What to Know (and Do) Starting ‘Red Dead Redemption 2’

Jeremy Ray
Games PlayStation
Games PlayStation Xbox Red Dead

It’s time to properly get into the meat of Red Dead Redemption 2, and we all have many glorious gunslinging hours ahead of us. We want to make sure you get off to the best start possible.

Thankfully, much of Red Dead Redemption 2 is explained very well. It’s not like you’re excessively having your hand held, but there’s enough polish to the game that helpful messages pop up at the right times, and Rockstar has made it impossible to dig yourself into a hole you can’t get out of.

That said, there are a few things we were stressing over that we probably didn’t need to.

A horse rears up on its hind legs with a rider on top in Red Dead Redemption 2.
The rearing technique is learned at tier 2 of bonding with your horse.

Any Gun or Horse Will Do

There’s been a lot of hype about the weapon systems, and taking care of your horse. We’ve written about it, and the hype is warranted — these are very cool parts of the game. But they’re also more optional than perhaps you were led to believe.

The default autoaim (which can be turned off) is so strong, we found it didn’t really matter which gun we used. Aim with Left Trigger and the reticle will centre on your enemy’s chest. Adjust for a headshot if you like, and pull Right Trigger to fire the shot.

A horserider stands near a tall tree.
There's no lack of expansive scenery to go horseriding in.

Similarly, we went through the game with what we’re sure is a “weak” horse with unexciting stats. We never had a problem. We still won races, and hauled carcasses after hunting. Bonding happens naturally with time in the saddle, and there’s plenty of that when going from A to B.

There’s a deep side of the game for anyone who wants to take care of their horse, and customise their weapons. But just be aware this is something to do if you want to. It simply won’t make much of a difference if you use a different horse or gun, so use your favourite and customise the hell out of it.

Sure, a sawed-off shotgun will perform better in short range engagements than a sniper. But for most middling firefights? Use whatever you like.

Decisions Come in Many Forms

Much of the time in Red Dead Redemption 2, you’re making decisions without even knowing it. Even when you do know it, it’s hard to know the import of those decisions at the time.

That’s because games usually give you challenges with a fail state and a win state. Many of RDR2‘s activities have neither — rather, just different story branches.

Take this spoiler-free example from a mission in which you get Lenny drunk to take his mind off some things. Eventually you’re intoxicated enough to run from the police. If you’re caught, it seems like you were meant to be caught. If you get away, it seems like getting caught would have resulted in a fail state.

In reality, both are just different story branches which see you wake up in a different spot. Though admittedly, waking up in jail is worse. But the drunkard who gave you a hard time earlier in the night? Depending on what you chose to do with him, the night could’ve taken a much darker turn. You might’ve been okay with that, but would Lenny? Especially given his state of mind?

Fast travel Red Dead Redemption 2 map Arthur Morgan accommodation ledger
You may have to look for the fast travel map again when you move camp.

Fast Travel in RDR2

It’s not exactly hidden, but it’s not exactly signposted either. Red Dead Redemption 2 has a fast travel option, but you’ll almost always have to pay (in-game money) to use it.

There’s a fast travel ability from your camp to anywhere you’ve visited before, or there are stagecoaches in each town that can take you to previously reached locations. Just make sure you don’t have a bounty on your head if you want to use a taxi coach.

Read our fast travel guide to learn how to unlock the option at your camp.

Blue shack at Lenora View Red Dead Redemption 2
This blue house at Lenora View has a sad story to tell.

Not All Stories Are Told Through Words

Not all stories are told through missions, either. Some of the coolest things you’ll come across in Rockstar’s wild west are somewhat off the grid.

These intentionally unexplained elements of the game range from mysterious cabins, a serial killer’s bodies to find, hunting legendary animals and fish, and… well, hunting in general. The game doesn’t explain that very well.

The serial killer’s first victim is quite close to Valentine, and will just appear as “corpse” on the map. We recommend checking that out, as well as the first shack at Hani’s Bethel for an example of Rockstar’s environmental storytelling at work.

Just beware that if you’re on a mission, sometimes going a little too far will force you to restart from a checkpoint. But otherwise, ride free once in a while. It’s a little too easy to rely on that map. Get lost and find yourself at a new town far away, and ride the stagecoach back.

Bandana character draws bow and arrow in RDR2.
The bow and arrow is good for stealth, but also clean hunting kills.

Hunt Smarter, Not Harder

Running out and using whatever weapon/ammo you want when hunting is fine for food, but not for pelts. You can sell poor and good quality pelts, but for crafting, only perfect pelts will do.

That means paying attention to the factors that will damage the pelt. Some ammo and weapons are meant for small game like rabbits, for example. The place your shot hits matters too.

You can get close to an animal and press RB or L2 to study the animal and get valuable hunting information. This includes what kind of weapon and ammo to use. Even if you’re chasing down an animal and holding RB/L2 while close to it, it’s worth it. This was the largest factor for us in getting perfect pelts.

Stay tuned for a more in-depth hunting guide here on FANDOM which will cover things like poison arrows, weak spots, and legendary animals.

Arthur Morgan Red Dead Redemption 2
Having blood and dirt on your clothes doesn't help with the town's opinion of you.

Change Your Appearance

Using your mask when performing dastardly deeds does help, but it’s not a cure-all. Townsfolk will still put two and two together, sometimes even if they didn’t see the crime.

Another thing you can do is change your clothes and facial appearance whenever you can. Let them gossip all they like about the “man in the blue shirt who caused a ruckus” as you walk around town in your new coat. And yes, the AI really does work like that.

Jeremy Ray
Managing Editor at FANDOM. Decade-long games critic and esports aficionado. Started in competitive Counter-Strike, then moved into broadcast, online, print and interpretative pantomime. You merely adopted the lag. I was born in it.
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