Finally launching in a completed release is Red Dead Online, the online multiplayer component of the critically acclaimed Red Dead Redemption 2. When initially reviewing its single-player component, we said it would be “remembered for its outstanding mingling of an engaging, riveting narrative, deliberate gameplay, and an open world that glues the entire experience together.” And while I am thrilled to see countless of improvements from the beta, including the addition of poker and new co-op missions, Red Dead Online still can’t quite catch up with the masterfulness of its single-player predecessor. Sure, it will bring Rockstar Games quite a sum of money, similar to how the online component of Grand Theft Auto V did, thanks to some particularly nasty microtransaction features. However, there is just a feeling of disappointment that the gorgeous world and its accompanying missions can’t quite supplement.
Showing the same high production values of the story campaign from the very first frame, Red Dead Online begins with a rather in-depth character creator, almost freakishly so, especially when the historical attributes of the era are still accounted for. You can make a well-rounded, human-like character as easily as you can make a character that looks like a freshly ground-risen zombie. Following the creation of the avatar, players are forcibly thrust into a series of missions that introduce the world and all it has to offer…or lack thereof. Quite simply, these missions hamper on the only real compromises of the single-player world. Namely, treasure maps. The fact that there are random, loot box-like chests littered throughout removes the immersion that the AI NPCs and endless abundance of sound effects built up so masterfully.
In addition, once the introductory missions, the remaining co-op missions lack any variety and usually boil down to shoot-outs and fetch quests. Like the first twenty minutes of the campaign, if it can be called that, these missions hamper on the weaker elements of Red Dead Redemption, namely the shooting mechanics. But while the missions themselves may fizzle in disappointment, there is no denying that the team went all out in accomplishing a grand story. Implementing some kind of cinematic narrative in any online feature is a feat in of itself, but Rockstar took it one step forward. The voice acting, outside of the voiceless player, is on a comparable level to the main single-player campaign. The characters aren’t nearly as memorable, but it’s an impressive effort that shows the team really is one of the best at what they do in the industry. Just don’t expect any sort of genuine or definite conclusion to the story in the current form of the online mode.
As for what actually makes online modes so distinct, the players you play with, Red Dead Online thankfully has parameters in place to prevent those who are disrupting the experience to be blocked or muted. In fact, players who culpable of frequently killing others have a distinguished marking on their character that actually can be seen from further away. The playing community proved to actually be quite favorable, mostly due to the casual players phasing out from the mode after the disastrous beta. The same could also be said for the microtransactions. There is a genuine improvement here, even if it isn’t at a level that most players would like it to be at. In-game items aren’t nearly as expensive as they used to be and at the very least, that’s an improvement all in itself.
Ultimately, Red Dead Online is a notable markup to December’s beta, with the biggest fronts receiving those improvements being the in-game currencies and player parameters. There’s an expansive narrative here, even if it isn’t nearly as effective as the single-player component. In fact, it’s actually quite likely that players will spend less time in the online component than in the single-player component, something that should be averse. Despite several glaring issues, Red Dead Online will likely satisfy most players with a bright and diverse world, beaming with NPCs and lore.
Written & Edited by Charlie Jin