Arthur Morgan is the main character and who you’ll play as in “Red Dead Redemption 2.”Rockstar Games/Take-Two Interactive
The much-anticipated next game from the folks who created “Grand Theft Auto 5” is finally here: “Red Dead Redemption 2” is available now on Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
But you know that, right? You’ve seen all the ads, and maybe even pre-ordered the game ahead of time — you’re ready.
But are you really? Having spent the last week with the game’s main character, Arthur Morgan, and his fellow outlaws, I’ve put together everything I wish I had known before digging in on Rockstar’s latest 60-hour epic.
1. The game is aggressively slow. Embrace it!
Stop and have a coffee at the gang’s camp. It’ll regenerate Arthur, but it’s also just nice to stop and have a cup.Rockstar Games/Take-Two Interactive
The opening to “Red Dead Redemption 2” finds Arthur and his friends on the run from the law, holed up in an abandoned set of cabins during a brutal snow storm.
It’s a slow-as-molasses crawl through thick snowdrifts just to get to the cabins, then another slow crawl back through the snow to explore a nearby cabin. There’s no speeding through the snow, or hurrying through the mission — it sets the tone for the rest of the game.
Most games attempt to entertain players at every turn. “Red Dead Redemption 2” luxuriates in the details, which can mean watching a lot of slow animations. Arthur opens a drawer. Arthur checks a body for loot. Arthur carefully places an animal hide on his horse.
Embrace the details — it’s what “Red Dead Redemption 2” does best.
2. Don’t worry about money.
By 1899 standards, Arthur Morgan is an absolute baller. By a few hours in, I had accrued a ridiculously large amount of money, as had the gang. I never thought about money again.
You can buy supplies, and ammunition, and outfits, and all manner of other things. But you rarely need to — much of that stuff can be easily scrounged from dead enemies or while on missions. I never found myself worried about having enough supplies, to say nothing of money to buy supplies with.
After all, this is a game about being an outlaw — and that means robbing and stealing. You’ll do plenty of that just as a matter of playing the game, so don’t worry too much about money and supplies.
3. Do worry about upgrading your camp: Prioritize that before anything else.
Rockstar Games/Take-Two Interactive
The Van der Linde Gang — the one Arthur belongs to, run by Dutch Van der Linde — has a mobile home base. It’s just a camp: A handful of tents and bedrolls, benches and horses. There’s a fire for cooking, and a table for eating, and an area for the horses.
But these meager accommodations can be upgraded to great effect, and I’d strongly suggest frontloading the game with exactly that.
Most importantly: Upgrade Dutch’s accommodations (“First Things First”) and the subsequent upgrade for Arthur’s housing. The first one will encourage other gang members to pitch in more money, and that second bit will unlock fast travel — a crucial component if you want to save time getting around the absolutely massive world of “Red Dead Redemption 2.”
4. Remember to take off your bandit mask and to holster your gun (unless you’re trying to get into something nefarious).
If you walk around with a face mask, holding a blood-spattered hunting knife, people will be scared of you.Rockstar Games
The left bumper (L1/LB) is a crucial button in “Red Dead Redemption 2.” Tap it once and you’ll either pull or holster your sidearm. Hold it down and it’ll bring up your weapon/items wheel — the quickest way to pull up or take down your bandit mask.
Players used to seeing game worlds through the barrel of a gun are in for something new: It’s crucial that you don’t constantly pull your gun on strangers. They’ll react accordingly! If you’re always pointing your gun at someone, you’re bound to have a few people pull their own in response.
Also of note: Be careful with the right trigger. It’s far too easy to accidentally blow someone away in mid-conversation. (Arthur fires from the hip when you hit the right trigger, so don’t hit it unless you intend to fire!)
5. Pay your bounties!
Killed a few people and got caught looting their dead bodies? If someone sees you, you’re gonna get a bounty on your head!Rockstar Games/Take-Two Interactive
In the course of playing through “Red Dead Redemption 2,” you’re likely to commit a few crimes. And, in 1899, crimes in the Wild West were handled through bounties.
Such is the case in “Red Dead Redemption 2,” which is great for players because getting the law off your back can be as simple as paying a small fee at the closest post office. Bounties are on a state-wide basis, so you may have to pay a few small fines to clear your name, but it’s fully worth it: Getting hunted down by bounty hunters is no fun at all.
They descend on you seemingly out of nowhere, and it’s much easier to enjoy the game without worry of sudden attack.
6. Use Cinematic Mode!
Rockstar Games/Take-Two Interactive
There’s a lot of riding a horse and/or carriage from place to place in “Red Dead Redemption 2.” It can be serene and peaceful. It’s always beautiful. But it can also get pretty boring after awhile.
Good news: There’s a “cinematic mode” that allows you to enjoy the beauty and serenity without having to pay full attention to directing your horse/carriage. On the PlayStation 4, it’s a measure of holding down the touchpad in the middle of the gamepad; on the Xbox One, it’s a measure of holding down the “view” button.
You still have to tap and/or hold an acceleration button for your horse/carriage to keep moving forward, but it’ll follow the trail to wherever you’re going without you having to direct it. It sounds small, but it’s not!
As a bonus, like the name of the mode indicates, it turns the camera into something far more cinematic — with sweeping views and rollicking close-ups and much more. In so many words, it makes the game look like a movie.
7. Help strangers! (They’ll give you free stuff.)
Save the man from Blackwater for questioning? Let him die? The choice is yours!Rockstar Games/Take-Two Interactive
You can play “Red Dead Redemption 2” however you want, but playing it as a good samaritan goes a long way in rewards down the line.
If you happen to find some poor sap and/or saps in need of help —bears and bear traps, bucking horses, and hostage-taking bandits abound — being a good guy will result in some pretty sweet stuff later on in the game.
Maybe you’ll get some gold, or a nice new gun, or something even better! I’m intentionally not being too specific here; you’ll have to trust me that the rewards are worth it.