Better Red Than Dead pt. 2

25 05 2010

So, yesterday I talked some about Red Dead Redemption’s single player aspects, but today I’ll be focusing more on the multiplayer. For a game like this, a AAA title with as much advertising and muscle behind it to be released without at least some form of multiplayer is incredibly rare. Assassin’s Creed 2, Dragon Age: Origins and Mass Effect 2 are notable exceptions to the rule, but typically if it’s at all possible for a game to have multiplayer, it’ll have it.

From the outset, the developers were very clear they wanted RDR’s multiplayer to be revolutionary. While the modes it offers are very traditional (deathmatch, team deathmatch, a variation of capture the flag) the real difference here is the multiplayer lobby. Every online game has to have a lobby of some sort, where players are collected, choose what they want to do and then eventually get whisked off into the action. RDR changes this by the inclusion of its other multiplayer game type: free roam.

Sure, Grand Theft Auto IV may have pioneered the concept for the genre with its online free roam, but RDR changes it. When you select to play online, you’re dumped into the game world in its entirety to explore and do whatever your little heart desires. From this open world, you’re allowed to go wherever and do whatever you want. Along the way, you’ll find icons that you can approach if you want to start a deathmatch or capture the bag (not flag) game, or you can simply vote to start it from the pause menu. However, it’s this freedom that makes RDR so revolutionary. Gone are the days of simply staring at a menu screen while people queue up to join your game. While you wait, you can roam about, hunt the wildlife, hunt the local NPC’s, pick flowers or do whatever. It’s free roam in the truest sense of the word, and it’s all online.

Any fan of an open-world environment will instantly fall in love with the free roam in RDR. Sure, there aren’t the random happenings of violence like in the single player, but there are still plenty of NPC’s moving about the countryside and the towns. You can stroll into a town, shoot up the place and watch your bounty collect and watch lawmen come from far and wide to collect the bounty on your head. It can be pretty thrilling to hold up in a saloon or something and see the bodies pile up at the doorway, then making the daring jaunt down to said pile to refresh your ammo.

Another interesting thing about the free roam is the ability to form posses with other players. These posses allow you to basically form a group to roam around with, with the leader being able to mark spots on the map and all members respawning around each other in the event of death. However, that’s not  to say the system is perfect. I for one had the initial impression that posses would be a more permanent fixture, something like clans that are formed, last outside the mode and maybe even named. Maybe Rockstar will allow something like this later on, but for now it’s just something that’s made in each game. I’d also love to see things like shared bounties for posses and more, but who knows, only time will tell what happens.

Oh yeah, there’s also the more conventional things, like deathmatch or capture the bag, perhaps some day I’ll try those out. I’ve probably spent about 15-20 hours in the free roam alone, and it’s still fun. Sure, we’ve done all the gang hideouts and explored just about all the map there is, but there is always more for you to do, especially when playing with friends. One of my best experiences in a recent online game happened a few days ago. A friend of mine were hold up in the saloon in Armadillo (one of the game’s major towns), killing lawmen and other players. I made a run for ammo when suddenly my friend pulled up in a stagecoach and yelled for me to get in. I shot someone in the way and hopped in to ride shotgun, and off we went. The lawmen and other players gave chase, but a bullet to the head of a pursuer’s horse sent them flying head over heels and put a quick stop to the chase. We rode off into the sunset, laughing and cheering at the rather Hollywood-esque ending to a good time.

Moments like these are what will really give RDR legs. They can add all the maps and modes they want, but simply giving players the freedom to do things like this will really form lasting memories in my mind. RDR will likely be remembered for many things, such as its great offline story and characters, amazingly realized world and environment, and especially its treatment of online. It’s my great hope that the posse system will be expanded to allow for easier matchmaking of friends and a more stable, lasting group mentality, but for the time being it’s more than enough to allow for some friends (or like-minded individuals) to ride together, take over gangs, slaughter innocents and just have a great old time.

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