Xbox 360 Preview

Red Dead Redemption: Legends & Killers

Red Dead Gets Its Red Back

Now that most of the sane world has accepted that Red Dead Redemption is so much more than GTA with cowboys - not that there's anything wrong with that - it's high time that we had some more DLC following the free Outlaws to the End co-op mission pack. While some might be sorely disappointed to find that all of the content announced for the game thus far is geared towards expanding the sublime multiplayer experience rather than the sublime story, some of the stuff heading our way offers an array of worthy additions to Red Dead's online component. And for those who have found themselves wrapped up in Redemption's multiplayer free-roam and competitive or co-op game modes, you've plenty to look forward to in the coming months.

The raft of forthcoming multiplayer DLC commences with the Legends & Killers pack next week, which expands Red Dead's multiplayer with eight classic characters from Red Dead Revolver - including Red Harlow, Shadow Wolf and TNT-toting boss, Pig Josh - nine new territories for competitive modes and a brand new weapon in the deadly Tomahawk.

Kicking off with a Shootout match on the small Rio Bravo map, we quickly find that the Tomahawk is a fun and gratifying addition to your weapon cache of rifles and trusty six shooters. Proving as indispensable for dealing out a quick and silent death as a throwing knife, but with the added perk of hitting your target with a nasty thud, the Tomahawk is ideal for stealthily shuffling through the scrub and narrow gaps in the sandy foothills, creeping behind the rocky outcrops with the handy throwing axe brandished and a silly smirk on your face.

Visiting Rockstar's London HQ to get hands-on with the upcoming DLC, the constant chatter and laughs ringing out in the multiplayer room made it clear that everyone was having a whale of a time hurling Tomahawks all over the place, thwacking them into the skulls and spines of hapless victims. Yet, in a match where anyone can happily reel off a fast and furious torrent of bullets into anyone daft enough to attempt a Tomahawk throw at range, you'll need to learn to juggle weapons rather than relying on just the Tomahawk, which it has to be said, is tempting. That said, if you can accurately judge the height and trajectory of your throw, you'll be rewarded with a 'Hail Mary' shot if you hit your target from a distance of 35 metres or more. Fingers crossed that Rockstar take on board our request for a 'Tomahawks only' game type then, so that we can chuck them around on an even playing field.

More maps like Rio Bravo - which incidentally lies between Fort Mercer and Tumbleweed - would be welcome exclusively for Tomahawk showdowns, as it's this smaller, more intimate map with its deliberate lack of weapon pick ups that works best for the weapon.. Each game is a furious fight, which doesn't carry over to far larger maps like Tall Trees where the Tomahawk is also a default weapon in your loadout, and totally unsuitable for such an expansive area.

Onto the Fort Mercer map next, where the Tomahawks are set aside and the stalwart Repeater Carbines and revolvers come into play once more. Running around within the high walls of the stronghold for a game of Gold Rush - grabbing as many gold bags as you can and returning them to the closest drop point - is an up-close and personal affair for the most part, although vantage points high among the battlements make switching between the long range weapons and close-quarters shotgun an essential requirement, which reminds us that the game's radial menu is still as clunky as ever. Still, it works well enough for speedily cycling between weapons.

Next up, we jump into a team game of Grab the Bag in the swampy Thieves Landing, where the pace is every bit as frantic as each team battles to steal a bag of gold from a random spawn point in the middle of the map. The aim is to simply keep hold of the highly-coveted bag and sprint back to your team's base with the goods as fast as humanly possible to nab a point for your team. Of course, things rapidly develop into a desperate clamouring for territory - in this case a central rope bridge flanked by a Gatling gun emplacement. Failing to use cover here will invariably end with your brains splattered on the floor, so you'll need to hunker down behind a crate or sandbag and watch out for an attack from the saloon balcony or the Gatling.

The same quest for valuable territory persists in a Gang Shootout on the Mexican Escalera map, - the home of the corrupt Mexican military in the single-player story - where both teams compete for control of the high ground. The battle becomes pretty heated as both teams start by making a break for the villa and the surrounding towers stationed on the hillside. The first team to the top has an immediate advantage and the potential to nab an early lead, able to snipe the opposing team from afar.

Careful thinking and strategy helps in displacing the opposite team from their positions and having instantly lost the high ground at the beginning of the match, we're forced to sneak around through the main entrance to the villa and flank the fortified buildings at the top of the hill. Using the sawn-off to empty out the insides of the towers while the rest of the team kept an eye on the rooftops with some well-aimed headshots, we managed to gain the vantage point to fight back. Yet, despite our best efforts, we still lost by a paltry $200. Bah!

Concluding our Legends & Killers hands-on with a pair of Hold Your Own matches among the snowy plains of Tall Trees and the twisting backalleys and streets of Blackwater, the capture the flag-style (or more aptly, capture the bag) game type is perfectly suited to these larger maps and in Tall Trees, a horse is needed to be able to efficiently cover the vast snowy area without being caught out in the open. And with only trees and the occasional rock for cover, you're an easy target if you're not racing along on horseback. Each team base in Tall Trees is also surrounded by a rock face alcove, so the best approach involves co-ordinating a multi-pronged attack from every direction while some players hang back and take out the stragglers hanging around the bag.

In Blackwater however, the best tactic is to stick to the alleyways and use cover to clear a path to the loot. Buildings with ladders to the rooftops provide a place to set up a sniping position, and we found ourselves the perfect spot to hide and lay down some support fire from on high. There's always an ideal strategy for success it seems and as our team makes a headlong dash for the bag, we pick off any defenders to leave the way clear for a prompt retreat back to base with the bag in our team's possession.

Red Dead Redemption's Legends & Killers Pack almost doubles the number of competitive map locations and they're all doozies, from Rio Bravo to Blackwater. Couple that with the Tomahawk, which makes the Rio Bravo map one of the most enjoyable we've played in a long time, and the eight returning characters from Red Dead Revolver and Red Dead's first dose of paid-DLC is bound to satisfy the appetites of all but the most demanding multiplayer fan.

Red Dead Redemption Legends & Killers Pack will be available from August 10th, 2010 and will cost 800 Microsoft Points from the Xbox Live Marketplace or 7.99 GBP from the PlayStation Network.

E3 Trailer