RED DEAD REDEMPTION: UNDEAD NIGHTMARE (2010) – ROCKSTAR GAMES
Zombies. It seems the gaming industry cannot get enough of them. Sure, they have been a staple of the horror genre and games like Resident Evil for over a decade now, but mainstream games have never seen the need to include them. All that seemingly has changed in the last few years; since Treyarch introduced ‘Nazi Zombies’ as a game mode in Call Of Duty: World At War, they have been popping up all over the place. Rockstar also decided to jump on the bandwagon, and the fruit of its labour is the Undead Nightmare DLC for the excellent Red Dead Redemption. So, has the trick worked?
Undead Nightmare acts as a standalone episode in Red Dead Redemption, accessible from the main menu. The story begins with John Marston at home with his family. Suddenly, a deformed Uncle approaches, biting both John’s wife and son, turning them into bloodthirsty creatures. After subduing them both, John sets off to Blackwater to find out what is going on. From here on in, John travels the across the land, encountering many characters from the main storyline as they fend for themselves against the demonic hordes that roam the landscape, trying to find the cause of the problems.
Now, this could have come across as ridiculous, but Rockstar are not careless with their stories; Undead Nightmare is very fun to play through. Seeing the main characters from the story in this new environment leads to some hilarious moments and dialogue (for example, the grave digger Seth celebrates with a party, while Herbert Moon steals the show with a full blown patriotic rant), and seeing the game world fall apart is quite a feat to behold. Its not the longest campaign in the world (about 4-5 hours), but the quality of the story more than makes up for it.
To deal with the outbreak of Zombies in New Austin, Rockstar has tweaked the gameplay slightly from the main game. Ammo is no longer abundant; it’s a precious commodity, and John has to search the bodies of the undead for extra bullets, or help clear out settlements across the map. The premise is simple; help the survivors kill a predetermined amount of zombies, and get rewarded with a place to sleep/save, extra caches of bullets, and new weapons. There are several settlements across the map to save, but it does become tiresome after a while repeating the same process, and you will find yourself probably spending more time on the main stem of missions. It also becomes quite easy to kill zombies; you are given extra time in Dead-Eye mode to pick off zombies (headshots are an instant kill and advised to save ammo), but simply running up to a zombie and pressing the trigger button activates a instant kill grapple. I think it would have been wiser move by Rockstar to maybe eliminate this from the game, as it does make it too easy from time to time. Add to this the fact that the undead cannot climb ladders, and it becomes a doddle to simply get to high ground and pick off the hordes at will.
Aside from this however, Rockstar introduced some really nice features to Undead Nightmare. For example, animals become infected as well, meaning that John has to put up with vicious undead animals, including the hilariously named Zombear. John also can find the Four Horses Of The Apocalypse in the Wild and break them in (with each one having a special power: Pestilence is almost impossible to kill, War sets enemies on fire upon contact, and Death…well, kills everything it touches). You can also acquire herbs to create phosphorus bullets, and pick up dead body parts for Blunderbluss ammunition. Finally, the tweaks are not limited to single player; an Undead Overrun mode will be added to your multiplayer options (basically, survive waves of zombies with up to four other players), as well as the Land Grab mode, where you can defend a certain point on the game map for points and experience. Both modes are welcome additions to what was already a solid multiplayer experience.
Undead Nightmare runs off the same game engine as Red Dead Redemption, so the quality of the graphics has not changed. Its still a great game to look at, the zombies look grotesque and deformed as they charge for your soul and the settlements catch the apocalyptic feel with blockades set up and fire burning all over the place. My only annoyance with the graphics is that most of the game takes place at night (because of course zombies don’t exist in the daytime), so it is sometimes a struggle to see where you are going, and it limits the chance of using the excellent sunshine effects that the main game pulls off so well.
The music has also been given an overhaul for the DLC. I loved the soundtrack for the main game, and this keeps up the great quality. Most of the tracks have been given creepy and dark overtones, which sets the scene beautifully as you travel across the godforsaken land. Particularly of note is the song that kicks in as you ride to Escalera later on, it literally came out of nowhere and made me feel like a badass as I rode along. Undead Nightmare also retains the master class of voice acting from the main game, and combined with the aforementioned excellent dialogue leads to only enhancing the story for the better
I bought Undead Nightmare when it was on offer recently for just 400 MS points, and I have to say that its been an absolute steal. In my mind Rockstar are the masters of downloadable content; they produced two excellent add-ons for GTA4, and followed it up with this, which stands out for being a hell of a lot for a piece of DLC. Sure it may be a bit repetitive in places, but do not let this put you off: if you have a copy of Red Dead Redemption, then this is highly recommended.