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Red Dead Redemption 2 guide to your controller

Alternate control schemes, reminders, shortcuts and more

Rockstar Games via Polygon
Jeffrey Parkin (he/him) has been writing video game guides for Polygon for almost seven years. He has learned to love just about every genre of game that exists.

Red Dead Redemption 2’s controls have quirks, and there’s a ton piled on top of what you’re used to from other games. Since you have the option of playing the game in first-person, third-person or a mixture of both perspectives, having controls to match makes sense.

You can view the button mapping by going to Settings > Controls, scrolling down to either Third or First Person Controls, then pressing X/A. While viewing the controls, your screen will flash through a lot of button maps during various contexts. It’s ... not ideal for learning.

This guide will walk through the basics of Red Dead Redemption 2’s controls and the contexts that change them. We’ll also talk about the differences between playing with the Standard controller layout versus the FPS layout. Finally, we’ll talk about some of the controls you probably haven’t noticed, learned or picked up on yet (we’re still discovering new controls dozens of hours in).

The basics

We’re not going to break things down as if it were your first time holding a controller (like using the thumbsticks), but there’s a lot to learn about Red Dead Redemption 2’s controls, and the game isn’t exactly forthcoming about it. (If this is your first time holding a controller, welcome!)

The controls in Red Dead Redemption 2 are all about context. Some buttons change based on your equipment, whether or not you’re on your horse, if you have your gun drawn, if you’re aiming, if you’re currently using dead eye, or some combination thereof. And the same button can do different things, depending on whether you tap or hold it.

Here are are some common themes:

  • Touchpad/Xbox One View button changes your camera. Tapping will cycle through the third-person distances (near, middle and far) and the first-person mode. Holding it will activate cinematic mode.
  • L1/LB is about weapons. Tapping L1/LB draws or holsters your most recent weapon, while holding it down pulls up your weapon wheel. You can press the button while standing over someone else’s discarded weapon to pick it up.
  • L2/LT focuses. If you have a gun out, the left trigger aims it. If your gun is holstered, you focus on a person (or animal) to interact with.
  • R1/RB generally makes you find cover. That is, unless you’re in Dead Eye and have completed the “Pouring Forth Oil” missions during Chapter 2 — after that, pressing R1/RB during Dead Eye tags a target. In Eagle Eye mode, pressing R1/RB will highlight a trail for you to follow — which, we suppose, is a kind of tagging.
  • R2/RT shoots. If you have your gun holstered, tapping R2/RT will draw it, while holding it down will shoot from the hip. If you have your gun drawn, R2/RT will fire it (also from the hip). And when you’re aiming, the right trigger fires (or cocks) the gun.
  • D-pad up attracts attention. Most of the time, pressing up will whistle for your horse. While you’re aiming, pressing this will point your gun at the sky so you can make a loud announcement.
  • D-pad left is (mostly) about records. Tapping left on the D-pad pulls up your log — a list of ongoing tasks and challenges. Holding left on the D-pad pulls up Arthur’s journal. While you’re aiming in third-person mode, tapping left will switch shoulders.
  • D-pad down is (mostly) about information. Tapping down will pull up information on your HUD about where you are, the time of day and temperature, and your honor. Holding down will let you adjust the size (or presence) of your minimap/radar. If, however, you are aiming a weapon with a scope, D-pad down will aim through the scope.
  • X/A makes something happen faster. It’s the button to make both Arthur and his horse move faster. It’s also the button to skip cutscenes.

The rest of the buttons are largely contextual:

  • Fistfights. Circle/B punches, square/X blocks and triangle/Y grapples.
  • Interacting with the world. While moving, square/X will make you jump; if you’re standing still, it will let you pick up a body or loot item. Triangle/Y will make you loot a corpse or skin an animal, or it will let you climb onto or off of a horse or a vehicle. While you’re riding a vehicle, square/X will make you change seats. Circle/B will usually reload your gun, but if you currently have someone lassoed and have approached them, it will hogtie them for easy transport.
  • Riding a horse is mostly like being on foot. The only difference is that square/X and circle/B control horseback melee blocking and attacking, respectively.

Standard vs. FPS

The two galleries below show the mapping (in every context) of the buttons in Standard and Standard FPS layouts.

We’re not going to include galleries for the Alternate or Southpaw configurations, though. Alternate just switches the functions of the triggers and bumpers. Southpaw swaps the functions of the left and right bumpers and triggers, and also swaps X/A with the left bumper.

The only major difference between the Standard and Standard FPS layouts is that sprint and crouch have been swapped — clicking the left thumbstick versus pressing X/A.

Control tips

Even after the various tutorials of the first couple of chapters, you won’t have seen every tip or encountered every context. Like we mentioned above, we were still learning what some controls were many hours in. Here are our favorites:

  • Hold Options/Menu to open your map. Sure, you can just tap it to pause, then select the very first option, but holding it down skips a step.
  • Opening your log. We mentioned this above, but it kind of blew our minds when we discovered it. Tap left on the D-pad to open your Log, where you’ll find a list of tasks, missions and Challenges — this is the quickest way to track your Challenge progress.
  • Combat roll. While aiming, hit square/X to dive out of the way. It’s a good tactic to avoid a hail of bullets or a charging predator.

The next level of puzzles.

Take a break from your day by playing a puzzle or two! We’ve got SpellTower, Typeshift, crosswords, and more.