Most people already know that 2010 will be a huge year for video games, with several high profile releases across multiple consoles. Just make sure that you add Red Dead Redemption to your list of must haves. Rockstar will take a break from its urban-themed Grand Theft Auto games and explore the Wild West, where outlaws deal their own brand of justice. During the course of this ambitious and beautiful adventure, you'll wander across prairies, pass through ghost towns and plenty of other locales around the frontier, while shooting varmints and wild animals.
The game takes place in the year 1908, 50 years after its prequel, Red Dead Revolver. You play as John Marston, a reformed outlaw working for the Bureau of Investigation, with a mission to send criminals a deadly message from the government. It's a 3-D open world game, similar to Grand Theft Auto IV, except you'll visit the frontier, Great Plains and Mexico. This also means using equipment from the time period (no rocket launchers), such as pistols, a shotgun, knives and TNT, as well as a Gatling gun, the kind you have to crank.
Although you'll be able to go anywhere and presumably kill almost anyone, Red Dead Redemption has a series of missions that'll help move the story forward. This includes rescuing one of Martson's friends, Bonnie, from a group of lowlifes by shooting your way through a ghost town. Later, you'll protect a train from bandits, blasting them while on horseback (more on that in a bit) and leaping onto the train.
This wouldn't be a Western, of course, without horses, and Red Dead Redemption has numerous stallions to ride, complete with health meters. Each horse supposedly has unique abilities, and there's a difference between stealing a trained horse from someone versus taming a wild one. Not only will they help you cover great distances (the game also includes trains and carriages), but you'll also be able to shoot while riding, making use of the game's Dead Eye system, bullet time that slows the action down, allowing you to better dispose of your enemies. That'll prove useful in gunfights and against the game's various animals, a list that includes buzzards, snake, wolves and cougars, among other critters.
Much like the iPhone game, Oregon Trail, you'll be able to help or ignore non-player characters you meet along the way. For instance, if you see a man attacked by coyotes, you can choose to blast the animals or let the guy suffer. Just be careful. A broken down stagecoach may be an ambush waiting to happen.
Since the game has a day/night cycle (as well as a persistent world), folks will go about their business. A saloon will be dead in the morning, but out of control at night. You can trade with people in different towns, acquiring supplies in exchange for animal skins and other goods. You can even do a little gambling, throwing down a few poker hands to win big. It remains to be seen, though, if sore losers will challenge you to duels.
Thus far, Red Dead Redemption looks gorgeous, on par with Grand Theft Auto IV. The draw distance stretches for miles, and the various towns and characters sport impressive detail. The tattered clothes, dusty environments and old buildings scream HBO's Deadwood. We just hope everyone uses the show's colorful language.
Regardless, we can't wait to experience everything this game has to offer. Rockstar proved that it knows how to create sprawling open world adventures, and Red Dead Redemption should be a welcome addition to the company's outstanding portfolio. Saddle up and load your six-shooter when it debuts April 27th. - Chris Buffa