Red Dead Redemption (2023) Review

Red Dead Redemption

by Matt Kamen |

Platforms: PS4, Switch

Some thirteen years after its original release on PS3 and Xbox 360, Rockstar's seminal western arrives on Nintendo Switch (version tested) and PS4. Even better, this re-release crams in the zombie-filled Undead Nightmare expansion, playable from the off.

It's odd timing, though. Nintendo's hardware has always mostly dodged generational divides, the Japanese company typically refusing to play the numbers game when it comes to component specs, but a successor to the all-conquering Switch is widely tipped to be on the horizon. Meanwhile, the PS4 is decidedly last generation at this point. The question of "why now?" for Red Dead Redemption's return largely goes unanswered.

It's even odder given that this isn't really any kind of remaster. Handled by Double Eleven Studios, there's no deep overhaul of the original's visuals, and while the 2010 classic was no slouch for the time, it's definitely showing its age a bit now. This release also strips out any multiplayer capabilities, so those 16-player shootouts and eight-player posses roaming the plains are lost to the past. There is at least a sizeable cheat menu available from the off, allowing you to tweak the game with modifiers such as 'Every Shot Counts' or 'Clear Bounty' if you want to shake off enemies hunting you down, but these come at the cost of disabling autosaving and achievements. That might give PlayStation players pause, but given the Switch doesn't support system-wide achievements, making the ones here merely in-game brownie points, who cares?

Red Dead Redemption remains one of Rockstar's finest offerings.

The Switch version in particular runs at 720p in handheld mode, but manages full 1080p HD when docked. Unfortunately, UI elements seem lower res than the rest of the game, retaining their 720p detail from the originals. This results in a muddy, blurry look, which is even more notable when blown up on a 4K screen – there's only so much upscaling can do. That said, it does all seem to run at a stable 30fps, which is nice to see. The main benefit here is simply the ability to have one of the greatest open world games of all time accessible for on-the-go play.

The benefits on PS4, meanwhile, are more of availability. While Xbox owners have been able to play the 360 version on Xbox One or Xbox Series X|S consoles, the PS3's notoriously complex hardware made backwards compatibility on later consoles nigh impossible. If you're a Sony loyalist and you don't still have a PS3 set up, you were out of luck if you wanted to revisit Red Dead Redemption, or discover it for the first time, until now.

And yet.

Red Dead Redemption remains one of Rockstar's finest offerings. Former outlaw John Marston's reluctant quest to hunt down his former gang members holds up marvellously, a morally complex outing that paints the golden sands and dusty plains of the Old West in metaphorical shades of grey. Its deeper themes – how difficult it is to break cycles of violence, how the powers that be may not want us to, how redemption for sins past may be forever out of reach – remain utterly compelling. The moments of emergent gameplay, be it whether to help a passerby, intervene in a lynching, or even just how to survive an unexpected ambush, make the world feel alive and unpredictable.

Even though Red Dead Redemption 2 has presented an even more vivid and detailed Western for current gen hardware, it's great to have its predecessor still available, and especially so in portable form. It's a shame this isn't more of a glow-up, though – what's here feels more like a stopgap, bare bones port, which does nothing to shake the suspicion that a full remake or remaster may come further down the line.

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