So obviously, Red Dead Redemption has a fair number of people – including myself – calling it ‘Grand Theft Auto with cowboys’. While this is somewhat true, there’s a few things about it that have led me to stick my neck out and say honestly that Red is in fact, the better game. Indeed, there are a few things that I think Rockstar North should take on board from their stablemates (let’s say that pun was intended) for the next Grand Theft Auto game.


Something the GTA series has always been based around is the concept that you start off as a lowly member of the criminal underworld, and then slowly work your way up to criminal mastermind. The only problem is that really, you never do. Your acts may be reported in the paper, but they never feel like you did them. Of course, there are obvious reasons for not making you massively ‘famous’ (it’d be incredibly hard to rob a bank if people knew who you were) but even the later contacts tell you ‘I’ve heard of you from (last mission contact)’ – and you’ve got no real reason to believe them.

On the other hand, Red Dead measures your fame over the course of the game. Starting out as a no-name cowboy, finishing missions earns you Fame. Rather than just being a system for gameplay benefits, it also effects the gameworld itself. One of my favourite moments has been recently, riding through Armadillo (the first proper ‘town’ you visit) with my fame at around 80% full, and random strangers literally going “there’s John Marston!” “Hey John Marston, remember me?” and actually being in awe of you. Everyone who plays a western game wants to be The Man With No Name. Because he’s so famous, he doesn’t need one.


GTA was really onto something with it’s licensed soundtrack for Vice City and San Andreas. Music that fit the time helped sell the atmosphere. By the time we came around to number 4 however, we were sat in the present day. And apparently we listen to all years and genres of music nowadays and WE NEVER DID BEFORE. More seriously, in the case of GTA4 the music lost all personality. Yeah sure, it was great doing a drive by to Queen’s One Vision the first time, but the ninety ninth time doesn’t have the same feel as riding on a bike to Billie Jean in 80’s Miami. Basically, the music didn’t really have a ‘personality’ anymore in modern-day GTA. It was a little better in Lost and the Damned and Gay Tony, because then you had characters with which certain styles of music were appropriate. So the new rock stuff for Johnny and the poptastic stuff for Gay Tony added to the atmosphere.

In Red Dead, there are only two or three licensed tracks. They’re used incredibly sparingly and just at the exact right time. When that José González track kicks in as you reach Mexico for the first time, it’s pretty epic and one of the best moments in the game. The rest of the time, you’re listening to a more custom ambient soundtrack that’s unique to the game, while having all the hallmarks of the classic style of music we associate with Westerns. It also changes depending on where you are – head into Mexico and you get far more flamenco guitars in the soundtrack. In the desert, the sounds of the wildlife make the area feel more eerie, especially at night giving a brilliant atmosphere. In short, it’s not just what music, but how it’s used.

Friends Suck

I think I’ll just leave this video in and say: John Marston does not have ‘friends’ that call him up every thirty seconds.

Location, Location, Location

OK, fair enough. Liberty City is basically modelled on New York. It has a Broadway, a Bronx and all the other things a city has. But at the end of the day, it’s still a city. And I don’t know if I’m just suffering from urban fatigue or what, but after a while modern day city buildings aren’t very interesting to look at.

Red Dead Redemption has a beautiful and varied environment. Whether it’s farmland of McLaren’s Ranch, the marshland of Thieves Landing, the lush deserts of Mexico or the breathtaking Manteca Falls, each area feels different in both atmosphere and there are some truly beautiful vistas to be enjoyed in this game. I would dare say it’s on most beautiful game sceneries ever list to just stand with my horse on the top of a mountain looking down on the river between Mexico and the US border states at sunset. I only wish I could take screenshots myself to show them off a bit better. I had to get these (and the other pics in this post) from the official website:


GTA4 had a Free Roam option. Provided you could find enough friends, you could join Liberty City and just go around doing random things as was your want. However, it was unstructured and in fact, pretty lonely without friends, not to mention how difficult it was to organise a multiplayer game with several of your friends and then all doing something meaningful.

Red Dead Redemption makes the lobby the free roam. By letting you roam around the map and putting you with upto sixteen other people, the world feels alive. Posses allow friends to get together and stick together, while the gang hideouts and the unlocking system gives games structure and goals. You can literally create your own cowboy stories with your friends. The challenges allow those who want to skin or evade the law do that, while other challenges just encourage you to work together. And then if you and your friends want to do some classic deathmatch or other structured gamemode, it’s just a button away. It’s the closest thing in multiplayer to being an MMO without being one. Having all of the strengths, while having few enough players to ensure there’s not too much griefing, the only suggestion I would say is for Rockstar to increase the playercount as even 16 players can sometimes feel a little too few.

Final Reasons RDR is Better than GTA4
  • Cars don’t come to you when you whistle.
  • Goat chasing.
  • The lasso
  • Tagged with:

    One Response to Things Grand Theft Auto Should Learn from Red Dead Redemption

    1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ben Borthwick, Ben Borthwick. Ben Borthwick said: I've written somewhat of a love letter to Red Dead Redemption, and what Rockstar could learn from it for the next GTA: […]

    Set your Twitter account name in your settings to use the TwitterBar Section.
    %d bloggers like this: