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Red Dead Online modes - all Showdown & PvP modes in RDR2 explained

Grab yer Carbine and saddle up!

Red Dead Redemption 2 is finally live on PC, and scores of players are already queuing into all the Showdown and PvP modes on offer in the game's enormous Red Dead Online component. While many will be entirely content just to gallop around in Free Roam, if you've got more of a competitive streak then you'll no doubt be interested in queuing up into these PvP playlists yourself. This Red Dead Online modes guide will explain how each of the 16+ PvP modes in RDR2 actually work, along with tips on how to reach the top of the leaderboard in each one.

Red Dead Online PvP modes

Red Dead Online modes - Showdown & PvP playlists

There are two ways to enter into one of Red Dead Online's five PvP playlists. The first is to head towards one of the many series markers on the map while in Free Roam. These markers are all white, and each have icons that represent the playlist you'll be entering into upon approaching it in the game world.

The second, if you're more interested in queuing up as soon as possible, is to open up the Online menu (either from the main menu or by hitting Esc while in Red Dead Online) and selecting one of the five playlists on offer:

  • Featured Series: The first playlist contains a featured mode or modes that Rockstar chooses and changes on a regular basis. Often this involves a limited-time mode, such as Fear of the Dark.
  • Shootout Series: Shootout is somewhat of a blanket playlist that includes a bit of most things, but focuses primarily on free-for-all modes such as Shootout, Most Wanted, and more.
  • Takeover Series: This playlist involves the more team objective-oriented PvP modes, such as Hostile Territory, Up In Smoke, Plunder, and so on.
  • Elimination Series: Elimination modes are distinguished by the fact that you only get one life, and there are no respawns. This is where the two Battle Royale modes reside.
  • Race Series: These involve the four different styles of horse racing events on offer. But don't be misled: each of them still involve guns and shooting at other players. You're just on horseback completing objectives while you do it.

Now let's take a closer look at each of the PvP modes on offer in the five playlists of Red Dead Online, bearing in mind that Rockstar constantly brings different modes in and out of rotation so not all may be playable at any given time.

Red Dead Online modes - Fear of the Dark

Fear of the Dark

Fear of the Dark is the latest mode to be added to Red Dead Online. A limited-time mode created specially for the Halloween period, Fear of the Dark is an asymmetrical PvP mode where six hunters are pitted against two Night Stalkers - powerful, quick, invulnerable beings who draw power from the masks scattered about the level. The hunters must work together to avoid the Night Stalkers and steal the masks, and with each mask stolen the Hunters grow stronger and the Night Stalkers weaker. This is a fantastic addition to Red Dead Online, and you can find out our top tips for competing in this playlist by heading to our Red Dead Online Fear of the Dark guide.

Shootout & Team Shootout

Shootout is probably the easiest mode to understand and jump into out of all the modes in Red Dead Online. Simply put, Shootout is a free-for-all, and Team Shootout is a team deathmatch. The aim is to kill as many enemy players as possible within the time limit. You don't need to worry about dying, because you can instantly respawn, and the deaths don't deduct any of the points you've gained. It's a simple but satisfying mode that does exactly what it says on the tin - and it's great for upping your skills against multiple attackers at once.

Hostile Territory

Hostile Territory is a team objective-based mode for Red Dead Online that pits two teams against one another in an attempt to capture and defend territories scattered about the map. You capture territories by staying within the territory unconstested for a certain period of time, and once captured the territories you control will earn points for your team over time. This is a great mode to enter into with your friends, because more often than not the most coordinated team will win. But there are other things you can do to swing the match in your favour, which you can find out about over at our Red Dead Online Hostile Territory guide.

Red Dead Online modes - Make It Count

Make It Count (Battle Royale)

Make It Count is one of Red Dead Online's equivalents to the Battle Royale genre. Up to 16 players head into the same map and must fight to be the last one standing while a border gradually shrinks and forces everyone closer together. The twist in Make It Count (and the reason for its title) is that there's no scavenging for weapons: you're all armed with the same weapon at the start of each match (either Throwing Knives, Tomahawks, or Bows) and must use those, and only those, to dispatch your foes. This is a tricky mode to come out on top in, so you'd best head on over to our Red Dead Online Make It Count guide for the best tips and tricks on offer.

Gun Rush (Battle Royale)

Gun Rush is another Battle Royale mode for Red Dead Online, this time with a more familiar ruleset regarding weaponry. Up to 32 players this time are dropped into the same ever-shrinking portion of the world map, and the aim is to be the last player left standing at the end - but now, you've got the opportunity to scavenge for new weapons and gear. There is a higher concentration of higher quality weapons the closer you get to the centre of the map, and this, combined with the many players and the shrinking map, leads to a very fast-paced and concise battle royale mode compared to those of many other games.

Most Wanted

Most Wanted is a variant on the traditional Shootout free-for-all. The aim is still to kill players to earn as many points as possible before time runs out, but now the number of points you gain from killing a player depends on how many points they've accrued, and their position on the leaderboard. So the better you do and the higher on the leaderboard you reach, the more of a target you paint on your back - which in turn leads to closer matches in terms of points, where anyone can come out on top with just a couple of kills on the right players.

