The source of much criticism since its announcement, Red Dead Redemption — the freshly released PS4 port — admittedly isn't as half-arsed as we feared it would be. But at the same time, it's far from the remaster that such a beloved PS3 classic deserves. We've ran through the open world epic's opening hours in order to write this Hands On article, and our impressions are fairly mixed.
Let's start with the positives. First off, Red Dead Redemption has simply never looked this good on a PlayStation console. A significant resolution boost means that the often muddy world of the original PS3 title has been replaced with a much sharper New Austin across the board. The game's art direction is still great, and the improved resolution helps highlight its finer details. It's an attractive release, a whole 13 years after its initial arrival.
The gameplay holds up decently as well. It doesn't quite have the weighty impact of Red Dead Redemption 2 — perhaps a good thing, depending on who you ask — but the shooting still satisfies on a mechanical level. The way bodies dynamically ragdoll as bullets thud into them will never not be impressive.
Cutscene direction, voice acting, story pacing — these are all things that Red Dead Redemption does exceptionally well, even by today's standards. We were sold on the sordid tale of John Marston all over again after just half an hour with this re-release. There's a reason why it's held in such high regard, and we doubt that'll ever fade.
But priced at $50 / £40, it's difficult not to feel as though this PS4 port should be working a lot harder. Outside of the aforementioned resolution boost, there's really not much to write home about. The frame rate's capped at a solid but disappointing 30 frames-per-second, and none of the game's assets — in terms of characters or environments — appear to have been enhanced in any way.
Fortunately, we haven't encountered any newly introduced bugs — and we're hoping it stays that way — but we have noticed some issues with shadows. Particularly on buildings, shadows seem to pop-in really late at times, making for a pretty annoying distraction. What's more, lighting on distant landmarks — like mountains or cliff faces — can seem a bit off until you ride a little closer. Some kind of issue with draw distance, perhaps?
Now, we've already said that this PS4 version looks nice overall, but it's a different story once you start opening menus. Menu text and icons don't seem to have been upgraded at all, resulting in some seriously rough presentation. Set against the backdrop of what seems to be a 4K re-release, these old menus are jarring.
And that's about it, for better or worse. Again, we're glad that this port doesn't appear to be a total sh*tshow like the now infamous Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy, but it still feels like steep price tag has been attached to a decidedly barebones remaster. We'll have a full review for you in the near future.
Will you be playing this PS4 version of Red Dead Redemption? Saddle up and ride out into the comments section below.