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Expert Tips Red Dead Redemption 2 Doesn't Tell You

Red Dead Redemption 2 is a big game full of intersecting systems, and it throws a lot of information at you very quickly. By the time that you finish Chapter 1, you'll know how to ride your horse in formation, how to manage your cores, combat basics, the different ways you can interact with your environment, how Dead Eye works, and more — and that's just the beginning. The game tosses new stuff at you with almost every mission. No wonder some small details got lost in the shuffle.

Some of those details are important, though. Some present massive quality-of-life improvements. Others make it a lot easier to do and to see everything that Red Dead Redemption 2 has to offer. A few offer new insights into deceptively complex systems like hunting, which can be a huge pain if you don't know what you're doing.

The following tips and tricks aren't exactly secrets, but they aren't explained very well (or at all), and mastering them can make Red Dead Redemption 2 a much more pleasant experience. It's called the Wild West for a reason, after all. Take every advantage that you can get.

Watch your weight

Red Dead Redemption 2 isn't just a sprawling Wild West adventure. It's also a cowboy metabolism simulator. As you go about your travels, Arthur Morgan needs to eat food to keep his health and stamina up. Eat too much or saddle Arthur with an unhealthy diet and he'll get fat. Deprive him of sustenance, and he'll become skinny and underfed.

That's not news. A decade and a half before Red Dead Redemption 2 arrived, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas did the same thing, and the game does a pretty good job explaining why Arthur's started packing on the pounds on its own. What it doesn't tell you, however,  is why you might want to manage Arthur's weight. Arthur's gut (or lack thereof) isn't just an aesthetic choice; it has an actual effect on the gameplay.

Basically, changing Arthur's physique lets you trade off between stamina and health. When Arthur is underweight, he'll take more damage from enemy attacks, but his stamina bar won't drain as quickly without all of that extra weight to haul around. An out-of-shape Arthur is the opposite: his stamina will disappear quickly, but he'll be able to soak up hits with his flab, reducing the damage he receives. Both conditions are considered unhealthy, however, and they'll both drain your cores faster, so be careful — and make sure to watch what you eat.

The early worm catches the fish

Look, if horse genitals behave realistically, is it any surprise that Red Dead Redemption 2's fish do, too? We didn't think so. As in real life, Red Dead Redemption 2's fish react to the weather and the time of day. If you want to score the biggest catch, you'll plan accordingly. Fish tend to bite most often in the early morning, when the light is low, the surroundings are relatively quiet, and bugs are plentiful. Sending Arthur to the fishing hole when it's raining tends to yield better results, as the precipitation disrupts the animals' natural rhythm and tricks them into thinking that all kinds of tasty insects are on the prowl.

As GameSpot notes, you'll also find plenty of fish lurking at the end of waterfalls, which are "more oxygenated" than other spots. If you're looking to hook a specific species, check out GameSpot's schedule, too. Certain types of fish appear more often during specific weather conditions — pickerel like it when it's warm and sunny, for example — so do your homework. It'll pay off in the long run.

White dots mean go, go, go!

Red Dead Redemption 2's campaign will always be there. You can spend as much time as you want off of the beaten path, hunting down animals, fleecing rubes at poker, robbing banks, and causing all kinds of mischief. When you're ready, you can head over to the nearest marker to rejoin Dutch for another one of his half-baked schemes. There's no rush at all.

However, the same can't be said for Red Dead Redemption 2's sidequests, which contain some of the funniest, eeriest, and just plain best moments in the game. Wait too long to handle them, and they'll disappear. Some sidequests vanish after certain campaign missions. Others seem to come or go after a certain amount of time has passed. Were you saving that trip to town or optional heist for later? Too bad. Your chance is over.

So, if you want to see everything that Red Dead Redemption 2 has to offer, make sidequests a priority. They're easy to find — they'll appear on your map as white dots, as opposed to the yellow ones that mark the main campaign — and, more importantly, they're lots of fun. You don't have to do them, but many of the game's funniest, most exciting, and just plain best moments happen during sidequests. If you see white on the map, take care of it ASAP. Trust us. You don't want to miss these.

Lights, camera, honor!

The combat in Red Dead Redemption 2 isn't quite as polished as the rest of the game, but when it works, it really does make you feel like one of the unstoppable gunslingers of Western lore. A lot of that is thanks to the game's cinematic killcam, which slows down the action when you land a fatal shot to let you admire your handiwork in all of its gruesome, bloody glory.

As it turns out, you can actually control the Red Dead Redemption 2 killcam — kind of, anyway. It all comes down to the game's honor system. As you roam the Wild West, you'll gain honor points for completing noble deeds, and you'll lose them for acting like a ne'er-do-well. Arthur's honor levels affect how non-player characters react to him, and if his honor is high, he'll receive bonuses like discounts and expanded inventory at stores.

