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Ten Things I Wish I Knew When I Started 'Red Dead Redemption 2'

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Red Dead Redemption 2Rockstar

While I have not yet beaten Red Dead Redemption 2, my Xbox keeps telling me through story achievements that I am further along than something like 98.5% of other players. That will happen when you play the game 10-12 hours a day like it’s your job (it is my job), and so I do think I’m in a position to write one of my traditional “ten things” articles before everyone else gets too deep into it.

Some of the “must know” items were so urgent I’ve already written articles about a few of them, but if you missed those, I needed to make sure they were included here as well, so apologies for any repeats. I also reserve the right to add more as I discover them (this game is so big this list could probably be 50 things), but for now, I think this is a good jumping off point.

Red Dead Redemption 2 is a great game, but some elements of it are completely inscrutable with some odd Rockstar design/gameplay/UI decisions. But if you want to get the most out of the game, here are ten things I wish I knew when I started Red Dead Redemption 2.

Red Dead Redemption 2Rockstar

1. Your Missing Hat Is On Your Horse

First, the answer to the most important pressing question of Red Dead 2: “What the hell happened to my hat?” Your hat will fall off during almost all fistfights and many intense gunfights, and that’s left many players wandering around hatless for hours if they can’t retrace their exact steps to find it.

Well, good news. Buried in the labyrinth of wheel inventory options, your hat can always be found on your horse if you lose it. I thought it was just your basic hat you start with, but the more hats I bought, I found that I could find all of them on my horse, so no hat is ever truly lost.

As a side note, you can save outfits and keep them on your horse. I believe upgrading saddlebags will give you more outfit slots, so it’s good if you like to change clothes depending on the town you’re in, or based on the weather.

2. Fast Travel Exists, But It’s Well Hidden

My colleague Dave Thier who reviewed Red Dead 2 for us before launch managed to get through all 80 hours without figuring out that there is a fast travel system squirreled away in the game, but since the game never points you to it directly, I’ll have to.

There’s a camp upgrade you can buy which gives Dutch more comfortable bedding. I mean, who wants to spend $200 on that, but it’s required to unlock the next tier of upgrades, which is a Fast Travel map for $300 that will be near Arthur’s bed. Fast Travel comes with a few caveats in Red Dead. You can only travel from camp, not to it, and your horse has to be in camp for it to work. To make sure your horse is always in camp, buy the horse station upgrade in the ledger. So yeah, this will save you some time, but because of its limited uses (you can’t just travel from point to point on the map like it’s Fallout), you will still be riding around the countryside a lot.

Red Dead Redemption 2Rockstar

3. You Can Travel on Autopilot, But It’s Risky

Continuing in this vein, there is a way to “autopilot” yourself back home which is poorly explained in the game. I thought that “cinematic mode” was simply to make the game look cool in boring segments. What I did not realize that if your horse is in a run, you can switch to cinematic mode and they will follow the road to whatever your current waypoint is without you having to press any more buttons.

There are a number of downsides to doing this, however. First, this will be slower than manually riding somewhere because your horse is only running on “medium” speed, not sprinting. This will also not let you do any horse bonding along the way. But more important, because Red Dead is a dynamic world, you will often run into trouble in cinematic mode, be it crashing into other horses or wagons if the autopilot is off by a hair, or running into specific events. Last night I put myself on autopilot to get back to camp, only to run into a roadblock full of gang members trying to get revenge on me, and I watched myself get cinematically shredded by a gatling gun they had on the back of a wagon before I could manage to regain control. You need to be aware more often than not on the road.

4. Changing One Setting Will Help Make Movement Better

The last thing I’ll say about movement and travel in the game is something I wrote about already, but it bears repeating.  If you go into accessibility settings in the game, you can change running from holding the A/X button to toggling the A/X button instead. While this doesn’t work on horseback or for sprinting (you will still have to mash A/X for that), it’s a way to auto-run without constantly holding down A for 90% of the game. This also works when you’re crouched which is helpful.

5. A Headshot Is A Headshot

One thing I’ve learned as I’ve progressed through Red Dead 2 is that like most Rockstar games, it is very, very much not an RPG. What that means is that the more you play, you really don’t start running into beefier enemies that require more shots to take down. Everyone is just…a human, and as such, I wouldn’t stress out about your arsenal all that much.

