Red Dead's Companion App Is Great, And You Should Definitely Use It

The map updates in real-time, so it’ll always be showing your location and heading, as well as everything else, from your horse to bad guys to mission markers.

It doesn’t take long with Red Dead Redemption 2 before you run into a Kirk Hamilton-sized conundrum: Do you play with the HUD on and experience the Old West through health meters and radars, or do you turn all that off and do things the pretty/pure/hard way.

We’ve spent years debating the merits of both approaches in other games, for everything from Zelda to Far Cry, but if you have a smartphone or tablet lying around there’s no need to repeat it for Red Dead Redemption 2.

RDR2's companion app lets you do both, and for that I can’t recommend it highly enough. I know, an official app such as this is usually trash, something a publisher uses to push a few more loot boxes, or convince you to grind daily for virtual currency.

Here, though, it serves as an extension of the game’s interface. The RDR2 companion app relegates many of the game’s key UI elements to your phone or tablet; this includes the map, most notably, but also some menu screens as well, and even Arthur’s health meters and core stats displays.

The game itself does this too, of course, giving players the ability to turn off the HUD and then bring it back temporarily at the push of a button. But the companion app goes even further, keeping the screen free at all times.

What’s key here is that the map isn’t just a static image of the game world; the app links to your console (via your Rockstar Social Club account) and is able to display your location and bearing in real-time, almost as quickly and fluidly as it would appear on-screen. It does the same for your vitals, and your horse’s as well.

This is the app’s main menu; the map is the main attraction here, but having access to the journal is handy as well.

Here it is both a blessing and a curse. I actually found the companion’s map distracting at first, as I’d always be looking down at my phone, and yanking my eyes off the screen all the time made the whole thing harder than if I’d just left the HUD on.

After a while though I found myself changing my habits, instead of always looking at the app as though it was an on-screen minimap, I started adapting and treating it more like an actual map.

When I needed it, it was right there already open and showing me everything, and I could glance down and see what’s up. When I didn’t, I could ignore it/turn my phone screen off and just play the game, which without any HUD anywhere on it looked absolutely gorgeous.

The idea of the “second screen” isn’t new, Microsoft made it a cornerstone of the Xbox One’s design. Sony lets you shift PS4 games to a Vita screen and countless other games have released official apps that bring parts of a console game to a mobile device.

Yet I don’t remember one being as continually useful as this. I kept expecting to be sold something, or to have ads pushed in my face, or for the map to not work as advertised. But nope, this app is simple, incredibly handy and does everything that’s asked of it.

About the only downside I could find, at least that I ran into on Android, was that the app only remained connected so long as my screen was on. If I locked my phone down it would disconnect.

The solution to this is simple — just stop your phone from sleeping and leave it active so long as it’s next to you — but that’ll be a huge battery drain if you’re playing through a long session, so you might want to keep your phone plugged into a console’s USB port.

It’s rare to be talking about something so trivial in such reverent tones, but then, it’s rare to find an app that genuinely improves the in-game experience, with no strings attached. If you’re playing through Red Dead and want the best of both HUD worlds, you should definitely be using it.

The RDR2 Companion app — make sure you search for that, and not “Red Dead Redemption 2", which will give you results for a bunch of trash — is already out on both iOS and Android.


Comments

    I enjoy the app as well, after I got it to work. For some reason it doesn't tell you that you need to be on the same network as your console, I thought it was just connecting to my session through the internet. Which sucked cause I enjoy the hud off and the app helps with avoiding having to make it pop back up when you need to check the location of stuff or if your going the right way.

      > For some reason it doesn't tell you that you need to be on the same network as your console

      Godsdammit, is that what the prpblem is? I'd been trying to work out how it'd recognise my stats and my journal, but the minimap stuff wouldn't work. It's my VPN getting in the way.

      Thanks for the heads-up.

    Nice to see that someone finally got this right. I always hoped for an app like this for GTA, which also mimics the in-game phone ui and you receive called on your physical handset. It will be interesting to see what they do with their next GTA (if they ever do one; GTA Online seems pretty popular still)

      There will eventually be a GTA 6 and a GTA Online 2...

      It kinda 'scares' me a little in a way, with how absolutely detailed and incredible RDR2 is with its intricacies, what GTA6 will inevitably look like :O

    Has anyone bought the digital game guide? Can we get a mini review?

    I've tried using the companion app twice now and loved it while I could use it. Both times, after an hour or so I had a warning pop up on my phone (galaxy S7) that it was overheating and would need to close the RDR2 app. I hope that it's just a quirk of my phone because the app works a treat.

    The companion apps for Fallout 4 and War Thunder were quite useful too. I was disappointed when Massive cancelled the Division CA.

    I think the best companion app was the one for Ground Zeroes. It was just a copy of the iDroid, it made sense. Did they ever release one for The Phantom Pain?

    The app sounds good. My only concerns are screen lock off and leave phone active, my phone or device will probably catch on fire not to mention battery life ????

    They kinda did, but it wasn't as good. Which is ridiculous, really
    EDIT: Meant as a reply to @bangers

    Last edited 31/10/18 3:02 pm

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