Developer: Rockstar San Diego
Release Date: May 3, 2004
A tumbleweed rolls lazily over your feet. The sun beats upon your back, and your hips are weighed down by the pearl-handled .45’s strapped to you. You look down the deserted, duty street. You walk slowly forward, your spurs changing musically in cadence with your stride, and then, he steps into view. You reach down and pull the flaps of your suede duster behind your holsters. You widen your stance. You watch his hands, waiting for that tiny, almost unnoticeable twitch. There it is… You slap leather, draw your six-shooters and blast away.
If you have ever wanted to star in a Sergio Leone/Clint Eastwood spaghetti western, then run, don’t walk to your nearest game store and plunk your Fistful Of Dollars down on the table to pick up Red Dead Revolver, a Good, Bad and Ugly game, that will make you an outlaw, like Josey Wales. (Holy Sheep-Dip! I can’t believe I made so many lame puns this early in a review!) Count on Rockstar to Do The Right Thing (capitalization notwithstanding, there are thankfully no Spike Lee games in development. And I promise; no more movie title puns.)
Kermit the Frog once lamented “It’s not easy being green”, but being Red is more dangerous than being married to Liza Minnelli. (Was that a movie pun? Oops.) OK, let’s get down to the heart of the matter.
Red Dead Revolver is bringing to life a much-ignored genre of gaming; The Western. You would think it would be a natural what with all the FPS’s out there! And what could be more American than a good old-fashioned western movie shoot-out? Here’s a game I think even John Wayne would have played. Rescuing runaway trains and kidnapped dancers, entering Battle Royales for cash, dueling on Main Street at High Noon and just plain blowing s**t up, has never seemed so… historical. That is, until the game gets strange. More on that later.
You enter this western universe as Red, the only son of a prospector and his wife. Upon returning home from his claim, dad tells the family that he has struck it rich, and they are set for life. But before he can get to enjoy his newfound wealth, he is brutally murdered, along with your mother. You escape, and begin a lonely existence as a bounty hunter. A hired gun, if you will, bringing lawbreakers to justice. Dead or alive, cash is cash. Years pass, and in your travels you come upon a merchant beset by bandits. He leads you and your canine companion (a cute little mutt) to a town reminiscent of Deadwood where the sheriff informs you that the Ugly Gang has taken over the town, and he could use your help. As you open your mouth to speak, a shot rings out. Those bastards shot your dog. Now that’s not nice. Time to go to work.
The story is a western classic, taken straight out of Hang ‘Em High. As you progress in your quest to avenge your parents’ slaughter you run across more and more bizarre gangs and bosses. But fear not. Your eagle eye, some good shootin’ iron, and a little luck will get you through.
Rockstar just keeps making games I like. I will admit that, as the bosses and gangs get “curiouser and curiouser” the tone of the game diverges from the dark, revenge-driven saga, and takes it to level more akin to the adventures of Treasury Agent Jim West of The Wild Wild West fame. (The cool old TV show, not that lame piece of crap with Will Smith and Kevin Kline. Not even Selma Hayek half-naked could save that turkey!) Your first major boss is named Pig Ugly, or Pete Pig, or something like that. I was laughing so hard when I first fought him I forgot to write his name down, but suffice to say he’s a big fat sweaty guy with dynamite strapped all over his body. If he gets close enough to you he can blow you up real good. But if you maybe keep circling behind him you can take him out before he knows what’s going on.
As in most games that feature bosses, each one in Red Dead Revolver needs a different strategy to take out. I’ll not go into more detail about that. After all, this is a review, not a FAQ. I will say that you will be facing homicidal midget clowns (homage to Dr. Loveless, perhaps?), killer Madames, wierdballs who chug-a-lug acid, and even more uncanny creations. While this detracts from the original tone of the game, it does serve to lighten the mood a bit, and keep the game from being mired in its own sullenness.
Combat is as simple as it comes in a console shooter. Left Analog Stick controls movement, Right Stick controls the camera. The camera movement is smooth and sure. Your R1 button is your trigger, and your L buttons control inventory and weapon selection. Put the crosshairs where you want the shot to go, pull the trigger and Boom! Now, if that was all there was, you’d get bored pretty quick right?
Well, Rockstar thought of that. When you activate Deadeye Mode, available after you’ve caused a sufficient amount of damage to your enemies, allows you to lock on to as many individual targets (be they on the same enemy or multiple enemies) as you have bullets left in your weapon. Then the fire button unleashes a torrent of slugs in a scant second or two. This slow-motion technique isn’t as fresh as when it was first used in Max Payne, but it still looks really cool, seeing Red fanning the six-gun and raining down his retribution.
There is also a Quick Draw mode that makes you actually draw your weapon, take aim and fire in a one-on-one duel. I would have preferred this feature if it had been more readily available, like Deadeye Mode. I can honestly think of a number of occasions where, if I had the ability to outdraw an enemy before he got his gun out, I could have saved myself a considerable amount of trouble. Unfortunately, this type of gunplay is completely controlled by the console. When your PS2 says its time to Quick Draw, just do it, and hope you are fast enough!
In addition to Red, there are also missions where you inhabit other characters in stories that run concurrently with Red’s tale. The most entertaining of these secondary characters is the British gunslinger. This elegant fop carries twin revolvers, sports a handlebar mustache and is more cocky than cockney. When Red first runs across him, he has been taken hostage by a traveling circus that would make HBO’s Carnivale seem like a Ladies’ Garden Club luncheon. Once he is rescued, you take over his tale for a little while. This cross-interaction again really helps to break up the monotony.
Level design is definitely realistic. All of the towns and buildings you encounter are accurately rendered. Even the placement of buildings in towns has an inner working logic.
Character design works as well, especially the costumes. The attention to historical detail has paid off, making even the minor NPC’s more interesting, and lifelike. The cutscenes are shot in a neat old-moviola style, with film creases visible in the foreground, and they help advance the story along. Come to think of it, my only graphical criticism is that the camera is pretty much locked when you enter buildings. This was annoying when I was trying to see who I was talking to, and what I was attempting to take.
The music is exactly what you expect. Solemn guitars, whistling, an overall sense of fatigue that picks up into frantic arpeggios of strings. This is where the game shines. The music is stellar. The voice acting, as usual from Rockstar, is above average, but still not up to some of its star-studded predecessors.
Nothing really revolutionary in multiplayer mode. In the classic Deathmatch-style, you and a bunch of your friends (or enemies) run around the well-designed levels blowing each other to high heaven (or hell). There is an almost-clever variation of poker, where the death of an enemy causes a playing card to spawn in his place, and the round ends when one player has a full hand. Scores then are based on the rank of your hand in addition to the number of kills, deaths, etc. As I said, solid, but nothing really new.
Your travels will take you from mesa to plain, from riverbank to atop a speeding freight train all the while looking. Looking for the slime that massacred your parents.
When all is said, done and shot, Red Dead Revolver stands as the best in a limited line of Western shooters. Prior to this, cowboy fans have had to make do with the dated (but still playable) Outlaws from LucasArts, Wanted, a mod for Half-Life, and Atari’s recent Dead Man’s Hand. Hopefully this will change in the near future, and wannabe gunslingers will have more places to play.
Score : 7.5/10
More articles about Red Dead Revolver