"Read Dead Revolver's style will mesmerize and the intermittent fun will keep you, and maybe that's what hurts the most. I know I've said this before, but sometimes the worst 'bad games' are the ones you think you're going to love. Once the spell it has over you breaks, so does your heart."
Earthy tones are not something I would associate with beauty, but the prelude mission of Red Dead Revolver was nothing if not gorgeous. A pitiful farm interrupts the dry wasteland, a beacon of hope amidst the stirring dust and blazing heat. And in the sand, blood and bullets... A man and his wife lay dead, but their only son escapes and vows retribution. It was the perfect setup for a cowboy videogame: Max Payne in the Old West.
After a harsh spat at a saloon, you'll blast ruffians at a nearby whorehouse in an uncomplicated arena stage. Levels like this comprise a decent chunk of Revolver, and feel tacked on or like someone couldn't be bothered with planning out a full stage. You'll eventually receive a tip that there are some yellow bellies in the mines stirring up some mischief, and you'll rush to quash their villainy. Now this is more like it, a fully fleshed-out stage with turns, corners, corridors, and all the environmental fixin's conducive to strategy. Sad thing that there aren't enough of these stages, but there are plenty of arenas.
Enjoy the level designs while you can, because the fun stops when the shooting starts. Don't get me wrong, there are times when Revolver does what it's supposed to. It's just that all manner of faulty design interrupts the few-and-far-between excitement.
While in the middle of a heated shootout, you'll aim for a criminal's head and fire a few shots. Though your crosshairs remain on his head, blood spurts from his arm. Three bullets to the face/arm don't fell the man, and you wind up spending more bullets than should be necessary. Don't be surprised when you find yourself running low at some points, even when you've taken preventative measures by attempting headshots. It's strange, too, because sometimes headshots will properly register.
At first I thought it was just me, and that I was making excuses for sucking. Revolver proved me wrong when I fired an arrow at an enemy's head and it hit him in the middle of the back, visibly sticking out from the point of contact. I thought it could have been gravity, but all the same I was insanely frustrated. This was a stealth level, and damaging that guy aggro'ed nearby baddies who then proceeded to make me their Sally. Mission failed. Frustrated and looking for childish vindication, I fired an arrow at the same enemy's butt. It registered as a headshot.
But hell, I can live with a faulty headshot system. I don't succeed more than half the time anyway, and usually wind up shooting my opponents in the chest seven or eight times. Does that not strike any of you as odd? You have a revolver, a powerful handgun, and seven shots to the chest won't kill even a scantily clad, gun-toting whore. Yet you seem remember pumping less rounds into a muscle-bound monstrosity of a man earlier...
Then again, thinking back upon said bear-of-a-man, wasn't that guy standing stone still when you fought him? Despite the dusty cannon in his face, the man remained unfazed even up to his death. He wasn't the only one, either. Enemy AI ranges from relentless shooters to proper strategists to confused idiots who stand around and accept bullets like a pornstar accepts.......cash. Idiocy is contagious in the world of Red Dead Revolver, as even your teammates are taken to shooting arbitrary targets, running aimlessly, or even attacking a wall nowhere near the main enemy contingent during a heated gunfight.
What possesses a man like me to keep playing? I suspect it's intermittent reinforcement, and conditioning based on that can be the most difficult to break. Just ask big time gamblers. There are times when everyone is on their mark, all of the enemies are smart, your sidekick is actually useful, and bullets penetrate skulls when they're supposed to. However, these intermittent scenes don't disguise your constant complaints when the faults appear. They don't stop you from complaining when Red takes a full minute to pull himself back up after taking a tumble; or complaining about dueling scenes where you move a drunk, sluggish cursor across the screen and try to fire at key moments; or tossing your controller to the ground because for the umpteenth time you cannot cut through the vagaries and figure out how to damage a boss--and you eventually win by accident.
If you scroll upward, I've just ranted for five paragraphs about combat. That is what Revolver is about, combat. Once the key element goes faulty, a sort of domino effect takes place and you begin to notice all of the other glaring flaws. You eventually gain access to a town straight out of a Spaghetti Western, like one from a sandbox title. Here you can upgrade your weaponry, buy unlockables, or listen to useless banter uttered by a collection of diseased-looking pedestrians. After a few minutes, you realize it serves no purpose and that it's essentially an elaborate and interactive menu.
Everything else loses its earthy beauty. The story you were interested in goes onto the back burner until towards the end, where it's carelessly picked back up. All previous missions were filler, and had little bearing on the plot. Revolver even forgets about the playable side characters until the final act, where they join you for a raid on the main villain's fortress. Why not involve the interesting supporting characters more? Why not include missions that are relevant to the story?
I wish I could have been more concise about what went wrong with Red Dead Revolver. If you think about it, almost every flaw is tiny--like little cracks. By themselves, they're insignificant. I'm sure we've all played and loved plenty of games that had questionable damage systems or moronic cooperative AI. Plot can go to hell as long as the campaign is exciting and well developed. When all of these tiny cracks join forces, they become a gaping fissure. It's a shame, because Rockstar is capable of developing great action titles that bring together both style and substance. Read Dead Revolver's style will mesmerize and the intermittent fun will keep you, and maybe that's what hurts the most. I know I've said this before, but sometimes the worst 'bad games' are the ones you think you're going to love. Once the spell it has over you breaks, so does your heart.
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (December 13, 2011)
Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.
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