The lights are on
Last week, Rockstar released their first DLC for Red Dead Redemption, a free co-op mission pack titled Outlaws to the End. I possed up with some buddies this weekend to check out the new content, and I’m happy to report that it’s a fun (if not perfectly polished) addition to the Western action already available.
Outlaws to the End consists of six co-op missions that can be played with as few as two or as many as four players. Each mission will probably take at least 15 or 20 minutes on your first try, so this is a nice chunk of content for a free download. The missions are set in familiar locations from the world of Red Dead Redemption, but the objectives are slightly varied (though they almost always end in shooting up an astounding number of opponents).
Before each mission begins, players will enter a game world “lobby” where they can choose between four classes, which determine your starting weapon loadout. For example, a miner begins with a shotgun and dynamite, while the marksman is focused on sniping. Though gunplay is at the heart of every encounter, one mission – “The Herd” – stands out as especially unique, tasking players with using their cattle-herding skills from the single-player story in the midst of a tense ambush. If you hated guiding cows on your own, this tough battle won’t change your mind, but I enjoyed how challenging and different it was from the other missions in this pack.
One thing to keep in mind is that the missions do not seem to be re-balanced depending on the number of players in your party. I played half the missions with a total party of three, and the combat was challenging but fun. We died a few times and had to restart one mission, but we never felt totally overwhelmed by the enemy forces. Then one of my friends left, so we had to take on the last half of the missions as an army of two. At this point, some frustration kicked in, as the huge number of enemies wasn’t lessened at all, requiring memorization and trial and error before we could succeed. We still mostly enjoyed ourselves, but I would highly recommend playing with a group of three or four if possible.
Part of the difficulty we experienced was due to the slightly odd checkpoint and death system that Outlaws to the End employs. Most of the time when a player dies – unless it’s due to a cannon blast, falling into water, or some other more devastating fate – he will simply be incapacitated. If a partner can make it over before a brief timer runs out, the downed teammate can be revived and brought back into battle. If not, they are gone for good until the team hits a checkpoint. These checkpoints are only used for resurrecting dead players, though; if everybody dies, the mission has to be started from the very beginning. This decision makes sense from a stat-tracking and scoring point of view, but the missions are just long enough for it to be annoying if your crew gets wiped out during the last objective.
The constant push for higher scores is meant to keep players coming back to these co-op missions. You gain points for every scoundrel you shoot as well as bonuses for special feats (killing an enemy from a long distance, for example) and a combo multiplier for shooting lots of bad guys in a short span of time. Your number of points, time taken to complete, and other stats are tallied up at the end of each mission, rewarding you with a silver or gold medal for doing particularly well. My buddies and I received gold medals for at least half of the missions on our first try, so the scoring isn’t too harsh here. For those looking for a deeper challenge, completing the six missions unlocks the “Advanced Co-op” playlist, which lets you replay the missions with increased enemy difficulty and minus the heavy aim assist.
Anyone who enjoys Red Dead Redemption’s gun combat or has had fun doing Free Roam hideout hunts with friends will likely have a blast with Outlaws to the End. Between the six missions, ten new Achievements, tons of co-op challenges, and the basic class system, there’s more here than I would normally expect from a piece of free downloadable content. If this is a taste of what’s to come if Rockstar starts charging for Red Dead DLC in the future, they’re headed down the right path.