Review: Revlover daed der might not sound as cool as Red Rum does backwards for "murder," but it's not supposed to.
Drinking. Gambling. Roughhousing. Damsels and drunks. Outlaws and officers. Cowboys and Indians. Robbing banks and standing your ground in a duel. Those old Western folklore's you've probably heard about certainly were wild, weren't they? This was a time that saw the progress of the first American railroads, gave birth to several historic figures such as Billy the Kid and Jesse James, and has made it possible for the tales and the legends to live on or serve as a basis for some original creations throughout cinema and video game mediums alike. Red Dead Revolver isn't based on a true story, though. But, since we haven't seen many Western-themed shooters, at least not in a while, Rockstar figured they'd grant the wishes of those who've been waiting on this previously canceled 2003 release from Capcom. With the then development team Angel Studios purchased by Rockstar, and the changing their name to Rockstar San Diego, Rockstar now presents the rootin'ist, tootin'ist, fastest action drawing title there was, or ever will be...until someone comes up with something better.
Before Red became the notorious bounty hunter every bad guy wanted dead, he lived a normal life in a little house on the prairie. He was just a young lad at the time, with both a mom and a dad. One breezy dusk took all that he knew about happiness away from him. When a vile group of bandits paraded into his neck of the woods, they brutally murdered his parents and left behind an orphaned child. It was after this boy grabbed his father's gun from his charring remains and shot the fleeing murderers. Singed by the flames, the gun then imprinted its scorpion mark onto his palm. The boy kept this scar as a reminder for the hateful vengeance that is now used to drive him to track down the same attackers he's been longing to face. Now grown up with that same burnt hand, the boy now a man, Red is a hired gun paid to match anyone's meat in a vengeful search to avenge his slain folks.
Rockstar is a newness in today's video game scene that I for one couldn't imagine what it would be like without them. They've added that zappy, zesty, zippy, zork to an otherwise confined level of gaming. What's zork? It's...it's...well, it's not important. But what is important is that Rockstar is IT when it comes to rattling perceptions. Max Payne built the slowdown model for which an extreme surge of other company's titles borrowed thereafter. Midnight Club was the first to take the racing genre underground, when everyone else was still thinking in line of the same old stuff. Manhunt became known as the most realistically gruesome game there ever was. Grand Theft Auto of course became the most controversial, and one of the most sought after franchises of all time. Games like these (Grand Theft Auto especially) have based Rockstar as one of today's most powerful forces in the gaming world. So you think with a reputation like theirs that every game is going to be golden. Sometimes they are, and sometimes they aren't as much. This year's offering of the third-person actioneer Western, Red Dead Revolver, is one pick from the latter option.
Red Dead Revolver is very much a different approach for Rockstar. It's a shooter that's not only inspired by old-fashioned spaghetti Westerns, but it's one that lacks strength of plausibility. Red Dead uses a linear path to connect its stages with you playing the part of Red, amongst a small company of other story characters, in order to tackle missions that will ultimately reward you for the duties accomplished within. Now, this is where the game's overall appeal starts to diminish. This is because the overall objectives usually imply that you're to endure round after round of mindless shooting romps until you reach an end of the level boss and mop the floor with him or her (oh, and his or hers cohorts too), to enlist only more generic tactics into your strategy. Sadly, the truth is Red Dead Revolver isn't extremely innovative or entertaining for where the game carries its strides. What it boils down to is that Red is a cowboy who can carry up to three weapons per mission. One for long ranges (rifle, shotguns), one for medium (pistols, revolvers), and one throwing weapon (knives, dynamite). It's possible to switch between these items on the fly during battle, but not probable. Why? Because throwing weapons aren't really a necessity when shooting weapons deal damage a lot faster and have a lot more ammo to start out with. Not to mention they're just easier to manage too.
The problem is that Red Dead Revolver offers a large assortment of weapons (30 in all), which seem to differ very little from one another, unless we're talking about the unique attributes of the game's six playable characters. Beginning the game as Red, you'll leap from one training mission to another until you arrive in a temporary main hub of sorts, a town that goes by the name of Widows Patch. The town itself offers services such as a general supply store, where Red is able to purchase antiquities by today's standards, but general knickknacks and things back then. There's also a bank where Red can buy a deed to a Saloon that has no effect on the actual gameplay, and a weapon's shop -- which becomes the second significant spot in town next to the Sheriff's office. There, that's where Red goes to set foot on a new mission. After a while, the Sheriff runs out of missions to offer Red, and so Red stops returning to Widows Creek. Thus this splits the gameplay missions into many venues that aren't related directly. When Red does have the opportunity to check into Widows Creek, there's one thing to know about spending his earnings. All stuff sold to Red that isn't a weapon counts toward unlocking characters or levels in the game's multiplayer portion. Weapons though are of little value, when shooting in this game is shooting. If aiming a trigger at a scoundrel's body with a pistol weapon that is hidden in a mountain region at a long distance seems to have the same effect when doing the same thing with a shotgun, that kind of result leads to questioning, "Why even bother buying anything else at all?"
