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Hands-on with Red Dead Redemption's co-op DLC

If you’ve been following coverage of Red Dead Redemption, you’re probably already aware that a set of new multiplayer co-op missions, under the name Outlaws to The End, will be available on Xbox Live and PlayStation Network tomorrow. You’re probably also aware that they’re free, meaning you should grab them regardless of anything we say here. What you might not know, however, is exactly what’s in store when you finish the download tomorrow.

What you’ll get are six missions for up to four players to tackle together, each about as long as an especially elaborate story mission. Don’t expect too much story, though, or any appearances by familiar faces; when it comes to the game’s fiction, these take place firmly on the multiplayer side. You can, however, expect lots of chases, tense standoffs and huge explosions, which are arguably better.

We had a chance to play through five of the six missions the week before E3, with the first being Walton’s Gold, an assault on the mining complex at Gaptooth Ridge. At the start of each mission, you’ll be thrown into a small open area, surrounded by stick-dummies with clothes hanging from them. Walking up to these is how you select your character’s class, which really only determines his or her initial weapon loadout.

If you want to take cover and snipe enemies from a distance, you’ll want the Marksman class, which comes with a Rolling Block rifle, throwing knives and a revolver. The Miner excels at dealing close-quarters damage, with a shotgun and dynamite; the Gunslinger packs Molotov cocktails, a pistol and a carbine; and the Soldier just sticks with a Winchester repeater and a Volcanic pistol. As you’d expect, some are better suited to certain missions than others, and it’s a good idea to have everyone in the group take a different role. But it frequently becomes moot once you’ve killed a few enemies and glommed onto whatever weapons they were carrying.

As for the mission itself, it turned out the Gaptooth Ridge complex was much better defended than it is in single-player, with multiple Gatling guns and huge, burly guys who tossed around dynamite like crazy. Two of us died within the first 30 seconds, while rushing the camp like idiots.

Normally, dying in Red Dead’s co-op isn’t a huge deal, since your teammates can revive you, provided they reach you in time. And even if they fail at that, you’ll be spawned back into the action when your teammates hit the next checkpoint. In this case, however, the remaining two teammates were gunned down and/or exploded while trying to revive the first two, so the mission was declared a failure, and the map rotation kicked in. We’d have to come back to this one later.

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