Red Dead Revolver

Review

posted 6/18/2004 by Randy Kalista
other articles by Randy Kalista
One Page Platforms: PS2
Red Harlow is a man with a face as scarred as his childhood--and a gun as big as the chip on his shoulder. Red Dead Revolver hands you and old drink with a new twist: one part bounty hunter mystique, and two parts wild, wild West, served up in a dirty mug with a Rockstar logo. Paying homage to the spaghetti western flicks of the 60s and 70s, this title is painted with a level of thematic style only the Rockstar camp could pull off. They prove themselves as faithful disciples to Italian directors such as Sergio Leone, making no apology for the vintage film quality that is etched into every scene.

The tutorial plays out as a flashback to Red’s childhood. Red’s father returns from a gold mining expedition, his gorgeous Native American wife and devoted son welcoming him back after three long months. But Red’s dad had rustled up some ruffians along the way and the momentous reunion is cut short. The Harlow Homestead is attacked and Red’s parents are killed amidst six-shooters and gun smoke, but not before young Red takes down a few villains with his father’s old pistol. The leader of this marauding group gets his arm blown off, hence Red’s lifelong pursuit of a “one-armed man.” Unfortunately, there is little time for the audience to formulate any emotional connection to Red’s loss, and the entire story rides a dusty line between the classic and the cliche.

Which is where the plot shoots itself in the foot. Character development, motivation, and storyline analysis are scribbled into the pages of an artfully crafted journal, but this journal is virtually inaccessible except from the main menu. This is obviously not a setback for those who approach situations with a go-in-guns-blazing mentality. By focusing on atmosphere and third-person shooter momentum, the revenge plot is straight forward and subdued in favor of action-junkie semantics.

This initial lack of depth is by no means the fault of the developers. In fact, the stereotypical characters, formulaic settings, and predictable plot are 100 percent true-to-form as far as spaghetti westerns are concerned. In this respect, Rockstar translated the film genre flawlessly. At the very least, it is a refreshing sidestep from the stealth-based shooters that have recently saturated the market. (Except for one level that embarrassingly asks you to sneak through a gold mine. I personally don’t recommend said course of action.)

Several chapters have you controlling several different characters. Annie Stoakes, a crack shot with her rifle, is defending the back forty from a band of brigands. Shadow Wolf, Red’s cousin, puts Legolas to shame when it comes to brandishing a bow and arrow. You will even control characters that end up siding with the Bad Guys before all is said and done; a fun and ironic twist. Red is a man of few words, cool and focused—the ‘quicker picker upper’ when it comes to collecting bounty. He has maybe three lines during the entire game. But hey, Boba Fett spoke even less, and look at the superstardom he achieved.
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