In terms of games, fans of the spaghetti western haven't had much to crow about in recent years. Other then Outlaws from Lucasarts, it really has been something neglected by developers and given the popularity of the films in their heyday, that comes as quite a surprise. Red Dead Revolver will not only aim to change this fact, but will. Rockstar have created one of the best western style games ever and paired with some fantastic gameplay, Red Dead Revolver is definitely a must play if not a must own.
In the game you take the persona of numerous characters but for most of the time, Red. As you play out the first mission, Red's parents are killed during a raid on their ranch and Red sets off on a quest for revenge. Although the game does not display the fact, missions from there on are from much later in Red's life and its easy to tell this as he goes from a young teenage gunslinger, to a mean, tough man in what would seem overnight. Red's quest for revenge is the main plot of the storyline, but there are a few offshoots to keep the game fresh and interesting.
Red Dead Revolver is a third person action game with a few unique features and a great western setting. At the basic level, the missions either task you with defeating all the enemies, reaching an area or beating a boss character but to talk about the game in this fashion would be grossly unfair to the time and effort Rockstar have put into this game. Although the premise of the game would make it seem repetitive, there is enough variety in the missions to keep it fresh. For instance in one particular mission you have to rescue livestock from a burning barn while trying to avoid and shoot various enemy characters, another mission involves defending a train from bandits on horseback. Something that helps with this is the story which is ever changing and also the fact you get to play as numerous characters and not just Red.
The two main unique features and most stand out features of Red Dead Revolver are the duel sequences and the dead eye function. The duel sequences are the best replication of the famous shootouts seen in western films to date. The camera slowly pans to Red's side and then its up to you. Moving the right analogue stick back will draw the gun, upon which the game will move into slow motion, giving you a small amount of time to 'paint' targets on your enemies. Three different hits are available, normal, good and critical, which delve out different amounts of damage. This is important because if an enemy is not taken down in the initial duel phase, chances are Red will be laying on the pavement dead in no time.
The other mode is a more traditional game feature, Dead Eye. As you shoot characters, small meters in the HUD build up and each time one is filled, dead eye becomes available. When Dead Eye is enabled, the game slows down much like the bullet time in Max Payne and shows where the critical hit areas of the enemies are. It's not as useful as that seen in Max Payne but it works well as a feature and can be used often. There is also some RPG elements in the game with Red improving as the missions go on. After each mission you are given a ranking of good or excellent, and this will unlock bonus items. For instance on one mission a ranking of excellent may increase the maximum health of Red.
Throughout the storyline you will play through five different characters. Most of the time Red is under your control but others include Annie, a young lady trying to pay her ranch's rent, a englishman who Red saves, an Indian and in an interesting twist, during one particular mission you get to play as one of Red's enemies. Not against Red himself, but more an interactive cut scene with the plot development showing just what Red is up against. This gives an interesting style to the game and while the characters offer fairly similar gameplay they have strengths and weaknesses. You also at times have the opportunity to ride on horseback or other animals to help you move quickly. The game doesn't provide this for you, more you can just walk up to a wild or stray animal and hop on and the controls of the animals lend themselves well to moving and shooting at the same time. Fighting enemies on bulls while you ride one yourself is just one experience you may have while playing the game.
If there is one thing that is a little lacking it's the AI of the enemy, but they still offer a stiff challenge. Rather then try and hide, most of the time they will stand there shooting at you. They may at times run around quickly to avoid shots but overall the strength lies in numbers and not in brains. That's not to say Red Dead Revolver is going to be a game where you can expect to run through levels, take down the enemies easily and not be shot. They are impressive in other ways however and if you leave objects such as a gatling gun to be used, they will use them. There's only a few points in the game you may get stuck for a while, and there are guides available if you need them.
To deal with the enemy the game gives you a variety of weapons but you can only carry a certain number. You start off with a basic gun, before either taking weapons from dead enemies, or buying them between missions. The guns also from time to time need to be repaired from usage which is why money is an important aspect to the game. Each time you kill an enemy, you receive a small amount of cash. There's no real super weapon in the game, and nor will any weapon give you a significant disadvantage but there are times when its better to use a rifle over a pistol for example.
By far the most impressive aspect of Read Dead Revolver however is the atmosphere and setting of the game. Rockstar have gone to a great deal of trouble to make it feel like you're really in the middle of a spaghetti western film. Right from the intro to the game, which mimics the style of the old western movies, through to the supremely authentic voice acting and the licensed famous musical score, it all adds up to create by far the best spaghetti western style game if not ever, then definitely this generation of consoles. The other aspect which helps in terms of atmosphere is the storyline is believable and characters act the way you would expect; gun slinging, smack talking, country loving, bandits or civilians. If you like atmospheric games, then this will suck you right in.
The other impressive aspect of especially the PS2 version of the game is the graphics quality and the lack of frame rate loss. From what we can see, the game does not incur major frame rate troubles and considering the detail of the environments, characters and playable characters this is quite an achievement. There is no pop up to speak of, and it all runs smooth making the gameplay quite addictive. As mentioned before the soundtrack and authentic voice acting really add to the atmosphere of the game and this is the most stylish western game for quite sometime.
For the multiplayer side of things, Rockstar has ignored the online component for the PS2 version and gameplay is only available on the same console. One thing which is a small disappointment is the lack of co-operative play but to make up for that, the developers have included a few game modes such as showdown which is basically a one on one gun fight to reach a bounty first. Each time a character dies they will drop a pickup which may offer enhancements such as bullets which set a character on fire upon impact.
Red Dead Revolver is one of the best PS2 games thus far in 2004. Rockstar have captured everything great about the old western films; fantastic soundtrack, authentic voice acting, mixed gameplay, numerous characters to take control of and a quite decent storyline which pushes the game along well. If there are two criticisms with the game they are the almost oblivious repetitive nature due to the various changes throughout and also the lack of online play. Other then that its hard to fault Red Dead Revolver and anyone picking the game up will find a very atmospheric game that fans of the old spaghetti western movies will treasure.