That question can be answered best with Red Dead's other characters (yeah, yeah...I'm getting to them). Along the way, Red will bump into formidable allies and foes who all tie into the main plot somehow (of what merger existence there is of it). Playing as characters other than Red actually edges the game toward a more original direction, being you're not only this lone gunner all the time. Every one of the six has special properties of their own. Reproducing its own Max Payne bullet time effect (here, called Dead Eye), Rockstar allocates each character with their own bullet function for which helps to fill more caskets with. These six souls' names are Jack Swift, Annie Stoakes, Shadow Wolf, Buffalo Soldier, General Diego, and of course Red. When engaging an enemy or enemies, a meter on the bottom of the screen bulks up as you fire upon the masses. Once full, pressing the R2 button stalls the pace of shootouts as Red or the others can aim their gun's reticules at any particular part of one or more enemies' body, highlighting several targets that will impact once the action catches up again. And what works here is that each of the six operates differently in these segments based on their specialty weapons. Red's deal for instance is a revolver shot; resulting in a standard fare of markings, where Jack Swift's adds a lot more targets since he carries two handguns at once. The rest of characters also have their own effective uses too, like Annie who uses an extremely powerful shotgun blast, and General Diego who stings enemies with his rifle's flare ammo, signaling a secondary cannon gunner to aim upon the desired target. But outside the Dead Eye ability, the procedures for squaring off against bad guys within the game's trials aren't the most capable of enthralling one's interest for long.
Missions in the game are actually all quite small in scope. Approaching these levels means you're directly in immediate contact with opponents, or you will be soon enough. Though varied in setting (from a ranch to a train to a mountain trail), the levels are compacted so that while some of them integrate a slight sense of exploration, the majority take place inside one central area and one central area only. Usually being cornered by large numbers of enemies in these tight spaces, Red Dead Revolver can also become a hard game to handle at times. To the effect of survival, Red's got his Dead Eye and his living will to press up against flat surfaces and shoot from behind. But in a lot of areas, this might not always be the best trick since enemies can be many in number and overwhelm your stilled reaction times easily. Once your only life bar depletes (which can only be replenished by using health jugs some enemies may or may not drop), it's gone. There are infinite continues, though. So no matter how dead you get, you can always come back and get killed all over again.
Continuations still have one flaw. In some stages of the game, you might have to retread all the way from the beginning of a stage setup even after reaching a certain point. Take for instance this one bar fighting scenario. Starting out, it's up to Red to punch, grab, kick, and toss bottles at a whole crew of disreputable ruffians who will fight each other, fight with the women, and fight with Red. After eliminating each and every one of these brutes, Red comes to a duel. Duels in the game are sort of like the Dead Eye element, in that you'll be forced to defeat one or more gunmen in slow motion. This feature isn't as easy as it might sound, however. Tilting back on the right analog stick and highlighting only certain spots on characters' bodies can be set for defeat. Since the controls for dueling are designed loosely rather than tight, and since duels go by fast (while you're drawing targets on enemies', they're doing the same exact thing to you), you'll find these showdowns to be amongst the most challenging moments in the game. If Red survives this particular duel (which can amount up to numerous attempts if you don't know what you're doing), Red proceeds to wrestling with the enemy again, only this time they're standing on an unreachable balcony level and you've got to both dodge their vantage attacks and destroy them at the same time. One small, or I should say large nut to crack still remains though. A boss that can toss barrels from up above until at some point leaps down on the ground level and can hurl Red instead or charge into him, poses a not so easy threat. If you don't beat him, you'll return all the way back to the dueling match, and must redo everything from that point on.
