Review: Red Dead Redemption – A Fine But No-Frills Switch Port, For A Fistful Of Dollars

Review: Red Dead Redemption – A Fine But No-Frills Switch Port, For A Fistful Of Dollars

Cast your tired minds all the way back through the mists of time to the year 2010. It was a truly great 12 months for video games, with the likes of Super Mario Galaxy 2, the best Mass Effect – AKA Mass Effect 2 – and the juggernaut that is Xenoblade Chronicles all arriving on the scene. It was also the year that David Cameron was appointed Prime Minister of the UK, but we’ll…eh…let’s not think about that just now.

As highly anticipated and ultimately well-received as these amazing games were, they still stood somewhat in the shadow of the year’s biggest release, the all-conquering behemoth that was Red Dead Redemption. Rockstar Games’ epic Western was a real tour de force, a surprisingly serious, studied, and actually rather emotional rumination on the final days of the American frontier, which also had plenty of toilet humour and knockabout ragdoll violence, of course. It remains one of the highest-ranked games of all time on Metacritic and was heralded as Rockstar’s best work to date by many critics at the time. Now that’s really saying something.

Red Dead Redemption Review - Screenshot 1 of 4
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

If you’ve never played it before, you’ve certainly seen and heard plenty about it, we’re sure. It’s one of the all-time greats, it spawned a sequel that’s up there with the very best modern gaming has to offer, and, well looky here pardner, it’s just arrived on Nintendo Switch. We already know some folks aren’t happy about the high price tag *spits chewing tobacco into the dirt* and we’re in agreement on that front, but ’round these parts we’re also concerned with how it plays and performs — whether it’s all hat and no cattle, as the man says.

Well, let’s get straight to it, dagnammit. This is a fine version of a fantastic game, running at a solid 30fps whilst – whether intentionally or not – looking slightly better than we remember from the last time we booted it up on ye olde-timey PS3 and Xbox 360 consoles. If you’ve seen any of the comparison videos currently floating around the internet you may have noticed this Switch port appears brighter and more vibrant in places. It certainly doesn’t seem to have been touched up in any way in terms of its textures or character models, and everything moves and plays as it did, but the lighting here seems a tad more pleasant in places and it’s less fuzzy overall thanks to portable mode’s smaller screen and a slightly higher resolution whilst docked.

In portable mode, the game looks positively radiant, in fact, with that small screen hiding jaggies and making pop-in less noticeable than when you’ve got it hooked up to a TV, where minor flaws and blemishes are laid bare. Blazing across the Wild West on your trusty steed looks great here, then, and during our time with the campaign and the excellent Undead Nightmare, we haven’t had any issues or bugs.

Red Dead Redemption Review - Screenshot 2 of 4
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

So, this is John Marston’s odyssey looking and feeling pretty great, an enormous slice of Rockstar’s very best work jammed into portable form in perfect working order. Job’s a good ‘un, slap a 10 on that varmint, send it on up to the ranch, and we’ll mosey on down to the bar for a sarsaparilla. Something like that. If only it were so straightforward. The thing is, no matter how amazing the game is, and it really is still quite something, there’s an underlying lack of reverence here, especially for the price tag, that makes it hard to be as positive as we’d like to about this exciting release.

We’re not expecting Rockstar to turn around and serve us up a fully remastered spectacle, that’s never gonna happen, especially on the ageing Switch hardware, but when it feels so threadbare, when the graphics haven’t had any noticeable touch-ups and when you haven’t added any gyro controls or other bits and bobs, it’s really hard to feel as enthused as we could and should be had we got a little something extra for our money over a decade later.

Yes, you get Undead Nightmare, the highly entertaining single-player zombie DLC, and you’re getting all the rest of the add-ons and updates that came along with the Game of the Year edition, but on the flipside multiplayer is out. That’s a big omission, one that we could perhaps overlook (and fully understand from a technical standpoint) if you weren’t charging us full price for a 13-year-old game. What’s here isn’t anywhere near a shambles like Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition was. If you just want Red Dead Redemption on Switch, well, this is it and it plays and looks fine. But doesn’t a game this great deserve a little more than just ‘fine’? If the Switch can handle The Witcher 3 couldn’t we have had a little more TLC for this older and smaller open-world effort?

Red Dead Redemption Review - Screenshot 3 of 4
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

We’re only slightly disappointed because we care. Thinking back on our first time playing this one, that amazing opening sequence on the train, an opening that absolutely took us by surprise the first time around with its grittiness and willingness to delve straight into the real-world issues of the time. Dutch’s grand speeches, sauntering into Mexico for the first time accompanied by an incredible musical interlude…there’s some timeless stuff here, and that’s all before a highly charged and genuinely emotional ending.

Along the way there are plenty of classic Rockstar side quests, involving a delightfully odd bunch of unsavoury characters, that are a blast to play through for the dialogue and acting as much as for the shooting, and returning to the game now it all holds up pretty well. Yes, it may not match its prequel in terms of gravitas, or with regards to its core gameplay, which is certainly a little janky in places by today’s standards, but it’s still a very good time, with plenty of beautifully framed shots and camerawork ensuring the captivating narrative here doesn’t look all of its 13 years.

In terms of the action at hand, though, it definitely does feel its age, especially with regards to how Marston manoeuvres whilst off his horse. It really does resemble trying to turn a bus in a narrow lane at times. However, the most important stuff — the gunning down of outlaws, gang members, and other folk you just felt like blasting to kingdom come for no good reason — is still fun despite these rough edges, the slo-mo targeting is as slick and stylish as ever, and those exaggerated ragdoll physics never get old as you choose which limbs to pump full of lead. We’ve also been surprised by just how engrossing the story still is. If you’ve played the prequel and never managed to get around to this older game, you should make the time to dive in, as it stands up and enriches the experience of making your way through the events of 2018’s masterpiece.

Red Dead Redemption Review - Screenshot 4 of 4
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

Indeed, if you’ve never saddled up and journeyed through John Marston’s epic tale before, regardless of the rather high price tag it’s currently sat at, we still highly recommend picking this one up – it’s a no-brainer if Switch is your only option for doing so – and even those of us who’ve been through it before can find plenty to enjoy in returning to the American frontier to experience it all over again.

So, to the score. We’d love to award a higher number, as the game – and the experience of playing it handheld — is certainly worthy of one, but as things stand this Red Dead Redemption on Nintendo Switch rides into the eShop in perfect working condition, but with zero bells or whistles, and at a price that leaves a bad taste in the mouth of many. This game deserves its remasters, revamps, remakes, and if it can’t get those it at least deserves a little more attention than the no-fuss port we’ve got ourselves here. In the end, it’s your choice whether to saddle up or skedaddle, cowboy.

Conclusion

Red Dead Redemption on Switch is a straightforward port of 2010’s masterpiece with no added bells or whistles for a rather high price tag. If you can get over that, this is a game we highly recommend digging into, especially if you’ve yet to experience it. Rockstar’s Western epic holds up surprisingly well, its story is as powerful as ever, its knockabout action still feels great, and it looks and plays perfectly well on Nintendo’s console. Multiplayer has been cut, which is a sore but understandable excision, and we’d really have liked to see effort put into adding gyro controls or touching up the graphics a little, but it is what it is. This is a proper all-timer ported successfully to Switch and, if you can stump up the cash, you’ll have a great time here regardless of the lack of TLC.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *