Red Dead Redemption 2 hosts a massive open world, and even the expansive canyons you ride through will feel small when viewed as a tiny section of the overall map. To compliment that scale of trail, there’s a suitably astronomical array of animals and enemies for Arthur Morgan to aim his pistols, rifles, and shotguns at.
Hand-to-hand combat has been given an overhaul too, with grappling, reversals, and blocks, but it was always going to be about the guns. Nothing says “Western” like rapid-firing a six-shooter from the hip, with all the glorious ricochet sounds of Spaghetti Westerns.
Guns in Red Dead Redemption 2
We were happy to see that guns felt like they had appropriate kick in this game — especially after the comparatively weak recoil in Shadow of the Tomb Raider‘s gunplay. Red Dead Redemption 2 guns feel like they have impact.
RDR2‘s utoaim is a little strong for our liking, but it’s not forced on you. The default autoaim setting allowed us to aim and shoot without even seeing our target or confirming a hit first. Even with shrubs or branches blocking our vision, a quick press of L2 and then R2 would score a hit.
Hunting is the same — that shot cursor would follow a leaping deer all the way up a hillside. You can either turn this off, or press the aim trigger down halfway for less handholding.
Guns are also very loud in Red Dead Redemption 2 — moreso than in other games.
For stealthy situations, you’ll want to use throwing knives or a bow & arrows. But it’s important to remember that even people out of sight will hear your gunfire. After shooting two rival gang members (in self defence, of course) several hundred metres outside a town, we rode into town from the same direction, and the townsfolk were able to put two and two together. They were appropriately wary.
Those who’ve played Max Payne 3 will rejoice that the cinematic killcam is back, though this time it’s inserted dynamically into firefights. Every now and then, one of your kills will be stylised with a close-up camera shot, slow motion, and some black & white, as your victim tumbles over clutching their bullet wound. We can’t wait to shoot someone on a balcony and have the killcam stylise them tumbling over the railing. A 200-hour playthrough would be worth it for that alone.
Gun Choice Matters Less in RDR2
Because of the strong autoaim, gun choice in Red Dead Redemption 2 doesn’t matter as much as other games.
For extreme situations, you’ll still want the specialised tool, of course. For super long range, only a Sniper Rifle will do. For hunting a certain size of animal, only the Varmint Rifle will give you a perfect pelt.
But other than that? Go with what you enjoy. It’s not even necessary to go for a shotgun in short range engagements. You may have more fun rapidly blasting six bullets out of your revolver from the hip.
There may be some efficiency decisions to make regarding how many bullets it takes to kill someone. If you’re confident in your headshotting ability, this matters less. But if you’re relying on the autoaim, two chest shots from a Carbine Repeater is enough to kill just about anyone. Sometimes a Bolt Action Rifle or Sniper Rifle can kill in one shot, but this varies.
For most open world activities and quests, any of these will work just fine in a firefight. The autoaim will guide you anyway, so just go with what’s fun.
Gun Attributes and Maintenance in RDR2
You’ll see guns rated on a scale of 0 to 4 on the following attributes:
- Fire rate
Most of those are self explanatory, and it looks like Red Dead Redemption 2 will let you do the heavy lifting in calculating things like damage per second (DPS), or time to kill (TTK). But it’s worth narrowing in on that last attribute: condition.
Your gun condition affects all its other attributes. If it gets dirty, rusty, or bent out of shape, you’ll notice it shooting slower, doing less damage, reloading slower, and not hitting its target. When you try to upgrade it, the shopkeep will likely say something like “hoo boy, this one needs a clean and some repairs!”
These repairs can be done at any gunsmith, but you can also make your own life easier by carrying around some gun oil. Apply it every once in a while to keep your shooter well maintained.
There are ways to go beyond the ceiling of your gun’s abilities, too. That’s when we get into the upgrades…
Gun Upgrades in RDR2
While visiting one gunsmith, you’ll see options to upgrade just about every part of our gun, as well as an extensive selection of rifles, pistols, and shotguns to choose from.
You can zoom right in on different parts of the gun, such as the hammer, bolt, metal engravings, and far more. These can be fitted with different textures to suit your liking, and you can further select which colour you’d like. Feel like a metal plating with engravings for your rifle, and want it coloured silver? Easily done. Rather have a more antique look, or even intentionally rag-tag and busted? Also easy.
Many of these gun upgrades are cosmetic. If it affects the actual stats of the gun (usually the barrel and sights upgrades) you’ll see the affected stats below. We did notice that while these upgrades were expensive, the effects were very small. But perhaps you’ll get joy out of attaching a scope to a gun normally only graced with iron sights.
The following gear upgrades apply benefits to multiple guns:
- Bandolier: Ammo capacity for longarm weapons is increased by 50%
- Gunbolt: Base ammo for sidearms is increased by 50%
- Holster: Slow degradation of all weapons by 20%
Cover and Firefights
While hopping from cover to cover isn’t as smooth or fluid as, say, Gears of War, we don’t have any major problems with it. Expect to exit cover, then sprint to your next cover, and enter. It’s a three-step process that could contextually be a one-step process, but the enemies are forgiving enough to not bullseye us while we’re fumbling from tree to tree.
Speaking of trees, it’s kind of easy to take cover on the wrong side of one while you’re sprinting in from the side. To help you out, Arthur Morgan has a handy dive roll you can use to escape imminent danger (such as someone throwing TNT). It looks fantastic, and we’ll probably be using it at times when it’s not exactly necessary. Just aim normally, and jump to the side.
You’ll be able to rely on your gang buddies in these fights, too. If you’re sneaking around and there’s more than one enemy to take out, they’ll know what to do.
We spent most of our playthrough with the Carbine Repeater because we found the rapid two-shot technique to kill almost any foe. But if you find one you like, go for it. There are a few special weapons to be found in the world through questing or exploration as well.