Red Dead Revolver PS2 Review

After a decidedly shaky start in the world following its seeming-abandonment by Capcom, Red Dead Revolver has finally reared its scarred-and-sombreroed head into the home console arena. This game approaches a largely-untouched genre of entertainment – the Western – and does it relatively well. How does this uncertain fate followed by the revamping touch of Rockstar affect this game? Read on…

Graphics

This is one area in which Rockstar have really done their homework. The opening sequence is outstanding, and captures the mood of the period and the setting perfectly; the moviesque shots of the characters is nothing less than we would expect from the producers of cinematic games like the GTA series. As short movies of the cast are played one after the other, their names are emblazoned across the screen making this game feel truly epic. The character models are detailed and look quite nice; however, what really does the job is the grainy filter that has been laid over the graphics as a whole. While this may be seen as a slackers way of covering up relatively mediocre graphics, it captures the atmosphere of the Spaghetti Western perfectly; anyone who’s played Silent Hill 3 will testify that the use of flickering noise over the game environment can be used to far greater effect than disguising poor visuals. There is an unlockable option to turn this off, though quite why you would want to is a bit of a mystery.

All-in-all, the game is wonderfully stylised and screams quality from its design. Sadly, the character models do little to push the boundaries of the hardware, and a lot of the time movement is awkward and unnatural. This is probably largely to do with the FPS method of control; while this isn’t as pronounced as, say, “American McGee’s Alice” (in which the protagonist runs sideways with her hips twisted at a right-angle to her body), it does look a bit bizarre. There is also some glitchiness in the graphics, particularly in sections where enemies attempt to jump onto something and end up in completely unfeasible positions. Still, the environments are wonderfully recreated, if a bit small and limited in scope; plus, enemies (and your character, should you find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time) shoot wonderful streams of claret from their bodies when hit accurately. There’s even some hint of brain-like shrapnel flying from bodies when you hit them close enough to the camera; however, the overall effect is so over-the-top that anyone assuming that the game is relying on shock-value to sell should really give it another look over – after all, how can a game featuring shooting circus midgets and a man with a Gatling Gun hidden in a coffin be taking itself seriously?

Gameplay

The story could have been ripped straight from a movie; Reds’ father and mother were brutally murdered by a band of raiders after a large gold seam was found near their ranch, and the now-adult Red is hell-bent on revenge. All he knows is that the leader of the group was a “one-armed man” – anyone for a cliché? – and so he has turned to bounty-hunting in the hopes of one day finding his parents murderer.

The game breaks the player in gradually, with Red’s childhood forming the tutorial of the game as he gets to grips with a gun by shooting bottles and hanging saucepans. Soon enough you are thrown into several battles which educate you in the games’ mechanics; the art of gun slinging, fist fighting and the precise actions of the quick draw. All of these are easy enough to get to grips with, yet require practice to perfect. The general shooting sections show strains of FPS control in spite of the 3rd person view; the left stick moves Red while the right rotates him and aims your guns. The shooting system is extremely intuitive, with the left trigger (or shoulder button) drawing your gun and the right acting as the trigger to shoot your adversaries. You are given a handy crosshair that turns red when you are aiming at something that is in your best interests to shoot at, be they enemies or objects. Enemies can be shot in the arm, leg, head or chest, with each location being offered a greater reward (and quicker death) depending on how difficult it is to hit. However, as well as these standard shots there is the ability to enter a bullet-time like “Dead Eye” mode; in this sequence, time slows down, Red zooms in on the enemy slightly and red targets indicate the different parts of an antagonists body. You can highlight up to six of these and then launch a massive attack that will (hopefully) hit all of your targeted limbs and empty your gun completely. Naturally finding the time to do this so that you aren’t killed while reloading is crucial. There are plenty of authentic weapons to be discovered, from bows to Gatling Guns and dynamite, and your ammo is automatically restocked after every successful level. There are also plenty of great death sequences such as falling from rooftops through canopies to watch.

As well as these more conventional modes you must master the art of the Quick draw. This is comprised of 4 steps; pulling back on the right trigger drops your hand to your holster and slows time to a crawl: pushing forward brings your gun up and out and ready to shoot your foe: a crosshair appears that must be positioned over the enemys’ body and clicked with the right trigger/shoulder button: time goes back to normal, the shots are fired and the victor announced. The stylisation of this set-piece is brilliant from the camera lining up to give the best view of a twitching hand alongside a gun to the end gratuitous explosion of gore, and it is evident that Rockstar have made this the big feature of their game. Targeting is made all the more tricky for the sensitivity of the crosshair, and only certain locations will result in death with one or two hits; these are marked by a red closed crosshair, and are crucial to hit if you are fighting more than one person as the shots you can get off before the end of the sequence are limited. This gets more tricky as the game progresses, but still remains an adrenaline-fuelled rush amidst the action of the game.

