Before we start this review, let’s get one thing out of the way. Red Dead Redemption is not only one of developer Rockstar’s best games but also one of the best games ever made. While I prefer Red Dead Redemption 2, there’s still much to be said about Red Dead Redemption’s relevance in 2023, given its deep, nuanced narrative, expansive open world and varied gameplay mechanics. This latest port on the PlayStation and Switch admittedly does feel a little strange as it does little to improve upon the original release, and is available at a rather steep price. But at the end of the day, one of the best games ever made looks cleaner and runs just as well on newer consoles.
A Man and His Gun
For those of you who have never played this (we hope there are only a few remaining), Red Dead Redemption takes place in 1911, otherwise known as the beginning of the end of the Wild West era in the United States. Players take control of John Marston, a reformed outlaw who is essentially strong-armed into working with the government to track down his old gang members, as his wife and son have been taken hostage.
While there’s nothing I can really say that hasn’t already been said, this is simply one of the best stories ever told within the confines of an open-world setting. It’s deep, emotional and engaging at every turn, while voice acting is top-notch across the board. While I would rather not spoil any more of the narrative for those lucky few yet to dive in for the first time, this is in many ways the perfect story of, you guessed it, redemption. While there may be a few more who have not played the included Undead Nightmare DLC, I implore you to jump in after finishing the main story for some left-field horror, as John fends off a zombie infection that’s sweeping across the country.
General gameplay also holds up quite well. While Red Dead Redemption 2 built strongly on these mechanics, shooting, horse riding and traversal all feel great. Nothing necessarily feels outdated in any way, which is a testament to Rockstar’s game design.
Porting a Masterpiece
You might be asking a few questions at this point. Why now? Why not a remake? Well, we’re really not sure either. Red Dead Redemption has landed on the PlayStation 4 (and PlayStation 5 via backwards compatibility) and the Nintendo Switch. The PlayStation 4 versions run at 1080p, while the PlayStation 5 version runs in 4K. We reviewed the Nintendo Switch version, which runs at 1080p while docked, and 720p in handheld mode.
Textures look clean and colours pop thanks to the refreshed resolution, but it’s definitely playing things safe. I’ve been checking out a few side-by-side comparison videos of the newer ports compared to the PlayStation 3 version, and you’d be surprised just how well that original version holds up.
Thankfully, all versions run at a solid 30fps, in which the Switch version held up relatively well. While I’m surprised that this isn’t a 60fps port, I’m a sucker for consistency, as this runs totally fine. It’s great to take Red Dead Redemption out on the go, but it’s also where things get a little messy.
Sure, it looks cleaner, but this is in many ways the same game that was accessible upon release and is still accessible on Xbox consoles via backward compatibility. It’s even been available on the Xbox Marketplace for a lower price. While I can understand the relevance of its availability on the Switch, at A$69, it simply feels like a kick to the guts for those PlayStation users who owned a PS3, but never really got their chance on PS4. When you think about the fact that a full-blown remaster might have only cost a few dollars more down the line, it makes this a little tricky to justify, if you’ve had your fair share of this in the past.
There’s nothing necessarily wrong with a solid port, but I feel as though recent rumours of a remake, paired with that steeper price point simply disappointed fans who were clearly ready for a revamped take on an undisputed masterpiece.
Red Dead Redemption’s latest port is the same, fantastic experience you know and love. But that’s just it. It’s very much that original experience, and it all depends on how you plan to cough up that extra dough. Newcomers should certainly invest in this on either platform and while it has aged quite well, it could have done with a more substantial remaster for the rest of us.
FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Highlights: Incredible narrative; Strong gameplay mechanics; Entire experience has aged quite well
Lowlights: Does little to justify its price tag
Developer: Double Eleven
Publisher: Take-Two Interactive, Rockstar Games
Platforms: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch
Review conducted on Nintendo Switch with a launch code provided by the publisher.