Red Dead Redemption Multiplayer

Riding on the multiplayer range

We've been itching to get some hands-on time with Rockstar's Western opus for ages now, and although it's just over a week away from release, there's still time to ride the hype train and tell you all about Red Dead Redemption's multiplayer modes in preparation for May 21st.

Firstly, Red Dead is about as close to living the Wild West dream as you're ever likely to get and in multiplayer you're able to free-roam across epic, sweeping plains just like every great Spaghetti Western movie you've ever seen. Between multiplayer matches you're given access to the entire single-player map in fact, and summoning a steed to get around it all is just a simple D-pad tap away at any time. There's more than ample cause to explore too, as you'll find towns and homesteads dotted around Redemption's truly immense world, packed with activity and random occurrences that all add to Red Dead's colour and spice. And of course, the world itself is truly a sight to behold.

The opportunity to simply let hours roll by exploring the miles of gorgeously rendered desert and scrub are seemingly infinite, with all manner of interesting distractions to keep you occupied, but the crux of multiplayer is the focused game types that constitute the real meat of what online Red Dead has to offer and we've sampled four of them during an intensive hands-on play session at Rockstar towers in London.

Before we're thrown head-first into the competitive stuff, we ride with a posse leader who sets a waypoint for our sixteen-player gang to follow. So saddling up and riding over to a marked gang hideout, we come across a band of miscreants that have holed up in an abandoned shack. Cantering down the trail, taking care not to kick our horse to death as we giddy up, we sidle up to the gang's base and a gunfight instantaneously erupts, attracting even more bandits into the fray creating a huge ambush situation that results in an intensely chaotic gun battle.

It's great fun that eventually leads on to other criminal strongholds, such as an abandoned mansion where our foolhardy decision to sling several sticks of dynamite through the front door ends with us being sworn at by a French journo who gets caught in an errant explosion. Oops! As each mission ends, a statistics screen pops up giving you the lowdown on how well you did, and as it happens, our dynamite-fuelled rampage pushes us to the top of the scoreboard. Hey, if you wanna make an omelette, you've gotta break some eggs.

Back to the lobby area once more where activity descends into a sixteen-way fist fight, before it's time to sample 'Gang Shootout' - a straightforward Team Deathmatch that pits two warring factions head-to-head against one another. Lawmen, Miners, Rebeldes, Dutch's Gang and The American Army are some of the groups that feature, and each match begins with a standoff until there's only one man left standing. It's literally pistols at dawn, where the fastest gun wins and when we play the every-man-for-themselves Shootout later on, the action opens with all 16-players stood in a circle for a Mexican standoff that would make Tarantino weep with envy.

Moving onto 'Gold Rush' - a game type that has you collecting and gathering bags of gold dotted around the map before depositing them into nearby chests to score a point - we start to get comfortable with the game mechanics, pressing right bumper to gracefully slide into cover, dashing to green markers on the map to collect Deadeye pick-ups and hoarding as many weapons as we can from subtly glimmering crates.

In single-player, Deadeye slows time, enabling you to paint red crosses on nearby enemies, and it works in much the same way in multiplayer, boosting accuracy without the aid of slow-motion. Weapons meanwhile, stay in your inventory (accessed through a quick select radial menu) right until the end of the round, enabling you to build up a quite extensive arsenal to choose from, including numerous six shooters, rifles and shotguns as well as lethal projectiles like dynamite or throwing knives.

Finishing off with a bout of capture-the-flag, here labelled 'Hold Your Own' and featuring red and blue loot bags rather than flags, we get to blast a few riders off their horses with a huge cannon and even find time to line up a few headshots with a sniper rifle and then rush into the opposing team's base on horseback to grab the red flag and score a valuable point.

Actions like these grant XP, which persistently builds up throughout multiplayer, levelling your character up and enabling you to purchase new clothing and items to customise your sneering bandit, virtuous sheriff or sassy cowgirl. You're also able to acquire XP while free-roaming by executing special actions like killing a grizzly bear with a knife (not advisable) or shooting the hat off a wanted villain, for instance.

Red Dead Redemption's single-player will undoubtedly be up to the usual level we've come to expect from Rockstar, that much is almost assured, but what's heartening is knowing that a great deal of detail and gameplay refinement has also been sunk into the multiplayer component too. Rockstar has taken on board the valuable lessons learnt from GTA IV's online aspects, and Red Dead's multiplayer experience is tighter and better focused as a result.

Make no mistake, pilgrim, this game has a huge bounty on its head, and we want it brought in alive.

E3 Trailer