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Red Dead Redemption 2 - Arthur and Dutch robbing a bank

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Red Dead Redemption 2 FAQ: your questions answered

You have questions about Red Dead Redemption 2, we have answers

Rockstar Games
Chris Plante co-founded Polygon in 2012 and is now editor-in-chief. He co-hosts The Besties, is a board member of the Frida Cinema, and created NYU’s first games journalism course.

Thursday morning, we ran our review of Red Dead Redemption 2. But with a game this size, folks will have lots of questions about the nitty-gritty details that don’t make the final draft. So we asked our followers on Twitter what they’d like to know about Rockstar’s new open-world Western. Y’all did not hold back.

Here is everything you want to know about Red Dead Redemption 2.

Questions have been edited for clarity and brevity.

Where’s the PC version?

Rockstar hasn’t announced a Windows PC version of Red Dead Redemption 2, so all I can do is speculate.

The pessimistic take: The original Red Dead Redemption has yet to be released on PC, so why would Red Dead Redemption 2 get special treatment?

The optimistic take: Rockstar eventually released Grand Theft Auto 5 on PC.

The cynical take: Rockstar would prefer you buy the console version now, then also buy an enhanced PC version down the road.

And the realistic take: Making games is hard. It took thousands of people (and lots of overtime and crunch) to ship this game on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. A PC port is likely, but it will require time and resources.

Which console runs the game the best?

Digital Foundry did a thorough analysis, and the Xbox One X appears to be the best option for image quality and performance — if you have a 4K TV that can take advantage of the game’s higher resolution on that console. But the game runs well on all four consoles: the PS4, the PS4 Pro, the Xbox One and the Xbox One X. That is to say, don’t feel pressured to buy new hardware for one game.

When can I play Red Dead Online?

Rockstar has announced that a beta for the online multiplayer game set in Red Dead Redemption 2’s open world will begin in November; the company hasn’t yet given a concrete release date. Red Dead Online will be available to all owners of Red Dead Redemption 2 on PS4 and Xbox One, with a few items exclusive to PS4 owners for 30 days.

I never played the original Red Dead Redemption. What should I know about the story before starting?

I have just the ticket: a short primer (free of Red Dead Redemption 2 spoilers) on the characters who appear in both games.

How long are the cutscenes at the beginning of the game? How long does it take to reach the open world?

This is tricky. The cutscenes themselves aren’t especially long, but the entire world isn’t open from the start — the first chapter (which lasts about five hours) is linear, and everything opens up when you finish it. During the opening chapter, you must complete a few story-heavy missions to learn the basic rules and controls of the game. If you have the means, I recommend completing the chapter in one sitting. It works as a stand-alone prologue, and plays a bit differently from the rest of the game.

Can you name your horses?

Yes, my first horse is named Bort. My second horse is also named Bort. Also, of note:

Can you pet the animals?

Sometimes! You can groom and pat your horse. And the world has a number of good dogs that can be pet and praised — as they should be. And you can pet cats too, I guess, if you must.

Can you have multiple save files?

Yes. The game allows for multiple user profiles. And within profiles, it allows you to store many individual save files, in addition to one autosave slot. You can also replay completed missions from the pause menu.

Is gameplay like Max Payne 3? And how does the shooting feel?

It’s more like Max Payne 3 than I expected! The Dead Eye system from the original Red Dead Redemption returns, allowing you to slow time to a crawl and line up targets. Once upgraded, Dead Eye highlights enemies’ vulnerable body parts and organs. Yes, really.

Like in Max Payne 3, there’s a slow-mo killcam that triggers sporadically. And I think Red Dead Redemption 2’s hero, Arthur Morgan, looks an awful lot like Max Payne, especially if you shave his head and grow his beard. You can also dual-wield pistols.

All that said, the combat is still closer to Grand Theft Auto 5 than Max Payne 3. It’s a bit rigid, and the late-19th-century weapons make for much slower gunfights. Don’t expect to be recreating John Woo-style acrobatics.

Red Dead Redemption 2 - Arthur dual-wielding revolvers Rockstar Games

Are the controls as complicated as some critics have claimed? Is there really a command button that is used for everything?

Speaking of gunplay, the game tries to allow for a lot of interactivity with the limited number of inputs a controller provides. You mentioned that other folks have complained about the controls, and my guess is they take issue with the use of the left trigger. In most games with guns, the left trigger aims your weapon. Sometimes it aims your weapon in Red Dead Redemption 2, but other times, the left trigger is used to greet, antagonize or rob people in the world. It’s kind of an all-purpose “focus” button.

Here’s where it really gets tricky. If you’re already using the left trigger to engage with a character in the world — say you’re greeting them — but then you decide to aim your gun, then you must tap the right trigger to unholster and aim your weapon. Guns also require two taps to fire: one to cock the weapon, another to pull the trigger.

It took a few hours to reprogram my muscle memory, and the controls still feel a little unpredictable at times. But the system also allows for quick interaction with the world, and I like how it slows down gunplay — starting a shootout feels more deliberate.

How many times do they portray killing Mexican people and Native American people as tough choices or morally-gray-but-ultimately-correct?

