Red Dead Online impressions – It’s a wild, buggy mess out there

Posted on December 3, 2018

Late last week and over the weekend, Rockstar slowly opened the doors to the hotly anticipated online portion of Red Dead Redemption 2: Red Dead Online. As a proud owner of the Ultimate Edition (thanks Rockstar), I was among the first to step foot into the online frontier. I was hungry, eager for more of the world I grew to love in the single player game. I had been daydreaming about joining up with a posse and roaming the plains of the Heartlands, the swamps of Lemoyne, and the rocky outcrops of Armadillo.

What I found was disappointment, loneliness, and frustration.

After a short introductory sequence of quests, Red Dead Online opens up much the same as GTA Online – freedom to explore anywhere and everywhere. Unlike the dynamic and compelling quests of Red Dead Redemption 2’s single player story, the online story feels very half-baked; a tacked-on, shoehorned-in attempt at structure in an online environment that ultimately doesn’t need it.

Setting up camp, bonding with a new horse, and meeting new characters is all well and good, but so unnecessary when all the player wants to do is join up with friends and cause mayhem across the wilderness. During my time with the online beta, I completed a handful of main missions and stranger tasks – which are in their own right a buggy mess at the moment – but nothing succeeded in grabbing my attention.

Between missions and stranger tasks, the greatest attraction is roaming the great open wilderness alone or with friends. During these times you can utlise Rockstar’s ridiculously detailed world just as you did in the single player mode: hunting, fishing, gathering, random acts of wanton murder. Whatever tickles your fancy.

But herein lies one of Red Dead Online’s biggest setbacks so far – griefing from other players. Sure, it comes with the nature of an online open sandbox game, but after being endlessly cut down by the same cowpoke over and over again just trying to get to an activity gets really old, really quick. Even when cruising with my posse of comrades, we often felt we couldn’t really do  anything because we were just constantly harassed and murdered by rival posses.

“…I saw one pronghorn split into 2, which split into 6, which split into 12…”

Then there’s the bugs. Oh lord, the BUGS. No, not the six-legged variety. The sheep multiplying, sky falling, tree inverting variety. During one ride from Armadillo to Tumbleweed, I saw one pronghorn split into 2, which split into 6, which split into 12, which tripped my horse, which killed me.

Yes, it’s a beta, but it’s a mess!

Playlist matchmaking is, thankfully, a bit of a more enjoyable experience. There aren’t a huge range of game modes, but getting into dedicated groups and facing off in the many different locations Red Dead has to offer was a welcome change from the lonely boredom of the free roam. Red Dead Online even has its own battle royale mode, in the form of a last-man-standing shootout using bows and arrows. If a version with guns exists, me and my posse never experienced it – but the bow and arrow version was a fun time while it lasted. Other game modes include some score attack, deathmatch, free for all, and objective based games. Rounds are short and sweet, and offer the opportunity to link up with new players to roam the open world with.

Of course, we have to start somewhere. GTA V is still selling today due to the ongoing support and updates of its GTA Online mode. Red Dead Online is just getting started, so who knows how successful it will ultimately become in a few months, or even a few years. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Will you be jumping into Red Dead Online? Stay tuned for the full release of the online mode, meanwhile the beta kicks on and is open to all players. Check out my review of Red Dead Redemption 2 here.