I'm about halfway through playing Red Dead Redemption on the 360, and I wanted to jot a few thoughts about what makes it a great game.
Immersion is one of the most important aspects of game design. RDR stands out as the most immersive game that I have ever played. It nails the look and feel of the Old West. The language, the clothes, even the way people walk and react. It feels alive.
There is a massive map and very little repetition of things that you see. For example, to pick an older game, Far Cry, all the huts in each village looked alike. Every jungle path looked alike. In RDR, every trail, every hacienda looks unique.
2 Sandbox format
Rockstar games are famous for giving you a massive free-roam area to play around in. Plenty of players just ride around and get into trouble. I believe that the play area in Fallout 3 was probably a little bit bigger, but Fallout 3 didn't feel like free roam because you'd get attacked by something every 20 yards. RDR gives you the chance to take a stagecoach from place to place but you feel like riding instead because it's so much fun.
3 That five-year-old feeling
By which I mean that when I play an XBox game, I want something that makes me feel like a 5-year-old kid playing cowboys and indians again. Somehow, RDR manages to do that and still keep a decent level of realism.
4 A great script
Okay, the story is pretty straightforward, but the characters in the story are great fun. People sometimes argue whether a game should have a great story (or whether it's a work of art), but I'm a firm believer that a great story makes a great game.
RDR has a wicked sense of humor, too. For example, there's a guy who *loves* his horse in a way that is not quite appropriate, and there's a hard-drinking Mick by the name of Irish who swears incessantly. In fact, it's the first time I've heard the word c**t used in a game.
RDR pulls every Wild West cliche out of its ten gallon hat, but it's all in the name of good fun.