Red Dead Online modes - Name Your Weapon

Name Your Weapon

Name Your Weapon is another variation on Red Dead Online's Shootout free-for-all mode, this time adding novelty in the fact that the stranger and trickier the method you use to kill people, the more you're rewarded for it. This is a mode which gives you a certain number of points per kill depending on the weapon you use: for example, killing someone with a Tomahawk will give you 6 points, while dispatching a foe with the more traditional Revolver will net you just 2 points. This is a great place to try out some more unconventional combat styles and weapon sets, and to make your mark with your weapon of choice.

Head For The Hills

Head For The Hills is another asymmetrical team objective mode. If you've ever played the game Bulldog (or similar) in P.E. at school, you'll likely have a decent idea of this mode: one team is tasked with reaching a safe zone at the end of the map, while the other team is tasked with stopping them from doing so. Both teams have access to weapons, so the runners can defend themselves however they see fit - but unless they get to the safe zone, their kills will earn them nothing. Teams then swap over so that everyone gets a chance at both tasks, and the team with the most points at the end wins.

Public Enemy

Public Enemy is another team objective mode with a twist: one player on each team is designated the Public Enemy each round. Teams earn points either by killing the opposing Public Enemy, or by their own Public Enemy killing enemy players. With each new round the Public Enemy changes to someone else, so it's likely everyone will get a chance to be the Public Enemy at some point. It's a very interesting mode that fosters a variety of different styles of play, some very defensive and others very aggressive indeed.

Red Dead Online modes - Up In Smoke

Up In Smoke

Up In Smoke is yet another team-objective mode, this time starting members of both teams with a satchel containing various explosives. Your aim is to bring your satchel to the enemy team's camp, whereupon it will detonate, destroying a piece of the enemy base. Delivering all explosives to the enemy base will destroy it, winning you the match. This is another mode that gives you the opportunity to play how you want, whether by staying at home defending your base or by going on wide flanks in groups or alone with your satchels of explosives. Check out our Red Dead Online Up In Smoke guide for further tips and details.


Plunder is a multiple-teams mode that I've been having quite a lot of fun with recently. The aim of each team is to collect supplies from a central location and deliver them back to your base - but there's a catch, and that catch is that you can also steal supplies from enemy bases, and enemies can steal from yours. In this sense, there's a similar sense of division in that some of your team must attack and gather supplies while others must stay back and defend against potential thieves. There's a fair amount to learn before you can really shine in this mode, but our Red Dead Online Plunder guide will teach you how to maximise your chances of winning the match for your team.

Sport of Kings

Sport of Kings is the only purely horseback mode that Red Dead Online offers outside of the Race series, and it's about as close to Wild West Quidditch as you can get in any game so far. In this team-based mode, the aim is to secure the burning torch at the centre of the map, and ride with it through the various signal fires in order to score points for your team. Obviously, that's easier said than done when the enemy team all have guns and are attempting to stop you. To help even the odds, near the torch at the centre you'll find powerful pickups such as Sawed-Off Shotguns and single-shot Dynamite Bows to use with abandon against those who threaten you.

Red Dead Online modes - Spoils of War

Spoils of War

Spoils of War is, in a sense, a stripped-back variant of Plunder. Instead of stealing supplies from a central location, you must attempt to steal supplies straight from the enemy base. But with unlimited respawns and plenty of enemies resolutely guarding the place, that's far easier said than done. You'll want to coordinate your attacks and leave no crack in your own defences if you want to secure victory in this fast-paced mode. Our Red Dead Online Spoils of War guide will show you the best tips and tricks for victory in this competitive mode.


An incredibly fast-paced team mode, Overrun gives you just 90 seconds (and unlimited respawns) to attempt to secure as many territories as possible while the enemy team attempts to do the same. Territories only take a moment to capture, but they also only take a moment to be lost, so you'll have to stay on your toes and keep your head on a swivel in this mode. The team with the most controlled territories at the end of the time limit wins a bout, and the first team to win three bouts wins the match.

Race & Open Race

Now we get to the Race modes, the simplest of which are Race and Open Race. The aim here in these free-for-all horseback modes is to be the first to ride through all of the checkpoints and finish the race. The difference between the two variants is that while Race requires you to go through each checkpoint in a fixed order (like a traditional race), Open Race scatters the checkpoints randomly about the map, and you can ride through them in whatever order you like. Check out our Red Dead Online Race guide for tips on maximising your performance in these cutthroat game modes.

Red Dead Online modes - Target Race

Target Race & Open Target Race

Finally, Target Race is a variation on the traditional Race formula which substitutes the checkpoints for targets that you must hit using either a Bow (which you all start off with) or one of the many guns scattered across the playing area which you can collect by riding over them. As previously, Open Target Race is a variation which scatters the Targets about the map randomly, giving you the option to complete them in whatever order you like - while the traditional Target Race forces you to hit each target sequentially. Again, do take a look at our Red Dead Online Race guide for tips and tricks on how to win in all these fast-paced horseback PvP modes.

And that's just about every Red Dead Online mode on offer at the moment. Hopefully you've gained a better understanding of what you're in for when queuing up into the various different Showdown and Race playlists on offer in RDR2. See you in the world, pardner.

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Red Dead Online

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Red Dead Redemption 2

PS4, Xbox One, PC

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Ollie Toms avatar

Ollie Toms

Guides Editor

Ollie is sheriff of Guidestown at RPS, and since joining the team in 2018, he's written over 1,000 guides for the site. He loves playing dangerously competitive games and factory sims, injuring himself playing badminton, and burying his face in the warm fur of his two cats.