The game is played in several levels, each of which take place in a different location from ghost towns to canyons. While most of the action is of the arcadey shoot-em-up variety, some will see you riding horses, brawling or even sneaking to accomplish your goals. Similarly, while Red plays most of these levels, some require you to control another person to expand the story; this can become a nuisance if the player wants to see what happens to Reds’ progress, but I feel they break up the gameplay and offer some interesting new scenarios and weapons. Between levels Red will generally return to Brimstone, a central hub in which items can be bought and conversation initiated. Sadly, the items do very little except open new items for multiplayer games – I was devastated to find that I could not wear my new bloodstained poncho – and the town is really no more than a neat aside. It would have been interesting to add some more interactive elements to the town; I thought my character had managed to get lucky with a bar wench when she wandered upstairs after talking to me, but alas it was not to be.

Indeed, the game is not without its faults; jumping and moving can be fiddly, as can turning quickly when surrounded by enemies. There are also several glitches in the game which saw enemy characters getting “stuck” so that they could be easily killed (or, in the case of Pig Josh, not killed). Also, in perhaps the worst glitch I have seen in a while, Red held out his arms as though holding a gun but without one actually being in his hands; naturally, I couldn’t shoot anything and he refused to “re-holster” his imaginary weapon, leaving me open to the abuse of the levels’ bad guys. After much button bashing he eventually got the real gun out, but it was irritating as hell after the initial amusement had worn off. Similarly I once attempted a quick draw only for him to miss getting his gun out altogether and end up with a raised empty hand. Still, that one made me chuckle.

The hand-to-hand combat is appalling; one may assume that this is to quietly prompt you to use guns for battle rather than your fists, but when one entire level is dedicated to solely fighting with your hands this becomes a bit of a joke. Similarly the physics of the game seem a bit screwed up; how Pig Josh, who outweighs Red by at least 200 pounds, can run faster and be more agile than him is beyond me. Similarly, one level sees you attempting to take down a fleet of cannons, each of which are remarkably adept at pinpointing your location and can track your movements to the millimetre. This makes the game quite frustrating, as it refuses to do what you would expect; perhaps some will see this as a refreshing challenge but I saw it as a pain in the ass. Thankfully, if you are killed, you will return to the start of the level or the last “checkpoint” that you encountered.

The game is a good, solid shooter, but certainly anyone looking for a more in-depth story should look elsewhere; similarly those after the freedom of GTA should be wary of the title. Still, the handling of the subject matter makes this game pretty much unique, and a worthy experience for anyone interested in their shooting titles.

Sound

Like the graphics, a great deal of attention has been paid to the sound of this game; the whistling trills of the opening sequence will delight Western fans, and the voice samples of the bad guys are comical and well-integrated. Unfortunately the voiceover for Red is rather canned and sounds uncannily like Solid Snake – which naturally throws out of the door any of the mystique of the character. Other than that, voice acting is sound, if nothing special. Gun effects and other sounds are equally well applied; however, it is really the music that does the greatest justice to the game, and makes it feel like an epic every time.

Lifespan

The games’ story mode is relatively short, owing to the small levels. However, at the end of each level you are given a grade depending on your accuracy, damage sustained and so on. The results will affect the items that you will unlock, so going through and getting “Excellent” on all levels will take some doing. Items unlocked included showdown arenas, weapon upgrades and pages for your journal. This journal is pretty nifty and offers a great deal of background to an otherwise very shallow game.

The multiplayer option will also add some more life to the game; as well as classic death matches there are also showdowns and different modes of play. These can be played online too, which opens up the arenas of possibility for this game. This and the vast number of characters and stages that can be found will no doubt keep people returning for some time after the main mission has been achieved. I think the option to play through as other characters may have been a great addition, but may have been asking too much.

Overall

A nice arcade shooter that is almost unparalleled in atmosphere but sadly lacking in any lasting veins of genius. It’s a pity, as the potential for this game shines through; just the gameplay doesn’t quite manage to live up to it. Don’t get me wrong here – there is plenty of fun to be had from this light-hearted and wonderfully stylistic game. I just wish that something less linear and more liberal had resulted from the formula.

8 out of 10
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