When Rockstar announced a supposed conversion of Red Dead Redemption and expansion Undead Nightmare for the PS4 and Switch in early August, many gamers were still a bit disappointed that it wasn’t a full remake or remaster. I got to work on the Nintendo Switch version of the game to see if it’s worth your money.
A brief history lesson
For those who did not play Red Dead Redemption at the time, a brief outline of the story might be a good starting point. In Red Dead Redemption, you play the role of John Marston, a former outlaw who can get a reduced sentence from the government by rounding up former members of his former gang. By taking on various missions in the Wild West, you will slowly but surely explore the wide world. Of course, a Rockstar game is characterized by a well-told story and interesting characters, and Red Dead Redemption is certainly no exception.
Explosive missions and plot twists come along regularly, and thankfully the gameplay still stands like a horse years after its original release. After all, a cowboy has little use for a home in the Wild West. There may be those who have played Red Dead Redemption 2 in recent years, but missed the original for whatever reason. If so, it’s good to know that Red Dead Redemption takes place story-wise after the ending of part two. During my play time with the Switch version of Red Dead Redemption, I especially appreciated how my experiences with Red Dead Redemption 2 gives the world of Red Dead Redemption a little extra layering. Because you know what in terms of prior history all took place, I gained a greater appreciation for John’s struggles to complete his main mission.
In terms of gameplay, people may think Red Dead Redemption is simply GTA in the Wild West, and by and large, that’s definitely a nice comparison. You take an assignment, go to a location on the map and get to work, for example, killing your opponents, protecting wagons or taming horses. Because the world of Red Dead Redemption is a bit more vast and you’re out on your own with your horse more, the solitary existence of a cowboy like John has a bit more nuance and charm for me personally.
Additional content and attention
In addition to the base game, this port also has the Undead Nightmare DLC. In this standalone campaign, you will have to contend with zombies of various shapes and sizes. It’s a fun expansion with new costumes, a unique story and some creative missions, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that the lack of a multiplayer mode is quite a big drain. Of course, everyone understands that a new multiplayer server for a thirteen-year-old game isn’t exactly cost-effective, but still, it’s a sizable chunk of content you don’t have at your disposal as a result. In addition to a good story, accessible gameplay and an interesting setting to explore, Red Dead Redemption also has excellent voice-acting and cool soundtrack. The spaghetti-western music fits perfectly with the atmosphere Rockstar Games wants to set, and long after completing the story you will probably still be humming the tunes at unexpected moments.
Of course, the big question of this conversion is how the game performs on the Switch. In that regard, I can only be positive. In dock, the game runs at 1080p at a stable thirty frames per second. In handheld mode, the resolution drops to 720p, but the frame rate remains steady at the same thirty frames. There is some slight pop-in of bushes here and there, for example, but the overall picture of Red Dead Redemption is quite impressive, especially on the Switch. The character models look fine as long as you realize this is a thirteen-year-old game. What does come out nicely is the use of color, light and shadows.
Especially on an OLED screen, the vast plains at sunrise or sunset can produce very nice images. The Switch and PS4 versions are significantly brighter in terms of light use compared to the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions. Moreover, the 11.5GB installation is not too bad and thus will not force you to buy a new memory card for your Switch. Now Switch players may not have had a good experience in the past with ports of, say, GTA Trilogy Definitive Edition, but Red Dead Redemption has transferred to the Switch excellently on the technical front.
So that sounds like Red Dead Redemption is a very easy purchase for most gamers, and in terms of game quality, I can only agree. Still, we can’t ignore the fact that the game costs fifty euros on both the Switch and PS4. Normally, for that kind of money you can expect quite a lot of bells and whistles with a game, but the fact is that Red Dead Redemption on the PS4 and Switch has become a pretty lazy port of a thirteen-year-old game. A great game it absolutely is, but not a title to lay down fifty euros for if you played the original on the Xbox 360 or PS3. The Xbox 360 version is also completely outside the discussion in that regard because it is playable in 4K on the Xbox One via backwards compatibility.
Red Dead Redemption has become a fairly facile port of a classic game. Never played the original? Then you can buy this game blind. The characters, story, gameplay and great soundtrack are of high quality and unlike, say, the Switch version of GTA Trilogy Definitive Edition, Red Dead Redemption runs like a train to be raided. If you have played the game before on other consoles then you might consider the Switch version on the go, but then fifty euros is quite a high purchase price. Nevertheless, as a gamer you owe it to yourself to play through Red Dead Redemption at least once in your life. And then, fortunately, the Switch version does not fall short of other systems.