These days strategy guides are a dying breed, slowly being killed off by a mixture of the internet and games that are becoming increasingly easy to complete, even on the hardest of the difficulty settings. Still, there are still those out there, like myself, who have an unusual love of strategy guides. Sure, we could just look up the information on the magical internet, which I’m sure is powered by witchcraft, but there’s just something about having an actual book by your fingertips when playing a game, rather than a keyboard. And sometimes a guide is also a worthy item to collect if you love the game that it’s about – the new Red Dead Redemption Game of the Year guide is one such book.
Unlike most guides whose visual design simply serves to provide the information and little else, this guide boasts an absolutely beautiful style of presentation, coming armored in a sturdy hardcover, that could quite possibly be used as a shield against….well, everything, and containing a total of 447-pages that cover the main game and every piece of DLC it has gotten since release. Each page is colored using the games red, white and black visual style that dominated its advertising and scattered with screenshots and advertisements taken from within the game itself, as well as artwork. It’s not often I could say a guide is pretty, but I can say it about this one.
After a brief introduction to the game and a quick profile on each of the main characters the guide gets started with a few short pages about the basics of Red Dead Redemption. This section of the book is surprisingly brief, giving a small amount of page space to just a few of the elements that make up the game. There’s no combat tips to be found, how horse riding works and much more. Of course this is all explained in the game, yet it still feels odd that a section entitled, ‘Red Dead Basics,’ should cover some aspects and not others. The majority of this section is taken up by details on how the law enforcement systems work, giving you a better understanding of the mechanics that power them, making it a worth read.
As you would expect a large section of the guide is devoted to being a walkthrough for every single main mission in the game, using over 170-pages to do so. For each mission you’ll find helpful boxes that detail the mission’s win conditions, fail conditions, any new gameplay elements it introduces and any new unlocks it will grant you, as well as any prerequisite missions that need to be completed. And for each mission you’ll find more small boxes containing quick snippets of information, tips and even what other missions will unlock as you progress. The mission walkthroughs themselves, as well as the writing, do exactly what they say on the tin, providing a solid walkthrough for each mission, but not always offering as much detail as I would have liked. However, I do have one major gripe with this section of the guide; the structure it uses. The guide breaks down its story missions by character, meaning it lists each mission that character imparts on you before moving on to the next. This might sound fine enough, but it means that there are many instances within the guide when you’ll be reading along, doing each mission as it comes, and find yourself at a mission that you can’t actually do, with events taking place within it that make no sense and plenty spoilers. A brief look at the prerequisites for that mission will show you that there are several missions that you need to do first, but to find them you’ll have to go flicking through guide. This isn’t a large problem, but it would have surely made sense to put the prerequisite missions first.
Once you’ve read through the main story missions, shot lots of bad people in the face (you did do that, right? Right!?) and generally acted like the badass cowboy you’ve always wanted to be it’s on to the section of the game that details the various other things you can do in the game, starting with a few simple pages on what jobs you can get. After that comes the far more interesting section on Gang Hideouts, starting with a large map that helpfully shows you exactly where to find them all so that you don’t have to get lost in the wilderness and be forced to survive on a diet of grass and your own urine. Most importantly, though, is that each hideout gets a well detailed walkthrough, providing plenty of tips and tricks on how to beat them, should you find yourself struggling.
Should shooting things up not be your style (really?), then the guide has a rundown of the various mini-games that can be found throughout the game, as well as a considerable amount of information on how to play them and how to win.
Once you’ve cleared out the hideouts and won yourself a nice load of cash playing poker, you might like to check out the guides next section that focuses in the various Stranger missions that can be picked up throughout your adventures. Like the Gang Hideout section you’ll again find a large map that details where you can find every mission, saving valuable hours of running around like an idiot. For each mission you’ll find information on what quests must be completed to gain access to it, followed by a walkthrough that, like the singleplayer, is actually quite short but does a solid job of telling you what you need to know to get the job done.
The guide continues with a look at the various items, weapons and shops throughout the game, giving you details on when, where and how you’ll acquire the various weapons or what a certain shop will stock. After that it’s on to the Challenge’s section that details here to find the various plants and animals, as well advice on how to tackle the beasts and still manage to walk away with your arms and legs intact. You’ll also find a helpful guide to the hidden treasures here as well. There’s also a small section dedicated to hunting down bounties, tips on how to do so and yet another map that takes out all of the fun of hunting them, showing both the location of the bounty and where to find the bounty poster but is still damn useful.
And if you like to be a snappy dresser then the section dedicated to the games various outfits and where to get them should satisfy your needs, detailing the prerequisites for each outfit, the benefits that they bestow, the unlocking procedure for each piece and tips on how to acquire them all.
The Achievement and Trophies section that follows, however, is rather disappointing. Sure, it breaks down the Achievements and Trophies into various categories, but it doesn’t offer the best methods for unlocking them or even some quick tips. No, it has none of those. Instead it’s just two pages of lists.
The multiplayer section which comes next is far more enjoyable though, taking the player through the various basics of the online wilderness. Following the quick introduction is several pages full of various tips and tricks from the Rockstar Games Multiplayer test team. Much of these tips are just general common sense that you’ll probably work out within minutes, but there’s a few gold nuggets to be found here and it’s a good starting place for a new player who doesn’t want to get a bullet through the forehead every few seconds.
With the core game out of the way the guide moves on to the various DLC packs that have been released since Red Dead Redemption came out, starting with the zombie filled madness of the Undead Nightmare pack. Here you’ll find a rundown of the Undead storyline missions that follows the same structure we saw in the guide for the main game’s storyline, but without having to skip sections to find specific missions as you can simply follow this guide from start to finish, unlike its counterpart. The walkthrough is very well written, providing plenty of detail on the missions and expands a little more on tactics and tips, including one very helpful page that explains exactly how the Town Safety mechanic works. After the story mission walkthrough you can find a short section on where to find the four horses of the Apocalypse, as well as details on the hidden treasure and Undead Hunter and Sharpshooter challenges. The Undead Nightmare guide finishes up with where to find the various Undead outfits and Missing Persons. All in all the Undead Nightmare section of this book is by far the best written portion of the guide.
Next is Outlaws to the End co-op mission pack. This section is just two pages long, with the first having nothing more than a short list of features and the second offering a few tips to complete the missions. The lack of actual walkthroughs for each mission is very disappointing. This trend continues with the remaining two DLC packs, with each of them getting just a few short pages and some general tips. It’s understandable that not much information for some aspects of these packs, but a more detailed look at the new locations they introduce would have been nice.
The Red Dead Redemption Game of the Year edition guide is a beautiful book to behold. Wrapped inside its hardbound cover is a fair amount of information that will ensure anyone picking up the game won’t have to struggle for long and is certainly a worthy purchase for fans of the game or collectors of guides, but there are some flaws to be found.