Red Dead Revolver
How the hell did it take this long? No, not the review, but to turn the western theme into a videogame. We’ve had countless RPG’s on fantasy worlds you’d never dream about, F1 games, football titles (in both variations), golf, first person shooters, puzzle games, movie tie-ins and bloody fighting games. But not once, not once, have we had the chance to step into the shoes of old Clint and John “This here is real hair. It’s not mine, but it’s real hair” Wayne. Why the hell not? God knows. Even so, many companies beat the devil around the stump before Rockstar took hold and turned the storming stampede that was Red Dead Revolver around into a mature and race-winning steed.
Beat the devil around the stump - To evade responsibility or a difficult task. “Quit beatin’ the devil around the stump and ask that girl to marry you.”
Put short, Rockstar’s Wild West adventure title is needed as much as the next generation consoles need wireless control pads, and the DS needing some new fresh games in the PAL regions. We could all see it coming, at one time or another; just we were helpless to aid in the process.
You follow the story of Red, a young wanna-be cowboy who is thrust into the murky world seeking revenge after his family are murdered. Starting off on the ranch shortly before the murder, you get to run around as young Red, and upon receiving his father’s old revolver are encouraged to go to the creek beside your house to practise at targets. Its here that you get to grips with Red Dead Revolver’s targeting system; holding the left trigger to draw your gun, a target is moved by the right thumbstick. When it goes red, that means there’s an opportunity for a critical hit, so you shoot with the right trigger. The sound effects when shooting hold a candle to every single western film out there, right down to the twang effect of the bullets being fired. Down at the creek you get to shoot lead into an old scarecrow before turning right to fire at pans hung up on a fence, and various bottles of shapes and sizes stood on top. You can almost feel John Wayne breathing down your neck, and we haven’t even got started yet.
Hold a candle to - Measure up, compare to.
Upon shooting all of ma’s crockery to pieces, the story kicks in. Bandits attack your ranch, ma’ is screechin’, pa’ is shootin’, and some of the baddies are rootin’ for your tootin’. It’s here where you get to try out shooting at real bad guys, which won’t for a second be euchered. Quick taps of the right trigger along with some nifty footwork soon dispose of them, as you run up the hill to aid your father. It’s too late though, the house is on fire and your parents are dead.
Eucher, euchered - To out-smart someone, to be outwitted or suckered into something.
From here on in, you’re on your own. Red is now an adult, bearing a remarkable resemblance to Clint Eastwood in the Fistfull of Dollars films, and you earn your money travelling from town to town performing bounty hunts for sheriffs and wealthy prospectors. In between levels are quick clips of Red performing various cowboy stunts and tricks, such as spinning guns round his fingers and back into their holsters. The mission structure in Red Dead Revolver is that of the films, with a few yellow bellies believing they’ve got sand, and offering to serve your shave tail guts on a limeware platter when you step in to stop them bullying a peasant. A gun fight ensues, the bad guys will be woopin’ and a hollerin’ as you run for cover and take ‘em out with your trusty pistol. At the end of the gun fest, the peasant dusts him or herself down, says something along the lines of “well, boun’y hun’er, you sure showed those crooks a thing or two” before the next loading screen appears.
Sand - Guts; courage; toughness. “You got sand, that’s fer shore.”
Shave tail - A green, inexperienced person.
But that’s just the gun fights that you walk into when riding shank’s mare. There are various missions which take place on top of the iron horse, mid-street high noon shoot-outs, draws, urban conflicts, bar brawls, canyon chases, jail breaks and everything else you remember in most western cowboy films. Shoot-outs are depicted brilliantly; the temptation to just storm in with all guns blazing by Rockstar has been withheld, and instead a brilliant Dead Eye feature has been born. The action slows right down, and the camera is placed to the side of Red, so you can see the target beyond the gun in its holster. Pressing down on the right analogue stick to grab your gun, up to draw, and then quickly move about your target acquiring lock-ons using both the right analogue stick and right trigger. Once the slow down period ends, of which there is about three seconds of, gameplay reverts to real-time to see Red fire from his six-shooter. It’s hard to think how they came up with it, and at first this technique will seem cack-handed, but give it a short while and you’ll soon revel in gunning down foes in slow motion.
Ride shank’s mare - To walk or be set afoot.
Iron Horse - A Railroad train.
