Considering the popularity of spaghetti western films it seems strange that there hasn't ever really been a developer to take the genre by the scruff of the neck and create a decent game based around this universe. Others such as Lucasarts have tried with moderate results but no one has ever seemed to be able to get everything right and really replicate the old films. That was until now. Rockstar have stepped up to the plate and not only created one of the best western games ever made, but a game that any Xbox owner must try at least once.
The main character of the game is Red, and that for most of the time is the character you play as. As the story begins, an epilogue plays out where the farm red and his family lives is raided and his parents killed. Red as a young bow vows revenge and this is where the main storyline comes in. Although the game doesn't actually explain this, the sequence of playable events take place much further into reds life and rather then a young scamp with a gun, he is a mean tough outlaw who will do anything to ultimately get his revenge. However Red's story isn't all the game revolves around and you become involved with around four other characters and smaller story lines along the way.
Red Dead Revolver is played in a third person perspective with a set of missions that must be completed and a hub where you receive more missions. Most of the missions revolve around killing a boss character who has a bounty on their head and how you reach their hideout, although there are times where it changes and has unique side missions such as trying to save a burning barn from raiders who are trying to kill your livestock or running across the top of a train taking down enemies and stopping an out of control steam engine.
However where the game really shines is the two main features of the title; deadeye and duels. Dueling is one of the staples of the spaghetti western and Rockstar have created the best replication in a video game of this system yet. After the camera pans to the side of red, you have to slowly pull the right thumbstick back and as you push forward paint targets on the victim. There is three different types of hit; one that does little damage, a hit and a critical hit. At times you can be up against two people in a duel and this is when the lack of accuracy and frustration can set in. If you get enough critical hits the enemy will go down before even a chance of firing is made otherwise chances are Red will be coughing up blood on the pavement as the duel mini game is very unforgiving.
Dead eye is very much like bullet time in Max Payne. As you kill characters small meters build up representing one use of deadeye. When deadeye mode is enabled the game slows right down and paints targets on the enemies critical hit area. Most of the time you won't need to use this as the AI is more powerful in numbers then brains, but its still a great feature that allows Red to mow down a lot of enemies in quick succession. Learning these two features, especially the duel, is the key to enjoying the game and not ending up stuck and frustrated at certain points featured throughout. As well as this the game features a few RPG elements. At the end of each level you're rated either good or excellent and this unlocks different features. For instance being rated good may unlock a new showdown character but not give Red a boost in his maximum health.
During various points in the storyline you will take command of different characters such as Annie, a farm girl trying to protect her land from the bank, and an Englishmen who Red helps escape and in one of the games more interesting twists, at one point you get to take command of an enemy boss. It is here that the unique missions come to the fore and keep the gameplay fresh and while the game is somewhat repetitive, playing as the different characters is one of the reasons you will continuously come back for more. Also in the tradition of spaghetti westerns, animals can be ridden and not just horses. If you see an animal just roaming around it is possible to walk up to it and ride it with your current character. They are easy to control and give a great advantage. In fact at times without animals you will find yourself in impossible situations or at least increase the difficulty of some tasks by quite a margin. They definitely help when taking on enemies in the game especially when they have animals themselves which you can acquire once defeating the enemy which can include anything from typical enemies on the ground through to horse and coaches and enemies on horse back or even riding bulls. There are guides available if you get stuck.
The weapon system used is fairly unique and makes the player choose their load out. At the beginning of the game you have a fairly standard outlay of weapons but as you progress further, more weapons can be unlocked or bought at the store. You have three categories of weapon; rifle-like weapons, pistols and hand weapons such as grenade. All of them have rankings in categories such as reload time and accuracy and the weapons you unlock further into the game aren't always necessarily better then the initial load out. Also over time guns need repairing which costs money just like acquiring them in the first place, although you can pick up enemy weapons. You gain money for each kill you gather on your journeys.
Like the PS2 version, Rockstar have gone to great lengths to create an authentic atmosphere to set the storyline in. Everything from the introduction movie through to the voice acting and licensed soundtrack screams spaghetti western and really they have created one of the most atmospheric games available on the Xbox today. Also they have kept in line with the old movies in terms of storyline and rather then try and modernise the style of movie/game, kept a fairly believable story considering the atmosphere and setting of the game.
As expected the graphics on the Xbox are superior to the PS2 version but not by much. They are more clearer and crisp but also demonstrate how impressive the graphics in the PS2 version are. Each of the character models are highly detailed including the enemy characters and boss characters and the draw distance allows for no pop up to be visible. This along with the sound effects and voice acting is what makes the atmosphere so perfect for the spaghetti western style of the game.
For the multiplayer side of things Rockstar have used the fairly generic deathmatch style but implemented a few unique features. When you kill enemies you are given a bonus. Rather then number of kills determining the winner, the player who reaches the set bounty first wins the game. It is a shame that Rockstar has chosen not to include a co-operative gameplay mode for multiplayer as this would have added extra icing to an already bountiful cake.
Like the PS2 version, Xbox Red Dead Revolver is a game that any owner of the console should try at least once just to see the design values Rockstar has put into this game. Everything they have put in the game melds together fantastically well to create the best spaghetti western game for this generation of console systems and even if you don't like the subject matter, it's also a strong third person shooter on its own merits.