Red Dead Redemption Review - Nostalgia Powered
Red Dead Redemption – for those who played it 13 years ago, it triggers a range of memories, the overwhelming number of them being extraordinarily positive, and even tear-jerking, while other memories are of Mexico. The story of John Marston is widely considered one of the most impactful in the industry of the medium, and so with more than a decade since it first launched, it felt necessary for the game to get introduced to a new audience, one that may have played and enjoyed 2018’s Red Dead Redemption II, but lacked the context of the original to enhance their experience further. So now Rockstar, with the assistance of Double Eleven have launched… a port, of Red Dead Redemption for the PS4 and Nintendo Switch. At face value, it feels a bit lacklustre, given the remaster treatment that we’ve seen so many other games receive, but can this port be a worthwhile experience based upon its source material?
It has been over a decade, but the story of John Marston and Red Dead Redemption well and truly holds up. From its humble beginnings in the township of Armadillo, the cast of characters that John meets come with their own deep backstories, and quirky personalities. The wild west has had its way with a few individuals, creating some especially eccentric folks, and some especially hard outer layers for others. John must navigate the ins and outs of each individual in his hunt for former friend Bill Williamson. Red Dead Redemption set during the dying days of Western Outlaws, and explores big themes of the cycles of violence, and, ironically, the quest for redemption, something that John can never truly attain. The plot well and truly holds up all of these years on, even if the production values of the game have taken a dive due some negligence in this new release.
As well as possessing a powerful, evocative narrative, Red Dead Redemption was also well known for the phenomenal open-world sandbox that it had, the myriad of engaging things to do within it, and threats around every corner. All of this remains in 2023’s Red Dead Redemption, only it feels lesser due to the many strides forward that the industry has made since. The number of side-quests and additional activities to complete feel quaint when compared to modern trends of open-world design, and it’s quite refreshing to enter a township and not have dozens of icons appear for you to complete. The shooting, and extremely limited targeting reticule of Rockstar games in that era felt infuriating in its day, and the passage of time hasn’t made that aspect feel much better now. The snapping to targets often feels a bit too loose, leading to inconsistencies in hitting targets, human or otherwise.
When it comes to most remasters, the improvements found in the game tend to be in the realm of presentation, but being a port, there’s not a lot of note to be found from Red Dead Redemption either. Notably, the game has been locked in at 30FPS on PS4 and Switch, something that should have easily been locked at 60FPS at the bare minimum. There has been a resolution boost made to most of the game, which is much appreciated, although the upgrade doesn’t apply to the UI which remains at 720P, and looks really muddy when contrasted with the rest of the game’s improved looks. Not to be ignored either are a raft of animation-related bugs that plague the game inside and outside of cutscenes. From faces not animating correctly during dialogue, to horses crab-walking down cliffaces, and more, this port hasn’t been delivered in the cleanest of ways, although the issues are not close to as prevalent as those that plagued the GTA Trilogy.
Formerly DLC, Undead Nightmare, the zombie-powered expansion to Red Dead Redemption is now built into the experience, while multiplayer has understandably been removed. Multiplayer has progressed significantly from the initial release of the game, and its inclusion here would eat away at the sequel’s multiplayer audience, thus making the decision to remove it a smart one, while Undead Nightmare’s addition will undoubtedly be well received by those who never checked it out, the first time around.
Red Dead Redemption is a worthwhile purchase for two audiences, either players who have never played Red Dead Redemption before, or for those on the Switch who’ve never had access to the game on their Nintendo systems. For those who already own the game on their PS3 there is little reason to pay up the near-full price to access this port, and for those on Xbox, you already have a superior version of the game via the boosts made through backwards compatibility, and so it’s not at all worth buying the game on additional platforms. Nostalgia powers this port, and if you’re willing to overlook price, and a lacklustre port, in favour of accessing the game on a more convenient platform, then you’ll be set, but if any of these are deal breakers, then it’s worth waiting until a later date to return to the west.
Red Dead Redemption was reviewed on a PS5 using a PS4 code kindly provided by Rockstar Games.