After a lengthy rollout since its initial 2018 release, Red Dead Online finally exited beta last week, giving fans a reason to dive back into the game’s untamed Wild West alongside other cowboys. The open-world multiplayer definitely offers a vast and exciting frontier to explore, but it’s an experience that ultimately isn’t worth playing because you can see real horses at the zoo.

Gamers, if you’re thinking of downloading the update to head online and start looking at horses, I’d recommend you save your time and energy. The zoo has actual live horses that are way more fun to look at.

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Featuring a wide range of Honorable and Dishonorable co-op missions and an in-game currency system, there’s no question that Red Dead Online provides players with a vast range of opportunities to stare at horses. And, to be upfront, the game’s horses are beautifully animated with impressively rendered manes and detailed reactions to your character. But that nonetheless falls far short of the emotions that arise while staring over a zoo’s fence into the beautiful eyes of a stallion as it prances and capers mere feet away from your face.

Not only do zoo horses look and sound more realistic than those in Red Dead Online, but you can also smell the horses, an immersive feature that RDO lacks entirely. After voicing this complaint repeatedly to RockStar after the release of Red Dead Redemption 2, I thought they would fix it in patches. But, sadly, this glaring misstep remains as intact as ever in the online world.

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I’d also say that calling Red Dead Online an open-world game is a bit misleading, since there are very few activities worth doing in the game’s vast, but dull, wilderness. Sure, you can kick up your spurs and play poker with other users. But you can’t eat dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets next to the horse enclosure or go to a face-painting booth and pay $5 for them to make you look like a horse. In fact, in all my time exploring RDO’s world, I couldn’t even find an interesting placard that tells you that the scientific name for horses is Equus caballus.

What were they thinking?

That’s not to say that RDO is all bad. I loved getting to brush the horses and ride the horses online alongside the game’s many other outlaws and lawmen. But you can also do that at the zoo, too, if you just jump over the fence and run up to the horses before a security guard arrives and tackles you to the ground.

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My final verdict? Red Dead Online definitely has its charms for diehard fans, but I would only settle for the game’s lackluster horses if the zoo has banned you for life. Even then, you can always change apartments and move near a new zoo with different guards that don’t know your face yet. If you’re deciding whether or not to venture into the lawless west, I’d recommend you skip this game and catch the bus to the zoo to look at the horses there instead.

2.5/5: BELOW AVERAGE

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