Red Dead Redemption (360)

Er, so Henry Hatsworth got too hard. The Captain Boss and his nurse are impossible. I’ve put it to one side (code for “probably never play again”) and started something new. Or old, but new to me.

Now, I hate westerns. And I hate cowboys. And I even hated Sunset Riders which lots of people think is ace. But I love (at least, I do now – didn’t like it at first) GTA IV and this is, pretty much, a cowboy GTA game. Apparently. And it won Game of the Year or something, so it might be good.

And is it? Yes. Yes it is.

But first the complaints. The controls, particularly combat controls, are broken. Just like they were in GTA IV. Just like they were in GTA: San Andreas. And Vice City. And GTA III. And Manhunt. And every other game I’ve played built on a GTA game engine. Targeting baddies just doesn’t work half the time, and shooting on horseback? Rubbish, just like GTA drive-bys.

Also, the world of RDR is a big place. Everywhere is a long ride from everywhere else. OK, so there are stagecoaches that act like the GTA taxis (but aren’t nearly as frequently found), and you can save everywhere (except you can’t – lots of places seem exempt from “everywhere”) with your campsite kit and fast travel, but still – getting from A to B can be tiresome. Even more so when you’re “accompanying” someone, which basically means you hold the A button and fall asleep until someone starts shooting at you.

Thankfully, it’s all so, so glorious. Graphically, it is probably the most impressive game I’ve seen on the 360, with a draw-distance to rival Oblivion. It seems to play a lot like Oblivion too, actually – perhaps it’s the picking flowers, bizarre quests, and horse riding. No horse armour yet, though.

As with other Rockstar games, a lot of the fun of the game comes from two things: the “do things that aren’t scripted” (my perennial GTA favourite is the “take a bike where a bike can’t go” game – replace bike with horse for RDR) stuff, and the characters and their stories. Everyone is so well acted, so fleshed out, that they’re more than just game characters – they have their own agendas, secrets, and backstories, and finding these out is excellent.

There’s bound to be a twist at some point. There always is. And I’m guessing that it’s one of the Armadillo sheriff’s deputies turns out to be a bad’un. We’ll see. I’m only 6 or so hours in (past the barn fire, done a few Seth quests), but it’s great so far.

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