For the Switch, Red Dead Redemption Is Still Worth Every Rooting, Tooting Penny!
Unless you have lived under a rock for the last thirteen years in the gaming realms, you will already know that Red Dead Redemption from Rockstar Games is an all-time classic. Originally released on 18th May 2010 for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, the game, some thirteen years later, gets another new release date for two new platforms, the Nintendo Switch and the PlayStation 4. Although it was a shadow drop release, expectations of a remaster/rework were high.
I was not one of those people expecting a remaster/rework, and I think it’s essential to make that distinction as my expectations weren’t raised. I also only wanted to review this game on the Switch, even though I could have asked for the version on the more powerful PlayStation 4. I have also previously played and completed the game back on the PlayStation 3 during the month-long PSN blackout. These factors, I feel, are essential to set out as for a Nintendo Switch player, this game is most certainly worth every penny of the asking price (There, I said it!).
Red Dead Redemption for the Switch is a port of an old game, but even just porting something to new hardware, it has slightly increased the visual fidelity. This game looks sharp, detailed, stunning, and smooth even by today’s standards. I would go so far as to say that I’m struggling to think of a Switch game with better artwork that captures the intended atmosphere, detail, weathering, and rendering of a game world any better than Red Dead Redemption. The only aspect that does age the game is how blocky the characters look close up in some of the cutscenes.
The game is simply gorgeous in both docked and handheld modes. In hand-held mode, where all the assets are compressed, the game looks even better. I’ve even gone so far as to try and discover if any new anti-aliasing techniques (straightening long lines in the game to make them look smoother and less jagged) have been used because, dang nab it, if my eyes aren’t deceiving me, this does look smoother than when it was on the original hardware. Also, when comparing visuals, the Switch game also looks a little brighter and less muddy than the original and even the new PS4 version.
As for the experience itself, it only took me a few minutes to recall just how captivating this game world is. From the opening sequence introducing you to John Marston on his train journey into Armadillo and the first few missions getting to know the Marshal and Bonny, I was back in the saddle and loving every moment all over again.
What sets Red Dead Redemption apart from its contemporaries, even to modern game standards, is the incredible character development, world-building, and narrative. You become invested in this world due to the magnificent writing, acting performances, and beautiful cinematography. Each character is full of life and interest as each voice actor sounds like they are having so much fun playing the parts they have. The game also has some fantastic set pieces that take you by surprise, alongside moments of pure visceral emotion. The story of Red Dead Redemption is one of the best of all time and something every gamer should experience.
As well as an epic story, the game also excels at things to do in this open world. There are many distractions to take you literally off the beaten path. Side quests were the highlights of this as these introduced you to many interesting characters in need of help or had a story to tell. Stop off in the local bar to drink, play poker, five-finger fillet, or horseshoes. Run into local gunslingers who challenge you to quick-on-the-draw duels. Or just wander the environments looking for collectibles, loot, or bandit camps to defeat.
Although the story of the game and its delivery is timeless, the visuals outstanding, there are a few cracks where the age of the game raises its head. The gameplay and its animations are smooth, but trying to pinpoint the exact placement on-screen to do something as simple as opening a chest took a lot of work. Each tap of the joystick moved your character a few paces rather than one. Back and forth, over and over to get to just the right spot was annoying.
This is highlighted even more by the woeful mechanic of trying to shoot when horseback riding. If it wasn’t for the generous auto-aim assist, it would have rendered shooting on horseback nigh on impossible.
Gunplay as a whole is very underwhelming and was never a strength of the game back in the day. There are some rudimentary cover mechanics that, again, are a little frustrating. While attached to a rock hoping to pop up and shoot at your opponent in front of you, the angle of the stone you were leaning against would then determine who you would focus on when you popped up to take a shot. A lot of the combat was simply waiting for an enemy to pop their heads over the parapet of their cover and pick them off.
The only good aspect of gunplay was using the dead eye feature where you could slow down time, depending on how much of your dead eye gauge was filled, to target specific body parts or people in slow motion.
