Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare Review

Posted on October 27, 2010 by

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Warning: This review contains minor spoilers about the main game, Red Dead Redemption. I’m pretty much assuming that if you’re reading this, you’ve played the game.

I don’t normally review DLC, mostly because there’s rarely been any DLC that added something substantial enough to be worth reviewing, but Rockstar have really been proving that DLC doesn’t just have to be new online maps and character skins.

In a similar vein to the excellent Episodes from Liberty City downloadable content that GTA IV got, Undead Nightmare brings a whole new single player story to Red Dead Redemption, and while it doesn’t involve playing through the game’s events from a different perspective, (seriously, playing as Landon Ricketts would be frickin’ awesome) it does involve zombies. So, without further ado, let’s talk about Undead Nightmare.

Undead Nightmare is part of this growing trend I’ve noticed for games now to include some sort of Zombie mode. Some games, Like CoD: World at War, just add it as a joke, but Undead Nightmare takes things a little more seriously.

Taking place during the ‘Homestead’ Portion of the game, when John has returned to his Ranch and family. Returning home from an errand, with a storm setting in, he and his family are attacked by a zombified Uncle, who infects Abigail, who herself then infects Jack. John ties them up and locks them in the house, and decides to go sort this zombie nonsense out.

From here, John rides across first America, and then Mexico, cleansing graveyards, defending towns and generally trying not to get turned into a tasty aperitif for the slavering hordes of zombies roaming the west. On his quest to find a cure, he meets old friends, like Snake-Oil salesman Nigel West-Dickens, Marshal Leigh Johnson, Rancher Bonnie MacFarlane, and Grave-robber Seth, who has an unusual affinity for the undead, which i’ll get into in a minute.

John must ride to every town on the map and help the survivors make them safe, search for missing persons, and raid graveyards, cleansing them with fire. Defending towns is a lot like the gang warfare mode in GTA: San Andreas, you kill zombies attacking a town to save it, and can then use the town as a safe zone. Towns are periodically attacked by the undead, and you must ride to their aid to ensure they stay safe. Once a town has been saved, it unlocks new survivor missions, such as the ability to search for missing persons, which plays like the bounty hunting missions in the main game. Saving towns is also how you procure new weaponry, and while you can’t attain quite the same arsenal you could in the main game (I particularly missed the Le Mat revolver and the Henry Rifle) there are new weapons available, such as the flaming torch, and the mighty Blunderbuss, which fires bits of the undead, and will cause its targets to explode into a fine red mist.

Gameplay-wise, not much is really different. Random events still occur, though they are now zombie-related, crime-rates having plummeted, though you do still come across the occasional bandit. Money is useless now, and your most precious commodity is ammo, which can be given to survivors in towns to help them defend against the undead, but which is also scarce, forcing you to use weapons you perhaps wouldn’t normally. Sniper rifles are particularly useless, due to the way the zombies bob their heads, meaning the only way to make them useful weapons is by using precious dead-eye.

Now, the zombie themselves. Well, these zombies are weird. Honestly, I’ve seen a lot of zombie movies, and played a lot of zombie games, and these Zombies conform to no set of rules I’ve ever seen before. Encountered in the wild, you have your basic Zombie, and, in perhaps a nod to Left 4 Dead, you have the hefty Bruiser, who can charge you, the spidery Sprinter, who crawls along the ground at high speed, the poisonous Retcher, who spits poison at you ,and explodes in a cloud of gas. The zombies encountered in the wild are stupid, but there are zombies encountered in cutscenes, most notably those involving Seth, where the undead seem to be acting like normal people, playing cards, playing violin, dancing, and on one memorable occasion, acting as a hooker. Some of them seem to be able to talk, but it’s hard to make out what they’re saying.

Given that the origin of the Zombie virus is supernatural in origin, I guess I can’t ask for scientific rules with the walking dead, who’s existence in the first place would require a massive suspension of disbelief, so I guess I should stop nitpicking. Besides the zombies, there are other mythical creatures roaming the land. In one of the funniest video-gaming in-jokes i’ve seen, a quest involving hunting Sasquatches rewards you with the trophy ‘six years in the making’, a reference to the supposed Sasquatch in GTA: San Andreas. There are also the Four Horses of the Apocalypse, Pestilence, who is nearly impossible to kill, War, who lights everything he touches on fire, Famine, who has infinite stamina, and Death, who instantly decapitates any zombie she runs into. There is also, (though I have yet to see it myself) a Unicorn running around somewhere, too.

Now, you remember the cougars in the main game? And how annoying they were? Like ninja raptors? Well, they’re back, and now they’re zombified, too. In fact, all the animals are back, with some new additions like bats, and all of them are undead. You can summon an undead horse to ride, though it wont always do what you want, it has unlimited stamina and a high speed, it just has a tendency to swerve violently while running along a cliff edge. Zombie Bears show up, though they are disappointingly easy to dispatch, as are all the zombies in the game, as they all subscribe to the ‘destroy the brain and they die’ rule.

The zombies start off being pretty scary, especially when you start encountering the sprinters, but they soon lose all threat, as Red Dead’s default targeting system makes it ludicrously easy to get a headshot every time. You can turn it off, as I did, but manually finding targets, in the dark, in the rain, when surrounded by fast moving zombies, zombies spitting poison, and huge fat zombies charging you isn’t particularly easy.

All in all, Undead Nightmare is fun, it’s nice to see a new Single Player campaign, and while it’s short compared to, say, the Episodes from Liberty City, it’s still more than twice as long as Modern Warfare 2, and it has more depth. Then again, Modern Warfare 2 is only about as deep as a puddle, so that’s not hard to achieve. Undead Nightmare can be downloaded from Xbox Live and the Playstation Network, or purchased in disc form along with all the other DLC content. It’s totally worth buying, but think hard about how you want to get it, because as a download, it’s nearly 3GB.

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