There’s no question that Red Dead Redemption II was the biggest and bestest game of 2018, as evidenced by its sweeping wins in G.I.’s illustrious Not 50 Awards. However, just because the game is undeniably great doesn’t mean that everyone is great at playing it. The Wild West is a dangerous and unforgiving place, after all, and if you don’t know what you’re doing, you’ll quickly find yourself in trouble. In fact, even if you think you know what you’re doing, you probably still don’t and are totally blowing it one way or another.
Luckily for you, my job as a professional gamer means my skills are vastly superior to yours, and I’m more than happy to point out all your flaws with ruthless honesty. I’ve been performing this invaluable service for the gaming community for years here at G.I., enlightening readers on how to properly play everything from Prey to Metal Gear Solid V to Dark Souls II to GTA V to Tomb Raider to The Last of Us to the worst Borderlands to Far Cry 3 to Skyrim to…actually I think that’s it. What was I talking about? Oh yeah, I’m really good at games, guys!
I knew Red Dead II would be my biggest challenge as a professional gamer yet – not so much succeeding at that game, as that’s a given, but rather how to convey that priceless knowledge to the bumbling layman. As such, I took extensive notes during my play time that would put Arthur Morgan’s journal to shame.
As always, each entry outlines a (spoiler-free!) situation you might find yourself in while playing Red Dead II, along with a description of how an amateur gamer might handle it. If that sounds like you, don’t fret – the more you suck, the more room you have for improvement! After that you’ll find a professional description – this is how I personally handled each situation, so study them closely to be more like me!
Situation: You receive your first free horse during Red Dead II’s opening missions.
How an amateur handles it: Ride the free horse until you’ve saved up enough money to buy a better horse, or steal one from someone else. Or lasso and tame a wild horse – Rockstar included a lot of options to trick amateurs.
How a pro handles it: Instantly form an unbreakable bond with your first horse, even though her stats are middling at best and she’s kind of a runt that makes Arthur look like he’s riding a pony. Dismount her half a mile away from any mission objective out of a paralyzing fear that she might die in some unexpected firefight. Literally take a bullet for her when shootouts do occur, throwing Morgan in between her and whatever monster is inadvertently threatening your equine soulmate. Max out your bond after all of five minutes, but still keep petting her everywhere you go because she is a “good giiiirl,” and deserves to hear it!
Situation: After completing the opening hunting tutorial, you decide to head out on your own and get more food for the camp.
How an amateur handles it: Follow the same basic steps that you were just taught five minutes earlier.
How a pro handles it: Instantly forget everything you just learned – what’s the point of being a cowboy if you’re just going to follow someone else’s rules? Ride out to the prairie across the railroad tracks from camp and look around for deer. Gallop up to the first ones you spot with your gun drawn. Watch as they instantly take off across the valley, because in hindsight stampeding at them while waving a rifle around isn’t super stealthy, no matter how diminutive your horse may be. Ride up to their vicinity again, then dismount and creep toward them. Hide in a bush and take aim at them. Wonder why the controller keeps vibrating, then realize the bush you’re standing in is actually a cactus. Run out and shoot wildly at the deer, missing by a mile. Quickly switch to your pistol, and shoot one half a dozen times using Dead Eye. Shrug off the “poor” pelt rating because at the end of the day meat is meat, and the lazy bums back at your camp should be happy with whatever you bring back!
Situation: You’ve loaded the deer onto your horse and are on the way back to camp when you hear someone calling for help.
How an amateur handles it: Continue riding on, realizing that strangers are all over the place in Red Dead II, and you can’t possibly help them all…right?
How a pro handles it: Immediately jackknife off of your intended path because even though you fully intended to play Red Dead II as the rootinest, tootinest outlaw ever, you can’t stop yourself from helping every sad sack you come across. Ride up and find a lady stuck underneath a horse. Get off your horse a good ways away (might be an ambush after all!), then help her up. Accept her request to take her to her destination. Pause when you get back to your horse and realize there’s not room for both her and the deer carcass. Pick up the deer, then place it back on your horse while contemplating the conundrum. Watch as the woman hobbles off in a huff, saying she’ll find her own way. Feel a moment of overwhelming guilt, then dump the deer. Ride up to her and try to talk to her again, only to find the option grayed out. Ride your horse into her path in an attempt to get her to stop, but accidentally trample her instead, making her double-hobbled. Quietly reload your last save and take a different route back to camp with your deer – problem solved!
