How Dead Eye works in Red Dead Redemption 2 (2023)

Guide on how Dead Eye works in Red Dead Redemption 2. Learn what this ability is, how to upgrade and legvel it up, get advanced tips and more

One of the core mechanics in Red Dead Redemption 2 is called Dead Eye. This is your ability to slow down time and aim better with your gun. This guide will explain the basics of how Dead Eye works in RDR2, how to upgrade its tiers and how to level it up, plus all the benefits of doing so. And let’s not forget that after you learn all of this, you may also need a few extra tips on how to properly use Dead Eye to draw the best advantage out of it!

Note: This article does not contain heavy story spoilers, but to be able to clearly explain what and how you earn or unlock, there are a few mentions of missions and/or places below.

As I wrote in my review of Red Dead Redemption 2 this game is a true masterpiece, but not all of its mechanics are new. The one this guide will take a closer look at is one of the core mechanics not only taken directly from the first Red Dead Redemption, but also a popular ability from several other video games from Rockstar.

The Dead Eye ability in RDR2 is intended to serve as an assistant, but if properly prepared, you can easily use it 100% of the time you are in combat and for every shot you fire against your enemies or targets.

Table of contents

  • What is Dead Eye and how it works in Red Dead Redemption 2
  • How to Upgrade Dead Eye’s Tiers in Red Dead Redemption 2
    • Tier 1
    • Tier 2
    • Tier 3
    • Tier 4
    • Tier 5
  • How to Level Up Dead Eye in Red Dead Redemption 2
    • Requirements for each level of Dead Eye
    • How to earn XP to level up your Dead Eye
  • How to use Dead Eye in RDR2
    • Basic Tutorial on how to use Dead Eye in RDR2
    • Tips and Tricks for Dead Eye in RDR2

What is Dead Eye and how it works in Red Dead Redemption 2

Dead Eye is the ability to slow down time while aiming and firing a gun. You learn it as you play through the tutorial of Red Dead Redemption 2. To use Dead Eye press the Caps Lock or Mouse Scroll on PC or the Right Analog Stick on Consoles while aiming. Based on the ability’s level you will be able to target multiple enemies or aim for specific body parts of your targets.

This gameplay mechanic transforms a simple shoot into a truly great experience. It can also be the difference between your survival and death. It can also help you complete your current mission with a gold medal instead of silver or bronze in some cases.

(Video) Red Dead Redemption 2: How to Use Dead Eye

The ability starts you off simple and allows you to upgrade it into something truly amazing by completing. This is done by completing main missions or by completing various challenges and achievements.

As you play the game you can upgrade both Dead Eye’s Tier as well as its Level.

  • Dead Eye Tiers – unlock special new upgrades to this mechanic allowing you to be even better Gunslinger.
  • Dead Eye Levels – earn them to extend your character’s Dead Eye duration meter.

The next section of the guide will explain how this is done and what are the benefits to it.

How to Upgrade Dead Eye’s Tiers in Red Dead Redemption 2

Dead Eye in Red Dead Redemption 2 has five Tiers. You unlock them by completing specific missions from the game’s main storyline spread throughout the various chapters of the narrative.

There is no way to unlock a higher Dead Eye Tier unless you complete these missions. Below is a complete list of all Tiers and their benefits, plus when you get to unlock them.

How Dead Eye works in Red Dead Redemption 2 (1)

Tier 1

  • Requirements to unlock: Chapter 1, Mission: Old Friends
  • Bonuses to Dead Eye: The first tier allows you to enter Dead Eye and target enemies automatically. At this tier you have no control over where and how the “X” markers are placed. You can only enter and exit Dead Eye at this point. Targeting is done automatically. And not ideal, of course.

Tier 2

  • Requirements to unlock: Chapter 2, Mission: Pouring Forth Oil IV
  • Bonuses to Dead Eye: Unlocking this tier will allow you to manually target enemies while in Dead Eye. This significantly improves your gameplay and allows you to do clear headshots much easier.

Tier 3

  • Requirements to unlock: Chapter 4, Mission: Urban Pleasures
  • Bonuses to Dead Eye: At this tier you will be able to remain in Dead Eye after you fire at your target without having them marked first. If you mark a target (place an “X”), you will exit Dead Eye after your character finishes shooting

Tier 4

  • Requirements to unlock: Chapter 5, Mission: Fleeting Joy
  • Bonuses to Dead Eye: This is where you become a true Gunslinger. Or hunter! Entering Dead Eye will now mark the heart and head areas of your enemy in sight.

Tier 5

  • Requirements to unlock: Chapter 6, Mission: Goodbye Dear Friend
  • Bonuses to Dead Eye: At the final fifth tier you will unlock everything Dead Eye has to offer. On top of all previous benefits from the first four tiers you will now also see the enemy’s lungs and stomach areas marked in red. You are ready to one-shot everything.

After completing the “Goodbye Dear Friend” mission in Chapter 6 you will have unlocked all five available tiers of Dead Eye and will be able to slow down time, remain in Dead Eye after you shoot a bullet without marking targets and see highlighted the deadly and critical internal organs areas of your enemies. Now all that is left is to upgrade Dead Eye’s Levels.

How to Level Up Dead Eye in Red Dead Redemption 2

Separately from the five Tiers explained above, you will also be able to level up your Dead Eye from level 1 to level 10. The benefits from each level are the increased duration of the ability.

Each one of the bars surrounding the Dead Eye icon on the image below represents one level. In this case I have upgraded my Dead Eye to level eight.

(Video) Red Dead Redemption 2 - COMPLETE DEAD EYE TUTORIAL

How Dead Eye works in Red Dead Redemption 2 (2)

Leveling this ability happens through gameplay mostly. You can level up Dead Eye at any time, regardless of what your Dead Eye Tier you have unlocked and how far along in the story you are.

