Red Dead Redemption: Liars & Cheats
Playing online multiplayer, we've encountered plenty of cheats in our time, but we've yet to come across any liars. Enter Liars & Cheats, Red Dead Redemption's second paid DLC package that introduces online poker and liar's dice to online multiplayer, amongst other things. If playing cards and dice game isn't your bag however, then there's horse racing, a new game type called Stronghold, a powerful new weapon, extra hunting grounds and extra gang hideouts to tackle.
While we don't remember a whole lot of armed horse racing in the movie Westerns we've seen over the years, it must be said that galloping and jostling for position online is a lot of fun. Until you lose a hard-fought lead to a bullet in the back of your head. Remember how annoying the brief horse racing missions in Red Dead's story were? Multiply that frustration by a million when you add weapons and bloody-minded human players. Winning a race seems like a result of luck over skill, which can make the horse racing feel quite hollow over time. Stick with it, and if you don't manage to tear out all of your hair, you might begin to enjoy the equine event, especially if you can keep your aim steady and shoot your rivals out of their saddles. Cheating is the way forward. Obviously.
Playing a hand of poker or a sedentary game of liar's dice online is much more civilised by comparison, offering a welcome respite from being blasted in the cranium or being bucked from your steed. Both gambling games play in pretty much the same as they do in single-player, although you'll need to prepare to spend a long time waiting due to the human brain operating slower than the AI. Unfortunately there's a 'buy-in' fee required to play, which for poker is a modest $10, but to get onto the liar's dice tables, you need to put down $200, which is a mite exorbitant for one game. Happily, you're granted a daily allowance that allows you to play one game a day without having to expend any of your in-game currency.
Liars & Cheats other big addition is Stronghold mode, which adds an entirely new competitive element to Red Dead Redemption's multiplayer. Stronghold is best described as a Battlefield-style Conquest mode, wherein a team of attackers face off against a team of defenders for control over their team's coloured flags at certain tactical positions on the map. In principle, it's a great idea, but it's somewhat unbalanced in giving the attackers an advantage. For instance, some Stronghold maps don't allow you to use your cannon emplacements to defend your position until the nearby flag has been captured, which completely defeats the object. Once the enemy has seized the flag and taken the cannons right next to it, you've no chance of getting anywhere near to that position with out being subjected to a barrage of cannonballs. Most Stronghold matches therefore boil down to a constant stream of deaths and respawns for the defending team, while the attackers revel in the mania, shooting anything that moves. Again, it's enough to make you want to retreat to the safe haven of a poker game and a round of liar's dice after another multiplayer match goes down the toilet.
Red Dead Redemption's superlative multiplayer free-roam has also been bolstered in Liars & Cheats with seven new Gang Hideouts to clear out and more hunting grounds to traverse while blasting animals with your friends. There are still plenty of enemies to shoot to pieces in the hideouts too, which are mostly small ranches and ranges besieged by bandits. Rounding up your posse and going vigilante is still as deliriously fun as always and whoever acquires the highest score at the end of a Gang Hideout also gets the new Explosive Rifle as a reward. Packing some serious impact, the Explosive Rifle is great at close range, but doesn't have much of an effect at distance. In single-player though, there's a fresh set of ambient challenges for the Explosive Rifle to complete, which are almost as good as the tomahawk ones introduced in Legends & Killers.
If all of this additional content isn't quite enough to convince you to shell out for the add-on available now on the Xbox Live Marketplace and PlayStation Network, then there's a host of new gunslingers from Red Dead's single-player story to take into account, including John Marston, Irish, Seth, Nigel West-Dickens and more. For the asking price there's quite a lot of new stuff in Liars & Cheats then, and most of it will potentially keep you hooked on multiplayer for a few dozen hours or so. Horse racing and Stronghold take some perseverance, but if you're able to get pin down the gameplay, then you'll get more out of the new modes. Get a posse together meanwhile, and you'll find more than enough to enjoy in Liars & Cheats. Just don't start playing for real money at the poker tables. It's a slippery slope, people!