The story of Red Dead Redemption
follows John Marston, a retired outlaw that just wants to settle down and live his own life during the tumultuous expansion time of America during 1911. Unfortunately for John, his old gang is still causing trouble out West and the newly formed Federal Bureau of Investigation has forced John's cooperation by holding his family hostage until he kills the former members of his gang. His journey will take him all over the old American West and even Mexico to get his family back. Usually the main characters in Rockstar games tend to be selfish or na´ve, but in the case of Marston, his motivations to save his family are pure. He does what he needs to in order to gain the support of those he needs (which could include many bad things,) but he is still only acting out of selflessness, which is a first for the games Rockstar makes.
What this means is that the choices you make in Red Dead are easily swayed and affected by the situation you find yourself in (also, no seedy behavior with the women, because John is faithfully married.) Adopting a moral system similar to inFamous, you can be the dirtiest outlaw that ever tormented the West or the hero that brought swift justice and peace to the rustled old land. The moral system also affects a notoriety meter which increases as your deeds become larger and larger. Rob a train and the police will recognize you the moment you step into town, but if you save the citizens of the town from senseless gang violence, you become respected and the townsfolk respond more positively to you. All of these factors come together to make a wonderfully open and deep experience I can only compare to the likes of Fallout 3 and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Red Dead Redemption feels like it becomes more of a role-playing-game than Final Fantasy XIII.
The mission structure follows very closely to the formula GTA established many years ago. Marston meets a new person who has the info he needs, but they won't give it up until they get their own problems sorted out with Marston's aid. These people introduce these other people who lead you to these other people and so on. It doesn't feel tired or gimmicky because the variety and pacing of the missions keeps things fresh and exciting. More often than not, you're main goal is to shoot bad guys, but every once in a while you will have to help a crooked old salesman pitch his new cure-all tonic or protect a farmer's ranch from a bad storm rolling in.
Rockstar have outdone themselves this time with the sheer number of missions to complete outside of the main storyline. Called "Stranger missions," John Marston can cross paths with a stranger who asks a favor with no explanation. If John accepts, he could be accomplishing a great deed or help to further a more insidious plot. These stranger missions take a few in-game days to complete, but some have more memorable outcomes than the main story missions.
If the missions have become too boring or rudimentary for you, then go distract yourself. You can gamble by playing blackjack, poker, liar's dice, five-finger fillet, arm-wrestling, or horseshoes. Don't like to gamble? Go treasure hunting for buried gold all over the vast wilderness, or hunt the wildlife and sell the pelts. You can even accept bounties for the local sheriff and help them to clean out gang hideouts all over the towns. If John becomes too notorious with certain people, he can be challenged to a duel or quick-draw. With so many distractions, it is hard to pull yourself away from the game because there is always something to do at every turn.
For most people, however, the greatest distraction (and the biggest improvement over previous efforts) is the multiplayer. Long-time Rockstar fans recognize the multiplayer as a fun distraction, but it never really competes on its own. Red Dead is the first time Rockstar has offered a multiplayer experience as deep and addictive as their single-player stories. Offering a deep rewards and leveling system, the online component of Red Dead is broken into two main modes: Free Roam and Competitive
Free Roam has the whole world of Red Dead Redemption act as a playground for an entire 16-player lobby. While in Free Roam, friends can find one another and form a posse to tackle missions together like capturing bounties or storming gang hideouts. Players can also participate in gang wars with one team's 8-man posse competing against another. Having a full-blown Wild West war is tons of fun and I encourage everyone to give a shot at least once (especially in the rocky valleys of Pike's Basin.)
For fans of the more traditional game types, Red Dead also offers more structured online modes like "Free for All" or "Team Deathmatch" as well as a few variations of old stand-bys like "Capture the Flag." The rewards and challenge systems in the multiplayer also give the online portion an extra layer of completionist envy by using all the challenges as unlocks for new gear, guns, or mounts (like golden horses or buffalo.) The amount of things to do and see in the multiplayer is just as extensive as the single-player which means no matter which you decide to play, you will get your money's worth with Red Dead.