Red Dead Online: beta, news and multiplayer features

Red Dead Online beta

Red Dead Online's beta is well underway. But with such a massive open-world to explore in Red Dead Redemption 2's single-player story, why should you be excited about the game's online mode?

Rockstar's open-world Western game, a prequel to 2010's Red Dead Redemption, was released to wide critical acclaim and is basically all anyone in our office – or yours, probably – has been talking about for weeks.

While you might have expected an online mode to be live from the game's launch, it makes sense that Rockstar wants you to focus on the main story – and boy is there a lot of it – before waltzing into a less narrative-driven multiplayer experience in Red Dead Online.

Red Dead Online

Rockstar has proved itself at converting a massive single-player game into a lively online experience, as shown in the launch of GTA Online in 2013, which has become almost as massive a phenomenon as the mainline GTA V game it spun off from.

So what can you expect from Red Dead Online, and when does the beta actually start?

 [Update: Red Dead Online beta adds Gun Rush battle royale mode.] 

Cut to the chase

  • What is Red Dead Online? The online component of Rockstar's open-world Western
  • What can I play it on? PS4 or Xbox One
  • When can I play it? Beta is live - full release is expected some time in 2019

Red Dead Online beta access

Yes, Rockstar are easing in with a Red Dead Online beta – the company warns to expect "turbulence" at launch while it optimizes the gameplay – but the public beta is live now, and it gives us our first look at what to expect from online multiplayer ahead of the full launch of Red Dead Online to come some time in early 2019.

A week after the public beta went live, Rockstar released a statement on the game's status, which stated the developer's main focus right now is improving the in-game economy and bugs.

"Your feedback from these early days will be instrumental in helping formulate updates to every aspect of the experience," the statement read. "Our current areas of focus include the in-game economy, which will require some additional balancing in order to ensure all activities are appropriately rewarding and fun, as well as some persistent bugs that are causing some players to be kicked from sessions. 

"The game has been developed so that we will be able to quickly make any adjustments like these, and we plan to get updates out as early as the end of this week with more updates to come next week. Feedback from the community has been invaluable, and we will continue to keep you regularly updated as things progress."

Rockstar then rolled out its first set of "adjustments" to the Red Dead Online beta which aimed to a create a "more balanced, fun and rewarding overall experience, across all modes and missions". This included increasing cash and gold payments, reducing prices of weapons and balancing the values of select pelts, skins and fish.

Red Dead Redemption 2

The most recent Red Dead Online update sees the addition of battle royale Gun Rush mode, which sees up to 32 players "scrambling to gather weapons and ammunition in a rapidly shrinking play area".

Rockstar also promised more updates are "coming soon" including new races, showdown modes, clothing and emotes. Alongside this, the developer plans to make changes based on player feedback such as adding daily challenges, upgrading the law and bounty system, changing parley and decreasing proximity-based player blips.

In addition, Rockstar is "working on lots of new content" that is due for release this year. This includes all-new missions, dynamic events, more competitive modes, and new weapons and clothing.

Finally, Xbox One players can also now access the red chestnut Arabian horse, alligator skin ranch cutter saddle and the high roller double-action revolver.

Red Dead Online features

Multiplayer modes

There will be five competitive multiplayer modes at launch, however the beta currently doesn't allow you to pick which mode to partake in. The five modes are as follows:

  • Shootout / Team Shoutout - Essentially classic Deathmatch, which sees you aiming to get the most kills either individually or as a team.
  • Most Wanted - Sees you battling against opponents to get the most kills and become the 'Most Wanted' person on the leaderboard.
  • Make It Count - Red Dead Redemption 2 Battle Royale mode.
  • Name Your Weapon - You are awarded more points for killing enemies with more difficult weapons (either played as a team or individual).
  • Hostile Territory - Capture the flag except you get points for capturing territories.

Character customization

Red Dead Online's character customization is very detailed, with options to adjust everything from your age to your facial dimensions - allowing you to make your perfect cowboy or cowgirl.

A range of activities

Now that we've been able to take part in the beta, we know Red Dead Online allows you to take part in a variety of activities such as co-operative story missions, treasure maps, PvP, hunting, fishing and free-roam missions. 

Based on Red Dead Redemption 2 gameplay

An official announcement for the online service read: "Using the gameplay of the upcoming Red Dead Redemption 2 as a foundation, Red Dead Online will be ready to be explored alone or with friends, and will also feature constant updates and adjustments to grow and evolve this experience for all players."

Red Dead Online: what we want to see

 All the minigames

We definitely hope the minigames will be playable online with your friends – card games, knife games, drinking games, and all that other wholesome fun you cowboys get up to.

A slow, slow pace

One of the things we love about Read Dead Redemption 2 is the thoughtful pace – so we're hoping the online mode doesn't go too octane for the rustic cowboy setting. We want to take a slow trot to the saloon before beating our friends at poker, or lying in the undergrowth while we wait to rob an incoming train – not a 6v6 deathmatch on flaming ponies.

Red Dead Redemption 2

Maybe some zombies though

Okay, as much as we love the core Read Dead experience, the last game's Undead Nightmare DLC was a fantastic adventure in its own right, raising the dead in what felt like a serious Western blended with a camp horror movie. It was too good an experiment not to resurrect this time around – we hope.

Cross-platform play

We haven't seen cross-platform play for a Rockstar game before, though the CEO Strauss Zelnick has been open about his desire to overcome traditional console distinctions for online play. 

We'd love to see PS4 and Xbox One owners play together in Red Dead Online's wild west, though Sony have also proven themselves a stickler on this point in the past – even if it eventually succumbed to pressure on Fortnite cross-platform play.