In Red Dead Redemption, a variety of factions perform or attempt executions by firing squad or summary execution. These occur during several types of Random Encounters as well as within the main story missions. As a gameplay statistic, killings by Marston that count as executions include both summary executions as well as some close-quarters killings that do not fit the traditional definition of execution. Each of these classes of executions are described in the sections that follow.
Although hangings occur in Red Dead Redemption during both random encounters and story missions, the nature of these hangings classifies them as murders rather than executions (see the definition of "execution" for the distinction).
- Main article: Random Encounters
In random encounters, Marston will come upon various factions preparing to carry out an execution. The targets may be innocent victims, criminals, or opponents of the regime (in Nuevo Paraíso). The true nature of the victim is unknown to the player and they may choose to intervene or simply observe the execution.
Executions by firing squad are performed solely in Nuevo Paraíso, sometimes in the wilderness (in the "Unlawful Justice" encounter) and sometimes within a settlement (in the "Public Execution" encounter).
In the "Wounded Lawman" random encounter, a wounded law enforcement officer will ask Marston to capture or kill two escaped criminals. If Marston returns the criminals to the officer, hogtied and alive, the officer will perform a summary execution.
If Marston chooses to confront the executioners, it will usually involve a bloody gunfight, requiring the player to be well-equipped in order to survive. Depending on the circumstances and roles of the executors and the condemned, intervention will yield either positive or negative honor and may result in a Bounty for the player. Be careful as what may look like a group of criminals executing an innocent person may be the police killing an outlaw. Be sure to get close to confirming before opening fire (though waiting too long will result in the execution being performed).
It is also possible that with higher fame, some executors will back down upon being challenged. Others will disregard Marston's fame and choose to attack.
The following story missions involve attempted or actual executions (see the mission pages for details and mind the spoiler warning):
Executions by Marston
One of the statistics recorded by the game is the number of executions that Marston has carried out. This statistic counts both summary executions as well as those killed during very close proximity combat. Running up to an enemy (including the Undead in the Undead Nightmare DLC) may show a short animation where Marston kills the enemy with one clean shot; this is an execution.
This form of execution is one of the requirements for achieving a gold medal in the Tumbleweed Social Club Challenge. The player must also perform twenty executions in order to unlock the Savvy Merchant Outfit.
Hogtied NPCs that are killed by being shot by the player or being run over by a train do not count as Executions.
Methods in Red Dead Redemption
The following methods of execution can be performed in single player mode. While NPCs can be shot in the knees in multiplayer, executions cannot be performed on multiplayer NPCs or other online players.
- Run up to the NPC with a pistol or Sawed-off Shotgun and lock on. Marston will shoot the NPC in the stomach or back. When shot in the stomach, the victim will crawl away, begging for their life before expiring.
- Run up to the NPC with a rifle or shotgun and lock on. Marston will shoot the NPC under the chin.
- Get close with the Tomahawk standing up and lock on. Marston will hack the NPC in the neck.
- Same as with the Tomahawk, above, but this time use a Throwing Knife. Marston will stab the NPC in the stomach or back.
- Shoot an NPC in both knees. They will fall to their knees and try to shoot the player. Pull out any firearm, get close and lock on. Marston will place the barrel to the head of the NPC and blow their brains out.
- After shooting the NPCs' knees, as above, equip the tomahawk, run up to the NPC and lock on. Marston will hack the NPC's neck.
- After shooting the NPCs' knees, as above, equip the throwing knife, run up to the NPC and lock on. Marston will stab the NPC in the neck almost to the hilt.
- Equip the Hunting Knife, sneak up behind an NPC and lock on. Marston will cut the NPC's throat from behind, using the serrated edge of the bowie knife.
- Equip the Lasso and hogtie an NPC. Equip the Hunting Knife and kneel down. Approach and lock on to the NPC. Marston will yank up the NPC's head by the hair and slit their throat. This results in -50 Honor unless the player has the Bandana equipped.
Methods in Undead Nightmare
Each type of execution from Red Dead Redemption listed above can be performed on regular NPCs or the Undead in Undead Nightmare, excluding the ones that use the Hunting Knife or Throwing Knife. Executions while hogtied only work on regular NPCs in Undead Nightmare and will not work on the Undead.
In addition, the following types of execution are unique to Undead Nightmare and Undead Overrun:
- Equip the Torch, get close to the Undead, and lock on. Marston (or playable character) will ram the end of the torch into the skull of the Undead.
- Equip the Blunderbuss, get close to the Undead, and lock on. As in the second type of execution from Red Dead Redemption, above, Marston (or playable character) will place the gun under the chin and pull the trigger. The Blunderbuss, however, will make the Undead explode.
- An easy way to execute someone is to run up to them with a weapon drawn and pull the shooting trigger without locking on. If the player locks on to the NPC and is not close enough it will likely just result in a normal shot.
- On a wall in the Armadillo Sheriff's Office, there is a poster for an "execution sale and auction" at Ridgewood Farm.
- Executions were sometimes ordered by legal courts but were often impromptu decisions to deal with captured adversaries. Increasingly, the American west was falling under the thumb of the American federal government and municipalities, which would often use executions as an inexpensive way of dealing with petty criminals. Vigilante mobs and entire communities would sometimes demand executions of captured outlaws and perform them without legal authority. Alternatively, various military and paramilitary would often execute political dissenters and reactionaries as a way to exhibit influence. Outlaw groups would also execute members suspected of betrayal or theft.
- Summary executions by Marston can be performed on all NPCs, even Nuns. It is not shown whether the serrated or straight blade is used.