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Red Dead Online’s latest update may be the last straw for frustrated fans

The Bounty Hunter update did not please players

Red Dead Online - two bounty hunters, each wearing a cowboy hat, aim with their respective guns at a bounty target. Image: Rockstar Games

A new Red Dead Online update arrived on Dec. 1, and fans were excited. Players have had long-standing concerns about the pace of updates, and whether those updates felt impactful, and they were hoping that adding a Bounty Hunter class could help spice up their cowboy experience. But now that they’ve had the chance to play it, many Red Dead Online fans are furious about the latest patch.

There are two main additions: the Prestigious Bounty Hunter License, and the Outlaw Pass. The license unlocks 10 new levels of the class, and gives access to new cosmetics, like a new coat of paint for a bounty wagon, and some higher-paying bounties. However, it also requires 15 gold bars (the game’s real-money currency) to unlock this content.

That’s over half the cost it takes to unlock the Moonshiner or Naturalist roles, both of which bring substantially more content to the game. For instance, the Moonshiner came with a short but well-crafted story campaign and a player-owned bar, and the Naturalist offered two NPCs with different cosmetic rewards tracks.

A woman holds the new Evans Repeater rifle in a screenshot from Red Dead Online. Image: Rockstar Games

The Outlaw Pass is Red Dead Online’s version of a battle pass. While it’s active, it tracks players’ XP from missions and activities. Everyone has access to a free version, but players can pay for a premium version that offers additional rewards. Previously, fans have considered the Outlaw Pass to be “worth it,” if only because players who achieved the required XP would earn back all 40 gold bars, along with their cosmetic rewards, emotes, and quality-of-life rewards.

But now, the pass offers only 30 gold bars — unless you purchase it within the first week, which rewards an extra 10 gold bars and an extra 400 in-game dollars. The sense in the community is that this change is an attempt by Rockstar to trigger fear of missing out, especially since the premium rewards seem lackluster to many fans. Players feel like if they want any item from the Outlaw Pass and they want their gold bars back, they should pull the trigger immediately, even if the rest of the rewards don’t seem worth it.

“No [outfit unlocked at level 1], barely any clothes or hats, no weapon skins...just [filler items] all around,” wrote one fan on the game’s subreddit. “The only thing I really love is Arthur’s coat. Really underwhelming compared to the previous passes.”

Hope you guys like picture poses, filters, and backdrops! :)” wrote another, using a smiley emoticon sarcastically.

Arthur’s winter coat from Red Dead Redemption 2’s prologue is an appealing addition, but fans wanted hats, boots, horses, and other practical, subtly cool items. The few hats and belt buckles available are critiqued for being gaudy and over the top, closer to something a Grand Theft Auto Online player might wear as a joke than genuine cowboy apparel.

The Outlaw Pass also has very minor pay-to-win rewards, like the ability to carry more ammunition, or cook more meat at a fire. These bonuses cut down on time spent in town getting supplies, or prepping in camp, and make life easier. They don’t break anything competitively, but they definitely add to the sour taste in fans’ mouths. Another issue is that many players struggled with a day-one bug that stopped them from earning XP and rewards by playing, albeit one that Rockstar promptly fixed.

Making matters worse, daily challenges now reward less gold. This change is documented in the patch notes, but not in the Rockstar Games Newswire announcement. This means that it’s far less efficient to play the game entirely for free; buying a new weapon variant can take over 200 days of grinding out daily challenges.

a masked bounty hunter in Red Dead Online Image: Rockstar Games

This update has ignited a long-simmering powder keg of frustration among Red Dead Online players, who have been voicing complaints throughout the Moonshiner update and into the Naturalist update. This new Bounty Hunter update appears to be the final straw for some fans, some of whom have been playing since the game’s earliest days.

The patch makes Red Dead Online frustrating for veterans, who are drip-fed content at a slow enough pace that they’re able to store up wealth and instantly purchase things ... but the rewards don’t feel worth it. It’s not a good system for new players, either, because they enter the game at a reasonable price through the $5 stand-alone copy, and then are immediately confronted with paywalls at every town and every time they check their letters.

Red Dead Online is in a tough spot, made more difficult by the fact that its sibling, GTA Online, is currently on a hot streak of meaty updates and welcome additions. After so many controversial Red Dead Online updates in a row, it raises the question of where the open-world cowboy game can go next — and if fans should just hang up their spurs.

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