Friday, 28 May 2010

Grand Theft Horsey So Far.


Last night I was hunting deer.  The night before that I killed a snake, skinned it and sold the remains.  I've been picking wild flowers, herding cattle, breaking wild stallions (insert your own gag) and tonight I've been killing bad guys, paying off a $20 bounty that was on my head and saving cattle from U2 video cliff dive.


AT's been calling Red Dead Redemption the game of the year and to be honest (and with some regret) it's hard to argue.  Rockstar have delivered and then some.  It's like the best bits of Grand Theft without the juvenile stuff.  If GTA4 was a more mature approach then this is the next logical step in terms of content.  Because it's not tagged with the Grand Theft branding (something that once you've played it for five minutes you'll realise they must have considered) the developers been free to create something a bit different.

But hey, this isn't a full review so lets not get bogged down in the detail.  I'm guessing I've given it 7 hours or so on the main story and maybe 5 hours online.  What Rockstar do better than anyone is nail both parts superbly.  Something that Infinity Ward, or whatever those guys are now calling themselves post acrimonious sackings (ReSpawn?), should pay head to.

Offline the main story is developing nicely.  You are John Marston, former gang member in the Wild West around the late eighteen hundreds.  He's being blackmailed to kill a former partner in crime, his family being held hostage by government types.  The set up is simple, he's in a part of the Country he doesn't know, trying to figure out how to kill a guy, building up relationships as he goes.  It is all very Grand Theft with one subtle difference.  Marston, although having a dark past, is less ambiguous than Nico and co ever were, he's clearly a good guy.

This leads to you, the player, playing in a different way, or at least that's how it's affected me.  Sure you can blaze your way into town murderin' folk but I can't bring myself to do it, cause it just wouldn't feel in character.  There's so much going on too, whether it's rabbits skitting across your path or a hold up you stumble into as you blaze down a trail on your ride.

So all kind of serious, fun but serious and the voice acting, story and graphics mix into an evocative and immersive concoction.  Brilliant stuff so far.

It's also by far the best looking 'sandbox' game I've seen.  Amazing draw distance, proper sunrises and sunsets and a gloriously starry sky at night.  The weather effects are just to die for.  If GTA4 failed to completely deliver in one area it was the visuals, marginally.  You could not level that at Red Dead.

Online is a fricking riot.

Take all the best elements of GTA4 online and then make them sharper, tighter and more intuitive, build in a ranking system that's half COD, half Uncharted 2 and you have a great blend.  My first interaction online sums it up.

I joined AT on a vast map, neither of us had figured out how to use the Posse system and so we just headed towards each other.  He'd played a bit and so had unlocked a horse, I was a Mexican on a donkey.  It took ten minutes of riding until we met and as we drew nearer we could speak to each other via the headsets.  He said 'Alright mate, what's with the donkey?' and shot me in the face.

When a game can you make you laugh that hard in the first five minutes it's going to be a winner.  Game of the Year?  Probably.  But it's a great early shout before the Christmas bombardment.

Full written review here soon and a Podcast review on Consoletards in the coming weeks.