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Red Dead Online tips: 16 rootin', tootin' tricks for new and returning gunslingers

West guide story.

Red Dead Online has gone standalone today (December 1st, 2020), making it far more widely available than it was when bundled into Red Dead Redemption 2 itself.

With that in mind, we've gone back to our original set of 11 Red Dead Online tips and expanded them to a beefier 16, freshly updated for those looking to reintroduce themselves to Rockstar's wild west opus.

Whether the standalone version will breathe new life into Red Dead Online's still up in the air of course, but it's still as pleasingly chaotic as ever.

To help you through the chaos, here are some handy tips for getting started, that we've picked up from our notable time with Red Dead Online since it launched back in late 2018.

A look at the Frontier Pursuits update in Red Dead Online.Watch on YouTube

Commit to a role if you're enjoying the gameplay loop

Frontier Pursuits is by far and away the most important addition to Red Dead Online since launch. The game now has specialized roles which players can rank up to unlock new gameplay features, cosmetics and equipment. Currently, you can become a Bounty Hunter, Collector, Trader, Naturalist, Moonshiner or all of the above.

You should play the game for some time first, as it's worth finding out which of the roles suits your playstyle best. If you enjoy exploring on your own and cataloguing wildlife, consider the Collector or the Naturalist. If you just want to make money, focus on the Moonshiner or the Trader.

If you want to make the most of your typical playtime, committing to a role is a great idea that elevates the experience of the base game. Just be aware that every role costs Gold Bars to unlock, which means it will be quite expensive to purchase them all.

The Online story missions are replayable, with a catch

There's nothing to stop you clearing out all of the Red Dead Online's story missions as soon as you clear the initial bit of tutorial, and doing so is a decent way to earn some XP and money to get you off to a good start for the grind.

The catch though is that, whilst they're replayable, you can only get money from them just the once. After that first playthrough of a mission all you'll get is XP and any items you pick up or loot along the way.

Get good at gunslinging

Combat is, understandably, central to Red Dead Online, even more so than it is in the main story thanks to the heavily combat-focused missions and multiplayer playlists (and the fact that most people quite like trying to shoot you in the head the moment they see you in Free Roam).

It's worth taking some time to perfect it then. Remember that button mashing won't make you shoot faster, unless you're hip-firing a pistol. The key is in your timing, managing the little 'cooldown' time it takes to cock a weapon before you can shoot it. With most weapons, you tap R2 / RT immediately after firing to ready them for the next shot, and need to wait for the faint circle around your reticule to close in before you can fire again.

Headshots are always lethal, too, and most players will land them pretty effectively. Perfecting your aim with minimal time to react, as well as your timing itself, is key.

Master the dodge-roll

Another combat one, while we're on the topic: the dodge-roll is often the difference between life and death, especially in the PvP multiplayer playlists.

If you've forgotten, you perform it by tapping Square / X and pointing the left stick in a direction, whilst you're aiming your weapon. The best way to use it is in tandem with you cocking your weapon: when you see an enemy, fire a shot as quick as possible, then dodge roll, then fire another. There's a rhythm to it that is very much worth learning, beause it completely throws off your opponent's auto-aim and can buy you some crucial time for a second shot if you missed with your first.

Buy the Outlaw Pass to make the most of the monotony

Red Dead Online's Outlaw Pass is a decent deal, only if you're starting to play the game on an everyday basis. It will cost a solid amount of Gold Bars when the next one launches, but like Fortnite's Battle Pass, you'll make that expenditure back if you complete it. Outlaw Passes offer exclusive content every season, but they do run out eventually, so be sure you're going to play during the allotted window if you purchase one.

Mainly, you'll get a boost to your Role XP gain and useful discounts to use against important pieces of in-game equipment. If you're just starting out and you plan to commit to a Frontier Pursuit, it's a good way to kickstart your experience and catch up to the rest of the community, provided you're ok with the cost.

Daily Challenge Streaks are still the best way to earn gold

For those of you who don't want to spend any more money, the best way to earn Gold Bars in-game is to keep up with your daily challenges in order to create a reward streak. Logging in every day and completing the objectives isn't easy, but it's the easiest way to unlock more content in a frugal fashion.

Unfortunately, Rockstar has now changed the goalposts for this system, and streaks will reset every 28 days as of December 2, which has annoyed players who have kept up with their daily challenges for many months in order to afford new pursuits.

Always loot corpses

This seems obvious, but it's very easy to forget about it when you're in the thick of a long mission, so it bears mentioning. As well as cold hard cash, you can find all sorts of special, high-value items on corpses now in Red Dead Online, such as Collector artefacts that can be sold for hundreds of dollars and provisions that build up your cores.

Looting every corpse you kill in the game is a very simple way to boost your in-game economy in Red Dead Online, and it'll ensure you're not constantly restocking with the catalogue.

Get the Paint it Black Ability Card

You'll get the option to pick a Dead Eye ability card in the early ranks of Red Dead Online. The 'Paint it Black' card is certainly the most useful of all of them. Like in the campaign, this ability lets you slow down time and paint targets on animals and enemies, essentially letting you auto-aim and confirm shots on marked target in battle.

This is incredibly useful to stop outlaws and hunting targets from getting away, as they often will just escape and end missions if you're not careful. The targeting system in Paint it Black is very forgiving, and it means you can mark headshots and kill swathes of enemies very quickly, which makes for more efficient XP gain. It's also a good way to get used to the gunplay in Red Dead Online.

Complete easy awards to rank up quickly

A lot of content in Red Dead Online is gated behind rank unlocks, so getting to a decent level as quickly as possible will let you purchase the best horses, weapons and equipment that the rest of the community is likely griefing you with.