Situation: You’ve finally made it through all the opening tutorials!
How an amateur handles it: Jump into the next chain of story missions while occasionally dabbling in side content.
How a pro handles it: Ignore any icon on the map that even remotely looks like a story mission and instead spend every virtual day doing camp chores, hunting, and incessantly introducing yourself to everyone you meet like a backwater hayseed. Curse that lazy Uncle under your breath every time you pick up a hay bale or chop firewood. Realize you are barely breaking even with the camp’s food supplies, no matter how many deer you bring back – how much venison can these people eat anyway? Find out many, many hours later you can just pay to replenish the camp’s food supply at the ledger.
Situation: You’ve been tasked with tracking down and interviewing a famous shooter named Black Belle, because another hopeless mope in a bar asked for your help and you’re too nice to say no.
How an amateur handles it: Head to the initials on your map, avoiding distractions.
How a pro handles it: Decide to take a shortcut to the Belle’s location, because roads are for suckers and real cowboys make their own paths in life! Trot through a swamp then hop off your horse to spot some animals. Look back in confusion as your horse freaks out and runs off, then realize you’ve wandered into a group of alligators. Pause for a moment to assess the danger, but realize they are as lazy as your camp mates, and you have nothing to worry about. Unceremoniously shoot one in the head, then skin it. Call your horse, who still refuses to come, then lug the skin back yourself. Load the skin on the back of the horse, then notice a giant turtle. Watch in awe at how the mud deforms around the turtle as it moves. Pull out your gun and shoot the turtle, rationalizing away the guilt because it’s a snapping turtle, which are pretty much the jerks of the turtle kingdom. Harvest the turtle and haul it back to your horse, only to realize that the alligator skin takes up all the carrying space. Drop the massive shell in the mud and feel guilty again – even a jerk turtle deserves better. Ride your horse out of the swamp and all the way back to town to sell the alligator skin.
Situation: You are back on track to visit Black Belle.
How an amateur handles it: Head to the spot on the map, ignoring distractions for real this time.
How a pro handles it: Take a different route back to Belle, this time going under a bridge. Stop when you hear a pack of O’Driscolls yelling at you to say away from “their” bridge, even though you didn’t use it and are already well past it. Stupid O’Driscolls. Loop back around and sneak up on them, leaving your horse way off at the base of the hill (naturally). Snipe one lousy O’Driscoll from the bush you double-checked to make sure wasn’t a cactus this time, then pop out and cap the rest with your Dead Eye. Start looting the bodies, then stop and put on your bandanna just in case any potential witnesses come by and don’t understand your nuanced argument for why you basically had to shoot a bridgeful of dirty O’Driscolls. Realize you probably should’ve put the bandanna on before you started shooting people, but no harm no foul. Continue looting the O’Driscorpses, running back and forth to a nearby bush every time someone gallops by what has become the strangely popular bridge. Finally, jump into the stagecoach they were using as a blockade, and try to turn it around next to the narrow bridge. Accidentally run over your horse in the process – no, L’il Sue, why didn’t you keep a safe distance?! Damn your unflinching devotion! Breathe a sigh of relief as she gets back up and follows you all the way back to the fence at Emerald Ranch, ensuring once again you won’t make it to the infamous shooter before sundown.
Situation: Another day, another attempt to visit Black Belle.
How an amateur handles it: Keep trudging along to your next objective while ignoring the amazing, interactive world around you. Baa!
How a pro handles it: Head back toward Black Belle’s shack, using the newly liberated bridge that no one ever thanked you for, but it’s cool, just helping out is its own reward (along with the $40 the fence paid you for the
stolen liberated stagecoach). Ride through the swamp again to another bridge, which is thankfully O’Driscoll free. Get closer to Belle’s cabin than ever before, only to encounter a crazy guy riding past with a hogtied lady screaming for help on the back of his horse. Sigh and chase after them, shooting him in the back with your Dead Eye ability. Dismount and chase down the still-fleeing horse on foot, because it could still be an (admittedly convoluted) ruse. Pull the woman off the horse then accidentally slam her on ground. Cut the ropes off of her, and beam in her praise for a moment before she gets on her kidnapper’s horse and rides off. Realize that now that the victim has left you alone in the middle of nowhere with her dead assailant, it basically looks like you just murdered a stranger in cold blood. Pick up the corpse and carry him into the nearby swamp while keeping an eye out for pesky witnesses. Find another lazy alligator and approach him with the free meal. Jump a little as it hisses at you, and then drop the body. Run back onto the bridge and pull out your binoculars to watch the alligator eat the evidence of your heroic deed/potential crime. Wait a few minutes before accepting that the alligator is lazier than you thought, and has no intention of disposing of the body for you. Say hello to another rider passing by on his horse, then continue on toward’s Black Belle’s shack. Shake your head as an “Investigating – Murder” notification pops up on screen, but acknowledge that you standing on a bridge and staring at a corpse through binoculars was pretty suspicious. Try to chase down the witness, but fail because you left your horse a mile away and she’s still too afraid of the totally benign alligators to come to you. Reload your last save.
