After several years of anticipation, Red Dead Redemption 2 is finally here and for many fans of Rockstar Games’ Western-inspired open-world series, it has been a long time coming. In case you couldn’t tell from our full review of the game, Red Dead Redemption 2 is a technical and artistic marvel that will envelop players in a richly-crafted world, and aside from the amount of depth and detail that it offers, it also is an experience that offers plenty for players to explore and complete out in its massive open-world.
Having now played the game for many dozens of hours, these are just a few of the tips and suggestions that I have for players looking to get the most out of Red Dead Redemption 2 with the game’s launch today on PS4 and Xbox One. By no means are these essential tips for completing the game, given how massive and open it is for players to experiment and play how they like, but they should be helpful in uncovering every inch that Rockstar’s most immersive world yet has to offer.
Stick with your horse for a bit to bond and develop their skills.
As your main companion that you’ll have for the entirety of the game, Red Dead Redemption 2 really brings home the point that your relationship to your horse is important. As your primary mode of transportation and storage (aside from being a loyal companion), your horse will also grow over time with Arthur as you bond with it and can develop its strengths further.
At the beginning of the game you’ll start off with one or two fairly standard horse breeds, and certain types of horses are better suited for different situations — some are faster and more agile, while others are more sturdy and durable workhorses. Whichever breed you may wind up with is up to you, but the important thing is that once you pick a horse to your liking, spend time to develop your bond with it so that you can increase its ability to aid you while roaming through West.
As you spend time with your horse, you’ll be able to increase its stamina and health the more that you ride it and care for it, such as feeding it, brushing it, and calming it when it’s frightened or startled. However, you can also unlock new abilities and tricks in Red Dead Redemption 2 once you increase the bond with your horse at certain levels, such as rearing and a quick turn maneuver to avoid danger ahead.
The stables available in-game can allow you to have up to three other horses in addition to your “main horse” that you have with you out in your travels, so don’t forget the important of strengthening your bond with your horse to maximize its potential.
Invest in upgrading the Van der Linde gang’s camp early.
One of the biggest additions in Red Dead Redemption 2 revolves around the Van der Linde gang’s camp, which shifts locations at certain points throughout the game’s story. The camp essentially will act as your home base throughout Red Dead Redemption 2, and aside from interacting with other members of the gang like John Marston and Bill Williamson, you can also load up on supplies such as ammo, food, tonics, and more.
As you stock up on valuable loot and money earned from heists, you have the option to contribute those items (or cold hard cash) into your gang’s funds, which in turn can be used to invest in upgrading the various sections of the camp. Though some of these upgrades will be a bit pricey (especially early on in the game), the camp provides a valuable resource by giving you easy access to ammo, provisions, and tonics that will all be more than useful when you’re going between missions, in a more cost-effective manner than getting it all individually at a general store.
When you have a bit of extra cash you can part with, my suggestion would be to spend some of that money and put it towards upgrading the camp’s food, ammo, and medical stashes early, and each of them can be upgraded a few times for better quality items, such as improved tonics to boost your Health and Stamina, or more powerful weaponry like fire bottles and different ammo types. The more you put into the camp, the more you get, so don’t miss out on expanding its uses while exploring the world and completing missions.
A little gun oil and snake oil goes a long way.
Throughout the numerous towns and areas you’ll visit in Red Dead Redemption 2, you’ll run into plenty of general stores and gun shops where you can stock up on supplies during or in-between missions. While ammo and healing supplies are naturally items you’ll want to pick up when you have the opportunity, two particularly useful items (at least I find) you should always make sure that you have in supply when needed are gun oil and snake oil.
Gun oil can be purchased from the gun shops, and can be utilized by Arthur to clean his weapons and restore their condition, as weapons in the game do degrade with normal wear and tear, making them slightly less effective in later encounters. You can also clean your weapons at the gun shops, but having some gun oil on you to clean weapons in a pinch is more convenient when you are outside the vicinity of a town, and to make sure your weapons are always ready for combat.
Likewise, snake oil is also handy to have as it instantly refills your Dead Eye meter, making it a key item to have on you in tougher gunfights and excursions. Snake oil can be picked up at pretty much any general store you come across, and is also part of your camp’s stash of tonics and medicine.
Check your horse’s saddle before heading out on a mission.
Your horse is not only your primary means of transportation while roaming the landscape of Red Dead Redemption 2, but it’s also your primary means of storage and carrying equipment between missions. Notably, that includes all of your stored weaponry, tonics, gear, and more, making it all the more important to pay attention to what you have on you.
When you reach a destination after traveling on your horse, before you actually embark or reach the waypoint to begin the mission (or speak with a character that might initiate a mission), bring up your weapon wheel to make sure that you’re carrying the equipment you intend to bring with you on the mission ahead. Whether that’s your trusty carbine repeater and a shotgun for those brutal gunfights, or a bow and tomahawk for stealthier missions, always check when you’re by your horse to make sure that you have the right tools for the job, otherwise you’ll find yourself at a loss and may not be able to (easily) return back to your horse before the mission is over.
Give Arthur a few different clothing options.
While your horse’s saddle is the primary place that you can get all your gear from, one particularly useful part of its inventory is that the horse can also carry up to three different outfits for Arthur to wear out on the road. Aside from giving Arthur more flexible fashion options when needed, this also serves the purpose of allowing you to bring different clothing options for different types of climates you may encounter such as the frigid mountaintops or the desert heat, as not having the right clothing for the right environment can give Arthur a hit against his stamina.
