It has been a while since I’ve spent some time in the Wild West with my good ol’ pal John Marston, but the release of Red Dead Redemption on the PlayStation 4 has seen me re-visiting Rockstar’s excellent cowboy caper all over again. And you know what? It STILL holds up thirteen years on, even if this new release doesn’t feel like it reaches its full potential.

Check out some screenshots down below:

Red Dead Redemption puts players in the role of John Marston, a former outlaw who has tried to settle down into a more normal life with his family. Of course, you can’t outrun your past and the shady things that you’ve done, so when some federal agents take his family hostage, John has no choice but to work for them in order to make up for his previous misgivings. This means killing the remaining members of the gang he used to run with, which won’t be easy given than they haven’t been quite so willing to give up on their rebellious lifestyle…

The storytelling is superb, with the tale taking some gripping twists and turns as John Marston looks to go back to his new way of life and escape from the burden that still hangs over him. It’s strengthened by some brilliant writing and voice acting that’ll genuinely have players believing they’re out there in the Wild West. And, if you’ve only played Red Dead Redemption 2 before (that acts as a prequel to this), it’s a good chance to see how the story of Dutch’s gang eventually reached a conclusion. The pacing is a bit swifter when compared to narrative of its sequel, but it’s still a cinematic treasure that showcases just how good storytelling can be in video games.

When it comes to the gameplay, it’s safe to say that Red Dead Redemption still holds up today. Exploration is rewarding thanks to the wonderful world design, shooting is satisfying and really feels like it packs a punch, whilst the mission design and set pieces all feel expertly crafted to ensure the open-world design is embraced to its fullest. Of course, it might not feel quite as smooth as modern releases, but it still feels great to play two generations on from its initial release.

“It still looks great, plays smoothly, and brings with it some modern improvements… I just know that it could have been even better with a few more fancy bells and whistles.”

This review won’t focus on the ins-and-outs of the gameplay of Red Dead Redemption though, but rather the quality of the re-release itself. We’ve seen other remastered releases that have gone all out in revitalising older gaming experiences, but Rockstar have been clear from the word go that this isn’t a full-blown remastered version of the game, but instead a means for players to be able to re-visit it on modern consoles. It’s worth noting that whilst this is a PlayStation 4 release, I played it on the PlayStation 5, which allows players to play at a higher resolution.

Naturally, things look sharper on this re-release, something that’s owed to it running at a 4K resolution. This is a huge improvement over the PlayStation 3 original which actually ran at 640p, so everything is significantly cleaner almost immediately. The draw distance is increased too, whilst the shadows and lighting effects have also been improved to make for some more realistic landscapes. The main game textures and character models are all based upon the original release though, so whilst they are sharper, they don’t have the detail seen in the likes of Red Dead Redemption 2. This isn’t a problem because the game does manage to hold up visually, but it would’ve been nicer to have seen a bit more effort put into improving some textures in this re-release, especially since it’s launching at a £40 price-point. But still, there is no denying that this is the best that Red Dead Redemption has looked.

I really, really, REALLY wish it wasn’t locked at a 30fps frame rate though. Whilst I don’t know the technical ins-and-outs of game development, we’ve seen plenty of older re-releases come with an improved frame rate to take advantage of modern consoles’ power – having Red Dead Redemption locked at 30fps is a real shame, especially when you consider that not a lot has been done to significantly improve upon other visual aspects of the game. Also, the menus and UI haven’t actually seen a visual upgrade, so their low-resolution appearance in-game isn’t only jarring but also feels a little lazy.

Check out some screenshots down below:

It might sound like I’m hating on the Red Dead Redemption re-release a little here, but I’m really not – it just would have been nice if it offered a bit more oomph. It still looks great, plays smoothly, and brings with it some modern improvements… I just know that it could have been even better with a few more fancy bells and whistles. Is it worth paying £40 for? Probably, especially since you’re getting one of the best experiences in gaming (as well as the thrilling ‘Undead Nightmare’ DLC) on a modern console, but those hoping for a fully revitalised Red Dead Redemption may see this as a missed opportunity.

Red Dead Redemption Review

Red Dead Redemption is still a gaming masterpiece, but it’s hard not to feel a little disappointed that more wasn’t done to improve upon this re-release. Don’t get me wrong, it still looks fantastic (playing it in 4K on the PlayStation 5 is a treat), the story is as thrilling and as emotional as ever, and the gameplay holds up thirteen years on, but the potential was there for this to be one of gaming’s best remasters. Instead, it feels like things have been played a little bit safe, all whilst maintaining a pretty steep price tag.

If it came at a lower price, you could probably add a point onto the score, but as it stands? This is a video game classic that had the potential to be ever better (either in value or quality depending on how you want to look at it).

Developer: Rockstar Games, Double Eleven
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Nintendo Switch