When you hear the name Rockstar, you instantly think of the granny-grenading, cop-killing, car-jacking crime-a-thon that is GTA. Take out the skyscrapers, hip-hop and chicken shops, rewind the clock a few hundred years, and you've got Red Dead Redemption.
Rockstar says it is "every bit as ambitious as GTA IV". A bold claim to say the least. We sat through three missions of the upcoming shooter, and here's what we thought.
What impressed us most about Red Dead Redemption was Rockstar's effort to make the open and seemingly baron lands of the Wild West a real and believable place.
Procedural events: At any moment in time you might encounter a seemingly random event happening in the game, completely separate of your activity. We saw a bunch of hoodlums dragging some poor soul through the desert with his feet tied to a horse. We saw a man stranded in the wilderness asking for help and another bloke being chased and shot at.
They're like the random fights you see in GTA, but with more story and depth attached to them. You can get involved or just ignore them, but they add an extra layer of life to the world. They seem like something you could get pretty wound up in though.
Reputation: You can go on a murder frenzy in GTA, but losing your stars is all you need to do to return your rep to normal. In the Wild West the townsfolk respond to you as you build up a reputation based on your actions, especially in procedural events. Help someone out, see him in a bar later and he'll greet you fondly.
The game will also have a fully robust law enforcement system in place, so if you do go on a shooting spree, marshal law will be down on your ass.
Dead Eye: This is a special move that slows time to allow you to tee up some much needed headshots when the heat's on. There are two types of Dead Eye - one that simply slows time and lets you shoot once to the head, the other allows you to pre-aim six shots which are let off in rapid succession.
When we say 'bad' we don't really mean BAD. But nothing else would work, you see? But here are a few of our hopes for the final game.
Mission variety: A criticism often made of GTA is that the missions are too similar. We saw three missions - one which had us shooting up a town to rescue a hostage, one protecting a merchant perched on a horse and cart, and another protecting a train on horse back. So shooting, shooting and more shooting. Will there be more variety in missions? Rockstar said yes, but wouldn't go into specifics.
Getting around: Issues surrounding getting where you need to go were solved in GTA IV with taxis. But we're not sure about riding a virtual horse for minutes at a time. You can jump on a steam train or grab a horse and cart, but we reckon there needs to be an instant travel option in the final game.
Plot: This game needs a dark and dirty plot to keep us interested but Rockstar won't say what the story is with the mess your character's in. He's been told to do something - by a shady government-led group called the Bureau - and he really doesn't want to do it. Rockstar would only say the story is "dark" and that it's not some trivial career-based game to become a sheriff.
The Wild West was an ugly place. Largely baron wastelands and run-down towns with sweaty, bearded men shooting each other in the face. From what we've seen so far RDR does a good job in recreating this lawless version of the USA.