Redemption also boasts a fully working ecology system - complete with every animal from skunks to vultures. Venture out into the wilderness at night and you'll find you're fighting off more wolves than bandits.
This isn't always as pleasing as it sounds: One of the more frustrating times we had was whistling for our horse - only managing to attract the attention of nearby cougars, which routinely killed the horse and then went for our face. Not funny at the time... but it's the kind of thing you laugh about after. When you're thinking about Red Dead Redemption under your duvet. And you will. It's one of those.
When it comes to story missions, the inhabitants of the world really come to life. Characterisation and voice acting could rival any of the classic silver screen interpretations of the Wild West.
Take insane grave robber Seth, for example, who's not quite all there and will speak to corpses - or just the voices in his head - as he rides shotgun. Or the jolly, wobbly and always nervous mumblings of West, a salesman-cum-con artist. Each of the main characters have their own idiosyncrasies that you'll come to love; and personalities you'll usually learn to be wary of.
The missions themselves will see you riding, shooting and lassoing your way around the open world. The game's auto-aim targeting system allows you to be a dead shot. With a flick of the left trigger and a quick push of the right, you can get that 'palm slapping the hammer' feel to your gun play.
If you want really rapid fire though, you'll have to take advantage of 'Dead Eye' - which is the only real feature to make it through from RDR ancestor Red Dead Revolver (apart from the western theme itself).
Dead Eye - activated via the right analogue stick - slows down time. A sepia slow-mo effect washes the screen and allows you to sweep over enemies with the crosshair, painting them with red markers. Pull the trigger and John hits every target with alarming speed. It's particularly useful for pinpointing a hostage-taker - or eliminating out a group of advancing bandits all at once.
Lassoing a villain (or anyone for that matter; bar tender, piano player... nun) is even more satisfying than shooting them in the face. Select the lasso from the weapons wheel opened with the right bumper, ride alongside someone, aim and fire as with the gun and Marston will expertly snare the poor fellow. From there you can drag them around or hog tie them and carry them off. Why not recreate the classic 'tied to a train line' scene? (With a nun?)
Red Dead's missions are usually based around cleaning out a gang hideout or dealing with an ambush as you move from one area to the next. As a result there are twinges of repetition, but they're barely felt because the basic mechanics of play are so strong.
CLEANING UP THE STREETS
Perhaps strangely, it's Red Dead's side-quests that often provide the most exciting moments - and complete the feeling that there's a real world ticking over beyond the edges of your screen.
You can rip Wanted posters from the wall and go bounty hunting whenever you feel like it. Or amble through Armadillo - and witness the sound of a riotous gang all-of-a-sudden disturbing the peace. As they come crashing through, pistols firing - maybe dragging a helpless victim behind them - your adrenalin levels will spike as you go to intervene.
At this point you could open fire on the gang straight away. But you'll have to be quick and accurate, because they'll return fire immediately - and you'll have more holes than a fishing net in seconds. Plus, they're not going to stick around for long - so you're more likely to end up in hot pursuit, galloping and gun slinging to save the victim or in a shoot-out at the gang's hideout if they make it back before you can catch them.