Well, pilgrim, in this world, there are two types of people - those who have guns, and those who dig. Or maybe those who like third-person shooters and those who don't. Either way, we don't think it's nice, you laughin'.
Ahem. Sorry. This isn't working, is it? We were going to do this entire review in a Clint Eastwood voice, because that's so obviously what Rockstar have in mind for Red Dead Revolver - a gritty homage to the Man With No Name. Since 'acquiring' it from Capcom, they've polished it up from rusty antique to gleaming shooter, stuffed with references to every cowboy flick from The Good The Bad And The Ugly (the one-armed man) to the Quick And The Dead (the kiddy quick-draw expert). There's a weird blend of visual styles on offer, too - cutscenes come in grainy projector-vision, but the sweeping scale of the levels is pure Sergio Leone.
As you'd expect, it's mostly about shooting. The aiming engine's fairly similar to Manhunt, using the same simple aiming-from-cover dynamic for tricky fights. Showdowns tend to use a combination of rifle fire (long-range, accurate, best used from cover) and revolver-shooting (speedy, good at close quarters). Red's also got Dead Eye, a bullet-time style lock-on ability where he can slow down time to select multiple targets with the right analogue, but that only really comes in handy when there's a big group of bad guys around. And, of course, there are quick-draw sections, testing your reflexes on the right analogue stick.
What keeps the constant gun-fighting from getting stale is the variety of situations Red Dead throws at you. One minute you're sprinting along the top of a train, the next you're riding a cow around a ranch to protect it from rustlers. Sometimes it doesn't work - clumsy hand-to-hand combat makes the bar fight bust-up a bit of a chore - but mostly it's brilliantly done.Most of the game focuses on Red, the gravelly-voiced Clint-alike who's just in
it for the money and revenge, but other characters turn up to punctuate the action with side stories or flashbacks. The standout level's got to be evil General Diego's civil war stand-off against the yankees - explosions and smoke everywhere give things a Medal Of Honor feel. El General's marking artillery positions so that the southern boys can take them out, but at the same time he's dodging huge cannonballs and fighting off troops.
Despite the cartoony, almost TimeSplitters-style graphics, there's something pretty brutal about firing a flare gun into a soldier's forehead and bayoneting him through the lungs. Special mention has to go to the sound department here, too - like Manhunt and GTA, it's all about the detail and every gunfight's full of shouts and insults from the people you're a' fillin' full o' lead. The music's spot-on, as well, mixing up the menace of classic Ennio Morricone scores with the breezy jauntiness of the Magnificent Seven-style theme.
Don't be fooled by the addition of a 'hub' town, though - this isn't Grand Theft Auto Texas. You can wander the streets and chat to the good townfolk, but there's no way to pull a gun - forget holding up the bank or pulling a jailbreak. In fact, all you really do in town is go shopping for stuff to use in Showdown mode. Without anything more than the main game to keep your attention it's pretty short, too - the bosses are incredibly easy, and you'll complete most levels on your first go. And the less said about the stealth levels, the better - you'd think knifing a sleeping guard in the head would kill them silently, but it just doesn't work like that.
Grittier than the streets after Christmas and more stylish than a pair of leather chaps, Red Dead isn't quite as brilliant as we've come to expect from Rockstar. But it's still the best goldurn cowboy game we've ever seen in these parts. Pilgrim.
Red Dead Revolver will hit be released for PS2, Xbox and PC on 11 June, its on-sale date having recently been put back from 21 May