You feel that tingling in your mind? That feeling that you forgotten something, yet this sense of nostalgia tingles inside you and never goes away? That is the feeling of games from your past, games that are now obscure from the public eye. Some are herald classics, others are better left in the landfill, but while they are no longer in the public eye, they still live on in some way. Each week, I plan on embracing that nostalgia, so to speak, and review one of these forgotten games in a series I like to call “From The Well.” This week, we look at Red Dead Revolver.
Westerns have always been a forgotten chapter in video games. In the past, there were a slew of fun Wild West themed games that graces both arcades and consoles. Great games like Sunset Riders and Outlaws made the Western genre both fun and frantic, but until the Playstation 2 rolled around, there really wasn’t a more serious western game.
Red Dead Revolver, a side project created by Rockstar Games, was an attempt to create a semi-serious Wild West game that would combine platforming goodness and frantic shootout action into one sweet package. Unfortunately, Red Dead Revolver, for all its wild charms, is more of a muddled mess of bad gameplay choices and short, linear level designs.
Starring as the Spaghetti Western reject aptly named Red, you go on the standard quest to find out who killed your parents in cold blood, encountering every single western stereotype along the way, both friend and foe alike. From the sassy saloon girl with a shotgun to the cunning Indians with a bow and arrow, you go through levels shooting your way through waves of desperados, and eventually a crazy, cartoonish boss character in the process.
To say that the game doesn’t take itself seriously is an understatement, especially when your fighting midget cowboy clowns in two different levels. It borrows from the heavy drama of a Spaghetti Western, but most of the bad drama at best. Sergio Leone would roll in his grave if he ever played this, actually. The games biggest flaws are the controls and level design, which almost kill the game before it can even draw its big guns.
Each level is a small, linear space for a shootout to commence, where you go around and in arcade fashion try to shoot as many guys as possible to get a modifier to your score. The more people you kill in quick succession, the bigger your modifier is, meaning the more cash you would receive. In theory, it means the fastest guns would be able to breeze through the game with a lot of finesse. In practice, its made frustrating by some poor design choices with the controls, mainly aiming and shooting at distances. Oh it works fine when in close range, but when were shooting from afar, it takes some time to get the crosshair to zoom out a bit, aim properly and fire off a shot, making it an exercise in patience while three guys are shooting your head off with laser like precision.
There is also a nice knockoff of Bullet time called deadeye, which slows down the action and has you target specific enemies with a bright red crosshair, and you can just lay the lead into them that way. The deadeye system does work, but it’s clear what has influenced it, and it is not really implemented properly into the game. It also has a weird habit of targeting enemies that are far off from you, meaning that big guy with the shotgun will blow you wide open while you shoot a midget clown 200 yards away.
The other, and interestingly only cool feature, of Red Dead Revolver is the dueling structure. It’s basically a game of quick draw that mimics the old school showdowns at high noon, and does it real well. You have a limited time to draw your gun and fire your shots off, and depending on where you shoot the victims, and how accurate you are, would determine the outcome of the firefight. The use of this was unfortunately only for scripted events, like the predictable train robbery or the showdown tournament sequences in the game, but it was still a lot of fun to partake in. and is easily the best feature in the game.
Sadly, a lot of stuff was left out. You can purchase different items in the game, but they equate to characters and levels unlocked for a 4 player death match mode. Collecting weapons and ammo have the only value, because spending your cash on journal pages and extra characters and environments for a cheap multi-player mode is pointless. Plus a lot of that stuff is too expensive to even bother with. The mutli-player mode is also extremely weak, considering all you do is run around and shoots each other in the standard deathmatch fare. The biggest killer is the fact that the game can be beaten in less than 20 hours, meaning you have no reason to play it again.
It also doesn’t help that the game is graphically a pile of cow dung. The framerate is choppy, the character animations are bland and stagnant, and the environments are all edgy and unfinished. The games best graphical details come from the cutscenes, which add the grainy, B-movie touch to it, as if your watching a forgotten 50’s flick. Sadly, it matches the cheap graphics quality a bit too well to be noticed all the time.
The games sound doesn’t help much either, thanks to piss poor voice acting. The faux accents, the emphasis on every line like you were discussing the one ring was deafening to the ears, which is a shame because the games music was really good. It had a sense of a great epic, which was probably once buried in the game at one point, and really established the mood far better than the graphics and gameplay design would do.
Red Dead Revolver is a game that is best left forgotten, but one can’t look at the history of western games and not mention it, because it was important for reviving the genre for a new generation. Sunset Riders and Outlaws are long since forgotten (and seriously, pick them up if you can find them.) but Red Dead Revolver has spawned some decent western-themed games, such as Gun and Darkwatch. The material is ripe for the picking, but the execution of it needs to be done right, something that Red Dead Revolver failed at.
Final Score- D