Honor also dictates which angles the killcam uses. If Arthur's honor is low, the camera will focus on his victims. If his honor is high, it'll highlight Arthur himself. Keep that in mind when you're navigating Red Dead Redemption 2's moral choices. If you want to see Arthur portrayed like a hero, keep your worst impulses in check. On the other hand, if you're eager to see some carnage — well, you know what to do.

The secret trick for speedy cowboys

You'll spend most of your travel time in Red Dead Redemption 2 on your horse, but occasionally you'll have to hoof it on foot. Unfortunately, Red Dead Redemption 2's running system is a disaster. Not only do you have to hold down the run button to move at anything faster than a snail's pace, but if you want to sprint you need to mash that button as fast as you can. It's tedious, antiquated, and a sure-fire way to get carpal tunnel syndrome if you're really devoted to unlocking all of Red Dead Redemption 2's secrets.

Thankfully, you can change that. First, go to your Settings menu and choose "Controls" and set your control scheme to "Standard FPS." That'll switch your run button to the left joystick, like most other games. Next, go to "Accessibility," then "Running Mode," and select "Toggle to Run." That's it! Now, you just need to hit the run button once to jog. Tap it twice to enter a full sprint. Much, much easier.

Aptly named Reddit user MashXforwhat has a few other hints that'll make controlling Arthur Morgan even more comfortable, including one more speed-related tip: if you're inside a house or other location where running isn't allowed, switch into first-person mode. For some reason, Arthur moves faster when the camera is seeing things from his eyes. It's not a huge change, but Red Dead Redemption 2 is a long game. Any time that you save adds up. Fast.

Binoculars are a hunter's best friend

If you want to maximize your profits or if you're hunting for upgrades, you're going to need to score a bunch of perfect pelts. That's easier said than done. Not only do you have to use the correct weapon and line up your shot perfectly to take out your prey, but not every creature is created equal. Sometimes, you'll land a perfect blow, only to learn that you were hunting a low-quality beast the entire time. Say goodbye to those high quality rewards, and the sweet, sweet cash that follows.

At least, that's what happens if you don't know what you're doing. Red Dead Redemption 2 is full of tools that make hunting easier. It just doesn't tell you how to use them. For example, if you find that you're constantly snuffing out animals that aren't top-of-the-line, try peeking at your next target through your binoculars or your gun sights. In the lower right corner of the HUD, you'll see a bunch of stars next to the animal's name. Those indicate quality: one is poor, two is medium, and three is perfect. Go for the three-star animals, or don't bother.

Once you've got your Dead Eye abilities upgraded, Arthur's slow-mo gunslinging becomes a crucial tool for getting clean kills. By going into Dead Eye mode, you'll be able to see your target's vital organs. Shoot those to drop the beast with a minimum of fuss, while keeping the hide (and your payday) intact.

... or just lasso 'em

Or, on the other hand, don't bother with all of that hard work at all. If you want to get a perfect animal kill, use your lasso to snag your prey, then whip out your knife to kill them at close range.

Seriously. It's that easy. You'll still need to scout out animals to determine their quality, and not every critter can be grabbed with Arthur's rope. Lassoing only works on animals that are medium-sized or bigger, so while this trick is great for harvesting deer, boar, and bears, it won't work with smaller pray like rabbits or squirrels. Red Dead Redemption 2's wildlife tends to spook pretty easily, too, so if you need to chase your targets down with your horse, be careful: trampling an animal will ruin its hide, forcing you to find another victim.

Still, though, the lasso-knife combo is a lot easier than making sure you've got the right weapon equipped and then fussing over the perfect shot. It's not the only lasso trick that'll make Red Dead Redemption 2 easier, either. If your prey falls in the middle of a river, lasso the corpse and pull it to shore before it floats away — and if you want to hogtie a bounty or enemy quickly, equip your lasso and punch 'em. Red Dead Redemption 2 will take care of the rest.

9 out of 10 physicians recommend an all-alligator diet

When you're playing Red Dead Redemption 2, it helps to keep your stamina, health, and Dead Eye cores fortified. That keeps them from draining, which means that you can jog long distances, take damage, and pull off trick shots without worrying about pesky things like exhaustion or death. There are a few ways to fortify your cores, too. Tonics will get the job done, or you can cook some big game meat with spices to craft your own core-fortifying meals.

There's just one problem: tonics can get expensive, and big game meat can be hard to come by. That's where the alligators come in. Not only do alligators yield plenty of big game meat, but unlike other animals, they're confined to a few specific locations and tend to gather in large numbers. They're slow and easy to kill, too, which makes them a perfect source of nutrients if you're in a fix.