It's worth looking into the Progress tab in the pause menu and seeing which awards you can complete, as the high-level gold buckles always offer chunky bumps of XP. As well as some long-term goals there are many easy buckles that are fun to complete, like selling items to every type of vendor, racing between towns or shooting birds out of the sky with an arrow.

Hunting is one of the best ways to earn money

What was a relatively slow and cumbersome way of earning cash in the single-player story is now one of the very best ways to do it Online.

That's because, in Red Dead Online, the amount of money you earn from all sources is incredibly low. Four or five dollars for a PvP match, for instance, and one or two dollars for selling a piece of gold jewllery. But hunting's stayed largely the same, with good or perfect pelts netting you multiple dollars a pop for far less investment in terms of time.

We have a very detailed page on hunting and how to get perfect pelts already, which is well worth a look, as well as a dedicated guide on how to make money fast in Red Dead Online, too, but one key thing to remember when hunting online: you sell your pelts at the Butcher, instead of the Trapper that you used in single-player!

Oh, and you won't unlock the bow until you hit Rank 10, so you might need to do a bit of grinding, first.

Your Free Roam weapons and Ammo carry over into PvP

Some PvP sessions, like the Battle Royale-style Make it Count, will give you set weapons to use, but most of them will use your current loadout from Free Roam.

This means that, if you don't stock up early on, you'll very quickly run down your reserves of ammunition. Thankfully there's an easy way to stock up before you load into another round. In the pre-game lobby, the menu on the left has an option for you to see your weapons and buy any ammo that you need. You'll need to be quick - often that menu gets quite inexplicably blocked off after a few seconds of waiting in the lobby - and you'll still need to spend money on it, but it's the easiest way to stay topped up.

Otherwise, use your Handbook (Left on the D-pad) in Free Roam to buy ammo in bulk, and then collect it in phases from a Post Office or your Camp. You're limited to your standard carry capacity for it though, so even if you buy hundreds of rounds you'll still need to keep schlepping back to the nearest Post Office to add more.

Take your time in the character creator, because cosmetic upgrades are rarely worth the money

There's a standard character creator at the start of your Red Dead Online experience, and shortly after a chance to set yourself up with a nice starting outfit for your playthrough.

We recommend you take your time to make sure you're happy with it, because once you get playing it'll cost you a small fortune (in Red Dead Online's very measly terms) to change your appearance, when money is often better spent elsewhere.

Fast Travel is pricey and awkward, but there's a workaround

You can fast travel from standard Fast Travel Posts that you see dotted around the game, like in single-player, but it'll cost you ten dollars a pop - which is not at all cheap in Red Dead Online, at least as things stand.

At much higher Ranks you can stick a Fast Travel Post in your own Camp, which helps, but even then it's some grind away, so the best way to get around fast if you need to go from the bottom of Tumbleweed to the top of Annesburg is to use the Free Roam: Area function in the menu.

Press pause and bring up the standard menu, and select Online. From there you'll be presented with a load of options, like Free Roam, or Posse Up, but also the option to Free Roam in a specific area, like Ambarino or Lemoyne. Selecting one of these will load you into a new instance of Red Dead Online, in a random spot in that area, but at least it'll get you over there much faster than travelling on foot, and for free!

Your horse doesn't properly die

You'll be relieved to know that your horse, even after that tumble off a cliff, is absolutely fine. Even if it 'dies' in Free Roam or an Online mission, when you next load back in it'll return. Useful if you've saved up a tonne of money to buy one of the best horses in the game.

Tonics for reviving your horse then are mostly useful for reviging it in that moment - say you're on a time-sensitive mission to chase someone down - and aren't really as necessary for actually keeping it alive in the long run. If in doubt, load into another part of Red Dead Online, like a PvP playlist, and then back into Free Roam and try whisling for it, or checking a stable just in case.

Either way, we've (accidentally) killed our horse in all manner of ways already, and it's always come back. Which is nice.

Red Dead Online - Red Chestnut Arabian horse gameplayWatch on YouTube

Try to spare Bandit Leaders when you can

Every now and then, as you ride around the Free Roam world of Red Dead Online, you'll find a Bandit Camp on the edge of your rader, marked by a little red house and some red enemy dots around it.

They're totally optional, but worth doing: they're one of the best ways to find Treaure Maps. These work differently to the Treasure Maps of single-player - the location is marked on your actual map as soon as you look at them, and then it's just a case of heading to the marked area and searching for the loot with your Dead Eye detective vision, but they're still one of the best sources of income in the game.

They can be found from looting dead bandits' bodies, but the most reliable way to get them is to kill everyone but the Bandit Leader - they're marked on your mini-map as a little red man rather than a just a red dot - and then wait for them to surrender once all their allies are vanquished.

Head over and talk to them and you'll be given the option to kill them or spare them. Spare them, and they'll often offer you a Treasure Map in return, or at the very least something semi-valuable! It's worth taking the honorable route... sometimes.

Like most things, Red Dead Online is much easier, and much more fun, in a group

Finally, it's worth gathering a squad together to play Red Dead Online.

As fun as it can be to roam the world alone, all strong and silent-like, Red Dead Online is really built around playing with someone else. Story missions will matchmake you into a squad with three other players, for instance, and it's a lot more fun to roleplay as a posse of guns for hire when you know who you're playing with.

You don't have to, of course. Sometimes the magic is in the randomness of playing with strangers, but we reckon you'll have a lot more success when you can coordinate and pony up together.

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