| paleface [sys=PS2; cat=Shooter_3D; loc=NA] |
|The story starts out in rather typical Western fashion (hero as child witnesses murder of parents, vows revenge, becomes drifter, etc) but the characters, action, and thorough "spaghetti Western" ambiance quickly establish this third-person shooter as something special, that rare game that melds art and gameplay into a beautiful piece of software.|
Red Dead Revolver borrows some current action gaming cliches (bullet time, sniping) but remolds them along unique lines. After you build up enough meter (time? accuracy? not sure) you can press R2 to slow time to a snail's pace and paint bullseyes on your target--then hit R1 to kick time back to normal speed and unleash a volley of lead at every spot on your opponent that you'd painted with a bullseye. To snipe, you can "attach" to an item of cover, like a cart, then creep to its edge, pick out a target, and pop around the corner to nail him.
Then there's the duelling, which is just like it would have been (and more) in my dream game: start out with hand poised over gun, pull back to grab the gun, push up to draw, then in slow motion train your aim over your opponent, pressing R1 to pick your shots, competing against a very limited timeframe and a drifting aim reticle. It's very exciting and works quite well.
The characters have excellent voice acting and colorful personalities, with opponents taunting and screaming various appropriate things during gun battles. Sound, in fact, gets real attention in this game, with great effects for the various guns, ricochets and so forth. Best of all, the game sports a genuine and lengthy spaghetti Western soundtrack, including two tracks by Ennio Morricone.
The graphics pretty much nail everything on all cylinders. Very few games manage to construct expressive-looking characters who don't look goofy, but Red Dead Revolver sports an extensive cast of distinctive models which, while not anatomically correct in real-world terms, perfectly convey the somewhat cracked personalities that Red meets in his adventure.
The levels themselves look old West through and through--sun-baked, dusty, ramshackle and just really evocative of that certain mystical old West conjured up in old stories of cowboys and indians. The developers didn't stop there, though: layers of video filters overlay everything you see, giving the game a dusty, bleached, gritty appearance wonderfully in line with the subject matter. Not only that, but particles or some other kind of effect call up convincing smoke and haze that can really make you feel like you're in the middle of an inferno when the lead is really flying.
Aside from Story mode (in which you can replay the levels to try for a perfect score, and to unlock bonus items) you can dig through a surprisingly thick journal of the people, places and items you encounter in the game, with hand-written notes and old photos giving more details about them. It makes the game feel really thorough, like the subjects have lives of their own, and this thoroughness makes itself felt throughout the entire game, even through all the menu screens, cutscenes, loading screens, and so forth.
Oh but back to the modes, the third mode would be multiplayer. This actually took me quite by surprise but you can play with up to four players split-screen in score or time limited deathmatch-style gaming, or in a pretty wicked duelling tournament. Characters and levels unlock as you play through the regular game, and each of the characters (looks like room for at least a dozen on the character select screen) have their own unique weapons and attacks--I like the big guy, for instance, who in melee can pick people up and throw them, or the English guy who is an incredibly bad-ass duelist with his dual pistols. I haven't played with anyone else yet but you can have quite a bit of fun just playing against bots, either in free-for-all or team play. You can enable some pretty wild powerups, and the game tallies up each of your shots at the end of the round. Very well done.
Few, very few games go to the lengths that RDR does to establish not only a palpable atmosphere, but to make the gameplay a genuine extension of that created world. Here you feel like the designers did not settle for a quick gratuitous action fix but really directed their efforts toward a unique vision. That they did this while having to go through several different publishers makes it all the more impressive. They have managed to create a modern, fantastically stylish yet distinctively retro action game.
|This is not an explore-and-search-for-clues type of game, this is a stay-here-and-fend-off-gangs-of-attackers type of game. They come to you. I like that, that's service.|
On the other hand, it makes the game on the short side in terms of minutes. But I hear you can unlock a Hard mode, and of course go for perfect scores and all that kind of thing. I think I prefer it this way--a very concentrated game.
|Did some two-on-two multiplayer, my brother and I against bots, and had a jolly good time. My brother could hardly put it down, in fact, and he doesn't usually get so in to this type of game. Mostly we played a level that has a gatling gun up in a tower, and I would go for the gatling gun and cover him as he ran around down below. The gatling gun is a lot of fun: start cranking it and it spits out such a hellacious spray of smoke and fire that you can't even see what you're firing at most of the time. Neat.|
The bots are not that tough and unfortunately I don't see a way to crank up their difficulty. Still, they aren't complete slouches and it's at least fun enough to see how much you can whup them each time.