Polygon recommends heading to the swamps near Saint Denis and spending a few minutes farming alligators for their meat. We agree. As long as you've got a good supply of thyme, oregano, and mint handy (and if you don't, the Ram's Horn Trinket can help with that), you'll end up with a near-infinite supply of core-fortifying meat at your disposal. Then, when you're facing a particularly tough challenge, dip into your satchel and snack on some alligator. You'll find that the game gets much, much easier if you do.

The legendary buck stops here

One more tip for all the struggling hunters out there: if you're still having trouble securing perfect pelts, it's worth hunting down the Legendary Buck as early as possible. Doing so will get you the Legendary Buck Antler, which you can trade to a fence — along with $22.00 — for the Buck Antler Trinket. That handy little item increases the quality of the animals that you skin, significantly reducing the time you'll need to spend gathering materials for upgrades.

The Legendary Buck isn't too far out of the way, either. You can find it at Shan Mountain's western foot, just a little ways from the town of Strawberry. That's pretty close to where the Van der Linde gang sets up camp during Chapter 2. If you're working your way through the campaign, you'll even visit Strawberry for the Chapter 2 quest "Blessed are the Meek," which unlocks shortly after you learn how to hunt. While you're on your way there, make a short detour and take the Legendary Buck. You won't regret it.

Clothes make the criminal

It's always a good idea to stash a couple of spare outfits in your saddle bags. Not only does Red Dead Redemption 2 penalize Arthur if he's not dressed appropriately for the weather by chipping away at his health core, but the non-player characters roaming the Wild West are smarter than they seem. If they spot you acting nastily — which, let's face it, describes most of the stuff you do in Red Dead Redemption 2 — they'll recognize you the next time that you roll into town looking for trouble.

You can offset this by slipping on a bandana or mask when you're about to do some crime, provided that you remember to take it off again when the dastardly deed is done. That'll fool the regular old cowpokes you run across, but lawmen tend to be a little harder to trick. If a law enforcement officer catches you in the act, and then later you return to the scene of the crime wearing the same clothes and riding the same horse, everyone in town is going to know who you are. They may not have seen your face, but they're not stupid.

So, keep a change of clothes handy before committing to any big-scale crimes, and make sure your stables are full of horses to ride. It's the only way to get away scot-free.

A happy camp is worth the effort

Red Dead Redemption 2 is full of upgrades, but they're mostly busywork, especially when it comes to taking care of your camp. Extra storage space is nice, but the fast travel system isn't nearly as useful as it sounds, and your gang member's financial contributions will always pale compared to your own. Besides, keeping the camp's food, ammo, and medicine supplies in the black (or, in this case, yellow) can get expensive, and you'll find plenty of that stuff out in the wild as you go. No need to keep the camp well-stocked.

Do it anyway. While the camp's mechanical rewards might be lacking, Red Dead Redemption 2 pays you back for all of your hard work with something better: character development. Happy campers are chatty campers, you see, and when the gang's morale is high, they're more likely to strike up long conversations with Arthur. Given that the Van der Linde gang is the heart of Red Dead Redemption 2's story, you'll want to get to know every member as well as you can. Not only will that make the game much more immersive, and it'll make Red Dead Redemption 2's sobering finale hit even harder.

So suck it up and do your chores. You may not end up with much to show for it physically, but Red Dead Redemption 2 thrives on its world and its characters, not its mechanics. Keep morale high, and you'll learn more about both. It's worth every penny.

Letting the cat out of the bag (so you can bag it)

Hunting legendary animals doesn't just give you bragging rights. Taking down Red Dead Redemption 2's most fearsome beasts will also let you trade skins, jewelry, and cash to fences in return for trinkets and talismans. Those aren't ornamental. They'll give Arthur all kinds of buffs and bonuses, many of which make the game's tedious leveling a whole lot more painless.

As a result, it seems like it'd make sense to get the legendary hunts out of the way early, maximizing the amount of time that you can benefit from your doodads' special powers. For the most part, that's true, but here's one warning: if you can't find the Legendary Panther, it's probably not your fault. Most legendary animals appear right off the bat, provided that you know where and how to find them. The panther, however, is locked behind other content. If you want to kill it, you'll need to complete nine Master Hunter challenges first.

That's basically all of them (challenge number 10 is to go after the panther itself), and while they start out pretty simple — deer are everywhere, so skinning three of them won't take long — they get tricky fast. Use our other hunting tips to get a leg up on your prey, stock up on alligator meat to help deal with those cougars and bears, and keep your fingers crossed. You'll need all the luck you can get.