The Wanted System or Bounty mechanic has been present since the original Red Dead Redemption. This is a system that is initiated when you break the law and a witness reported you in-game for committing a crime. It also dictates how law enforcers in the game go about tracking you down.
The Wanted system has been revamped in Red Dead Redemption 2 and is more elaborate compared to its predecessor. The Wanted mechanic has different levels and depending on the level, the severity of the crime you committed, crimes that you have committed in the past and how stealthy you are when you commit the crime, you can defuse the situation before the law enforcement recognize you and puts on a bounty on your head. Learning the subtleties of the Wanted system will make you more efficient in committing robberies and earning more money in Red Dead Redemption 2.
The Wanted Loop
Rockstar's own name for the process governing the function of the Wanted system is called "the Wanted loop" as seen in the Red Dead Redemption 2 mobile companion application. This is a basic rundown showing the progression of stages from the moment the crime is committed to the moment the bounty, if any, is paid off.
Here are the levels and states of the Wanted system in Red Dead Redemption 2:
- Witness - Arthur is not wanted yet, but an NPC witnessed the crime that you committed and he's about to report to the authorities. The witness is marked on the mini-map with a small eye icon, colored either white or red. When colored white, the witness doesn't necessarily know who you are and what you look like especially if you're using a bandana, mask, or any outfit to cover your identity. If colored red, the witness can identify you. While in this state, you can chase the witness and threaten them by pressing Triangle or Y (for PS4 and X1 respectively) while interacting which has a chance of preventing them from reporting the crim.e. If you can't catch them, you can go for the kill but be warned that killing in front of a crowd will create more witnesses.
- Wanted: Crime Reported - The witness has made contact with the authorities and reported the crime that they witnessed.
- Wanted: Investigating - The lawmen are made aware of the crime but don't necessarily know who committed it. They will come searching the crime scene to identify the culprit first. This stage can trigger even without witnesses reporting the crime if the lawmen happen upon the crime scene by themselves.
- Wanted: Unknown Suspect - This is displayed if you haven't left the crime area yet and the lawmen are still investigating and haven't identified you yet. If you've committed a crime before with the same outfit and mask/bandanna, the Wanted system will skip this level and the witness will identify you right away.
- Wanted: Arthur Morgan - Regardless if you have a mask or not, once the law enforcers find you, they'll be able to identify you and this level will initiate. This level will also instantly initiate if you committed a crime in front of a witness and he identifies you. A bounty will be put on your head immediately afterward.
- Wanted: Bounty - After identifying you, you will have a bounty on your head and the lawmen will come after you. The bounty price will also be displayed below the WANTED meter on the upper right of the heads up display. A red area on the mini-map will appear and you have to get out of the area covered in red to remove the Wanted status. If the lawmen catch up, you have an option to either resist or surrender. The bounty price will increase if you resist and fight with the lawmen. If you surrender, they won't shoot on sight and they'll arrest you and put you in jail for some time to clear your bounty.
- Wanted: Law Searching - Once you get out of the red area on the mini-map, the lawmen will lose sight of you and the WANTED meter will gradually decrease from red to gray. The lawmen will keep on searching until the WANTED meter is empty. Once you're out of Wanted status, you can freely roam the area again and you can pay off the bounty price for the lawmen to stop chasing you.
- Wanted: Bounty Hunters - Once you've committed a crime and you have a bounty on your head, Bounty Hunters will spawn in the area where you committed the crime after 12 in-game hours if you still haven't paid off your bounty at the post office. They are marked as red dots on the mini-map and once they recognize you, you'll be in a Wanted state and go after you.
- Wanted: Dead or Alive - If you've committed several crimes in a row on a particular area, or for certain areas that are marked red on the map (like Blackwater during the earlier stages of the game) everyone in the town will be hostile on you and the lawmen will shoot you on sight and you have no choice but to resist them and run from them. If you have a bounty on your head and want to clear it, you have to pay it at another town.
