Red Dead Redemption Review

Red Dead Revolver emerged as a monument to the resilience of creativity and the allure of the Wild West. However, behind the scenes, its development was troubled. Budget constraints, shifting development teams, and the looming specter of cancellation cast a shadow over the game.

Like a protagonist from a Spaghetti Western, the developers pressed on, driven by the conviction that their creation was destined to transcend the limitations of its time. When Red Dead Revolver was released, it became a cult classic.

Nobody expected it to ever receive a sequel, yet in 2010, Red Dead Redemption was born. The character Red Harlow and the events of Red Dead Revolver faded into legend within the storyline of Red Dead Redemption. The sequel was a tremendous success and became a bona fide classic of the seventh generation. It eventually received its sequel, Red Dead Redemption 2, which also turned out to be a massive hit.

While both Revolver and Redemption 2 are playable on some current-gen consoles, Rockstar Games has also aimed to port the original Red Dead Redemption and all of its DLC to Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4. How does it hold up? Discover more in this Red Dead Redemption review!

Red Dead Redemption
Developer: Double Eleven, Rockstar San Diego, Rockstar North
Publisher: Rockstar Games

Platforms: Xbox 360, Xbox One (via backward compatibility), Xbox Series X|S (via backward compatibility), PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch (reviewed)
Release Date: May 18, 2010 / August 17, 2023
Price: $49.99 USD

The romantic allure of untamed wilderness and lawless horizons is fading, a distant memory as modernization, starched uniformed lawmen, and the relentless march of civilization carve their paths through the heart of the land. Caught in this crossfire is John Marston, a man haunted by his past and the choices that have led him to this point.

As the old ways crumble before the onslaught of the new, Marston and those who share his struggles face a pivotal choice: cling to traditions and the outlaw life that’s ingrained in their very souls, or embrace the encroaching order, promising security and structure. This decision resonates through canyons and prairies, potentially shaping their destinies and the fate of a land in flux.

Entangled by the threads of his past, John Marston strives to sever the ties binding him to a life of crime. Set against the backdrop of a world gripped by the tumultuous Wild West, Marston is thrust into a realm where justice and morality exist in shades of gray.

Summoned by the government he once evaded, Marston is tasked with bringing his former gang members to justice. Amid lands echoing with tales of outlaw legends and a history steeped in blood, he soon realizes that the boundaries between right and wrong are as twisted and complex as the trails he navigates.

Amid a scorched wasteland of allegiances and double-crosses, Marston not only confronts bullets and blades but also the specters of his past. In his pursuit of redemption, he must confront the repercussions of his choices, embarking on a journey of revelations. The weight of his sins is a noose, one he seeks to cast off by bringing justice to a world where lawlessness seems destined to endure eternally.

Red Dead Redemption‘s open-world gameplay seamlessly intertwines with its prevailing themes of freedom and isolation, painted with the fading hues of an untamed frontier. Each trail calls out, and every horizon bears a promise or a threat.

With the dawn’s arrival, the expanse is bathed in a golden light, stretching long shadows over rolling plains, dense forests, and rugged mountains. Players are granted the freedom to roam this land, astride horses or on foot, the wind whipping John’s sun-scorched brow while the dust of history bellows past his heels.

This world teems with life, from the scurrying wildlife within the underbrush to the livestock grazing on the hillsides. Danger also lurks, embodied by lurking cougars or a pack of stalking wolves ready to maul unsuspecting adventurers.

This re-release includes the Undead Nightmare expansion, which reimagines the frontier as a zombie apocalypse. In this alternate timeline of events, John must survive hordes of the undead while relying on ammunition as currency.

This amusing twist on Red Dead Redemption‘s core systems becomes a highlight of the entire experience, especially now that the multiplayer component has been unfortunately removed. It is a much shorter scenario but is still packed with the same level of care and delicious period-appropriate banter.

There are numerous ‘back-against-the-wall’ style scenarios in which John must fend off waves of zombies in familiar Red Dead Redemption locations. The game’s engine was put to the test on seventh-gen hardware, but this Switch port impresses by maintaining a steady frame rate, no matter how intense the action becomes, and effectively manages a horde of zombies without faltering.

While many gamers rightly criticize this release for lacking any enhancements on the PlayStation 4 version, it’s impressive that it runs smoothly on the withering Nintendo Switch hardware. This is essentially the same game released in 2010, except for the multiplayer features.

It’s possible that the PlayStation 4 version was an afterthought and might have been a direct port of the Switch version. This could explain the 1:1 parity between the two releases. Both versions maintain a stable 30 frames per second and display at 1080p, which is technically an improvement compared to the seventh-gen releases that rendered at 720p and ran below 30fps.

All the assets remain unchanged, with no improvements, which can sometimes make them appear more rugged than they did during the 720p days. In a way, the rough and muddy textures contribute to the gritty and dirty atmosphere of the Wild West. You can truly sense all the grit, sweat, and dusty air on these characters to the point you can almost smell them.

Red Dead Redemption still looks very impressive. It would have been nice if motion blur effects were added as options, as the game’s cutscenes can appear a bit jittery at times. However, it’s safe to say that no one will ever describe this game as ugly.

The Nintendo Switch version is the one that Rockstar wants people to experience, likely being the primary reason for bringing back Red Dead Redemption. The PlayStation 4 version, on the other hand, seems to have been done out of obligation because the console still maintains a strong presence in the marketplace and would have been the only one without a means to play this game.

Red Dead Redemption maintains the appearance of a polished seventh-gen game, which is entirely fitting because it is one. However, one aspect that has always held it back, even when it was cutting-edge, is its playability.

The gunplay and cover mechanics aren’t always dependable. John moves sluggishly, lacking urgency, almost as if he’s wearing lead boots. His animations are excessively drawn out, and controlling him feels akin to trying to tame a wild beast.

The priority placed on animation for the sake of realism can make Red Dead Redemption a bit tedious to play. The dead-eye mechanic ends up feeling like a crutch to compensate for the absence of a skill ceiling, given that John is rooted in weighty physics and incapable of the absurd feats seen in games like Saints Row or Crackdown.

It’s plain as day why Red Dead Redemption became a classic on seventh-gen consoles. Its weathered characters and skillfully written script are among the best of its era. It stands as a technological marvel with impeccable attention to detail.

Although the sluggish gameplay and unresponsive action have always been open to question, with the right mindset, it’s possible to adapt to its crap-factor. It’s worth acclimating to them because Red Dead Redemption is more than the sum of its parts.

Red Dead Redemption was reviewed on Nintendo Switch using a code provided by Rockstar Games. Additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy can be found hereRed Dead Redemption is now available for Xbox 360, Xbox One (via backward compatibility), Xbox Series X|S (via backward compatibility), PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch.

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The Verdict: 8

The Good

  • Impressive lighting effects and attention to detail with beautiful vistas and immsersive side activities
  • Sharply written dialogue and good story
  • The filthy and rugged frontier ambiance
  • It is still an impressive technical marvel and runs confidently on Nintendo Switch
  • Undead Nightmare is a blast and offers a fun twist on the core Red Dead Redemption experience

The Bad

  • Some scenes appear a tad jittery
  • Sluggish and lethargic movement
  • The lack of the online mode hurts the value
  • Suddenly getting mauled by a wild cougar while in the middle of a shootout with bandits

About

A youth destined for damnation.


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