Red Dead Redemption 2 is a truly massive open-world game that’s deceptively complex. There are no XP bars to fill, but there are plenty of different ways you’ll slowly progress and improve Arthur, the main character and heavy you play as you travel with the Dutch Van der Linde gang across five different states in a lawless west. There’s a whole lot to absorb in the first few hours, and even if you’re paying attention to all the tutorial notes, it’s easy to miss some of the finer points.
That’s why we’re breaking down everything you need to know about the beginning hours of RDR2. Once you complete Chapter 1, the game opens up significantly, and you can start doing just about anything you want to do. And there’s a whole lot to do in each region — from clearing out gang strongholds, to hunting legendary animals, to fishing and improving your relationship with your horse.
And all of these features have complex systems. Even shooting is a little more complicated than your standard open-world game. Heck, simple stuff like looting has hidden depth. Here are 15 essential features you absolutely should know about as you begin your adventure in RDR2.
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#1: You Can Make Your RDR2 Experience Even More Immersive
Yes, you can play the entire game in first-person mode. There are more ways to play with an unobtrusive HUD — just check the Settings and Options menu to find all the different ways you can toggle HUD elements. You can even completely remove the minimap, or use a simple compass. Handily, you don’t have to change a setting for that — you can change your minimap settings instantly in-game.
- NOTE: Hold [Touchpad / View] to activate the Cinematic Camera. Tap to change the camera distance from the player.
Press and hold [D-Pad: Down] and you’ll get four options. You can either play with a standard minimap, a large minimap, or with no minimap at all. If you just want directions, select the compass and memorize the different locales based on clues given by your quest-givers. You can complete the entire game without the map, and you can toggle it on or off at will.
#2: Take On Side-Quests Before They’re Gone
There are two types of quests in RDR2 — main story quests, and side-quests. Side-quests are only available for a limited time. Side-quests are denoted with a white marker, while story quests are marked in yellow. If you progress too far and reach a new chapter, you’ll lose out on your chance to play through these smaller side-missions. They’re just as packed with content, and reveal hidden facets to some of the characters in your camp.
- NOTE: Main story quests can be replayed at any time. Go to the Pause Menu -> Progress -> Story to select any main story quest and play it again.
#3: Evasive Maneuvers & Old-Time Shooting
Many of the early weapons you acquire in RDR2 are double-action. The Lever-Action Rifle, or the Revolver, both require Arthur to pull back on the hammer to fire again. That means you can’t fire quickly while aiming — you can fire all weapons much faster from the hip, but you’ll lose accuracy. To speed up your firing, you can either press [R2 / RT] after each shot, or return to cover. Arthur will automatically cock his chosen weapon. Now that’s an unexpected amount of detail.
- NOTE: For extra style points, double-tap [L1 / LB] to perform a trick when holstering your revolver.
You’ll also find a new move — the dodge. While aiming, tap [Square / X] to dive. You can quickly evade incoming bullets, or escape explosives fast. It’s a little bit like the dodge-roll from Max Payne 3, minus the balletic gun-shooting. Actually, it’s a lot like Snake’s sneaky dive in Metal Gear Solid 5.
#4: Loot Anything That Isn’t Bolted Down
You’re an outlaw, so stealing stuff is just part of the job description. Whenever you play through a new mission, you’ll usually encounter lootable containers — and you don’t want to miss any of them. Search every dead body for cash, and sell the extra loot you don’t need. Arthur needs plenty of money to stay afloat in the world.
- NOTE: To speed up looting, hold down [Square / X] and don’t let go. Arthur will continue to grab anything on the shelf, or automatically open up cabinets / dressers to get all the good stuff.
To help you 100% rob every location you clear out, check your mini-map. Check all the “X” marks. These thick black “X”s will turn gray after you’ve looted the body. Ammo will automatically get picked up, so you don’t need to worry about that.
#5: Use The Wilderness To Find New Locations
At the start of the game, you’ll have a pair of binoculars you can use to survey the world. To easily find new places-of-interest, look in the distance for smoke trails. You’ll find settlements or campfires — campfires, are a good place to stop and rest. If you find friendly NPCs, you can get some free items, or even a meal. Talk to the locals, and they’ll tell you about other places you might want to visit, or share rumors.
- NOTE: Give the cinematic camera a try while exploring. You’ll get amazing shots of Arthur as he rides through the wilderness. Just hold [Cross / A] to stick to automatically follow the trail while the cinematic camera is activated.
#6: Hunting Got A Whole Lot More Complicated
Hunting is another huge aspect of RDR2, and you’ll need to be patient to properly capture an animal. If you use buckshot, or shoot up the body, you’ll ruin the pelt and meat. To properly hunt, you need a bow, and you need to aim for the neck or head. Tap [R3+L3] to mark an animal trail, and check the direction of the wind. If you’re not downwind of an animal, your scent will scare it away.
