Yes, I'm back in the groove (thanks, Metroid), and with that I'm starting to get around to reviewing my backlog of games. The one I've been wanting to do the most though is Red Dead Redemption. And with good reason: This game is amazing. Having not played GTA IV yet, I can safely say this is the best open world game I've played and easily one of the most fun games I've played in years. The only real flaws are the same of every Rockstar open world game, which after seeing in game after game, you quickly ignore. <div align="center"><img src="http://thegamershub.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/Red-Dead-Redemption-1.jpg" border="0" class="linked-image" /></div> Red Dead Redemption takes place in 1911. Ten years after the turn of the century, the Wild West is dying out, industrialization and massive corporations are expanding, and new technology is coming in. You play as John Marston, a former robber and general criminal whose since gone straight. Once the government kidnaps his family, he's forced to track down and either kill or bring to justice the men he once rode alongside as brothers in his gang. The story is well woven, the characters are interesting and complex, and Marston comes out being one of my favorite protagonists ever. You see, when I picked up the game, saw Marston's mean glare on the coverart, I was expecting him to be a typical antihero or villain protagonist. But really, he's a nice guy. He's a family man, he's polite, and all he wants to do is see his family. My only annoyance with the story and characters is that the characters drop in and out too much. For each major chunk of the story there's a group of characters that reoccur, but once that part of the story is over, odds are they'll be gone. However, some do come back later and during your time with the characters you learn a fair amount about them. Still, the script is masterfully written, plot development is great, and plot twists and atmosphere are top-notch. You'll laugh and cry, love and hate, and really feel involved. Gameplay wise it's an open world affair. Once you're cast into the West, the world is yours. And there's a lot of stuff to do. There's tons of storyline missions to do, but there's also mini-games to play such as poker, blackjack, liar's dice, five-finger fillet, and so on, that you can do for money. There's also random events that you can intervene in. Here's an example. I was walking by a saloon and next thing I know some psycho with a knife chases out after a prostitute, trying to kill her. You can intervene and shoot the psycho and save the gal or you can simply walk on buy. There's also many other occurrences of random events such as horsejackers, store robbers, and generally people in distress. There's also gang hideouts you can assault and reclaim, outfits to unlock, challenges to complete, and "Stranger tasks" (which are essentially side missions) to do. Story missions are also unique, varied, and well spread out. The only nuisance with single player is that, like most Rockstar games, you have a slow start. You won't be immediately shooting down your enemies and getting into what feels like small wars. You'll be learning some game basics and doing generally low key missions like horse breaking and cattle herding. One of the big things in the game though is a morality system. Depending on your actions in certain situations, you can gain or lose Honor. Honor is of course a double edged sword. If you have high honor, lawmen will respect you, but criminals will be eager to go after you more. On the other hand, if you have low Honor, criminals will respect you but lawmen will be gunning for you. There's also another system of Fame, which simply unlocks more benefits the higher it is. It's a nicely implemented system and there are plenty of areas that give you a choice between good or bad. And what's the game without shooting? RDR plays as basically a third person shooter. You'll gain a variety of weapons such as revolvers, pistols, shotguns, throwables (like firebombs, throwing knives, and dynamite), rifles, repeaters, snipers, so on and so forth. The main thing you may notice here is a lack of automatic weapons. I mean, it's 1911 after all, the most automatic they had was mounted machine guns (which, by the way, you'll be able to get your hands on). I do like this though as it puts more emphasis on skilled shooting then running and spraying, and your shootouts will feel much more Wild West with this selection of weapons. There's also a robust cover system. You can slide into cover, blind fire, switch from cover to cover, dash to other pieces of cover, and slide over cover. My only minor gripe with this is that the environment can be, at times, unforgiving. You may be getting into a shootout in a giant gorge, for example, and your only cover is a small rock. Your head may still be exposed and it's definitely not as clear cut on how you hide behind it as say a crate, sandbags, or a building. But, if anything, it adds challenge and realism, which is good. There's also Red Dead's token "Dead Eye" system, which allows you to do quick locking on of bad guys and their body parts. In single player it'll also slow down time, allowing you to quickly scope out which body parts you want to hit and who you want to pump lead into. It's a great asset if you're swarmed by bad guys or need someone taken down quickly. In multiplayer it becomes basically a way to send a lot of bullets at your enemies at once. They also give you a short term lock-on (provided you're not using expert targeting mode) that will let you lock on to an enemy and following them for a few seconds. This is generally used for on-horse shootouts but also works well while on-foot, and lets you easily switch between enemies. Overall the shooting mechanics are well tuned and surprisingly in-depth. Usually I don't talk about multiplayer