Red Dead Online fills a very specific niche for me. I love cowboys, Westerns, revolvers, and lever-action repeaters. Everything about the Old West’s depiction in media is exciting, from its gritty daily life to its even grittier characters. For a while, Red Dead Online failed to reflect any of that latter part, giving players the opportunity to play through Red Dead Redemption 2‘s five states without any of its charms. You made money by being a good guy, and your biggest crimes were hardly offensive. I mean, what’s distilling and delivering moonshine compared to robbing a train? Not much, I’ll tell you.
This is, of course, antithetical to everything in Red Dead Redemption 2. Yes, the game is a story of the third word in its name, but for most of it, Arthur Morgan isn’t a man seeking to right his wrongs. Instead, he’s still in the midst of them, and while his thoughts on robbing a train may be mixed, players reveled in the action. How couldn’t we? The train robbery is a cliché Western scene, something you’d expect from any piece of media about cowboy desperados looking to make a living outside the standard means.
Instead of anything so action-packed though, Red Dead Online has given its players long delivery missions, good-guy bounty hunting, and, ugh … nature-watching. If these concepts make up anyone’s idea of the West, they’re either from a different world or a stick in the mud. That’s why Red Dead Online‘s latest update, Blood Money, is such a step in the right direction, or rather, the game’s first step in the right direction.
So far, it feels as though Rockstar has been treating Red Dead Online like GTA Online. The delivery missions from the latter made their way into the former, along with the wait times and a multitude of incessantly boring jobs. For what it’s worth, the developer tried to put an emphasis on races in RDO as it does in GTAO, but racing in souped-up hot rods is infinitely more interesting than horses trotting across a barren desert. Finally, Rockstar brought GTA Online‘s best feature to Red Dead Online: a life of crime.
Blood Money lets players live the outlaw life and make an (albeit modest) living doing so. Can criminal activity be as lucrative as being a trader or moonshiner? No way. Is it more interesting than any of the game’s high-paying roles? Absolutely. And that’s because Rockstar is finally appealing to those Old West clichés, all of which have stayed around for good reason.
Whether you’re sticking up a stagecoach, robbing homesteads, or hopping onto a train in Red Dead Online‘s first train robbery, Blood Money’s content lets players steep themselves in the mythology of Old West action. Butch Cassidy wasn’t taking pictures of deer he saw or collecting wildflowers. He was in shootouts, robbing banks, and sticking up trains. That’s the Old West of legend and the one that Red Dead Online should seek to let players relive.
To that end, Blood Money is a good start. Some may call its missions rehashes of other content present in the game, but I can’t ignore context. There’s a difference between riding back to an objective with a bounty and riding with stolen government property — that difference being that I feel like an outlaw. If Red Dead Online can continue to expand on the plethora of content that takes inspiration from Old West action, the game will move from being something I enjoy because it is set in the Old West to something I love to play because it actually embodies the feel of the Old West.