|I like the single-player level design here: they stuck with very small levels that hold what amounts to a single gunfight. So you start the level, stroll into the main area, plug a bunch of baddies, and then on you go to the next area. Very direct and to the point, none of this trudging/searching around nonsense. And this focus helps them maintain very good performance, and concentrate on making each tiny area look really sharp and distinct.|
|My first impressions of RDR were very positive; either I've turned into a grumpy old man in the four years since then, or the game really goes downhill as the story mode progresses.|
The small arena levels get old fast, almost as fast as the respawning enemies. What's really weird is how the game throws boss characters at you like candy; you'll turn a corner and HEY you're in a boss fight, against some guy with a massive health meter that you've never heard of before and never will again. Really: they didn't even bother working most of these bosses into the story.
The boss fights in particular reveal the severe limitations of the AI. I had two boss fights in which the boss' brain broke, and as long as I stayed in a certain spot, they'd stand around looking foolish while I shot them. This seemed absolutely necessary to beat one particularly aggravating bear-man (WTH) boss who had nasty hand-to-hand attacks, threw knives like they were going out of style, could run faster than me, and could jump across the level in a hearbeat; fortunately, if I kept jumping on and off a big rock, he'd sort of mill around in circles instead of proceeding to kill me with ease. Another boss charged me, followed me over the lip of a little ledge, then turned around like she wanted to go back, only she didn't, and just stood there while I shot her approximately fifty times in the back of the head to kill her. Brutal, I know, but it had to be done.
The tiny levels are either spawn-fests or heavily scripted nightmares. It's hard to say which is worst, but I think the scripted ones, since at least in the spawn fests you can sort of decide what to do, although you often have to protect some friendly NPC who will gladly run off and get themselves shot.
The best worst level for me was the second train level (the first was bad, but not this bad). You start off riding your horse after a train--an armored train. Okay. Guys open armored windows of the second-to-last car and shoot at you as you ride up. Strangely, while it had no problem catching up to the train, your horse can't run forward past the third-to-last car, a flatbed, and instead just sort of gains and loses ground next to that car in a steady pattern. Ugh. So you have to jump onto the flatcar, kill some dudes, climb over the second-to-last car, straight into unavoidable gatling fire from the turret on the last car. Unavoidable. You *have* to take damage as you cross the roof of the car toward the gun, drop down in front of it, and release the rear car from the train. Somehow doing all this will now empower your horse to be able to ride two cars further forward. Hm. On the way back to the horse, though, don't neglect to wait a few seconds while looking forward into the next car, where you'll be treated to the sight of an AI spawning right in the middle of the car as you watch. Shoot him. Take that, script.
You're to ride forward a few cars now to hit another switch, at which point you can ride forward a few more on your wonderful magic horse, but watch out for the enemy riders! Guys are coming along up the length of the train on horseback now, and will knock you off your horse with a single blow. The train continues on, and by the time you get back on your horse and get it facing the right way, the train is probably "too far away" and guess what, you have to restart the whole level. Did I mention that the knock-off riders respawn endlessly? Yay!
Well by this time you can actually ride your silly horse all the way to the front of the train, although seemingly to no avail, because all you can do here is shoot the engineer--but only from the main side of the train; if you trouble yourself to ride around to the other side of the train, he's just as visible, only your bullets somehow don't hit him, and you'll tend to get wedged into crevasses that will sweep you out of range of the train and force you to restart. Well that's fun.
So what you actually have to do is go jump onto a hand car on a parallel set of tracks on the main side of a train, pumped along at the same speed as the locomotive by a fantastically spry old man, who apparently you're supposed to remember, but I couldn't for the life of me. He happens to have a Gatling gun on board, and is totally ignored by the enemy riders for some reason, so you just spray down their locomotive until the script decides the level can end.
The next level is a boss fight around the beached locomotive, where the boss pops his head out of an armored car for a few seconds to fire a flare at you. The flares guide the stupid-looking cannon turret on top of the armored car. This doesn't make sense, and is incredibly easy to avoid; the only trouble with this boss fight is that the boss, as usual, has to be shot about one hundred times, and a constant stream of soldiers spawn from each end of his car. On one end, they'll jump right on a gatling gun, and wear you down pretty good while you kill them (over and over). So you actually have to jump on the gun and fire off all its ammo (this takes a while), then you're much better off. Wow, strategy! Only this seems very stupid.