- Wanted: Lockdown - If you have committed 12 offenses in a row within 60 minutes, the town will be on lockdown - all shops and houses in the town will be closed and all activities will be suspended. Lockdown lasts for about 6 in-game hours.
If you continue activity in a state where you have a bounty on your head but are not actively wanted, there is a chance that you'll encounter bounty hunters in the wilderness and checkpoints on the road. Bounty hunters can, on occasion, ambush the player character. The amount of the bounty on your head affects bounty hunter spawn rates. Additionally, if the Lockdown stage is triggered, bounty hunters and checkpoints will be much more common.
There are two types of witnesses in the game, the ones that are colored white in the mini-map and the ones colored red. The witnesses that are colored white are the ones that haven't recognized you yet and you will only get bounty once they report the crime and you are identified by the lawmen. The colored red witnesses are the ones that are able to identify you and you will get a bounty on your head right away once they report the crime to the lawmen. You can avoid being recognized by witnesses and thus will make doing robberies and other non-violent crimes efficient by doing the following:
- Putting on your bandana before committing a crime. Cover your face first with your bandana somewhere you're not seen by other people.
- Using large hoods or masks to cover your face. You can buy these from the Fence and equip them from your Horse Menu.
- Switching outfits and changing your appearance. If you have committed a crime before on a particular town or city, you'll get a bounty on your head right off the bat once you commit another crime on the same area even if you have a mask on. To avoid this, try switching outfits and even changing hairstyle and your mustache and beard so people won't recognize that you're the same person who committed a crime last time.
Alternatively, if a witness has identified you you can still prevent the crime from being reported. This can be achieved by the following methods:
- Killing the witness. If other witnesses see the killing of the witness, the severity of the crime will be higher should they succeed in reporting it to the lawmen.
- Intimidating the witness. You can draw your weapon, aim at the witness, threaten them or give off a warning shot into the air. This has a chance to intimidate the witness into staying silent.
These are the crimes that will put you on Wanted status if someone witnesses the act and reports the crime to authorities:
- Murder - You will be in Wanted state instantly if you kill someone in the game and someone caught you in the act. It will also get you a bounty right away. Killing someone as a result of a duel doesn't count.
- Theft - Stealing vehicles like wagons or even someone else's horse will put you in a Wanted state if you get caught in the act.
- Robbery - Examples of this are bank heists and robbing shops and people.
- Looting - Looting someone even a dead body can get you a bounty if someone witnesses it.
- Armed/Unarmed Assault - If you attack or even anger someone and cause him to pull his gun and start shooting at you, the lawmen will investigate and you will be in the Wanted state if you are around the immediate area, even if you haven't fired a single shot. Take note that accidentally hitting or bumping into an NPC might make him hostile onto you and trigger Wanted state.
- Disturbing The Peace - Examples of this are firing your gun (without killing someone), throwing a dynamite on a crowd, or even antagonizing the town's Sheriff.
- Trespassing - If you breach certain areas in the game that are off limits, you'll be yelled at by the nearest guard to leave. If you stay any longer, you'll be shot at and will be in a Wanted state.
These are the options you can do in order to remove Wanted status:
- Surrendering - If you turn yourself in, you'll go to jail and wait for your sentence to clear your bounty. Take note that jail time will still deduct a percentage of your total bounty price. If you're lucky, your gang mates will get you out of jail for free.
- Getting out of the red area - If you can get out of the red area on the mini-map undetected, the Wanted meter on the upper right will gradually decrease from red to gray. Once empty, you can freely roam the area again unless you have a bounty on your head, in which you will be in a Wanted state again if a bounty hunter or lawman spots you.
- Paying your bounty - Each state has its own jurisdiction meaning being Wanted in one state doesn't affect the others. If you cross state borders while still having a Wanted status or with a bounty on your head, you can remove this by paying your bounty at any post office in the game world. Doing so will reset your status in the given state.