Red Dead Redemption II finally hits doormats and inboxes this morning, the latest title from Grand Theft Auto developers Rockstar Games and a prequel to 2010’s Red Dead Redemption.
The Western game has stunned critics, achieving almost unwavering five-star reviews across the board (including The Independent‘s verdict), and will be feverishly installed by millions this morning – some hardened gamers even taking time off work to play it.
We’ve had RDR2 for 10 days now, and will be roaming the plains this morning, offering up any tips, tricks and things we wished we’d known when we started, along with updates on the release, the reviews and the reaction.
The game centres on Arthur Morgan, an outlaw at the end of the age of outlaws, trying to scrape out a living in the country at a time when America is becoming increasingly urbanised.
Christopher Hooton here. I've spent a fair number of hours playing the game now – certainly an amount that has been to the detriment of my social life and sleeping pattern – and will bring you anything I think is of interest and import as I wander the map. There will be no plot spoilers, don't worry.
My first tip for you regards the most important matter of your hairstyle.
Think before you shave off all your head and facial hair, as it will take time to grow back. Unlike other games where you can nonsensically go from a mohawk to shoulder-length in the barbers, in RDR2 there's a period of regrowth that takes a number of days (though a hair tonic will speed this up).
And the hair intricacies don't end there. At camp you'll find a shaving table, but you'll only be able to give yourself a basic trim. If you crave a more coiffured look, you'll need to head to a town and visit the barber. If you're an honourable player, he may even give you a discount.
The honour system in Red Dead can be a bit fickle. There are moments where the honourable and dishonourable fork is clear, for instance when you choose to either warn train robbery victims to keep quiet and cut them loose, or just execute them by the side of the train tracks.
White hat that I am, though, I've been surprised a couple of times to return fire at an NPC who shot first, only to be given dishonour points when they wind up dead. A general rule: Killing and looting member of rival gang, fine, killing and looting random members of the public – however belligerent – not okay.
Although this is not to say that you'll be penalised for a more brutal approach to the game. Having a reputation for being a force for good might get you discounts in stores and other perks, but it also might cause people to take advantage of you.
Hunting food for your camp and pelts with which to craft new items isn't an absolute necessity in RDR2, but it's one of its most enjoyable and rewarding elements, so I'd highly recommend grabbing your bow and getting out there.
A couple of tips:
At first I was compulsively picking up the carcasses of all of my kills and stowing them on the back of my horse to take back to camp. It took me a little while to realise that, while there are some benefits to retaining the carcasses, Arthur does recover meat – chops, loins, steak etc – when he skins them.
In terms of crafting, only pelts, hides and skins in "perfect condition" will do. Once you have some money flowing, I'd consider chucking the "poor" or even "good" condition ones, as they will be of no use to your camp chef and carpenter, Pearson, and will only fetch pocket change. "Perfect" spoils can be recovered, if you're lucky, from clean kills. For small animals, use the varmint rifle, for larger ones, equip your bow and arrow.
The weapon customisation in the game is incredibly detailed, but you might want to hold off for a bit.
As with a lot of games, it's easy to go rushing to buy a more powerful gun, only to find you could have recovered it from a dead guy or been gifted it through a mission.
The customising is very cool – taking in engravings, leather grips and more – but the cost can soon rack up. I'd advise keeping your starting weapons pretty basic, and only going fancy once you've brought, borrowed or stolen a weapon you know you're going to be using for some time.
When it comes to the cutscenes, I implore you to stick with them. There is the option to skip, but this is the sort of game that you experience much more richly if you roll with it. Plus, there are some long conversations on horseback or on top of wagons that you won't be able to skip, so it makes sense for you to keep track of the story and the characters.
Oh, a simple but pretty severe mistake to make: make sure your weapon is holstered when you go to talk to someone.
LT with weapon holstered targets a character so you can interact with them, LT with a weapon in your hand will auto-aim.
I can't tell you the number of times early on that I tried to help poor old men with their broken down wagons, only to accidentally point a shotgun at their heads and send them running for the horizon.
It's an easy thing to forget to do, but guns must be maintained in the game or their effectiveness will rapidly diminish.
Periodically, take a look at your guns' condition in the weapon wheel and press the R stick to maintain them. Cleaning them is a quick and simple job, involving gun oil that is pretty easy to loot, and will significantly increase the damage your gun can do and its accuracy.
Nothing like a cup of joe first thing in the morning. Talk to the others at your camp – sometimes there won't be an icon on the map signalling that they have something to say, but they may have surprises or items or requests nonetheless.
The Red Dead series isn’t a household name in the way Grand Theft Auto is, but a new instalment is a huge event in gaming nonetheless, and the Wild West offshoot goes for a more sedated, atmospheric effect than its largely city-based cousin.
RDR2 is available for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and you can read more about installing and pre-loading the game, and how much space it will take up on your console, here.