Red Dead Redemption – Review (PS3)

 

Rockstar Games have a history of making great, innovative products so my interest is always spiked when I know they’ve been involved in a game.

Red Dead Revolver on the PS2 was a title they inherited when Capcom gave up on it and after adding some finishing touches a very decent western third person game arrived.

So having had a number of years to come up with a next-gen version of the wild west would Rockstar’s pedigree come into question? Or would they deliver the goods?

Undoubtedly they have delivered with Red Dead Redemption. I don’t recall a sandbox game with such a fascinating and well realised world. The way the world around you continues regardless is reminiscent of GTA games but everything here just makes you feel a part of something larger.

Let me start by saying that this isn’t a perfect game (if there ever can be such a thing?). There are glitches here and there, with some people reporting a whole host of problems. Personally I only saw a handful of graphical glitches (someone getting stuck in a wall etc) and only one ‘game-breaker’, where I could not interact with anything in the world at all (reloading my last save thankfully got everything back to normal).

The duelling system, while great fun, is never properly explained in full.

Some of the missions do feel a little samey at times but the variety of AI in your enemies, as well as your colleagues, keeps things different a lot of the time.

The positives are numerous, for one the story, voice acting and characterisation in Red Dead Redemption is fantastic. This is up there with the Uncharted series for me and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment.

The game is well paced and the final third – I certainly don’t want to spoil anything so I won’t go into detail – is quite a bold move that seemed to upset a few people but was something I thought was superb.

There is so much to do in the world that it is crazy – I’m not a big player of cards but I found myself spending 40/50 minutes at a time playing poker or blackjack. Or horseshoes. Or arm wrestling. The list is huge.

One of the highlights for me was the handling of the side missions. You have a set amount of ‘Stranger’ missions on the map that you can do but alongside them random events will happen as you make your way through the game world. Someone man handles a prostitute out of the saloon into the street in front of you and threatens her with a knife – do you intervene? Or leave them to it? There’s no right or wrong answer. Occasionally these were repeated but I loved the way Rockstar put them in there.

A quick nod as well to the music and soundtrack which is brilliant and really helps to set the mood.

Graphically the game is amazing, with a ridiculously great day/night cycle and some nice weather effects. Some of the views from up high are fantastic and the character models on the whole are impressive.

The multiplayer is split between your usual deathmatch/capture the flag etc and free roam mode – where you and your friends can posse up and take on AI controlled (or other human) gangs, go hunting for rare animals or even just shoot some towns up and get the law after you.

It’s fun online and with 6 free DLC co-op missions you’ll always find something to do.

Red Dead Redemption is a huge game with a lot of extra distractions to get involved in, whether on your own or online. I finished it in around 24 hours of gameplay but that included the odd side mission here and there and plenty of time playing games and ‘relaxing’ in the game world.

It has been a while since a game had me smiling, eyes wide and with goosebumps on my arms at what was unfolding in front of me but Red Dead Redemption managed it. This for me is the best game I have ever played – not an accolade that I use lightly but one that is fully deserved.

Rating 10/10

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Street Fighter IV Review (PS3)

So following on from my nostalgia piece on Street Fighter II last week I’ve had some more time with the new game.

And it’s been a mainly positive experience.

Graphically the game looks stunning and whoever made the decision to take the game in this ‘2.5D’ direction deserves some serious props as it makes for a very rewarding game.

The controls are obviously as they have been for years, left analogue stick to move and then face and shoulder buttons for light, medium and hard punch/kick. The spare shoulder buttons are used as for a one button press that is the equivalent of pressing all three punch or kick buttons.

I had to move some of the controls around to make it easier for myself but this was no problem as the game allows you to map the button controls rather than making you choose a particular set up.

The game has several new additions (speaking as someone that has only previously played Street Fighter II) including focus, super combo and ultra combo attacks.

Focus attacks require you to hold down the medium punch and kick buttons to charge an attack for a few seconds before releasing. If you pull the move off your opponent will take a big hit and then fall to their knees, allowing you an extra hit or two on the way down. You can take one hit from your opponent while charging, which actually makes your attack stronger, but any more than that and you’ll be on your ass. It’s a nice strategic mechanic which adds a risk factor to a fairly easy to pull off move.

Both Super and Ultra combos are pulled off by repeating the left stick movement of a special move (ie. Dragon Punch) before hitting punch/kick (Super) or the button for all three punch/kicks together (Ultra).

Again these are familiar enough that people won’t be put off by trying to learn them but require the right amount of skill/timing that it feels like an achievement to pull them off.

On my playthrough with Ken I actually only pulled one Ultra Combo off and in a nice twist it was the finishing blow to the final boss Seth, which was cool 😎

I’m sure as I continue playing and experimenting with new characters I’ll be able to pull off more and more different combos.

The arcade mode is your standard fighter fare. You get a small anime intro explaining your characters motivations etc and then fight through 4 or 5 guys. Beat them and you face your rival (with another intro) and then it’s on to Seth – the much maligned super boss.

Playing on Easy, Seth was still a respectable challenge – I beat him on probably my 3rd or 4th attempt. He has the full set of Street Fighter moves and isn’t afraid to use them.

To be honest I’ve found another of the new characters to be more of a problem – Abel.

This dude is rock hard and has an annoying throw move which he is happy to use back to back for some particularly cheap shots. 😡

Both him and Seth are beatable though and the mode provides a good challenge to tide you over until your mates arrive.

Single-player is an enjoyable experience but multi-player is where the real fun is at. Group of mates, winner stays on – these are the memories you’ll cherish. Even online, in my opinion, cannot compete with the sense of sitting in the same room as the guy you’re sonic booming.

One small niggle is the extended load times before each fight – I often caught myself thinking my PS3 had crashed they sometimes go on so long!

With a bunch of new characters and all the old favourites making a welcome return Street Fighter IV firmly throws down the gauntlet to all fighting games of this generation.

And I just can’t see any of the other contenders being better than this.

Rating: 8/10