Thought I'd add my review to the page
Finished this game in September. Thought it was amazing. It really is GTA IV clone, if by 'GTA IV clone' you mean fantastic story, writing and characters in a huge, beautiful, open world with a compelling main quest, with multiple (completely optional) compelling side quests, mini-quests/games and completist tasks.
I absolutely loved playing through the game and would highly recommend it to everyone. Here's a couple of points :
- Played it on the PS3 so unfortunately I couldn't install the game, which meant lots of pop-ins.
- You'll encounter a fair few glitches, some are hilarious but they are numerous. Doesn't detract from how amazing the game is, though.
- I actually found the stranger quests Spoiler: (especially Clara, the pregnant woman, and Jenny, the missionary)
to be more interesting in the main story; they have 3-4 points to the story arc and each one was interesting.
- Bounty Hunting was exhilarating, as you had to kill off the other bandits, and hogtie the bounty; his gun vs your lasso! It gets pretty hairy when you're trying to get your horse up a mountain so you can load the bounty onto the horse, while more bandits are on the way!
- The music is perfect, it's suitably quiet and ambient, then rousing and exhilarating if there's a gunfight or a bounty-mission. You know when you're on Yoshi, and bongos start playing? Imagine that, but a serious orchestral version. The composers termed it a "dynamic score". The soundtrack uses a lot of old 'western' instruments and new ones too, which compliment perfectly.
- You visit everywhere America in 1910 has to offer (Spoiler: the typical wild west, mexico during a revolution, the snowy mountain tops, the more industrialized future (Blackwater) of civilization)
-- and how the theme of changing times, and those who embrace and deny change plays into the game is fantastic - Spoiler: the Native Americans, Marston, the Government, Dutch...
- The weather effects (morning bright, dusk, rain, snow etc) are all so beautiful, and really change the look of the landscape. Also love the different animals that inhabit the different areas. Flipped out when I first saw Spoiler: a grizzy bear galloping towards me
- Aside from the main quest, which is pretty straight-forward, the optional excursions (Stranger Missions, Treasure and Game hunting, jobs in the town, bounty hunting, mini-games, random attacks/situations eg a woman gets abducted) really flesh out the entire world. I can't think of anything else you could add. Everything you can do (apart from that, you perv!!) in the wild west, you can do in the game. Love playing Texas Hold 'em!
- Although the GTA IV design dock is getting a bit long in the tooth; I can't see how it could be any different -- the alternatives that spring to my mind would make for a worse game. Start off small with a clear objective; take missions from important characters, progress at your own pace, with more mini-games/stranger missions open up as you get farther in the game. The story has some interesting plot points but it pretty much always stays on course.
- There is a lot of horse-riding (unless you're willing to spend the cash on coaches, which rotates camera views similar to getting a cab in GTAIV) but I absolutely loved riding around and enjoying the scenery; much moreso than in Zelda's Wind-Waker, which is a much more desolate terrain to traverse. On that point, you can make camp anytime once you're not too close to a road or city, and fast-travel to your waypoint (for free).
- Not only do you see the game come to it's interesting conclusion, you get to see/play through what happens after that for a few hours. Fantastic touch; highly enjoyable and cathartic.
- Update : A note on DLC; for free you can play through some co-op missions, which includes cutscenes, where you basically clear out different hideouts. For a fee, you can play the gambling games online with other players, and released just before Halloween 2010, "Undead Nightmare" (which I coin "Red Undead") the only new single-player campaign of the DLC, is brilliant. It's about a zombie apocalypse. I won't say more, but be sure to play it. It changes the way you play Red Dead and is a shining example of what DLC should be.
All in all, a fantastic game on every account; although it doesn't revolutionize anything (apart from the Dead Eye Mechanic seen earlier in the series), every design aspect of the game is buffed to an immaculate sheen. It is an extremely well crafted game and a fine example of gaming as an art form; and with it's interactivity and plot-line, being superior to films IMO.
Just a small thought about the finish of the main story :
Spoiler: I was gutted and shocked when Marston died. The way it went into dead-eye was so empathic, knowing that you can't walk away alive from this. It also sets up the final quest, and it follows the theme in that eventually everyone will have to pay for their crimes (as Agent Ross does).