When Red Dead Online launched last November, it had huge shoes to fill. Not only was it the multiplayer component to one of the most ambitious video games of all time, Red Dead Redemption 2, but also the follow up to one of the biggest multiplayer successes in recent memory, Grand Theft Auto Online. Unfortunately, Red Dead Online has been pretty light on content since release, but a recent update has brought the world of RDO to life, adding a host of new things to see and do in Rockstar’s online western.
The Frontier Pursuits update hit Red Dead Online earlier this week, and the reception from players has been overwhelmingly positive, aside from a few gripes. While Frontier Pursuits tweaks Red Dead Online in minor ways that make the world feel more alive and make characters easier to control, the main draw here are the Specialist Roles, which were first teased earlier this summer. Now, Red Dead Online players can try their hands at bounty hunting, trading, and collecting rare treasures, with each occupation having its own progression and rewards. It’s an incredibly rewarding system that finally gives the game some substance, and I’ve spent more hours in the world of Red Dead Online this past week than I have in a long time.
The Bounty Hunter is arguably the most exciting of the three Specialist Roles, and it’s the one I’ve spent the most time with so far. The task is pretty self-explanatory. You’ll come across wanted posters in towns like Valentine and Strawberry, and you can take your pick from a gallery of dastardly outlaws that must be brought to justice, dead or alive. These missions can get a little repetitive as they all boil down to riding somewhere and capturing a target, but there’s enough variety to keep things interesting. There are even some really cool set piece moments too. One of my bounty targets had overtaken a train with his gang, for example, and that led to an awesome railroad shootout. Progressing as a Bounty Hunter will unlock new gear like bolas and reinforced lasso, as well as some new outfits and the like.
The Trader role allows you to transform your camp into a trading business. Animals you hunt can be brought back to the camp as supplies which fuel a meter that fills automatically over time. Once this meter gets full enough, you can pack a wagon with merchandise and take it to be sold. Other players can attack you while you’re transporting your goods, so you’ll have to stay on alert or try and take a safer route (which won’t net you as much profit). This gameplay loop is reminiscent of running a business in GTA Online, and it shows how some of GTA‘s systems can work in the world of Red Dead Online. Progressing as a Trader will unlock a ton of camp upgrades and some new wagons to help with hunting and transporting wares. You can also purchase a dog for your camp, which is a nice touch.
The Collector is the strangest of the three Specialist Roles, but it also might be the most interesting. Unlike the Bounty Hunter and Trader roles, the Collector doesn’t see much combat. Instead, Collectors are tasked with scouring the world of Red Dead Online for hidden treasures and trinkets. These items can then be sold for cash, but if you hold off until you get a complete set of coins, jewelry, or whatever you’re collecting, you’ll get a bigger payout. You can buy maps that will lead you to hidden treasures, or you can just set out into the wilderness and explore, checking out places that seem likey they may be hiding something of value. Collectors get cool new gear like a metal detector and improved saddlebags as they progress on top of the cash they earn from selling their valuables.
While you can undertake all three roles at once, it can be quite expensive to do so. Starting each role costs 15 gold bars (Red Dead Online‘s premium currency), and if you’ve missed out on Rockstar’s free gold bar gifts because you haven’t been playing, it might be a while before you can try your hand at one of these new professions, let alone all three. There are workarounds (Twitch Prime members can become Bounty Hunters for free and PlayStation Plus subscribers can become Traders for free), but these won’t be available for everyone on every platform. It shouldn’t take too long to acquire 15 gold bars to start your first Specialist Role if you’re new to Red Dead Online, but there is a fair amount of work to put in if you’re not already invested in the world of RDO.
Speaking of gold bars, the Frontier Pursuits update also added the Outlaw Pass to Red Dead Online. The Outlaw Pass is exactly what it sounds like: a premium battle pass that rewards new cosmetic items as you level it up. There pass is split into free and paid tiers, but the paid tiers have all the interesting rewards. Purchasing an Outlaw Pass will set you back 35 gold bars, but the store only sells 25 and 55 gold bar packages for $10 and $20 respectively, so you’ll have to fork over $20 for 55 gold bars unless you’ve already got some gold lying around. Leveling the Outlaw Pass to the cap of 70 will reward you with 35 gold bars, so if you’re dedicated enough, you can earn the cost back. If you’re really into Red Dead Online, the Outlaw Pass provides another incentive to keep grinding, and the rewards themselves are pretty neat too.
Outside of these major new features, Rockstar has tweaked some aspects of Red Dead Online to make it a bit more player-friendly. Movement and aiming have been improved dramatically, and while they’re still not perfect, the game feels a whole lot more responsive after this new update. You can finally reset your character’s appearance without losing progress, which is a godsend considering how many players ended up with, well, less than ideal characters. The drawn-out looting animation has been replaced with a simple crouch and grab, which makes looting less tedious and more worthwhile. All of that, plus new free roam events and encounters, makes Red Dead Online much less of a chore to play.
Red Dead Online has come a long way since launch, and Rockstar is finally adding things for players to do in the sprawling open world besides killing each other. It’s still not at the level of GTA Online, but GTA Online was still fairly light on content at this point in its life too. Red Dead having a completely different tone and direction that Grand Theft Auto certainly hasn’t made it easy for Rockstar to copy and paste GTA Online‘s gameplay systems into Red Dead Online, but now it seems that Rockstar is getting a little more comfortable expanding and fleshing out Red Dead Online‘s world. The Frontier Pursuits update provides a good foundation. Now all we can do is hope Rockstar builds upon it.