The fact that side-quests can take widely different paths helps keeps things fresh. Of course, you don't have to get involved at all if you don't want to - you could just stroll back into the Saloon for a leisurely game of Poker.
If you do take action though, you'll be able to contribute to your standing in society thanks to the 'Fame and Honour' system. Every significant act contributes to your Fame. Whether it's deemed good or bad, however, determines your status as an honourable hero or a villainous rogue.
Put in enough good deeds and you could be on the business end of discounts in the general store and gun shop. Go too far the other way and you'll just find yourself on the business end of the law.
Redemption's side quests are usually one of a set few and - like the key missions - can become slightly repetitive; save a terrorised innocent, return a stolen horse/cart, save a woman from a cougar. Just your average day in Grimsby.
But the fact that you can see the game's limitations and yet still get that compulsive "one more bounty then I'll see to that chip pan fire" feeling is real credit to the game's mechanics - which manage to recreate a real sense of satisfaction and just good old fashioned fun again and again.
We haven't even mentioned the multiplayer - which offers all the usual modes of deathmatch, team deathmatch and capture the flag in cowboy clothes. And there's the Free Roam mode, which uses similar on-the-fly challenges that players can compete in together in order to level up.
There's a lot borrowed from the GTA series here: The radar at the bottom of the screen, the menu and map system, the cover and targeting system, rag doll physics and movements of characters are all similar. But while GTA is an impressively vast game, Red Dead's dusty plains and their comparatively few residents create a real world - not just a working city.
Red Dead Redemption is not just a game that you love to play - it's a life you'll never want to leave. And when you do finally pull yourself back into the real world, you'll seriously consider buying a horse.
It's a tremendously detailed and authentic realisation of the Wild West with great stories, characters and inner workings. Buy it now.
A tremendous and authentic realisation of the Wild West that leaves GTA drunk in the saloon.
- The best open world to date
- Beautifully detailed
- Great characters
- You're a cowboy
- Almost irrelevant repetition