Although it still works as intended, I was never a fan of the wagon wheel mechanic to choose weapons or items and still am not of fan of it today. The issue is that when you bring up the wagon wheel to choose what weapon you want to use, the action in the field doesn’t completely stop, and it draws you out of the moment of the experience. Time does slow down, but occasionally in the heat of the moment, and even with time slowed down, I’d hurriedly change to the wrong item as it’s not a slick process. All in all, gunplay and the wagon wheel feel clunky.
The audio is excellent, however. The thundering of hooves over the ground, a steam train blowing its whistle, the hubbub in the bar, or the rapport of distant gunshots envelope the player even further into the world. One of the areas that really surprised me was the music and the interlude tunes in the loading screens. The vibe of spaghetti Westerns is perfectly captured with the harmonica and simple bass lines found here.
The multiplayer aspect is not part of this package, but what you get instead is the Undead Nightmare story. The multiplayer aspect didn’t grab me back in the day when I could have been playing Call of Duty or Battlefield (there weren’t as many options back then!), so it’s not something I miss here now.
Be that as it may, it will depend on what your preference as a gamer is if you are getting value for your money for losing the multiplayer aspect but getting a free DLC instead. With modern consoles and much better and more fun multiplayer options today, I think the free story content, not the money and time spent making the multiplayer work, was the better of the two options from Rockstar.
But then we come to the elephant in the room: the price tag. If you are a PlayStation 4 or 5 owner who has a variety of open-world games to play and even a couple in the same genre, £39.99 / $49.99 doesn’t make a lot of sense. However, if you are purely a Switch user, suddenly this isn’t as big of a deal.
I went to the Switch store to see if there were any other cowboy or Western-type games. Apart from the excellent and fun Call of Juarez: Gunslinger, there really isn’t anything of note. If you add to this, I recently reviewed an on-rails shooter game that had around five hours’ worth of content, but the RRP for this was £34.99 / $44.99. Visual novel games on the Switch are £49.99 / $59.99 upon release, so suddenly paying £39.99/$49.99 for a classic game with around 40 hours for an amazing, immersive experience now seems to feel acceptable.
Yes, the game is thirteen years old, but it certainly doesn’t look or feel like it even compared to its modern-day counterparts. It holds up extremely well and even betters them, especially visually. If you have only used Nintendo consoles, you would have never been able to experience this game before now either.
Of course, the game is such a classic that it does deserve a modern-day workover one way or another. Maybe Rockstar is going to go down the Atlus route of re-releasing an old game as it was (Persona 3 released on the 19th of January 2023) but then still releasing a remastered version of it shortly thereafter (Persona 3 Reload, 2nd February 2024).
Even If RockStar does remaster the game, I think it would be too much for the Switch as it did have one or two screen tear and frame rate issues with this version, let alone a fresher more complex remastered one.
Either way, for Nintendo Switch users, there is quite simply nothing quite like it currently on the market, and if you didn’t know this game’s age by the way it looks and mostly plays, you would never know. Coupled with this, the Switch version of the game, it could be argued, is currently the best version to experience this classic on too. I would even go as far as to say Red Dead Redemption’s story is a far more captivating experience than that of the follow-up Red Dead Redemption II prequel game.
Red Dead Redemption is one of the best games ever made. The game effortlessly transports you in such a convincing manner to another time and place and is arguably one of the best forms of gaming escapism money can buy. If you want to live the life of a cowboy, then this is the game that will let you do it.
An incredible story full of interest, wonderful characters, and gripping drama. The visuals, especially the artwork, are achingly beautiful. Sunsets over the vistas of great plains while sitting at a campfire are something to behold, as is the monumental ride into the Mexico sequence. The extra story of Undead Nightmare does make up for the lack of any multiplayer and the average gunplay, and some other clunky mechanics do age the game a little.
However, for any Nintendo Switch users, there is nothing quite like this currently on the market, so it is well worth the asking price of £39.99/$49.99 to play an instant all-time classic game.
Developer: Rockstar San Diego
Release Date:17th August 2023