until the rundown but it's quite a big allure to this game. The big thing here is Free Roam mode, which is basically your lobby. However, that in itself is probably the best part of the multiplayer. You're given the entire game map on which up to sixteen people can roam around and do whatever. It's basically a small-scale MMO. Completing challenges and killing people will net you experience, and more experience lets you unlock more weapons, characters, game modes, mounts, titles, whatever. Posse forming is also a neat mechanic, in which you and any other group of players can form a team. Maybe you want to get a bunch of challenges done? Maybe you want to assault gang hideouts? Maybe you want to fight other posses? Either way you can ride together and do what you want. You can easily spend hundreds of hours on Free Roam mode alone, but there's also a lot of other modes to do. There's your standard array of deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture the flag, etc. There's also more interesting modes like Gold Rush where it's a free-for-all sort of capture the flag. You can also do co-op missions (via the free DLC pack) and a variety of other things. The only major gripe with multiplayer is griefers. Basically in Free Roam they're people who will do nothing but kill other players, even if they're not doing anything. I've had people ride across the entire map just to go interrupt my usual flower picking for challenges and then keep killing me until I'm forced to spawn elsewhere. Even then they'll ride after me. Lawmen may be sent after them but they're easily evaded and in the event the player is killed, they'll just spawn again and keep going on there killing rampage. Even with some anti-griefing measures taken via updates, they still don't feel adequate. Free Roam is still fun though if you have the right people, and with Rockstar continually putting out updates to stop griefers and cheaters, expect it to only get better. Oh, and the DLC that keeps coming out for multiplayer also helps. Graphics wise, this game is simply perfect. I could easily say this is one of, if not the best looking, game I've played. Everything is finely detailed, animations are fluid, and lighting effects are superb. Framerate also never slows down and there's no loading times between areas. The cutscenes look fantastic are aren't prerendered CG ones either; they run off the in-game engine (or so I thought). Simply put, it's a feast for the eyes and easily ranks among the best looking games made. Audio here is also superb. Voice acting is flawless outside of maybe one voice actor (and that would be Jack's, but he hardly has that many lines). Everyone else has great voices with good accents, emotion, and spice. The soundtrack is also pretty good, giving you a good sense of being the "lone wolf" out in the West. The original songs they have are also quite good and really add to the mood. Overall, what makes Red Dead Redemption good? Simply everything. It's very rare to find a game that masters everything, but this does it. Story, graphics, audio, gameplay, single player, and multiplayer all perfect. It's a game made with such fine tuning and polish that, simply put, it's a game that every PS3 or Xbox 360 owner should have on their shelf. <b>Presentation</b>: Story is perfect, full of betrayal, trust, loyalty, bonds, love, hate, and everything else that makes a good Western. Characters are complex and deep, with Marston coming out to be one of my favorites. Only minor annoyances is that characters drop in and out too much, but that's still something I'm used to with these open world games. Atmosphere is true to the time period, the script is both masterfully written and has plenty of dialogue that'll make you think. Menus are simple and well laid out, accessing weapons via the wheel system is pretty easy too. <b>10/10</b> <b>Graphics</b>: One of the best looking games I've played. Everything from character models, animations, lighting effects, environment, textures, etc are detailed to a fine point. Simply put it's an eye-gasm. <b>10/10</b> <b>Audio</b>: Perfect voice work. Inflection, delivery, accents, etc are all on-key. The soundtrack itself is also high quality, being moody when it needs to be and exciting when it should be. The original songs in the game are also pretty good too. It all fits perfectly. Sound effects and the like are also great. <b>10/10</b> <b>Gameplay</b>: With varied missions, robust shooting mechanics, a great open world, and plenty of stuff to do between the main quests and challenges, this is the apex of open world gameplay. Multiplayer also has a surprisingly large emphasis, and it works great. A rare blend of great single player and multiplayer gaming in one package. <b>10/10</b> <b>Lasting Appeal</b>: I beat the single player with most of the side quests in about 20 hours, with pretty straight forward questing and not doing a whole lot of side diversions (like mini-games or just going around shooting people). Getting 100% completion and doing mini-games and what not can make single player range between 30-40 hours. Then there's multiplayer, which with an addictive leveling mechanic, the awesome "MMO" feel of Free Roam, plus your traditional stack of multiplayer versus and cooperative missions, the multiplayer can last hundreds of hours. DLC will also keep things exciting. And if you're worrying about this being a game with a "spike" in multipalyer when it's released that dies down quickly, it's ranked in the top 10 of Xbox Live games since it's release in May (frequently making it into the top 5), so don't worry. It'll be a frequent in your Xbox Live gaming rotation. <b>10/10</b> Overall: <!--sizeo:5--><span style="font-size:18pt;line-height:100%"><!--/sizeo--><b>10/10</b><!--sizec--></span><!--/sizec--> If you don't have this, buy it now. It's worth every cent of your purchase. EDIT: Typo.