Red Dead Online’s Latest, Disappointing Update Shows GTA Online Is Still Rockstar’s Favorite

Illustration for article titled Red Dead Online’s Latest, Disappointing Update Shows GTA Online Is Still Rockstar’s Favorite
Image: Rockstar Games

Red Dead Online’s latest update isn’t much. While Rockstar plans on adding a big new island to GTA Online later this month, complete with a new heist and more, Red Dead Online’s end of the year update is far smaller. And while some small amount of this new update is good, including some new bounty hunter content and some useful upgrades, the rest is disappointing, leaving me wanting more.

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This latest update, which went live earlier today, mainly focuses on two things: adding a new Outlaw Pass and expanding the already-present bounty hunter role.

I always liked playing as a bounty hunter in Red Dead Online. It’s one of my favorite roles in the game and with this new update, its level cap has been increased from 20 to 30. However, this isn’t a free level cap increase: You’ll need to fork over 15 gold bars to become a professional bounty hunter, allowing you to hit level 30. While 15 gold bars isn’t a super-high amount, especially for players who have been regularly logging in and completing challenges, it’s yet another paywall between players and new content. And players already spent gold to become bounty hunters before this update, so it feels like double-dipping on Rockstar’s part.

Illustration for article titled Red Dead Online’s Latest, Disappointing Update Shows GTA Online Is Still Rockstar’s Favorite
Screenshot: Rockstar / Kotaku

Once you pay your 15 gold and become a professional bounty hunter, you get access to new rewards. And unfortunately, they aren’t anything to write home about. Some are nice, like the ability to hold more food, but most aren’t very useful. You also get some new ways to spin your guns and some new cosmetic items. For players like me who already play Red Dead Online regularly and who like the bounty hunter role, new content and levels to earn are nice. But I doubt this will bring many players back to the game, and I’m not sure if it’s enough to keep me interested beyond a week or two. Rockstar is promising new legendary bounty hunter missions, but the first new one included in this update isn’t any good. It’s just your standard RDO mission, where you run in, shoot some people, and leave with the target. Compared to some of the fun, creative legendary bounties we’ve seen in the past, it feels like a step back and doesn’t get me excited about future RDO legendary bounties.

This update also added Outlaw Pass Number 4, which contains 100 levels. The Outlaw Pass is Red Dead Online’s version of a Fortnite-style battle pass, with various levels and rewards to earn as you play the game and rack up XP. The Outlaw Pass comes in two flavors: Free and premium. And just as with the previous Outlaw Passes, the free level gives you a small number of uninspiring rewards. If you want anything worthwhile you’ll have to upgrade to the premium pass, which costs 40 gold bars. (Rockstar is also doing a special deal for players who buy the Outlaw Pass before December 7: You’ll get back 10 gold bars.)

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Screenshot: Rockstar / Kotaku
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So what do you get for 40 gold bars? Well, not much. But not complete crap either. One of the first rewards you unlock at level 2 is the ability to cook multiple cuts of meat at once while at your camp. This may not sound exciting, but if you’ve played a lot of RDO, you know how time-consuming and tedious cooking meat can be. Now you can cook up to three pieces at once! Some other quality-of-life improvements are buried in the pass, including the ability to hold more ammo and more ways to fast travel. These are great and I’m excited to unlock them. But none of this feels worthy of 40 gold bars.

Last December, Rockstar released The Moonshiners update, one of the best and biggest updates for Red Dead Online. It added new story missions, new places to visit, a whole new role, new gear, and more. It was a wonderful influx of new content and stuff to do. This year, Red Dead Online ends the year with a much smaller and comparatively disappointing update. Meanwhile, Rockstar is prepping to release the biggest update in GTA Online history in a few weeks. While I understand that 2020 has been a challenging year for developers around the world, it’s hard to ignore that one Rockstar online game is being treated much better than the other.

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It’s a shame too, because Red Dead Online has potential. With a few big updates, a next-gen patch, and more rewards, this could be a much better game. But for now, at least, Rockstar seems unable, unwilling, or uninterested in truly building RDO into a worthy GTA Online companion or successor. Maybe next year.

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Kotaku Weekend Editor | Zack Zwiezen is a writer living in Kansas. He has written for GameCritics, USgamer, Kill Screen & Entertainment Fuse.

DISCUSSION

fauxbravo
Faux Bravo

I just wish the success of Red Dead and the few other western titles out there would spur (ohhh!) other developers to make more westerns, if nothing else.