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Red Dead Revolver creates a gritty realistic place in which to play. Although without the horsepower or investment of its younger sibling, Redemption, the game maker's craft shines through here to deliver something both interesting and enjoyable.
Tackling the western genre comes with its fair share of epic source material and Red Dead Revolver obviously touches on some of the best. I loved the simple revenge story that propelled the game forward and the grand set-pieces that came from it. Although the gritty filter on the visuals gave it an eerie authenticity, I felt it veered too often into ridiculous situations to be a truly genuine depiction of the West. The multiple playable characters detracted from the main plot and despite some excellent gunplay mechanics I felt this fell just short of being the Western shooter I was after.
From the very beginning Red Dead Revolver had some gritty and dark style that I enjoyed experiencing. The grainy texture of the visuals bled easily over into the simple revenge story that kicks the story off with. Having my main characterís parents killed by raiders is a sure fire way to give me the motivation to carry on playing and see justice done.
Of course, I would've been disappointed if the story had been just a linear path following Red as he meted out his revenge. Fortunately the plot expanded to include a lot of peripheral characters including outlaws, Native Americans and even the Mexican Army. In some of these episodes I even got to play some of Redís enemies. This was an intriguing step and gave the game a very multi-layered feel that added depth and thematic richness.
I felt more connected to these incidental personalities than I did to the main character.
Unfortunately I felt this also led to the gameís biggest problem. As good as it was to play as a supporting character - the English Dandy Jack swift being my favourite, it diluted the overall experience. I felt more connected to these incidental personalities than I did to the main character and this ended up with Red being painted as a pretty shallow and unlikable character. The voice acting and dialogue didn't help either and I suspect the aim was to emulate Clint Eastwood in one of the Sergio Leone films. Instead he came off as a Solid Snake clone with very little that kept him a character I wanted to know more about.
When the game turned towards the action then Red Dead Revolver redeemed itself tremendously. When I think of westerns I tend to imagine all the contrived set-pieces the best films have. The train robberies, the bar brawls and the dusty town showdowns are all in the game and it felt incredible experiencing those moments. What made it all the more authentic were the grubby visuals and the appropriate film-grain put over the whole screen.
These duelling moments and the grand set pieces that the game revels in gave me the gritty authentic theme I love about Western films.
The best part of Red Dead Revolver came with the duels. This is one part of Western games that can be so difficult to get right as the shootout mechanic can so easily convey frustration rather than the tenseness of a standoff. But the slow-mo system that meant I was pulling the right stick back and then forward to mimic drawing my gun was excellent at immersing me in the moment. It captured the vibe of the Old West perfectly and painting-on those six perfect shots before taking my enemy down was an awesome moment.
These duelling moments and the grand set pieces that the game revels gave me the gritty authentic theme I love about Western films and games. But Red Dead Revolver flushes this down the pan with some truly bizarre additions. I adore games that infuse individual character into their story or environments but the arrival of clown midgets early on in the game was too odd to ignore. Up to that point I had enjoyed the depiction of a revenge tale with the effective visuals and nicely cinematic style. But this moment and a few others later on just pulled the whole game into an odd fantasy-spiced western a little reminiscent of Wild Wild West.
Although these instances grated a little and the fragmented narrative pulled the game down, I still feel Red Dead Revolver was a stylish depiction of the old West. The set-pieces and the dramatic duelling system kept me in the moment and although it fell short of my expectations, it remains a classy foray into this uniquely American setting.
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