Rockstar Games new cowboy epic is finally out, but before you start on your adventures take heed of some extra advice…
The biggest game of the year is now officially out and at well over 60 hours long it can be a bit of daunting prospect for any new player. Theres a lot to learn in the opening hours and while the game is pretty good at guiding you through the basics theres a lot of very useful features you might not be aware of until several hours into game.
Below is some of the most helpful advice we can offer for your first day playing, or you can also read our spoiler free review to get the full lowdown on what to expect.
How to unlock fast travel
The first thing you have to learn about Red Dead Redemption II is it doesnt do anything in a hurry. From storytelling to getting about, everything works at a much slower pace than Grand Theft Auto… until it doesnt.
The most straightforward way to access fast travel is to pay for a ticket on either a stagecoach or train. The locations for each are usually close together and if you speak to the attendant, or look at the stagecoach sign, youll get a list of possible destinations. Although youll probably have to refer to the map to work out which is best for where you want to go. And dont worry, if your horse is nearby when you start travelling itll magically be there for you when you arrive as well.
There is a more convenient option though, which allows you to obtain a fast travel map at your camp. This requires a number of pricey upgrades though and access to the ledger, which isnt available until later on. When it is though, chose the option to upgrade Dutchs lodgings, which costs $220 of in-game cash, and then the option for the map upgrade will appear.
The money comes from the group camp contributions, not your own personal stash, so if theres not enough youll have to donate some more until there is.
How to get the best guns
You can get by using just about any gun in Red Dead Redemption II, although youll want to get yourself a good rifle as early as possible. Some of these can then be customised with a scope at a gunsmith, which you can switch on and off by pressing down on the D-pad when aiming.
Get a decent pistol in one weapon slot (a story event later on will give you two holsters), a rifle in the other, and a shotgun in the third and you should be prepared for anything. Just make sure you actually grab the long guns from your horse before you start, because the game has an annoying habit of removing them from your selector wheel without you realising.
There are also a number of unique weapons that are definitely worth going for early on, especially as theyre part of some of the best side quests. Handily, the Gunslinger mission can be started very early on – as soon as you get to the first town of Valentine.
Pop into the smaller saloon, away from the high street, and get talking to the guy who is trying to write a biography of a famous gunslinger. He wants you to help by tracking down those that knew him in his prime and getting their photo and an anecdote. As you can probably guess this often (but not always) ends up with you having to kill them, and usually in various inventive ways.
Whatever you do when you beat each one dont forget to pick up their gun when youre finished, which is always a unique weapon that you cant get anywhere else. We were particularly keen on Billy Midnights golden Mauser, because it reminded us of both James Bond and Han Solos blaster – plus it has a great fire rate. The fight with him is also a lot of fun and one of the harder duels.
How to get perfect pelts
Hunting is a big part of Red Dead Redemption II. Its not only one of the most interesting, and skilled, activities but its a source of both money and raw materials, that are essential to many important equipment upgrades. Many of these require perfect pelts though, i.e. not ones youve blasted to pieces with a shotgun.
Getting a perfect pelt isnt as simple as just using the bow and arrow though, as first you have to scope out your kill with your binoculars. This will indicate the quality of the pelt while its still attached to its owner, so you wont have to waste half an hour carefully tracking a deer only to find out it practices poor personal hygiene.
Unless youre just killing it for food you only want to bother if the animal has a three-star rating, and even then you need to be careful to kill it instantly, ideally with a headshot, and to do so with either the arrow or the varmint gun (which requires its own special ammo).
If you can do all that then visit Peterson the cook back at camp and hell offer a number of useful upgrades, including increasing the size of your satchel. Before he can do that though youll have to buy him the right tools, by making sure you have enough money in the camp coffers and then using the ledger.
Peterson isnt the only one that can make use of pelts though. Theres also a trapper who can help you fashion unique outfits from rare animal parts. He has a market stall in Saint Denis but you wont get there until much later in the game. However, he does appear at random in the wilderness as well, so if youre lucky you might see him earlier.
How to save money
Theres a number of story missions (i.e. the ones where youre pulling off a major heist) that will end with large cash injections to spend on whatever you want but most of the time youll spend your life as a cowboy on the bread line. When you do get a windfall though we suggest prioritising a new horse. The best ones are always found at stables, not in the wild, and theyre the most expensive single purchases in the game.
Outside of the relatively rare heist missions money is fairly hard to come by, unless you want to spend hours hunting for animals or robbing random people. That will work but the simplest solution is to reduce your outgoings, not necessarily increasing your income.
The main thing youll be spending your money on is ammo, medicine, and tonics so make sure that whenever you kill someone you remember to loot them. This will almost always turn up some ammo and cash, but often useful items or valuable objects that can be sold or donated to the camp.
Just be careful to wear your mask while you do it, because if anyone spots you theyll tell the sheriff – even if you originally killed your victim in self-defence. (You can catch witnesses before they squeal though and either threaten them or kill them.)
Also, be careful to read an objects description if you havent seen it before, as some end up being requested by people in the camp as special favours. You get a pen off one witness in a story moment early on, but we didnt realise it was rare and just sold it – which was annoying because later on someone back at camp asked us to get them a pen and we never found another one.
Even if an item isnt special be aware that stolen jewellery is used by fences to create special talismans that offer up powerful buffs. Most of these require jewellery and while the first fence doesnt unlock until a dozen or so hours into the game dont get into the habit of just selling jewellery straight away, or donating it to the camp, as it does have a specific use.
Speaking of the camp, whats also worth pumping money into is upgrades that open up supplies for medicine, food, and ammo that allow you to stock up before a mission. They will run out but you have the option to restock as well, which is usually cheaper and easier than buying everything individually.
How to cheat
Red Dead Redemption II is a surprisingly old-fashioned game in many ways and that includes having in-game cheats. It doesnt make their existence obvious, but if you pay attention to the newspapers that are available for sale in most towns youll find each one has a cryptic message at the bottom of the page if you flip it over.
Other items also have similar messages, so always use the flip option when examining things like maps and photographs. Just knowing what the message is wont work though, as itll only activate if you find the newspaper/item it came from in-game.
To actually use the cheat go to the Settings menu and youll see an option for Cheats at the bottom right hand side of the screen.
The cheats include things like infinite ammo and a super strong horse but be aware that you cant save the game while using a cheat and you wont earn any Achievements or Trophies either. So have your fun and remember to turn them off after.
Use the Red Dead Redemption II app
This wasnt an option while we were reviewing the game, but we wish it had been. Itll be available for the Apple App Store and Google Play from launch day and allows you to view the in-game map on your phone or tablet. Although common a few years ago the concept of the companion app has fallen out of favour recently, but Rockstar are promising that itll connect to your game and show where you are and your current stats.
The app also contains the digital manual and access to Rockstars social club. Its free but there will be a microtransaction option to buy a digital version of the official guide.
The best thing about it is that itll allow you to remove the mini-map from the TV screen, creating a much more cinematic look without losing any functionality.