What I mean by “a headshot is a headshot” is that you can use your base Cattleman revolver and as long as you’re hitting headshots on enemies, it kills them the same way a high power sniper will. This isn’t Destiny or The Division where you can dump a million shots into an enemies face and they’ll survive because of their level. Bullets are bullets here, and will kill everyone as they “should” except for of course, you. Sure, get cooler guns for faster reloads and harder hitting body shots I guess, but if you can hit those headshots consistently, you can pretty much use whatever you want, and no gun is too crappy to get through a mission with.

6. Skip Zero “Minor” Gang Side Missions

Red Dead is full of missions big and small, but the ones I highly recommend you don’t skip are the ones you’ll find in camp where one person wants to do something simple like go fishing or hunting or rob a random stagecoach. While in other games, these kinds of missions would simply be fetch quests, in Red Dead 2 they are not only exceedingly interesting a lot of the time, but they are some of the best character development moments the game has with different members of your gang.

With Red Dead assigning you different gang members for the main missions, you can often go for hours without interacting with a specific gang member if they’re not on the roster. But these side missions will pair you off with probably every single person in your camp at least once, and they will really make you love these characters. My favorite missions have been with Lenny, Charles and Kieran so far, though these keep popping up and I’m not sure when they’ll end. Don’t ignore them, or you’ll miss some of the best conversations in the game. If you don’t do them, they won’t be there later as you progress through the story.

Red Dead Redemption 2Rockstar

7. A Few Useful UI Shortcuts

Back to gameplay, here are a few useful UI things that should make playing a bit less convoluted

  • Hold down start (options, whatever) to instantly bring up the map instead of having to press a button in the menu for it
  • Hold down B/O if you are deep into the menus to instantly go back to the game rather than hitting it a million times
  • There is a manual save/load option in Red Dead which is in the “story” section of the menu
  • Hold down left on the D-pad to bring up your journal (read it, it’s good). Simply pressing left on the D-pad will let you see your tasks and challenges
  • Red Dead can be played entirely in first person mode as well (which actually makes it feel a bit faster). Tap the touchpad on PS4 or the view button on Xbox to switch back and forth

There’s probably more even I haven’t discovered yet, but that’s enough to get you started.

8. Don’t Miss Out On Dual Wielding

I wasn’t planning on including this one, but it appears a number of people have somehow missed the fact that pretty early on in the game, you gain the ability to dual wield pistols. After you run a particularly bloody mission with Micah (you’ll know the one), you’ll get a new holster that lets you dual wield two different pistols/revolves/sawed-off shotguns at once. To do that, you go up on the weapon wheel where there’s a two arrow symbol that will let you use two guns. Double the damage, but double the reload time. Still, it rules.

Red Dead Redemption 2Rockstar

9. Those Flashing Red Icons

These confused me for a while so I thought I would add them here. There will sometimes be a weird flashing red icon over your horse health that is actually a “brush” symbol, meaning you need to brush your horse a few times to clean off dust and get it to go away. I believe this makes him perform worse in some way, possibly moving slower or regenerating slower, so you’re going to want to clear it off as soon as you can. You can also walk him through water to clean him as well.

In camp, you will often see three red icons in the corner of the screen. This indicates the level of supplies currently at camp, and if the bullet, medical cross and food icons are red, that means you’re running on empty. White is some stuff is still there, yellow means fully stocked. I still can’t figure out if this stuff auto-regens, but if it does it takes a long time, so you may just want to shell out of a few bucks for a manual restock to prevent this from happening. It costs far less than it would buying all this stuff individually in town.

10. Upgrading Health And Dead Eye

While it’s pretty straightforward how you upgrade your stamina, run a lot, you will probably find your health and dead eye bars lagging behind. Dead Eye will slowly increase with headshots, but strangely if you do those menial chores around camp marked by black dots, you will get a +5 Dead Eye increase per chore. Also hunting is probably the best way to make it go up fast.

Health I’ve found goes up fast if you’re getting in fistfights frequently (though those usually come with bounties) or landing stealth/throwing knife kills. But also health will increase somewhat substantially from fishing, of all things. Lake fishing on a boat in particular where you land bigger fish will get you a solid amount of health boosts, taking you to the next level at a relatively rapid pace if you’re a frequent fisherman.

Again, this is a massive game and there’s a lot more to say about it, but I hope this was helpful and you learned a thing or two. Apologies for anything you already knew, but it’s easy for some people to miss pretty basic stuff in this game. Happy hunting.

Follow me on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Read my new sci-fi thriller novel Herokiller, available now in print and online. I also wrote The Earthborn Trilogy.

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