Combat takes GTA IV as a basis and like GTA, the cover system is satisfactory, but lacks mass, with John having a harmful tendency to cling to the wrong side of wall at the most inopportune of moments. Combat on horseback is for the most part a pleasing experience, as your steed shows a reasonable degree of autonomy when you are tasked with relieving varmints of their lives, though it does on occasion plough into a wall leaving you exposed. The dead eye bullet-time feature is essential for crowd control and levels up twice throughout the game allowing you to pin-point multiple targets in creative ways, from taking down an attacker’s horse to disarming any brave but misguided soul who assumes they can best you in a duel.
As previously stated, the story may be a predictable retread of Wild West clichés, but Rockstar’s characterisations are perfectly pitched, with cutscenes never failing to engage. Characters like Nigel West Dickens and Seth Briars will go down with Rockstar’s best and cement their reputation for wonderfully observed writing. It’s testament to the writing that even when presented with a perfectly skippable stock travel sequence, you choose to sit back and listen as John shoots the breeze with his passenger. On the other hand, an aggravating peculiarity of the fast travel dictates that map-trotting can only be performed from a pitched campsite, slowing your travel somewhat.
Marston’s personal struggle may be your way into the world, but the greater narrative of industrialisation, federal encroachment on civil liberties and the erosion of the frontier lifestyle provides a fascinating backdrop and fleshes out the world brilliantly. Even at the story’s culmination, Rockstar have taken some brave and innovative choices with the game’s pacing that really pay off and make for a memorable conclusion.
Complimenting the comprehensive single player mode are a wealth of multiplayer options, supporting groups of up to eight sharp-shooters to form posses and take on criminal hideouts, animal hunts as well as 16 player deathmatches, with the dead eye loosing its time-stopping properties but still packing a deadly punch.
Surprisingly few games have attempted to realise this most captivating period of American history, and fewer still have managed to nail it so convincingly. In Redemption, Rockstar have succeeded in taking an over-subscribed genre and realising it with such atmosphere and boundless possibility that it fluently captures the thrill of the Wild West, and with that they’ve taken the Red Dead franchise into the big league, proud to stand alongside the best work they’ve ever produced.