The exploitation of a fictional Native American tribe called the Wapiti plays a significant role in the game. Without spoiling the specifics of the story, I was frustrated with how the game both involves Arthur in this and also absolves him of guilt. It’s complicated, and honestly, I don’t feel equipped to speak to it.

How does the game treat female characters?

Rockstar has been criticized for decades about its depiction of women in its games, relying on ugly and regressive stereotypes. Red Dead Redemption 2 is a significant improvement. Sadie, a widow who joins the Van der Linde gang in the game’s intro, is arguably the most sharply defined character other than Arthur. The game addresses the women’s suffrage movement bluntly, but also benignly. In general, the writing tends to stay away from the vapid irony and satire that plagued other Rockstar games.

Red Dead Redemption 2 - Sadie prepares to stab a man in a saloon Rockstar Games

Are there any shout-outs to Undead Nightmare?

I didn’t see any, but they could be hidden in the world. It’s huge. The game does flirt with horror in a later chapter, but I won’t spoil the specifics. I could see Undead Nightmare playing a bigger role in Red Dead Online, where Rockstar can be a little looser with the story and tone.

Does it do that prequel thing where every single tiny detail from the original gets a lengthy backstory?

Yes and no. A lot of Red Dead Redemption is justified and established by the story of Red Dead Redemption 2. But no, it doesn’t have the Solo issue where even the tiniest detail gets explained via some cheesy, on-the-nose gag.

Who is responsible for the soundtrack?

The score is composed by Woody Jackson, and the vocal sequences are produced by Daniel Lanois. But lots of other folks contribute, too. According to Rockstar’s recent news release, there are additional music and arrangements by Jeff Silverman and “collaborations with Colin Stetson, David Ferguson, David Ralicke, Gabe Witcher, Luke O’Malley, Mario Batkovic, Matt Sweeney, Rabih Beaini and Senyawa, as well as contributions from over 110 other musicians including Arca, former Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band drummer James Gadson, Lee Hazlewood protégé Duane Eddy, Mars Volta and Queens of the Stone Age drummer Jon Theodore and more.”

Woody Jackson worked on the original game’s score, but Bill Elm, who also contributed to the original Red Dead Redemption’s music, is absent from this list.

How’s poker?

It’s fine. Look, I am bad at cards. I prefer Red Dead Redemption 2’s dominoes minigame. But I will say that poker factors into a particularly good mission in the middle of the story.

Red Dead Redemption 2 - Arthur on horseback holding a rifle, with mountains in the background Rockstar Games

Is there a secret “hot coffee” mod?

A fresh pot of coffee is always available at your camp’s fire. A cup of joe improves your Dead Eye core. I’ll leave it at that!

Is there any loot or level progression? How are the checkpoints?

Loot: Yes, you can loot corpses and rob the living. You gain money, items that can be sold, supplies that can be used for crafting, and elixirs and food that benefit your cores — something I dig into in the review.

Progression: By completing certain challenges, you can improve some skills and attributes. Riding and grooming your horse unlocks additional abilities, like “drifting.” Killing a certain number of enemies with a specific weapon in a certain time improves Dead Eye. Challenges are listed in the menu. There isn’t a traditional RPG-style XP progression system like what appears in Assassin’s Creed Origins.

Checkpoints: I found the checkpoints to be generous. I couldn’t use them to brute-force my way through a mission, but I didn’t have to replay large chunks of a heist if I got killed.

How’s the hunting compare to the original?

Hunting is methodical. To hunt for high-quality pelts, you must slowly stalk prey, “study” it, then examine its rating. Each animal has a rating from one to three stars. Once you find an animal, you must shoot it in the neck or head if you don’t want to ruin its pelt. And all this assumes the animal doesn’t run away — animals are very skittish.

I bought items that covered Arthur’s stench, and bait to attract certain animals that were tough to find. And early on, the game taught me how to track animals. But even once I became a decent hunter, there’s the additional process of lugging carcasses and pelts back to stores, butchers or camp. We’ll be publishing a guide on the topic in the coming weeks.

Red Dead Redemption 2 - Arthur rides a horse through a forest while holding a rifle Image: Rockstar Games

Is the clothing and hair customization fun? What is the grooming mechanic even like?

Yes, I appreciate the customization options — even if I stick with Arthur sporting the longest possible hair and beard the game will allow. The game offers a variety of styles, but you can only trim your hair at a barbershop. By that, I mean you can’t make it magically grow into a longer hairstyle. You can sort of cheat the speed of hair growth by drinking a special hair tonic. Shaving can be done at camp, but I believe hairstyles can only be changed at the barbershops in each town.

Is there a faster way to loot enemies than performing the looting animation every time?

No, the game’s design treats looting as a risk/reward scenario. Looting an area after a crime takes time, allowing the police to find you rummaging through the scene. This works in the context of missions, but yeah, it’s tiresome when you’re just rolling through the open world, collecting animal pelts or harvesting plants.

How much does the horses pooping animation figure into the story line of the game?

I swear, it felt like a major story beat didn’t happen without at least one horse relieving himself in the background. It kept happening. I loved it.

How often do you have to go to the bathroom?

Only once or twice in the entire game! That’s weird, right? The game is so fascinated with portraying the banality of life. You have to eat and groom yourself and your horse. The horse dumps, so why doesn’t Arthur? The more I think about this, the more I question its absence.