By Sam Coles:
Rockstar Games back in the early 2000’s where on top of the industry with the Grand Theft Auto series, both positive with its great gameplay and negative with the wet lemons of the world who don’t understand it is just fiction. However in 2004 there was a small title released by Rockstar San Diego called Red Dead Revolver. Released on the PlayStation 2 and original Xbox, Red Dead Revolver had a troubled development as initially it was a Capcom title as a modern (at the time) reimagining of their classic arcade game Gun Smoke. Rockstar saw the potential of westerns in video game form and then acquired Angel Studios who then became Rockstar San Diego, who went on to make the superb 2010 sequel Redemption and the upcoming 2018 sequel to that game. How does the original 2004 game hold up? Let’s find out.
Red Dead Revolver’s story is about Red Harlow, a young farm boy turned bounty hunter who is on a revenge quest as his father was murdered as a child. When he was a child his father teaches him how to fire a gun and gives him the titular revolver, his home is raided by bandits and his father is gunned down but Red gets a few shots in and manages to blow the head bandits arm clean off and typical Rockstar fashion blood flies everywhere. The story to be honest is rather forgettable, and the voice acting is not good but I expect it was intentional as it seems to be making fun of Spaghetti Westerns as some of those films had terrible dub recording with the actors that didn’t speak English.
Gameplay is not an open world experience like the sequel, but instead it is a linear third person cover based shooter. You have two weapon slots and a melee, guns have punch to them and the feedback when you hit enemies both visually and audio wise with over the top blood effects and viscerally satisfying blood spirting noises along with A Wilhelm Scream is great. You go through each level, gun down everything you see and then fight a boss, here is the big issue I have with this game is that the bosses are not fun they take an infuriating amount of time to kill and are just bullet sponges and don’t really pose a challenge. This was a game before Gears of War which standardised third person shooters and oh boy does it feel like it, as the controls are incredibly stiff and getting into cover is about as intuitive as opening a door with your hands tied behind your back.
You also have the dead eye mechanic where you can slow time down, paint multiple targets and gun down everyone without breaking a sweat Clint Eastwood style. After each mission you get a results screen where you’ll see how much money you earned, how accurate you were and what weapon you used the most. In between missions you can explore a small town called Brimstone, which is a small open hub where you can talk to the locals, take on bounties and purchase new weapons. This is a small taster of what Rockstar San Diego wanted to do with the I.P and we would get a teaser in 2005 at Sony’s E3.
Visually the game looks severely dated, and I’m not talking about the fact it is a PS2 game as there were games that looked way better than this game with titles such as Metal Gear Solid 3 and Rockstar’s very own Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Character models look very angular and look as if they are made of cardboard. They do use a film grain effect to emulate the look of 1960’s cinema, which is charming at first but can get irritating as it can be hard to see enemies in the later stages of the game.
The sound design and music on the other hand is fantastic, the soundtrack is great as it recaptures the style of spaghetti westerns from the 1960’s/70’s. Sound effects are great as they go for the corny noises of bullets ricocheting off walls coupled with Wilhelm screens as they fall off a saloon roof.
Red Dead Revolver is a largely an enjoyable third person shooter, with a 1960’s western charm, over the top violence and a corny but funny story. You can pick this up for the PS2 and Xbox for a relatively cheap price these so if you see it grab a copy.