26 essential Red Dead Redemption 2 tips to know before you play

We all know that to play Red Dead Redemption 2 you're going to need to set aside a few hundred hours. It's a vast, vast game that you can settle into, and go on a little trip back to 1899 and the Wild, Wild West. Like GTA 5 before it, there are lots of sub-menus, systems and other things to get to grips with, which is where our Red Dead Redemption 2 tips come in handy. From how to make the most of your horse, what to do in a gunfight, where to improve your bullets and more, these Red Dead Redemption 2 tips should have you covered. 

1. Use Dead Eye for hunting

Morgan’s slow-mo shooting skills are especially handy when targeting smaller prey, like squirrel and fox. Dead Eye will also highlight animals vitals, and nailing a shot to the heart or neck will usually ned in an instant, clean kill if you’re using the right caliber of ammo. 

2. Turn on 'Toggle to Run'

Select this option from the main controls menu to save yourself some effort by switching to a system where you only have to tap A/X once, rather than constantly hold it down. Sprinting in Red Dead is draining enough… especially when Arthur is often lugging a dead body on his back. 

3. Issue simple commands to your horse

You can make Morgan’s loyal mount follow, stay, or flee by holding down the left trigger while in close proximity of your pony pal.

4. Unlock secret moves by bonding with your steed

The more you bond with your mount the more abilities you can unlock for it. At level two bonding, your horse will rear in classic Wild West style by holding down RB/R1 and tapping X/Square. At level three, the hairy companion can perform what’s essentially a horsey handbrake turn when you press RB/R1 and A/X while moving. Once you reach the maximum level four bond, your horse will strafe from side to side if you hold down B/Square mid-gallop – an handy manoeuvre for when you’re riding through dense forest and want to quickly steer round clumps of trees. 

5. Know your HUD options

You can turn off your radar and all other on-screen displays by holding down on the D-pad, then selecting ‘radar off’ for a more immersive experience. In this HUD-free mode, and quick tap of down on the D-pad will briefly bring your radar back up. 

Conversely, you can also make the radar bigger by selecting ‘expand’, which is useful for spotting enemy icons during hectic shootouts. To go for the halfway house approach, select the ‘compass’ option, which will show you the general direction you should be aiming for while riding to an objective, rather than the precise fastest route the normal radar provides. 

6. Learn to play poker at camp

Learn to play cards back at Dutch’s camp so you don’t risk losing your hard-earned while you’re still learning the poker ropes. The maximum bet while playing your gang pals is a measly dollar; all you can lose in these games is a few cents, but playing here is useful for teaching the poker basics before you hit the high roller tables out in the world. Handily, there’s also a complete explanation of poker rules tucked away in the help section of the pause menu.

7. Feeling lazy? Use cinematic mode

Set a waypoint and enter into cinematic mode to make your horse ride to your destination with zero input required from you… though we’d advise you don’t step away from your console. Should bounty hunters or rival gangs attack Arthur mid-journey, you’ll be swiftly booted out of cinematic mode and be expected to defend yourself. 

8. Take a Wild West selfie

Select Arthur’s camera from the items wheel and you can snap gorgeous virtual shots of your surroundings that can then be uploaded to Rockstar’s Social Club. Helpfully, any photos you uploaded will also be marked with handy hashtags of where they were snapped, so #Valentine or #SaintDenis, for example.

You can even take an old timey selfie with Arthur’s camera. What a progressive outlaw he truly is.

9. Keep your cores topped up

While tonics and other potions will keep that outer ring of your Dead Eye, Health and Stamina topped up, you’re going to need to watch your cores. No, that doesn’t mean heading to the gym, but it does mean making sure that Arthur Morgan is kept well fed, watered and, um, smoked, otherwise you’re going to find yourself severely limited in how far you can run, how long you can survive and even shoot. Make sure you’re regularly opening up that satchel to give Arthur food, drink and other consumables he requires to keep his cores topped up, and if in doubt go back to your camp, or make a temporary one, to give Arthur a well-earned rest to keep him tip top. 

The same with your horse. Make sure you hitch them where possible to give them a proper rest, brush them to top up their stamina, and feed them sugar lumps and other horsey delicacies to keep their health at maximum. 

10. Carry plenty of tobacco 

Smoking cigars, cigarettes, or even eating raw Indian tobacco will top up your Dead Eye meter. As you’re likely going to be downing lots of dudes in slow-mo, this is the core that will deplete the quickest. Snake oil can also be brewed at camps to keep your Dead Eye core topped up. Be wary of eating too much raw tobacco, though. You can only eat so many plants in an in-game 24hr period before their effect starts to wane. Resist the urge to gorge yourself on Indian tobacco for a day and they’ll go back to their full power.

11. Go to the post office to pay off bounties 

It can be hard to travel across the Frontier in peace with a bounty on your head. To ensure bounty hunters and other lawmen don’t keep chasing Arthur every time he has a bounty hanging over him, visit the post office – most towns and rail stations have one – to pay off these criminal charges. Bear in mind bounties are specific to the county the crime was committed in, so that $120 bounty you acquired shooting up all those sheriff deputies in the Heartlands won’t carry over to West Elizabeth. 

12. Fast travel… for a price

For the first 20 or so hours of the game, Red Dead 2 doesn’t have a traditional fast travel system. To cover large distances quickly, you’ll have to buy a train ticket and ride the rails. Tickets usually range from $5-$15 depending on the length of the journey. If you’re really itching to visit the New Orleans-esque Saint Denis hours before the story takes you there, you can actually board a train to the Deep South city from Valentine for just ten bucks. 

