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PAX ’09 – Red Dead Redemption

PAX 2009

Huddled into a dark room by Rockstar Games, I was anxious to see what Red Dead Redemption actually looked like. A self-professed fanboy of Spaghetti Westerns, the original Red Dead Revolver was one of my favorite games on the original Xbox. Redemption is a sequel in name only, however – instead of an arcadey shooter, it’s an open-world adventure, taking place on a map larger than the state in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

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During the fairly brief press demo, Rockstar demonstrated a handful of innovative features in Red Dead Redemption. After a violent shoot-out with a gang of outlaws, the demonstrator demonstrated the sheer size of the world. Riding a horse to the top of a dusty ridge, the camera panned around, revealing rolling hills, rocky plateaus, and endless desert. Everything I could see, I was told, would be explorable, and not just for the hell of it. Red Dead Redemption will be chock full of secrets, treasure, and side-quests. It wasn’t all hidden up in these sandy mountains, either. There are three giant expanses to traverse throughout the game, each wildly different aesthetically. There are plains, forests, and deserts – and that’s not counting the innumerable outposts, towns, and cities speckled around each map. Still, however, the most interesting part was yet to come.

Red Dead Redemption‘s old west is alive with randomly generated encounters. Riding through a valley, the main character was greeted by several travelers on horseback – each of whom could be solicited for conversation, and occasionally quests. There were also events, like a man being lynched, who could be rescued, ignored, or murdered, or a gang of outlaws raiding a stagecoach. All of these events, and the actions the player takes during them, add to an overall scale of fame, notoriety, and nobility. Even the tiniest actions, like hunting a rabbit for meat and pelts, eventually tie into some other aspect of the game. Animals can be hunted for their fur, which can then be sold at a trader. Banks in towns can be robbed, simply by walking in with a weapon drawn – or, a nobler player could diffuse a bank robbery committed by NPC bandits. These random events look like they could go a long way to shape Red Dead Redemption‘s world.

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The version of the game I saw was nowhere near completion – animation, models, and segments of voice-acting were entirely missing – but still, the presentation blew me and several other press representatives away. If everything Rockstar has planned comes to fruition, Red Dead Redemption is destined to become a classic.

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in October 2006.

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