Situation: Black Belle. Again.
How an amateur handles it: Does it really matter at this point?
How a pro handles it: Ignore everything and race straight back to Black Belle’s swamp shack. Get to the cabin, then look on with a total lack of surprise as another stranger rides up like clockwork. Vow not to get involved, then watch as he groans and falls off his horse into the mud. Resign yourself to yet another detour, and carry him over to your horse, then scoff when he says you have to take him to the doctor all the way in St. Denis. Consider kicking him off, but remember the poor lady you refused to help – then subsequently trampled to death – and feel guilty again. Acknowledge that you haven’t been to St. Denis yet anyway, and it might be fun to spend a night out in the city. Ride for several minutes as your woozy passenger threatens to pass out, then stop outside the doctor’s office. Carry him in and place him in a chair at the doctor’s orders. Receive a wad of cash from the guy as a reward, then talk to the doctor who tells you to leave because he has to amputate the man’s arm and you don’t want to see that. Walk around the side of the chair for a better view because you SUPER DO want to see it, then watch as the doctor hacks his arm off and bandages the stub. Listen as the doctor tells you that you’re a good friend (you’re not) but that the two of you should leave the patient to rest now. Wait until he walks out of the door, then snap a picture to post on Rockstar’s Social Club. Good friend, indeed!
Situation: You’re now in St. Denis, and hopelessly waylaid from the one mission you were committed to doing.
How an amateur handles it: Leave the city and return to your mission because if you don’t you’re never going to get back here during the actual story!
How a pro handles it: Look, you just saved yet another’s stranger life, surely you’ve earned a drink? Head into the hotel but get distracted by a poker table before you even make it to the bar. Sit down for a couple of hands, and then proceed to play poker all damn night – real-time-human-being night, not in-game night. Beat three of the city slickers out of their $5 buy-in, then endlessly butt heads with an old jerk named Frank who loves slow-playing killer hands and probably looks down on you because your clothes are dirty and you’re not all snooty like his stupid city friends. Continue playing hand after hand as the chip lead swings back and forth between the two of you. Scoff every time cheap-ass Frank folds to avoid covering the five-cent difference of the big blind, and on more than one occasion, contemplate just ending the game and blowing his brains out instead. Finally nickel and dime him down to nothing, knowing deep down it wasn’t worth the $20 you made. Follow him out of the bar, goading him on with the “antagonize” dialogue option, then stop when you realize you are harassing a virtual NPC because you didn’t have the self-discipline to stop playing a minigame. Walk down the street and donate the $20 to a lady trying to repair a building or something, then head to the general store because you just spent three in-game weeks at the poker table and your character is now starving.
Situation: After getting some grub, you head back to the hotel for a bath. A woman’s voice asks you if you need any help.
How an amateur handles it: What you heathen amateurs get up to in St. Denis is none of my concern.
How a pro handles it: Decline the lady’s invitation, because you’re a gentleman and also because your wife is reading next to you and she has a strange penchant for getting jealous over video game characters ever since you gave Penny a melon on her birthday in Stardew Valley. Continue bathing yourself while noting how ridiculously in-depth the game is for having you scrub each limb individually. Think to yourself that Morgan is a very cleanly guy…or conversely, you’re not. Head back out of the hotel and silently think to yourself that it’s not the ladies of ill repute your wife should be jealous of – it’s your beautiful, beautiful horse.
Situation: After getting cleaned up you head to the barber for a haircut.
How an amateur handles it: …get a haircut and pay for it?
How a pro handles it: Obsessively flip through every hair style and every length to see how they look, then flip back and go through all the beard options as well. Eventually decide to keep things the way they are and get up, ignoring how huffy the barber is over you browsing for 20 minutes and not making a purchase – as if it’s your fault all his hairstyles suck! Head off to the tailor to waste 20 minutes of his time as well. Who needs change anyway?