- NOTE: You can use your knife for clean kills. Use your lasso on medium or large animals, then use your knife in melee range for a clean kill if you don’t feel like aiming.
In addition to more hunting mechanics, you’ll also have to deal with different levels of wild game. There are now three star levels attached to random animals — aim for two or three star creatures. When you get a good look, the stars will appear, letting you know if your daily catch is even worth the trouble. Pelts are worth far more from three star critters.
#7: Fishing Got More Complicated Too
In addition to hunting, Arthur can also fish for unique sea life. The fish aren’t always biting, so you’ll want to be prepared. Purchase lures and bait that fit the location, and try to fish only in the early morning or late afternoon. If you visit the local pond while it’s raining, you’ll find even more underwater activity than usual.
#8: You Can’t Ride Just Any Horse
Horse-riding is a fine art in RDR2. If you’re near a predator, your horse will freak out. Press [L3] to calm your mount down, giving it pats and building trust. Making sure you don’t exhaust your house and treat it well is important — the better your relationship with your horse, the more abilities you’ll unlock, including a much longer whistle range.
If you’re trying to ride a horse that isn’t your own, you’ll run into problems. NPC horses in town will kick Arthur off if he tries to jump on, and wild horses are even more skittish. You’ll need to chase them down, lasso them, and calm them before you can ride. Even then, they’re likely to give you some trouble.
#9: Watch Your Conditions
There are two primary conditions you’ll want to keep track of in RDR2 — weight and temperature. If you don’t eat enough, you’ll lose weight and start to take more damage in combat, or get tired faster. You don’t want your cores to take a hit, so make sure to keep Arthur plenty healthy.
You’ll also want to watch your temperature. If you don’t wear warm clothes in cold temperatures, you’ll begin to freeze — wear those same warm clothes outside of the snowy regions, and you’ll be too hot. You’ll want to select the appropriate clothes for each area, or Arthur’s core attributes will take a steep hit.
#10: Find Your Local Fence
A “Fence” is a unique vendor that will purchase stolen goods from Arthur. Standard stores won’t purchase your ill-gotten gains, so it’s important to track down fences in certain settlements. You’ll find a fence at the Emerald Ranch, Saint Denis, and Rhodes — and you’ll want to chat them up. Some fences trade in high-value items like wagons. You’ll also want to check these special vendors to purchase unique items like recipes.
#11: Honor Changes Arthur
Depending on how you resolve situations and carry yourself in RDR2, you’ll slide the pin up or down the Honor System. This system changes the way Arthur carries himself, and how NPCs react to him. If you’re a vile, no-good crook, people will shriek in fear of the sight of you. If you don’t rob everyone you meet, the townsfolk will gladly say hello, and vendors just might offer you a discount on their wares.
Not only that, but your kill-cams will actually change. Arthur’s journal entries will also take on a different tone, becoming more positive or cynical depending on the direction you take. You’ll get plenty of options to kill or spare characters as you progress through the story, and you can still lasso up little old ladies and drop them on train tracks. If you really want to make everyone in the world hate you.
#12: Track Your Optional Activities
And your map isn’t the best way to keep track of everything. Tap [D-Pad: Left] to open your Log. This will show you any Master Hunter, Sharpshooter, Herbalist or Horseman challenges you still have left to accomplish, and what your progress is so far for this optional tasks. You’ll probably want to pause the story to get some of these simple challenges done.
#13: Improve Arthur The Hard Way
Arthur has three cores — Health, Stamina, and Dead-Eye. You can upgrade these core attributes by giving them a work out. If you want to run longer or pull bow strings longer without getting tired, you’ll just have to run around everywhere instead of mounting up. If you want your Dead-Eye to improve, just unleash Dead-Eye more often — don’t forget, you can use Dead-Eye on innocent wild-life too if you don’t want to lower your Honor.
You’ll also want to keep track of consumables. Certain types of food, or other substances like cigarettes, chew, or alcohol, will increase (or negatively impact) your cores. Some food makes you healthier, while other types of food increase your weakened stamina. Vices tend to improve your Dead-Eye, so imbibe all you want for a boost.
#14: Upgrade Your Camp For Permanent Improvements
Work for Strauss in Chapter 2, and you’ll unlock the ability to purchase upgrades for the Van der Linde gang. Some of these enhancements are pretty expensive, but they’ll give you huge upgrades that make life way easier. Here are just a few upgrades you might want to pick up early.
- Larger Inventory: Pearson’s Leather Working Tools ($225)
- Fast Travel: Dutch’s Tent ($220) & Arthur’s Tent ($325)
#15: Don’t Want To Lower Your Honor? Mask Up!
Arthur has a bandana option permanently including in your Weapon Wheel. It’s in the lower-left corner. You’ll learn how to use it in Chapter 1, but the game doesn’t explain that this is actually a useful criminal tool. If you don’t want to get a bounty placed on your head, you’ll want to put on a mask before committing crimes. This will still lower your Honor, but wearing a mask just plain looks cooler.