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Red Dead Redemption Review


Rockstar’s second foray into the Wild West setting (after its ancestor Red Dead Revolver) follows the story of John Marston reluctantly digging up his past in order to get his wife and son back from the American Government. Set in an fictionalised open world of America in 1911, John must help the Bureau of Investigation put the lawless west away, which involves meeting a few old friends from his old gang.

Old ways in a New World

While not achieving the same levels of commercial success as Red Dead Redemption 2, Red Dead Redemption absolutely deserves recognition for the fantastic experience it is. The story, while following a simple premise, is brilliantly well-written with enjoyable dialogue, intriguing missions and plot threads and wonderful set pieces. Without spoiling anything, it is such a great time seeing how one thing leads to another and John, wonderfully self-aware, often expresses his feelings of exasperation as what he is tasked to do continues to spiral out of control. Motivated by the love of his family, he continues to do the government’s will for the first time of his life. He enlists the help of a variety of characters, from the sheriff of the dusty town of Armadillo to an eccentric scam artist selling fake tonics and potions. Every character is well-acted and memorable but there are certainly those who stand out from the already well-performing crowd. Notable characters include John himself, given life by a very talented Rob Wiethoff- who delivers every one of John’s seemingly infinite voice lines perfectly, Bill Williamson, one of John’s old partners in crime made wonderfully psychotic by Steve J Palmer and Dutch van der Linde- John’s old gang leader and terrifying psychopath played by Benjamin Byron Davis.

However, the game's voice acting is stellar all around (with the exception of one hilariously bad “Oh God, you’ve killed him!” unfortunately making a touching moment quite funny) which really elevates this game's enjoyment when the people talk like actual people and are so expressive. Even random NPCs you meet along the roads and paths feel really alive due to the outstanding talent and effort poured into this game.

The game also has a dry, sarcastic humour to it. Being a parody of the American West, there are plenty of fun little side missions and details (as well as walking talking stereotypes) that give everything a sort of satirical tone. Yet at the same time, this aspect of the game never intrudes on the impact of this emotional journey of around 18 hours. And the story is emotional and heartfelt at times. At its core, John is a desperate man doing things he doesn’t want to by being forced by the government and following this story is extremely immersive and absorbing.

Quickdraws and Horse Rides

And that is before we even mention the graphics or gameplay. For a game that is 14 years old as of 2024, the game has aged exceedingly well. Playing this on an Xbox One, I was genuinely surprised at how good the game looks. The first sunset ride looked amazing with a beautiful balance of yellows and oranges across the desert landscape. A large portion of the game is set in a desert environment, but I was never bored of the landscape. The environment is dynamic. People have daily routines, animals come and go as the day passes and trains run their routes to schedule. Or a storm could break out, leading to most people to stay inside or comment on the weather in passing.

What truly makes the world feel alive is the random encounters. A stage could be held up by outlaws, a man could be getting attacked by wild animals, a woman could be getting kidnapped. You could even be attacked yourself by a thief or hostile bandit demanding your horse. I have played through this game twice and encountered brand new things the second time. But the best part of all is the total freedom of choice in these situations. A carriage being robbed? You could shoot the bandits to help the innocent people. You could shoot the innocent people and help the bandits. You could shoot both and rob the carriage yourself or ignore the situation entirely. There is a remarkable amount of player freedom and everything is tied together by the ever-changing honour level. Helping people will increase your honour level and you’ll become a famous western hero. Shops will lower their prices for you, you can hear people talk about the exploits of John Marston in passing and the law may even bat an eye for the first (minor) crime you commit. Or, you could be an evil thief, murderer and kidnapper and watch as people grow to fear you. You can be the John Marston of your choice.

The gunplay is also extremely fun. Rockstar’s physics engine is a sight to behold, as people react uniquely to being shot in different ways. No two people will keel over and die in the same way which is glorious (if a little sociopathic) to see. Dead-eye allows you to slow down time and tag as many targets as you have bullets and unleash a rapid-fire flurry of lead to your enemies. It all feels very well-polished which must be applauded.

I only really have a couple of criticisms for this game. At times, the pacing can be slow. A few story missions that feel a little dull or dry and periods of feeling like nothing much is progressing can hurt the pacing slightly. I would highly recommend pushing through these times, as the high points of this game are more frequent than the low points are really memorable. The only other criticism is that quite a few missions can boil down to “Go here, shoot people, go there, shoot more people” on repeat. But again, I enjoyed the gunplay so much that I was not ever really bored by this, but I recognise that some people could be.

An online multiplayer mode also exists, where you can roam, attack or cooperate with other players in a world separate to your story progression, where you can have guilt-free fun.


A masterfully written, impactful, enjoyable and well-acted story paired with extremely fun gameplay with exceptional freedom is a match made in heaven for this adventure in the American West. I could really talk for ages about how this game as this review has only really scratched the surface of what is on offer here, but I’ll do everyone a favour and tell you to experience this brilliance yourself.


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