If you’re looking to maximize your options out on the road, I would suggest bringing along at least a warm weather piece of gear and cold weather gear, which should perfectly set you up for almost any type of environment. Finally, for that third spot on your horse’s inventory for clothing, you can hold that for a favorite outfit or piece of gear that makes Arthur really stand out in the West.
Remember: things don’t always have to get violent.
While Red Dead Redemption 2 is very much a “Rockstar game” that allows players to create as much horse-and carriage-fueled chaos as they like, one of the most notable additions to the game is the integration of new layers of interactivity between the player and other NPCs out in the world, including the ability to take a bit more of a pacifist approach to most encounters.
When you hold the “Focus button” (L2 on PS4), Arthur will be able to interact with virtually any other human or animal he comes across and has a variety of ways that he can engage with them; typically, that involves an option to greet them, rob them, antagonize them, and more depending on the context.
Though Red Dead Redemption 2 offers plenty of chances to take on other characters in a violent manner, if you’re looking to settle conflicts with random characters out in the world, consider trying a more civil approach first by talking them down before drawing your guns. For example, if you happen to accidentally run over a civilian or a traveler gets wary of you, try focusing on them and seeing if you can defuse the situation first by talking them down. If that doesn’t work and guns get drawn, you can also aim your weapon and press up on the D-Pad to aim your weapon in the air and fire a warning shot. This is more than enough to get the message across that you shouldn’t be messed with and can scare other characters away, but without drawing any bloodshed.
Make every Dead Eye shot count.
The Dead Eye system once again makes its return in Red Dead Redemption 2, as players can slow down time and take aim at critical weak points on enemies in rapid fire succession. Like in the first game, you have a limited amount of your Dead Eye meter to use before having to build it back up again (or use a tonic or provision to restore it), so it’s important to make your shots count while you have the opportunity.
Naturally, headshots are going to be your best option when taking on enemies as they will practically take out anything in one hit. So when faced with a large group of enemies ahead, or if you just need a moment to clear out an overwhelming gunfight, take your time to eliminate large groups of enemies with well-placed headshots rather than going for multiple shots on one target. Unless you really don’t like the guy and just want to riddle them with bullets: then that’s okay.
Explore every shop for “illicit business practices.”
You’ll find plenty of different stores throughout Red Dead Redemption 2 worth exploring, including the general stores for your all-around needs and goods, gun shops to upgrade and maintain equipment, and more.
However, some of these stores are hiding more than they seem, as some of the in-game shops and locations may be hiding illegal businesses for you to discover and take down. While you can look around the stores themselves for any illicit business that may be going on, look for things like locked metal doors to get a hint that the business you are entering may be hiding something, which could potentially be to Arthur’s gain.
Interact with NPCs and Strangers regularly.
When out in the world of Red Dead Redemption 2, your progression in the game’s main story will largely be driven by heading to the yellow waypoint markers that will get you to a character that will begin a new story mission, typically one of the Van der Linde gang members or another character of note.
However, the world of Red Dead Redemption 2 is also the home to a number of interesting characters and folks that you’ll meet along the way, whether randomly or as part of a side mission. Typically, other characters you’ll meet fall into the category of “Strangers” — side mission characters that you’ll find on the map marked by a white question mark — or Random Encounters, which usually will involve a character seeking assistance on the side of the road or while you are exploring town.
Aside from these characters that will lead you down interesting side paths in Red Dead Redemption 2, you don’t necessarily have to limit your interactions with other NPCs in the world to just those that might be part of a story, as you can interact with any other person or animal in the game. Whether you greet them, rob them, or antagonize them, take the time to see what interesting quips, stories, or tales that the different folk you’ll meet around town might offer, and see what sort of surprises they may have in store for you.
Take time to explore, and don’t be afraid to go off the beaten path.
Though Red Dead Redemption 2 is filled with the kind of action and spectacle that rivals many classic Western films, the biggest strength of Red Dead Redemption 2 lies in its astonishingly-detailed world. There is so much to do and find in the world that Rockstar Games has crafted that you’ll easily be spending dozens of hours while roaming the West, but the important thing is that you shouldn’t rush to complete it.
There is a lot to discover in Red Dead Redemption 2, and this is a game that is meant to be taken in slowly. The game’s opening (purposefully) takes a bit of a slower pace than some might expect, and a vast amount of that is intentional to allow you to take in the various mechanics and abilities at your disposal when interacting and exploring this world.
As much as there is the draw to get through the story missions as quickly as possible, don’t be afraid to take some time in between missions to let yourself be immersed in the rich world that awaits you in Red Dead Redemption 2, such as exploring towns like Valentine or the big city of Saint Denis. Likewise, get the most of your Western experience by playing a round of poker at the local saloon or take in a vaudeville show when you have some down time, or interact with the rest of the Van der Linde gang back at camp to complete side activities with them.
Though the story of Red Dead Redemption 2 is thrilling and action-packed in its own right, it’s all enveloped in a world that is rich in depth and detail, and not taking a chance to step back and appreciate the sheer skill that went into crafting the impeccably-made world of Red Dead Redemption 2 would be missing out on one of the game’s best qualities.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is available now on PS4 and Xbox One. If you have yet to pick up a copy of the game, you can do that right now over on Amazon.
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