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An ode to the worst challenge in Red Dead Redemption 2

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‘In Blackjack, double down and win the hand 5 times.’ Kill me.

Rockstar Games via Polygon

The world of Red Dead Redemption 2 has a lively tapestry of activities to complete, from hunting to horseback riding to general no-goodery. It’s actually a bit overwhelming, which is why it’s nice to have Challenges to direct your passions into something more productive.

By and large, these Challenges are tricky but satisfying to complete, requiring that you, say, kill seven enemies without dismounting or shoot five flying birds from a moving train. We’ll slot those into the “good Challenges” category. On the other hand, we have Challenges like this:

“In Blackjack, double down and win the hand 5 times.”

Seems simple enough, right? And it is simple. It’s also a pain in the ass. Here’s why.

It takes forever

The minigames throughout Red Dead Redemption 2 are actually pretty good about not wasting the player’s time. Poker and Five Finger Fillet allow you to skip the betting sequences of the other players so you can jump right to your turn.

Not so with Blackjack.

You’re forced to watch every dirty cowpoke take his sweet time, for some unholy reason. The dealer has to reset his animation after every hand, and the amount of general drudgery is hard to tolerate.

Here, see for yourself, and try not to scream:

It’s purely random — there’s no skill at all

I’m not playing Red Dead 2 for realistic recreations of card games. I’m here to kill animals and wear them as hats.

The absolute fastest way to blow through this Challenge is to just double down on every single hand, no matter what. I lose almost all of them, but the amount of money I’m betting (4 cents in Van Horn trading post, as an example) is so small that I don’t care.

The number of statistically appropriate double down opportunities is so small that I’d be there all day if this were realistic Blackjack in which there were actual stakes. But it isn’t. So to get through it, I’m better off just slamming the button and hoping for the best.

This is in contrast to the Poker Challenges in the game, which are actually much easier if you play Poker the way it’s meant to be played.

You need to do it to unlock the later Challenges

While I get the rationale of not throwing 90 Challenges at players right when they start a game, needing to complete the easy Challenges to unlock harder ones makes them feel like homework.

So rather than doing things I enjoy in the game, I feel an internal (admittedly obsessive) obligation to complete some of these Challenges as early as possible, in order to get to the bigger Challenges. What could have been an enjoyable buffet of Challenges instead becomes a slow trickle of to-dos. I felt chained to the Blackjack table.

The least painful way to complete this Challenge

If you’re playing on PS4 and happen to have a Vita lying around, dust it off and knock it out in Remote Play.

The Remote Play controls are admittedly awful, but they’ll work for the card games just fine. I just switched over to Netflix and zoned out. It took me nearly an entire episode of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina to get this challenge done. If you’re on Xbox One, just prop up a smartphone or something to get your teen witch drama on while you grind through your hands.

Of course the game never forces you to complete these Challenges. But they do grant significant boons to your stats, with the gambling Challenges rewarding more Dead Eye experience — the hardest to come by naturally. And you’ll need to complete all of them if you want to unlock the Legend of the East outfit, which makes Arthur look like a straight gangster in leopard print.

Whether that’s worth the suffering, well, that’s your business.

But wait, there’s more!

If you do manage to stick it out through this Challenge, don’t worry, there’s an even more obnoxious one waiting in the wings: “Win three hands of Blackjack by hitting three times or more.” Yes, it’s even more random and brainless. Hooray!