Playing through Dead's single player story mode also means that most your efforts have been spent on unlocking plentiful options in the multiplayer mode. This setup I'd say would be fine and dandy, but I can't because Red Dead's multiplayer isn't all it's cracked up to be. You wonder why you're giving your hard earned bounty rewards for a stove, a bottle of liquor, or a lasso? It's all for attainting journal page entries (which are readable passages that add slight insight into character backgrounds, if you care at all), and more important, for accessing new multiplayer stages and new multiplayer characters. Amongst three modes available for up to four players (via multi-tap), you have Sundown, High Noon, and Bounty Hunter modes. Sundown is a revision of classic First Person Shooter deathmatch, except in third-person. The difference is the player's aim is to see who can get the most cash before the others do by eliminating as many others as they can. Collecting cards off of fallen bodies also improves the status of those who attain these items. Where High Noon is essentially a round of dueling for more than one player, Bounty Hunter is a mode only accessible after beating the game once. With only mild entertainment values distributed to both single and multiplayer portions, though, it'd be shocking if a whole community of gamers would actually want to try accomplishing this trivial task.
It's known that in Western times, there was much beauty to see, and crudeness. Read Dead Revolver takes center stage instating the history of these aspects the West trailed behind quite good -- yet for the better part is unable to define them as well as it could have. Whatever it is movies of the past have taught us about the Wild West, Rockstar manages to illustrate the look of these kinds of moments into several of the game's levels. You?get a ghost town brawl. You get gunplay while riding horse back. You get a jailbreak. You get a train robbery. You get all these moments that made the West what it was. For what it has become, is a selection of dinky and demure localities. It's neat to see the designs of some the stages, especially in Red Dead's lighting measures, with elegant sunsets, darkened and torch-lit chasms, grainy and daylight drenched towns, and the best when inside dimly lit shops where Red motions the floor slow and steady-like. But, in its nature the game is awfully simple. Red Dead's levels in mere capacity just don't carry much when they're not huge, and not drenched in visual elevation either.
Objects and people don't make matters much better. Red Dead Revolver personifies itself with this grainy and old-fashioned feel. Rocks, trees, and broken buildings you can hide behind give some life to the otherwise depreciated appearance of characters in the game. Watching Red or whoever press themselves against a surface and duck out like a cowboy (or a cowgirl in Annie's case) certainly puts one in the ideal mindset of 1980s life. Even when the characters draw weapons, a little nostalgic animation is included. But unfortunately, character models in the game are actually cheapened by design. While different persons are fashioned to fit their specific outfit, none of them really stick out at you. It's not that the clothing doesn't match the types of people (with a whole lineup of models -- fat, miner enemies; midget, clown enemies; slender, colonial army-like enemies; all ages of townsfolk, and so on), it's that the people are generally stale in formation with the rest of the game. Important individuals, from playable to boss characters add a little oomph to what's you'll see on the screen, although even they aren't enough to brighten the archaic brushing of Red Dead's wishy-washy palette.
Sound, I'm guessing, wasn't as influential an element in life in the Old West as it is in today's fast-paced and hi-tech world. This shows in Red Dead Revolver, because the resonance in the game is about as average as the rest of it. Not the most story-driven game, Red Dead's cast of voices is actually both good and bad, and well...generally all together not outstanding, but okay. Red sounds like a tough guy, Annie Stoakes is a strong willed southern belle, Jack Swift has something of an English wit, General Diego uses a fierce and demanding Mexican voice, Shadow Wolf is cool and collected, and Buffalo Soldier has a Southern accent that gets straight-to-the-point like most soldiers do. Most of the time, however, is spent focusing on Red's side of the story. In essence you won't actually hear much dialogue from these or other significant characters in any form, so what they say while they say it is a very small sum. Considering Red doesn't have many speaking lines of his own (not even during the gameplay), you can imagine how absent Red Dead Revolver is without its stars. Opposition is what fills in the blanks here. But with tacky Western slogans crowding one another while repeating in claustrophobic burly brawls, the game's voiced deliveries feel more out of place than they do necessary.
Aside from the introductory movie's tune played before beginning Red Dead Revolver, the music within the game is a mix of forgettable filler-in content. A classy Western-like rhythm, laden with catchy guitar and drum sets, lays the tone for this game opening quite nicely. Playing the game is different though, because there isn't any greater collection of instrumental beats. There are just smaller compositions of Westernized themes that can be ignored easily with the fastness of action happening on the screen, and of course the gun audio to accompany this. Consistently applied to gunplay for the better part of the game, the audio here is definitely one of Red Dead's better aspects since handguns piercing bullets, rifles bursting, TNT exploding, footsteps running, horses galloping, tables shattering, and other game elements all sound real. Not the best brand of authenticity, just real enough to work.