2023, and this classic title has reared its head up once again, finding itself re-released for a new generation of gamers to explore. But what is this re-release exactly and does it hold up for modern gamers?
Well the bad news is, it’s just that, a re-release. With the incredible success of its sequel, there were calls for Rockstar to go back to the original, which they have done, and either remake it or re-master it to bring it up to the same impressive standards as its sequel, which they have not done. So what we have here is in fact exactly the same game from 2009 ported to both the Nintendo Switch and the PS4 (/PS5 through backwards compatibility). Even the Xbox Series X/S didn’t get a look in because the original 360 game already is playable through backwards compatibility for those systems. So what we have here is a 14 year old game playable on today’s systems.
To say it’s disappointing that Rockstar put zero effort into it is a massive understatement, especially when you consider they are one of the most profitable studios of all time, so resources wouldn’t be an issue.
So what would be the reason to buy it?
Despite its age, and rugged, ragged looks, the game still manages to impress. Still to this day, it is a game that almost defines the best of a single player campaign. This is all down to Rockstar’s sublime ability to tell a story. You play former outlaw John Marston, who finds himself being forced to work for the government to track down his former gang members. He cuts a lonely figure, as he moseys into town after town, getting himself involved in local disputes.
On the surface, it’s just what you would expect from a single player game, as you follow main missions, but also get to take on side missions, in an open world environ. But although the mechanics overall are effective, it’s the narrative that’s king here. It’s helped by some truly impressive voice acting, which really lends itself to a classic old western. The characters are rich, with some entertaining dialogue that makes your travels around the world so compelling.
And it has to be said, that even though no real work has been done on the overall look of the game, it still manages to hold up to this day, with the changing environ with its day to night cycle, as well as impressive weather dynamics, and a fantastically ambient soundtrack that always sets the mood.
It’s a game that is brimming with atmosphere, which still delivers an immersive experience, the closest to actually feeling like you’re in an old school western.
And as well as the main game it also comes with the Undead Nightmare DLC, which gives a supernatural spin to John’s journey.
There has also been some good news recently – finally – with the announcement that the game is now playable at 60fps on the PS5, which is admittedly a long time coming, but at least it’s finally here.
Of course Rockstar could have done more – well, something, really – and it’s understandable that those who loved the original game are annoyed at their lack of intention with it other than just bunging it out again, but that shouldn’t deter from the fact that it already was a superior gaming experience, and it’s just as well for them and us, that it remains so.
Of course the fact that it’s a full priced game is one that is difficult to justify, considering the lack of work that has gone into it, so it’s probably worth the wait for it to be reduced, which will invariably happen.
Certainly with its 60fps update for the PS5, and the ability to play the game in handheld mode if that’s your bag on the Nintendo Switch, mean that there’s never been a better time to return to 1911, gun in hand, and create your own law of the land along the way in what is a true classic.