Situation: You find yourself in another bar in a small town on the other side of the map, which is kind-of progress?
How an amateur handles it: Leave the bar immediately and go do an actual mission already FOR THE LOVE OF–
How a pro handles it: Say hello to everyone you walk past, then saddle up to the bar for a drink. Get called out by some drunk a-holes who tell you to leave. Look around trying to find who’s hassling you so you can attempt to defuse the situation. Eventually just walk out while getting yelled at because you don’t want to get in a fight, but find out you triggered them anyway. Attempt to punch one, but accidentally pull your gun instead because you haven’t gotten into a fistfight since the opening tutorial and you have no idea what the buttons are anymore. Get the gun knocked out of your hand, then accidentally pull out your sawed-off shotgun and blow your drunken assailant’s head clean off. Shrug and shoot the other drunk trying to fight you as well because you’re obviously not going to find the punch button anytime soon and these jerks had it coming. Complain to no one in particular as a bunch of civvies start shooting at you, because what is their problem anyway – you are obviously the victim in this situation! Kinda. Reload your last save.
Situation: You head back to the bar looking for a fight, this time with the godlike foresight of a well-timed save scum.
How an amateur handles it: AN AMATEUR WOULD NEVER FIND THEMSELF IN THIS SITUATION BECAUSE THEY WOULD FOCUS ON–
How a pro handles it: Ride back to the bar and hitch your horse, but find the two drunks hassling a guy out back instead. Sprint at the main assailant and tackle him to the ground, then wail on him for a bit. Get up and wail on his friend while their victim runs off without so much as a thank you. Ruminate on how everyone in the whole damn town seems rude while you bash the second drunk’s head in. Quickly loot the bodies while looking out for more witnesses. Pause to read a flier one of them was carrying about their gang, the Lemoyne Raiders, who are somehow even more annoying than the damned O’Driscolls. Quickly run back to the front of the bar and jump on your horse in hopes of making a getaway before anyone sees the bodies. Casually look over to your right and lock eyes with your horse, who is staring at you with what you can only assume is the equine equivalent of incredulity. Realize you just got on the wrong horse and immediately dismount, while noting another guy is already running up the road to tattle on you for being a horse thief. Reload your last save while thinking to yourself that the uptight little town deserves whatever grief the Lemoyne Raiders are giving it.
Situation: You find yourself in a duel with an infamous old gunslinger.
How an amateur handles it: Follow the on-screen prompt, and slowly pull on the trigger until the meter fills up. Squeeze it completely at the last moment to enter Dead Eye, then use the time you’ve accumulated to target your foe and shoot.
How a pro handles it: Completely fail to grasp the simple mechanic and get shot by your opponent. Feel a little better when the “Reload last checkpoint” option brings you straight back to the duel – clearly you must not be the only player who didn’t understand it on their first try. Get shot again in the exact same manner. Reload, and try to read the on-screen explanation, only to get shot halfway through again. Repeat this process 10 more times until the game offers a “Skip checkpoint” option because it clearly has no faith in your ability to figure it out. Reject the pity offering and keep on trying until you finally get the hang of it. Discover many, many hours later that you can actually do the slow draw at any time – not just during cutscene showdowns.
Situation: Your next mission icon is soooo far away.
How an amateur handles it: Head to the nearest town to use the fast-travel option while complaining that said fast-travel option isn’t convenient enough because you’re clearly way too busy and important to actually play the massive open-world game no one forced you to buy.
How a pro handles it: Forget the fast-travel option and get lost again! Talk to strangers, get sidetracked, make your own adventures and memories! Immerse yourself in the gigantic, meticulously detailed world Rockstar has crafted. Spend time with your camp mates – go on missions with them and drink with them and bond with them in ways few games afford. You waited eight damn years for this game – stop rushing and enjoy the experience!
Situation: It’s 2019 now.
How an amateur handles it: Play new games because you finished Red Dead II a long time ago…right?
How a pro handles it: Continue to forsake all other games and work and family for your life as a virtual cowboy. Grow your beard out to Morgan’s length. When you are forced to go out in the real world, limit your interactions with others to three-sentence conversations. When your wife tells you she thinks you have a problem, simply pat her on the shoulder and reply, “Well, try’n stay strong” in the gruffest Arthur Morgan voice you can muster. Be a cowboy forever. Maybe do a story mission or two.