But the whole story doesn't really make sense and does get very stupid, perhaps reaching its apex of stupidity at the point where you have to enter a shootout contest held in the little town you always end up in between levels; I'm *sure* that people in the Old West always entered duel-to-the-death contests just for prizes and entertainment, yeah--especially with their friends, so they'd have to kill them in order to win. Yeah. Fortunately, the evil governor DQs your two friends before you have to kill them, which is actually very nice of him. The story is saved!
THAT level sucks anyway though because you have to win a dueling contest against a guy who's pretty good at it, and THEN fight him in a boss fight, in which you automatically start at about 40% health, and he starts at full health, no matter how many times you blasted him in the duel immediately beforehand. Awesome. Also, he shoots indiscriminately at the bystanders, and if he kills one of them, you have to restart; restarting here particularly sucks because the waypoint is back BEFORE the duel, so you have to duel him again.
The thrill of dueling wore off quickly for me; you're blasting your way through a level, killing several hundred people as usual without breaking much of a sweat (it's odd that in comparison to Gun, guys in RDR take way too many body shots to kill--usually four with some of the better guns; they will go down faster with head shots, but head shots are actually pretty tough to get in RDR, whereas in Gun they're easy), when suddenly you come upon one more shmuck to kill, and it should be simple, only for some reason you have to do it in a duel, where he can suddenly kill you in a single shot. So you don't really end up looking forward to them, especially when later on you have to duel multiple people simultaneously. The problem with the dueling is that you don't get any feedback on the timing of grabbing and drawing your pistol; if you're off by a fraction of a second, you'll be gunned down (the FUNNEST is when you draw nothing but air, second funnest is when seem to have drawn well, and can target vital points on your opponent, but for some reason can't fire--and then they shoot you dead after a healthy pause), but it isn't really clear when you're off, or which way, and it simply becomes trial and error, interrupted by having to reload and restart from the previous checkpoint.
There are stores and lots of guns and journal pages and multiplayer characters and stages to unlock--really impressive amounts of these, as I mentioned four years ago. Money is distributed so that you'd have to play through multiple times in order to be able to buy everything available; also, completing a stage can unlock up to two more things, depending on how well you met certain arbitrary figures that you can't view until the end, like taking less than x damage, or completing the stage in less than x time, so generally you (well, I) would have to replay each stage at least once to unlock all the stage bonus stuff. Once you beat the game, you get yet another arbitrary goal for each stage, and more stuff to unlock (cheats at least). But the stages are just so poorly done--relying either on mass spawning, stupid generic boss fights, or tooth-wrenching scripted debacles (oh I haven't even mentioned the one that's a key hunt: how fun does it sound to find four keys in a mine maze, some of which are hidden right behind a door opened by a previous key? Awesome design!) that I couldn't bear the thought of replaying them.
Characters are semi-cartoony in appearance, and generally look pretty good. I mentioned the impressive use of filters before to achieve remarkable atmosphere and mood for a PS2 game, and these are kept up throughout the game, heavily; unfortunately, they also include a very strong depth-of-field filter, which really just does a double render, offset further from each other the further something is from you, achieving a cheap and eye-straining blurring effect in the very near distance; this constant ugly blurring of anything more then twenty feet or so away gets very tiresome.
There are probably about 50 characters that can be used in multiplayer, if you unlock them all (I think I got about half on my play-through), and who knows how many little stages. They don't seem to be balanced very well at all; each one has a special attack that can be used a limited number of times (which can be recharged) as well as a custom set of weapons, but some of these are simply much more effective than others; for instance, the Native American female character has a bow that basically becomes a bazooka, and when you single-shot one or two people with it--you seem to get about six shots per super-charge--you've already recharged it again for another use; so why would you use any other character (unless of course there's one with a more effective killing technique, which there may very well be)? That imbalance is kind of a shame, but I suppose doesn't matter all that much since I'll probably never play this against human opponents ever again anyway; as I mentioned four years ago, fighting the dumb bots is actually rather entertaining--and much less frustrating than the game's single-player mode.
I thought I was going to like RDR, but by the end of the story mode I distinctly disliked it--the story and sequence design are just that bad.