13. Keep your horse in whistling range

Your steed doesn’t have telepathic hearing. If you whistle for it while Arthur is sauntering around the streets of Saint Denis and Horsey McHorseface is in the middle of the Heartlands, your pony pal won’t come a runnin’. Try not to wander away from your horse between missions if you can help it. It also pays to bond with your mount. The higher your horse bonding level, the further away you can whistle for it.  

14. Store hats on your horse

Lost your fave fetching cowboy hat in a saloon fight? Fret not. You can store three hats on your horse that can be selected from your loyal chum’s saddle at any time. Even an outlaw values style and protection from that beating sun.

15. Read Arthur’s journal

Hold left on the D-pad for an abridged version of the story so far, told from Arthur’s perspective. It even fills in story gaps on Morgan’s life shortly before the game begins. Turns out, Morgan and Hosea were running cons in Blackwater and seemed pretty content, to the point they were even planning their own robbery, away from the rest of the gang. Of course, that pesky Dutch ruined everything with the botched Blackwater ferry heist he dragged them both into. Stupid Dutch. 

16. Use the ledger to upgrade your camp

The ledger isn’t just to a place to spy on how much gang members have been contributing to camp life. You can also use this book to upgrade your camp’s medical, ammo, and food stalls. Upgrade these, and not only will Arthur be able to fill his pockets with more bullets and snacks before heading out on missions, but camp morale will also improve.

It’s also worth upgrading Dutch’s living quarters at the earliest opportunity. Doing so sees the rest of your gang mates instantly start contributing more money to camp. The shared camp fund is what’s used to upgrade its facilities, so make sure you donate generously. Throwing in a healthy chunk of change after every few missions will ensure you soon have a tidy amassed sum to spend on camp upgrades. 

17. Carry a horse revival kit at all times 

With Red Dead Redemption 2 horse permadeath absolutely a thing, you’re going to want to be prepared for the worst - and try and keep your furry friend safe at all times. One way to do that - along with refraining from throwing it off a cliff, driving it into a tree or wagon, putting it in the middle of a firefight, or leaving it on the train tracks - is to make sure you’ve always got a horse revival kit in your pocket. These massive injections will bring your valiant steed back from the brink of death and can be purchased from any stable for $9.50. And trust me, when your horse is about to fade away, you’re going to be grateful for one of these guys.

18. Shoot into the air to scare off potential foes and predators

You’ll learn this as part of the Red Dead Redemption story, as part of a sheep herding expedition - yes, really - but you can draw your gun, then press up on the D-Pad, in order to shoot in the air. This can scare off anyone threatening you, clear a saloon, or give a wolf or other animal predator a fright, which can come in handy. 

19. Always carry a jacket in case of a cold snap

It might sound like we’re a worried parent, but the weather can be changeable, especially when there’s the potential of hoofing it up a mountain on any given mission. You should store a cold outfit on your horse for when you visit mountainous regions, which you can do from your clothes trunk at your area of the camp homestead. Being cold will affect your health and stamina so it’s worth being prepared.

20. You can Split Point all of your bullets at a campfire to make them more powerful

If you set up a camp in the wilderness, you have a number of options available, but one of them - which you can have access to from fairly early on in the game - is split pointing all your ammo. It takes a while, as you have to do it on a bullet by bullet basis, but will increase the damage they cause and slow down your Dead Eye drain when in your gun chamber.

21. Use your bandana liberally if you want to risk being identified while committing crimes

Committing crimes is basically your bread and butter when it comes to being an outlaw, but there’s a way to minimise the risk of being identified while doing them. Don your bandana - found in the bottom left hand section of your items menu - to hide your identity. That way, when you’ve got a bounty on your head, you can still walk around the towns without the lawmakers knowing exactly who they’re hunting. 

Although, top tip is when talking to other civilians, make sure to remove the bandana otherwise they won’t want to chat, as they know you’re head’s really in the crime-committing mindset.

22. Tap the gallop button to slow your horse stamina usage 

A lot of your time in Red Dead 2 is spent on your horse, galloping between one point and another, which can be quite the lengthy journey unless you go at full pelt. Unfortunately, that nibbles away at your horse’s stamina, unless you tap the gallop button (A/X) in time with your horse’s gait as that allows you to increase your speed without using up your stamina. Gallop away fellow outlaws!

23. You can change the name of your horse

Forming a bond with your horse takes a while, and can feel a bit weird when they’re just called Kentucky Saddler or [insert other horse breed here]. Thankfully you can rename your horse by heading to any Stable, click on “Manage Owned Horses”, choosing the horse you want to rename and then going to Services, and there you’ll find the rename horse option, hidden away. 

24. Hold down Options / Select to bring up your map

This might sound stupid to anyone who's already figured it out, but working out that holding down Select / Options brings up your map - rather than forcing you to choose the map from your settings menu - genuinely blew the minds of several members of the GamesRadar team. Shortcut unlocked.

25. If you're trying to tick off the challenges check your log

There are plenty of challenges that you'll start wanting to tick off on your various adventures in Rockstar's Wild West, from running over rabbits with your horse, to eating all four different berry variations. But you'll only be able to see when you get the first thing for the challenge, and the last. You have to head to the Challenges tab in your log (tab left on the D-Pad) in order to see your progress. 

26. There are cheat codes hidden in the newspapers

If you're anything like me, you're not going to want to stop and read a newspaper in your quest to getting all your dosh back from Blackwater and beyond. But, it actually behooves you to do so, because the periodicals that you buy from the Newspaper Seller actually have cheat codes woven into the text. You have to buy a specific newspaper to unlock each cheat code, so you can't just find the phrases to insert in the cheats menu on that old internet machine. You physically need to own each newspaper. 

And to make it even more complicated, not every newspaper holds a cheat code. You'll spot them on the back cover - if it contains one - as a little phrase set apart on its own - like this: