Once upon a time, Capcom had high hopes for Red Dead Revolver. However, the game’s development eventually fizzled out and the title was seemingly dead – only to be revived by Rockstar a year or so later. What we now get is a game neither dark enough nor polished enough to sit comfortably alongside Rockstar’s other “M” rated offerings, yet it’s still too rough for any other special crowds.
Video games, like movies, have more untold stories than we often believe. Even though we are inundated with countless films, products and accessories, there are probably twice as many things that we never see or hear about. With the arrival of DVD we’re being treated to all sorts of deleted scenes and bloopers – hitherto hidden scenarios that weren’t supposed to see the light of day. And usually, what’s the reaction to those deleted extras? They should have stayed buried. This is almost the case with Red Dead Revolver; a title that so nearly never was, but somehow managed to claw its way back from the dead and attempt to entertain us.
It’s a decent title, worth a rental at best, but you’d be wise to avoid slamming down $50 for such a short, frustrating experience.
You primarily control Red, a typical bounty hunter type whose family was murdered for mysterious reasons. The game is divided into missions, each with a boss finale, and several middlemen to kill before you face said boss. I say you primarily control Red because, as the story progresses, the point of view changes and you then play as a different character. One would think that switching characters would change the gameplay to some extent, but it doesn’t. The entire game pretty much entails killing everything in sight within a designated area, and then moving to a new area and – you guessed it – killing some more. Stretch this out for 20+ missions and you’ve got the idea. Tactics for victory remain the same, regardless of which character you’re playing as. Yes, the obligatory ?searching for keys’ is here but, for a man stocked to the gills with artillery, it’s a little hard to see why keys are necessary at all. Each character role does have its own special move, such as Red’s deadeye aim (a la Bullet Time). But calling those moves different, or indeed special, would be like arguing over Ken and Ryu’s fireballs.
Still, it is oddly satisfying to mow down a room full of dirty, gun-toting madmen. Executing several consecutive headshots really makes you feel like an authentic bad ass, but that’s about the extent of the pleasure on offer here. Hit detection for your shots can be spotty, though, which usually means some random thug can take three or four solid hits before they go down. No wonder we fight with computers today; our ancestors were made of sterner stuff.
As you’re gunning down these super-durable miscreants, you may notice their odd behavioral patterns. Enemies run around wildly, and with scant regard for you or what you’re shooting at. They sometimes hurtle right at you, guns holstered, supposedly trying to stare you to do death? If that doesn’t happen it’s probably because they’re stranded, helplessly, somewhere else on the level?like in a door or a wall. Clipping seems to be a large issue here too, which makes the whole game feel somewhat unfinished. This is especially strange considering how long the game was delayed.
Your onscreen friends are equally detrimental to the game’s feel. They either don’t provide you with enough cover or they arbitrarily charge into a corner and act as though they’re waiting for someone – perhaps Kitty Pryde – to come walking through the wall. The overall shoddiness of the game’s populace makes Red Dead Revolver feel cheap. Not a word usually associated with Rockstar.
Mission objectives, much like the playable character roles, change in aesthetics but not in execution. Most have you ridding the countryside of bandits. There is, of course, the compulsory bar fight and train-hopping excursion, but before long you’re back to popping caps left and right. With such a focus on action, the involved gunplay needs to be truly exceptional. Here it’s just plain monotonous.
Even the boss confrontations boil down to mere strafe-fests. However, the bosses themselves play cheap and will mercilessly attack you while you’re trying to wrestle the camera back to an advantageous view. The camera is easy to use (most of the time), but in confined spaces it goes completely nuts. For example: you’ll get nailed by a flying crate, roll around for a bit, stand up and reorient the camera, only to see the boss standing right in your face ready to smack you up again. It’s extremely aggravating when your reason for retrying so many times is the game’s fault, not yours.
Also, the cut scenes often don’t relate to what’s really happening in the game world. For example, one mission has you destroying enemy cannons. Even if you destroy them all, the scene still announces that “there are too many of them!” and you have to improvise. Later, a frenetic courtyard brawl turns into an empty garden of peace and tranquility once your friend Jack Swift unlocks the front door. What? Where did the 15 soldiers raining bullets down my neck run off to? Oh, that’s right, they probably went to a better game. (Ouch! Ed.)
Occasionally you’ll find yourself in a one-on-one duel. These require some very specific movements and button presses, but disrupt the otherwise fast pace of the game. And there’s nothing quite as obnoxious as one adversary continually dropping you – immediately after you just razed a town’s worth of armed men.
If Red Dead Revolver’s gameplay really stinks, then its atmosphere is, thankfully, much better. It may be a chore to play but it sure does make you feel like you’re in the Old West. The graphics aren’t jaw dropping, but strolling through the dusty, airy town of Brimstone feels pretty authentic. The game also sports a washed-out look, furthering its rustic appearance. The cut scenes even have onscreen scratch marks and flickering bits usually associated with old film stock. Most of the character models look good, though it’s a little sad to see so many figures used with an almost generic regularity. They’re not even palette swapped. They’re the same guys everywhere you turn.
But for once, with Red Dead Revolver, a game doesn’t try to outdo itself. Even during intense action sequences the frame rate remains constant and the draw distance goes out to the horizon, letting you fully appreciate the scenery. Everything feels used and mangy, much like life out there in the Wild West must have been. Pity it’s not as fun to play as it is to look at.
Doubling up on the visual success is the delightful treatment the game’s music has received. The score is good enough to grace an old Clint Eastwood movie. Most of the songs are appropriate, but there are a few melodies that really stand out and will probably be revisited if there’s ever a sequel. The peaceful moments in Brimstone contain a light-hearted tune that conveys happiness and hope, while melee combat brings about an up-tempo jingle that makes you want to punch everyone in the room?your real room.
Finalizing the superb setting are the sound effects. Bullets ricochet, wood creaks and even the voice acting is passable. Each weapon and location has its own accompanying set of noises, and nailing a boss with one final punch is that much more gratifying thanks to the pounding effects.
There’s no denying it, Red Dead Revolver is a short game. Your first time through will see you saving the day in under 5 hours. You can then go on bounty hunter missions in each level, which give you certain tasks to complete inside the stage you already beat. They’re challenging and engaging enough that you may actually want to play them all, but it’s still more of the same. No matter how interesting the task is, you’re still dealing with sub-standard enemies and lopsided boss fights.
A multiplayer mode exists, but with few moves (punch, shoot and roll), even fighting other minds gets boring. Unlocking new arenas and combatants may entice some to press on, but it’s doubtful most of us will ultimately care.
In the end, it’s a little disappointing that there’s so much going on around you in Red Dead Revolver. Seeing this colorful, realistic world makes you want to explore it and soak up the Old West vibe. I would almost say the game might have worked better as (sigh) a GTA clone. At least then Red would’ve had free reign. Instead he’s trapped in a world more interesting than his game.