May 18, 2010, was the date that Rockstar thrust us into the Wild West with Red Dead Redemption on the PS3. Filled with Spaghetti Western tropes and the Rockstar patented open world, it was quite the release, and after over a decade, they’ve decided to bring us back into the lives of John Marston and his family… as lazy and pricey as it may be.
I’ll be real honest, I played the original version as a kid, and coming back to it with a more critical lens, a better grasp of enjoying the scenic route, and a lot more interest in a good story over mindless fighting, it’s better than I remembered.
Putting on the boots of John, we’re supposed to face his past actions and former colleagues to save his family, is a noble cause — you feel for him. At first, you don’t know why you’re after Bill Williamson and members of the Van der Linde gang, which you formally ran with, but it quickly hooks you regardless, and you feel like you have to keep moving forward. You want Marston to succeed in his quest of rescuing his family from a corrupt government only interested in using you for your past.
The Real Wild West
This might be a surprise… or not, but I am often not impressed with open worlds. I can tolerate them, and even some of my favorite games operate in an open world, but new open world games are a different breed. They excessively pad out the playtime with useless junk missions that feel absurdly rushed and copy and pasted over and over. Plus, they often hold no real value and is only there to not make you board out of your skull as you make your way from Point A to Point B. A pretty world can only take you so far.
The random encounters you find as you traverse the barren yet pretty Wild West are fairly run of the mill, so clearly they’re something I can’t stange, right? Not quite, they’re engaging enough that I hardly kept going, I would often help the citizens in need rather than take the NPC route and ignore them because I have better things to do. Sure, I’ve ignored them before, but oftentimes, it’s simple to deal with and can net you some quick cash or favor among the townsfolk, which can lead to rewards like discounts at the local shops.
There are even mini-games sprawled across the map, from playing poker to standoffs, horse wrangling, and night watching, there’s plenty to do even after the main story is over.
That is to say, seeing Red Dead Redemption make a return to PS4, introducing this to a new generation, makes me crave more games like it — ones that aren’t so reliant on nothing-burger side missions to mask its middling story.
Now, I’ve purposefully left the controversial release opinions aside — this isn’t a remake or remaster, this is a direct port produced by Double Eleven. Nothing big changed from its 2010 release, it’s not been upscaled or offered a good ‘ol FPS boost, even when playing on PS5. It’s a straight port with stretched assets that Rockstar felt comfortable releasing for $49.99. Sure, it has Undead Nightmare, which is a nice touch, but that’s more or less just adding content to make up for doing away with other content.
This wouldn’t be as much of a sting if it had all the content from the original release, but it lacks features, namely its multiplayer and while I won’t dwell on it for too long, that’s a feature that is prominent in the game, complete with trophies associated to it, so while Strauss Zelnick assets that it’s an “economic price,” I can’t fathom why they couldn’t sell it for $39.99, I’d argue that is a much better price… though, you can get the original version for like $30 and continue on with the OG multiplayer.
Red Dead Redemption as a game is still a fantastic romp that any cowboy or open world fan should experience. Meanwhile, playing it on my PS5 (via backwards compatibility) is a treat, even if it doesn’t change how the game runs or looks. It has one of the best open worlds you can ask for and a compelling story to boot. But, it’s bogged down by its lazy cash-grab nature, with the Rockstar team opting to do away with content and instead do the absolute bare minimum.
You can buy Red Dead Redemption on PSN here.