We jump at any chance we get to venture back into the boots of John Marston. As one of our favorite titles of the year thus far, Red Dead Redemption did so many things right and remains a definitive contender for the prestigious accolade of Game of the Year 2010. Rockstar’s latest batch of downloadable content for the mammoth-selling Wild West romp takes the formula that made the game such a hit, and puts a B-movie zombie twist to the narrative, coupled with relentless action to give you one heck of a bang for your buck.
Undead Nightmare, available now for $10 USD on the PlayStation Network, is the latest DLC for Red Dead Redemption. The game puts players back in Marston’s meaty boots, fighting hordes of zombies as he attempts to uncover the reason for what exactly is causing the dead to return to life, hungry for flesh. The game kicks off with a terrific cutscene, full of action in true zombie-flick motif. As you venture back through New Austin, West Elizabeth and Mexico, you’ll find many of the characters from the original make either a cameo, or play a major role in the plot. The story itself is a lot less heavy than the standard game, with Undead Nightmare setting out to spook your dreams with its superb application of creepy enemies and eerie audio presentation.
First up, let us just say that in our humble opinion, John Marston is one of the best characters in gaming. In fact, we put him up there with some of the best characters in any work of fiction, period. He’s conflicted, ready to kill, but has an incredibly big heart. We get to see a bit more of these traits in this latest DLC, but in particular, we see that he is pretty much the only one in the land willing to try, risking his life, to put an end to the zombie uprising.
You’ll get to re-explore much of the original game with Undead Nightmare. However, instead of finding new allies in towns and cities, you’ll find the undead swarming, constantly trying to overrun a town. You’ll have to clear the zombies out of a town before you can pick up any of the quests that are held within, though it’s important to note that you do not need to actually save every town in the game, but you certainly can if you want. Besides propelling the story, there’s good reason to liberate a settlement from the undead invasion.
For starters, ammo is extremely scarce. You can’t just buy ammo, and while the zombies you kill provide you with extra bullets, you’ll struggle at the beginning to feel really well equipped. Of course, that all changes when you get the ultimate weapon—a gun that uses zombie bones as ammunition, easily the most powerful weapon in the game. By saving towns and cities, you’ll find chests containing ammo, plus you’ll typically have plenty of corpses to loot. By the end of the game, which runs at about five or six hours, you’ll have plenty of ammo for the last few quests.
The other reason you’ll want to save towns is because travelling will be much easier. Rockstar seems to want to show off its work in Undead Nightmare. You can no longer camp in the wilderness – obviously because hordes of zombies will gnaw at your brains – but you can still travel at save points in towns. So, by saving towns, not only do you possibly unlock story quests, but you’ll also get more ammo and travel points.
Just as in the original game though, travelling by horse is awfully fun. You’ll start the game with a trusty steed, but you’ll quickly be able to upgrade to a mythical creature. There are different horses you can ride, all part of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. These mounts are fast, never run out of stamina, and some have the tendency to light-up zombies that get a little too close. Pretty much every creature in the game is zombified. We particularly liked the Sasquatch quest for its heart, but the DLC does have a few too many political statements for our liking.
The original game took plenty of liberties of exploring immigration and other politically hot issues, and Undead Nightmares seems to push it even further. This time, it’s a bit more subtle about it. You’ll find statements written in blood that heavily explore racism, religion, sexuality, bigotry, and immigration. It’s not really a fault of the game, so much as a bit annoying for a slice of DLC that is otherwise quite lighthearted and fun. Still, the game does a wonderful job of telling a story through some of the best voice acting and dialogue in modern history.
Annoyingly, Undead Nightmare doesn’t attempt to rectify some of the same problems we encountered in the original game. Sure, these are to be expected, but they are still frustrating. For instance, John has the hardest time running up to a ladder and climbing quickly. And, since one safe zone requires you to climb a ladder for entry – not to mention the fact it’s always swarming with the undead – this minor quibble can nonetheless prove quite irritating. In addition, as zombies can only be eliminated by decapitation or by burning them, you’ll do a lot of close-range headshots. The camera tends to cut too close to you during headshots like this, and if you are swarmed with the vile creatures, you’ll probably get frustrated with the camera work.
Outside the extremely fun single-player campaign, you get two new multiplayer modes to keep you busy. They aren’t earth shattering, but still a welcome addition. Undead Overrun is exactly what it sounds like. A team of players must fight wave of zombies as long as they can. The other multiplayer mode, Land Grab, is found in Free Roam, and tests players by making them secure different locations on the map.
Undead Nightmare is one of the best additions to a game we’ve seen in a long time. With a low price of $10 USD, this is certainly something any Red Dead Redemption fan should pick up. The game still has its flaws; but overall, you can’t complain at a new and entertaining story, zombies, new multiplayer modes, and more of the same open-world Wild West experience that made Red Dead such a hit.