Red Dead Redemption 2 – Red Dead Online and PC Port
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows (Reviewed)
Release Date: 5 November 2019
Price: $59.99 USD/$99.95 AUD – Available Here
Single Player Campaign Review: Read Here (9.5/10, Amazing)
Thirteen months of waiting has finally paid off for PC gamers. Rockstar has finally brought a Red Dead title to PC with Red Dead Redemption 2. The PC version boasts graphical upgrades, mouse and keyboard support, and the Red Dead Online mode right out of the gate.
At the start of Red Dead Online, players are freed from death row. They have been framed for a murder they didn’t commit and are rescued by Jessica LeClerk, the widow of the murdered man. In exchange for their freedom, players are tasked with determining who murdered Jessica LeClerk’s husband and bringing the perpetrator to justice.
Red Dead Online delivers a decent storyline to the mode’s open world through a series of story missions. There are a couple of plot lines currently. They aren’t long or deep compared to the story mode but offer some interesting background for the multiplayer missions. Red Dead Online is billed as a game as a service like its Grand Theft Auto Online predecessor, so I hope new story missions are in the works as its definitely in need of some extra content at the moment.
Red Dead Online adapts the single player world of Red Dead Redemption 2. Players are dropped into the open world map where they can pursue a variety of activities. PVE is split between story missions, free roam missions, and three roles: bounty hunter, collector, and trader. The roles offer ways to earn money based on a specific play style. Players can also take a break and engage in a variety of mini-games like poker and five finger fillet.
The world is vast and lively. Most missions and activities are started in town, but players will be sent to all corners of the map in the course of their adventures. Large stretches of wilderness are filled with animals to hunt, plants to harvest, and items to collect. Hostile NPCs are not too common, but plenty of peaceful ones can be found going about their day.
Open world PVP is always a danger but is generally balanced out with clear markers for hostile players and the ability to press charges to put a bounty on the offending player’s head. Things get a little more interesting when players are faced with the possibility of other players interrupting certain activities like shipping goods by wagons. In general, if players are willing to take on the risk of PVP, then they will be rewarded with a bonus for making it out alive.
The story missions are likely Red Dead Online at its best. These missions combine some decent storytelling with multi-step objectives that feel meatier than the free roam missions. Rounding up some friends to tackle missions together is a blast as it is as close as we’ll get to a cooperative Red Dead Redemption 2 campaign. The number of missions is extremely short right now as a significant chunk of missions are locked behind the player’s moral choices. I would have preferred to see another three to five missions available for all at launch.
The economy is tough. Players can earn cash from selling items, completing missions, doing tasks in free roam, completing competitive showdowns, gambling, and turning in bounties. While ammunition is cheap, buying weapons and equipment is not. Players will need to do a fair bit of grinding to have any flexibility in their loadouts. It’s clear Rockstar is planning to monetize gold bar sales heavily once you throw in the prices for cosmetic items. The grind can get boring if players are only interested in one or two playstyles, but Red Dead Online is a lot more fun if players are willing to try everything it has to offer.
The PC port quality is a mixed bag. Graphically, lots of PC specific tweaks and changes have been made to support the more powerful computers and the more granular settings PC gamers come to expect from their games. Even at lower settings, the game looks gorgeous on the PC. Additionally, the new photo mode offers a lot of features for screenshot artists, and I expect to see some amazing work come out over the next couple of months.
On the other hand, I ran into a couple of visual glitches that do not break the game but do break the immersion, such as animals not appearing while being skinned. I found the FPS tends to take a bit of a dive when heading into town. Hard drive load times for Red Dead Online will cause hitches, so it is highly recommended to make space on an SSD for the game.
Mouse and keyboard controls are unnecessarily clunky. Unlike most games, menus are controlled separately from movement. For controllers, moving the hand over to the D-pad isn’t a big deal, but for mouse and keyboard users, the equivalent binding for the PC version takes the hands all the way to the arrow keys. Almost every action can be rebound in the menus, but the sheer volume of keys that need to be bound compared to the console makes me think Rockstar could have doubled up several actions or used more modifiers instead of taking up so many key binds.
Menus are a hit or miss. I like the fact menu navigation keys can be customized within the game. On the other hand, menus are not optimized for use with a mouse. Sometimes mousing over a menu option will cause the list of possible interactions to be overridden by a completely different set of interactions. Other times, inventory text will not be updated for the current item the mouse is hovering over. Clicking on the item will consume it if possible, so the only safe way to navigate the inventory is using the arrow keys. Worst of all, it is impossible to go back to the previous menu while cooking items with the mouse and keyboard. Players must either plug in a controller so they can go back or reconnect to Red Dead Online.
Red Dead Online is gorgeous. The artists have done an excellent job capturing the western United States and compressing it into a manageable area. Travelling from one end of the map to the other is a lovely ride for players willing to slow down and enjoy the changing scenery.
There is a lot of character customization options available, though some will require a lot of grinding. Rockstar has done a decent job of balancing the over the top bling with the gritty Western look.
The audio experience in Red Dead Online is a bit subtle. Music is used sparingly. Instead, the game focuses more on using sound effects to replicate the feel of being in the wilderness to great effect. Getting caught in a thunderstorm was an absolute breathtaking experience as a headphone user. The voice acting is good, but players are once again mute in Red Dead Online. The writers often play off the silence as a long running joke, but it would be nice to finally have a properly voiced player character for once.
Red Dead Online probably won’t stand on its own as a full release, but it makes for an intriguing addition to the already fantastic Red Dead Redemption 2 single player campaign. There is a ton of activities to do, though the mode gets bogged down quite a bit by all the grinding.
The PC port on the other hand could use some work. While Rockstar has done a good job offering a ton of customization options expected by PC gamers, they have also failed at ensuring basic menu functionality and are missing some quality of life options. While the game is not completely unplayable with a mouse and keyboard, the controls lack the same level of polish as the controller layout.
Capsule Computers review guidelines can be found here.