The first eight levels of Dead Eye can be unlocked normally by killing things, doing chores, crafting, cooking and so on. The additional two are earned by completing special achievements (more on that below).

Requirements for each level of Dead Eye

  • Level 1 – 0 XP, you start the game at this level
  • Level 2 – 50 XP
  • Level 3 – 100 XP
  • Level 4 – 200 XP
  • Level 5 – 350 XP
  • Level 6 – 550 XP
  • Level 7 – 800 XP
  • Level 8 – 1100 XP
  • Level 9 – Get one of the following Sets from the Trapper: Explorer, Herbalist or Survivalist
  • Level 10 – Get all three of the above-mentioned sets from the Trapper

It’s important to note that these are total XP target levels, not amounts of points for each level. This means that you need to earn a total amount of 1100 XP from Dead Eye related activities to upgrade it to level 8.

How Dead Eye works in Red Dead Redemption 2 (3)

Each one of these three special sets (Explorer, Herbalist and Survivalist) can be found at a Trapper under the Reinforced Equipment section. The sets consist of four items each and cost you time, money and hunting to be able to obtain them.

Additional way to improve your Dead Eye is to obtain special perks such as Talismans and Trinkets. Their bonuses vary from increasing your Dead Eye XP earnings to decreasing the speed at which your Dead Eye bar depletes while you are using the ability.

How to earn XP to level up your Dead Eye

There are a number of activities that will reward you with Dead Eye XP, thus filling up the bar for this ability’s levels.

Here is a list of some of the activities you can do that earn you Dead Eye XP:

  • Killing enemies without Dead Eye, Cooking or Crafting – Grants 1 XP Point per action
  • Find items belonging to Collections or do Chores in camp – 5 XP Points per action
  • Skin or Pluck an Animal – the reward may vary from 1 to 10 XP Points per action, based on the animal type.
  • Complete the Explorer, Herbalist or Survivalist challenges – earns you 30 XP Points each. You need these for the Sets any way.
How Dead Eye works in Red Dead Redemption 2 (4)

Drinking Valerian Root will give you Dead Eye experience. It will not grant you faster progression through the Tiers, since they are locked behind certain main story missions and have nothing to do with XP.


How to use Dead Eye in RDR2

First, let’s go over the basics of how you actually use Dead Eye in combat, then we’ll move onto the more advanced tips and tricks. For this quick tutorial I will be using the shortcuts for the PC version, using keyboard and mouse.

Basic Tutorial on how to use Dead Eye in RDR2

Time needed:1 minute.

Keybinds for Dead Eye in RDR2 and step-by-step tutorial on how to use the ability (video included):

  1. Entering Passive Dead Eye – Click on the Mouse Scroll or Caps Lock

    Pressing either of these buttons allows you to enter Dead Eye mode, without spending its resource. Very useful when you are hunting or chasing something or someone. At this point the screen will brighten up and everything around will be slowed down.

  2. Entering Active Dead Eye – With your weapon out Press Right Mouse Button and press Mouse Scroll or Caps Lock

    This combination will enter your character in what I call active Dead Eye. This is your Dead Eye stance for combat. While in it, you are spending your Dead Eye resource and the meter is depleting the longer you stay in it. When your cursor stands on a target, it will be red. Otherwise it’s white.

  3. Marking a designated target area on an enemy – Press X

    While in active Dead Eye mode, press X to mark an area of your enemy where your character would shoot with the gun. Pressing the X button multiple times will make your character fire several shots in the same area. Very useful against Legendary Animals. In pretty much any other situation you should be able to one-shot kill your target.

  4. Shooting while in Dead Eye – Press the Left Mouse Button

    Pressing the Left Mouse Button will allow your character to fire as many shots as the number of markers you have placed on your target(s). If you press directly the LMB during Dead Eye without marking, your character will shoot a single round. If your Dead Eye Tier is high enough, you will be able to stay in Dead Eye and continue shooting. Otherwise you will exit Dead Eye mode automatically.

    (Video) How To Use The Dead Eye System In Red Dead Redemption 2

Tips and Tricks for Dead Eye in RDR2

There are a few tips and tricks I would like to share with you based on my own ~100 hours of gameplay with Red Dead Redemption 2 on PC so far as well as some extensive research on the topic:

While in Dead Eye your character still takes damage. In the first game you were invincible, but that is not the case here, nor is it in Red Dead Online.

Dead Eye is the key to earning gold medals in certain missions that require you to do quick and/or precise shooting for headshots or other special activities.

If you place more than one mark on your target(s) during Dead Eye, your character will switch shooting position from high-shoulder to hip. Shooting from your hip allows you to fire your guns at a much faster pace, but is less precise.

If you duel a non professional gunslinger (a drunk idiot or a nobleman, who feels offended by what you may have said or done to him), you can shoot their gun out of their hands. You can do that outside of duels as well. It’s fun.

Placing a mark on your target does not mean you will always 100% hit that spot. If an object stands in the line of sight or your target suddenly moves for whatever reason (during Dead Eye), you may miss. This happened to me several times in my first attempts to shoot from cover. At one point I realized that this cover, while protecting me, it also stops some of my bullets some times.

You can use Dead Eye in RDR2 to see more clear in dark areas. This is extremely helpful when you are in a deep cave or dark house and cannot clearly see your enemies ahead.

There are two ways to refill the Dead Eye bar (or meter if you prefer). One way is by shooting without using Dead Eye. The other is to drink the various tonics available in the game. You can craft, buy or loot them.

(Video) How To Use The Dead Eye System In Red Dead Redemption 2

I hope you have found my guide on how Dead Eye works in RDR2 useful. If you have any questions or want to add something you have learned from your own experience, please, leave a comment. Thanks!


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