The revolver isn’t the only gun Red can use; as enemies are disposed of, their gun sits on the ground, and by running over it Red can acquire a vast collection of weaponry. There are plenty of guns to collect throughout the game, from pistols to rifles, shotguns to handheld weapons such as petrol bombs, however Red can only carry two at a time, so you’ll spend a bit of time combining weapons on account of clip size, range of fire and reloading time. Weapons even get damaged during fire fights, and if they aren’t repaired between missions for a small fee they can become unusable. It’s all serious stuff.
At the end of each mission, as well as repairing possessions and combining firepower, you can buy items from the tradesmen and women that you help out. On rare occasions you’ll be able to purchase a new weapon, but most of the time spending bounty money on some of the weird and wonderful items of the wild west, such as ponchos, strong drinks and gun cases, will unlock material in other parts of the game. Multiplayer characters, arenas, cheats and journal pages can all be bought by progressing in the single player mode. Sheriff Bartlett, a character you meet in the game, owns this journal, and by unlocking its pages by progressing through levels and buying items, you get to discover the backgrounds and personalities of various characters in the game, as well as the backdrop to the whole story. This provides a certain incentive to keep playing so you can read through this extraordinary tale, as well as gaze at various pictures too.
There are other modes of play available in Red Dead Revolver, such as Multiplayer (sadly no Xbox Live; just a sign-in feature) and Bounty Hunter. The latter has you roaming levels completing objectives or battling against the clock; basically a watered down story mode. Multiplayer, neglecting the lack of Xbox Live, has three modes within itself; Bounty Hunter has the players (oh, up to four players by the way) battling away to reach the bounty limit- essentially a frag limit deathmatch with Wild West clothing. Sundown sets you and your friends in an arena with a set amount of cash; he with the most cash at the end of the round wins. And then there’s everyone favourite; High Noon. The only way to test your gun fighting skills, with just thirty yards and the quickest hand standing between the two of you as the clock strikes twelve…
Graphically, Red Dead Revolver takes the look of Timesplitters and throws Wild West powder all over it, head to toe. Dusts whips around the streets, tall grass leans in the wind, your hat flutters and your poncho flaps throughout your quests. There’s tumbleweed amongst the many other western stereotypical features, and whilst Rockstar has added some distortion to give us that old television look, Red Dead Revolver is solid throughout.
Character animations are some of the best I’ve seen, when you shoot an enemy on a balcony, they perform the classic wobble before crashing through the wooden railings in front of them, sending wood flying everywhere, and landing in a heap on the floor. There’s no sending people shooting back 20 feet; these guys drop their guns and clutch their chests as they mutter their last words, blood split all over their hands, before collapsing to the floor. Rockstar have managed to capture the violence with a comical edge, laughing at the pathetic acting of films gone by rather than taking it all seriously.
Perhaps the only quibble I have with Red Dead Revolver is the enemy AI. Often enough they’ll be too distracted by trying to get to a certain point of scenery than to worry about their own safety, so you’ll be sitting there firing away whilst they try and jump until their death. There also seems to be a lot of rushing up to within point blank range before firing a shot at you, which makes things easier when trying to aim, but when three of them have surrounded you, death is imminent. Red also has some annoying animations; on top of the train, for example, you are required to jump over wooden beams spread across the top of a canyon. Missing one makes him stumble back, and he’ll be so busy doing this that he’ll hit the next one, making him do the sequence again, unto which he’ll hit the next one too. All that takes down your life bar, which can be bloody annoying. It’ll lead to you asking yourself before a mission, usually staring into a mirror, “Do you feel lucky, punk?”
To be honest, the Wild West never featured tactics or pin-point attacks. It was whoever had the biggest gun and largest amount of bravery (or stupidity, depending on which way you look) that won battles, and as such the AI blips will keep you on your toes as you skedaddle around. Red Dead Revolver is such an enjoyable experience that you’ll be racing through each level, not only to unlock more pages in the journal, but to experience the different situations. It’s how the game never gets stale; one minute you’ll be riding a cow to evade bandits, the next scaling the top of a train, and then maybe a high noon shootout. Each event is neatly linked together with FMV sequences that advance the plot and introduce new characters, so you’ll never feel lost in the game.
Skedaddle - Scurry away or run like hell (circa Civil War.) “I best skedaddle.
So get off your horse, and buy this game, Pilgrim.
Nine out of ten