There was something so addictive about Red Dead Redemption II. No, it wasn’t the engaging story, the beautiful graphics, or the promise of being a cowboy (or cowgirl, in my case) again; although, all of those things helped. A game usually tutorialises you—which is necessary most times—but that’s usually the most boring part, right? Well there I was, learning how I was supposed to ride a horse, which buttons to press, how to trade with NPC’s, the works; then came along one part of the tutorial—and it changed everything…
What’s that? You want me to murder this poor little rabbit?! But why? I had to oblige. After all, how was I going to get to that juicy main story content? The game begins to walk me through hunting. Okay, I’ll do it. But I just want to get to the story! Why do they have to pad the game out so much? Here I am, crouched in a bush next to my horse. I activate Dead Eye and track its scent. As I inch away from my horse, I realise…shit, I forgot my bow! Crawling back to my horse in absolute shame, I grab my bow and re-do the whole thing again. This time, I’m prepared. I know what I’m doing, I’m completely in the zone. I crawl my way forward, the rabbit completely oblivious. A prompt engages me to study my prey—I do so. Excellent, it’s rated high quality: worth the kill.
I get closer and closer to this small and endearing creature; I tell myself, “Okay, hunt this thing so the tutorial is done with; then you can get onto the good part!” I draw my arrow back—as far as it will go. It’s nocked in place, the pressure shaking Arthur’s arm. Hovering over this poor little rabbit’s head, I release the arrow and it pierces through its skull—the red hit marker turns white again. It’s definitely dead. I sprint over, looking to quickly collect the loot and move on. Arthur skins the rabbit, carves up its meat, and throws it all into his satchel. I hop onto my trusty steed and gallop my way back towards camp.
I arrive at camp, ready to pick up a story mission. As I walk over to Dutch, a little blip appears on my map. “Hmmm, what’s this?” I say, as I quickly change direction. I find myself walking to a different NPC, and I trigger the prompt to start a mission—out of curiosity. “Oh no. Hunting again?!” I say, thinking that I’ve made an irreversible mistake. The cutscene begins and I go along with it. Yes, it may not be main story, but it was story nonetheless—and by now I had told myself that I needed to experience everything the game had to offer. I prompt for the mission to start: the instruction to track down and hunt a bear. I think, “Hmmm, maybe this’ll be more fun than hunting a measly little rabbit?”
We gallop into the wilderness, and eventually to the base of a mountain range. Nothing in sight: no bear. The mission prompts me to craft some bait to lay down. I do—all the while mumbling, as it seems I’ve gotten myself into some tutorials again. With the bait set, we retreat to behind a large boulder. We wait…and wait. I tap my foot—in real life, that is—getting impatient. “Okay, this isn’t working. I’m going to check on the bait. Maybe the game’s broken?” I think, as I emerge from behind the rock, sprinting towards the bait. As I get to the area where the bait is set, from behind a rock face emerges a giant bear—growling and racing straight towards me! Oh Shit! I reach straight for my shotgun—the bow isn’t going to be effective here…
To quote early-2000s Beyblade, I “Let it rip!” With Dead Eye activated and two shells in the barrel, I looked that bear right in its jowls and unloaded as fast as I could. He took a couple of reloads—and a lot of sprinting away on my part—but eventually he was eating dirt. After recovering from that mess of a battle, I wandered over to my trophy and hovered my hit marker onto it. Legendary Bear Skin—it called out to me. Nothing in that moment was more important than this. The rush of the battle. The grandiose reward. Legendary? How could this be? What was this worth? All the tutorials I had endured were starting to make sense. I skinned the bear, eager to get my hands on whatever I could craft from this. A cutscene followed, and I received a map telling me that there were legendary animals dotted around the map. This journey wasn’t over.
I hauled the massive skin on the back of my horse all the way to camp, and it turned out that by handing it in, I could craft a new outfit. Perfect—I shall wear the skin of my enemies as a warning to others. But, I must have them all. And thus began (and still continues) my quest to hunt in Red Dead Redemption II. What began as an annoying tutorial turned Red Dead Redemption II into Hunting Simulator 2020—and I couldn’t get enough.
There are some days where I launch the game with the intention of seeing what happens to Arthur Morgan—but I end up crouched in a bush somewhere, following what is definitely not the main storyline. This is one scenario where, even though at first glance it looks to be padding to the game, I can say the hunting in Red Dead Redemption II is actually enjoyable; hypothetically, it could be developed into its own game. It’s a nice touch to Red Dead Redemption II, and a welcome distraction for when you want to just spend time in the game doing menial tasks—so you can enjoy the universe Rockstar have created.