Red Dead Online Beta Impressions- More Fun in the Old West

Posted December 3, 2018 by Thomas James Juretus in Video Games

Developer and Publisher: Rockstar Games

Dates started: November 28, 2018 (for those who bought the Ultimate Edition), November 29, 2018 (for those who played on the launch day of October 26), November 30, 2018 (for those who played launch weekend)

Available on: PS4 (played), Xbox One

I never jumped into the online for the original Red Dead Redemption, though all accounts have said it was a successful extension of the solo experience. I did play some of GTA Online when it launched, but at that time that was a real mess which fortunately got straightened out over time. Not being a big multiplayer gamer, I had some reservations about Red Dead Online, but since i loved the solo story mode, decided to dive in. For the most part, that proved to be a rewarding experience, though there are a couple of bumps in the road that could use smoothing out.

The game opens with two individuals, a man and a woman, being hauled into a sheriff’s office. It’s here where you create your own character and give him/her a name. The character creator is fairly decent, allowing for a wide range of looks. At the end your mugshot is taken, and here’s where the online game’s story begins. Seems you have been wrongly accused of murder, and you’re busted out courtesy of one Mr. Harley, who is working for a woman whose husband was murdered by the same people who framed you. You’re given your first set of clothing and let loose upon the world, being asked only to respond when needed. These story missions (of which there are only six in the beta) are co-op affairs, to be accomplished either with friends or through matchmaking.

The matchmaking works fairly well. I never had to wait very long until I got into a mission. Each mission is then bookended with a cut scene, which incorporates the players’ characters. Your character is mute, so there’s no conversation choices on your part, but you do have emotes to communicate with. The missions are fairly straight forward, having you either bring back a target alive or eliminate them. You will get moral choices in several of the missions, feeding into whether you’ll follow an honorable path or a dishonorable one. The players vote on these choices, with either the majority winning, or once the clock expires the game chooses for you. I’ve experienced both sides of the choices. With one, my teammates and I did the honorable thing, refusing to be bribed to let a criminal go. In another, we did the opposite, leaving our targets on the train tracks to meet a bloody end. It’s neat to see where a group will go, and it’s always nice when everyone is on the same page.

Outside of the story missions, you can free roam. The game’s entire map is opened up from the start, and you can even choose which region you wish to free roam in, or you can just travel the whole of the map on your own or with your own posse of friends. You get a helper in a man named Cripps who sets up your camp for you, and which as you progress can become more elaborate. You can choose to fly a white flag at your camp, meaning other players can’t just wander in and attack you. It makes for a good safe zone to scroll across the map or peruse the menus. You can also order goods through a catalog, which are then delivered to a lockbox in your camp, or which can be picked up at any post office. Be aware some things are locked behind a level, so you’ll need to level up your character to access the better stuff. I felt some of the things should be available earlier (you can’t get any type of winter coat until level 10, and you can’t get your fishing pole until level 14), but leveling can occur quickly depending on what you do.

As in the solo game, you can choose how you spend your time. You can accept missions from strangers, hunt, fish, seek treasure, gather herbs, or snap photos with your camera. You also will need to eat, drink, and rest, as well as care for your horse to build up a bond. Most other players left me to go my own way, but others will grief you, either by roping you and dragging you off your horse or just outright shooting you in the back. This tended to be the least fun part of Red Dead Online for me. I know some will say that’s part of the game, but being killed by griefers who camp near mission markers does not a good time make. Especially since there is no penalty for doing so. Hopefully a bounty system will be put in place, or a mode established for those who just want to roam peacefully solo or with friends without worrying about being shot in the back. I don’t mind NPCs ambushing me, as that happens in the solo game, but with NPCs a player like me who is more likely to be bullet fodder in a multiplayer game stands a better chance.

For those who do like shooting other players, there are plenty of PvP opportunities spread across the map. You can look for the icons while free roaming (a white circle with two figures for smaller scale modes, one with three figures for the larger modes, and a checkered flag for races), or you can jump straight into a series of PvP events from the menu screen. I did play a few of the modes, and did better than I thought I would (though my deaths still always outnumbered my kills). The team deathmatch is fun, but you need to be attention to the colors above the other players’ heads, as four teams of four are fighting it out across a map. In the Most Wanted mode, the amount of points you get per kill depends on how long that player has remained alive. The longer the target has avoided being taken out, the higher the score you get for killing them. I also played an objective based mode with the teams each vying to control points across the map. Getting into each mode was fairly easy, and proved to be fun to play, though looking at player levels you can see those who more often play multiplayer shooters (they tend to be higher), so I could tell I was out-skilled from the get go. Still didn’t do too bad for me, though I didn’t impress anyone with my PvP prowess.

For the most part, the online game has run smoothly, but I did hit a few instances of lower frame rate and on one day was booted from the servers twice. Getting booted off the servers caused me to loose the hides I had on my horse, though I retained any goods I had purchased. I also had my camp repeatedly vanish from the map, and fast travel points disappeared (fast travel in the game is via stagecoach from town to town- the farther you travel, the more it costs). Gold is doled out in partial payments, and it takes a lot of work to even reach one bar of gold, making some items very expensive. Some items also seem more expensive than in the solo game, so hopefully that will be rectified down the line.

In all, though, jumping into Red Dead Online has proven to be a positive experience, with some issues along the way that may be straightened out over time. As of this writing, Rockstar has not said how long the public beta will go on, but it has been hinted that progress, unlike the Fallout 76 beta, may not carry over to the full release. That would be a shame, as then you’d have to repeat any progress you’ve made so far, including redoing the six main story missions. Hopefully they find a way to carry everything over, but at least some fun can be had for now. If certain problems are rectified, that may make redoing everything easier and more enjoyable. At launch, the beta for Red Dead Online is off to a promising start, and just expands the excellent experience found in the solo story. Perhaps we will encounter each other out there on the plains. Just please, don’t shoot me in the back.

About the Author

Thomas James Juretus