In the Western and Southern vicinity of the border, it’s time to nut up or shut up. Red Dead Redemption Undead Nightmare tells of John Marston’s plight against supernatural adversity as he strives to rid his family and the land from the clutches of the infectious undead. Right off the bat you’ll notice that Undead Nightmare plays like a homage to all of the B-Grade cheesy horror movies in the world, where the camp factor and ridiculousness are found in excess. As a result, this add-on serves as juxtaposition with the seriousness of the main Red Dead Redemption storyline, as it is not emotionally charged or solemn as a Western-influenced piece of fiction. However, being outright wacky and out of place works in Undead Nightmare’s favour, a luxury most video games can afford to have.
As you enter the beginning cutscene and into the farm at Beecher’s Hope, the quick and jumbled narrative stands out. It is force fed to the player like brussels sprouts at a nimble pace as John claims that a cure for the outbreak must be found within the first 10 minutes of play as he bears witness to only 3 of his turned friends and family members. By all means this isn’t a bad thing, as it complements the camp vibe Rockstar was evidently going for that’s slightly reminiscent of their earlier, more juvenile titles like Bully or GTA III/Vice City. Once again in true Rockstar fashion, colourful and charismatic characters are peppered evenly throughout Undead Nightmare, both old and new who occasionally tickle the funny bone as you not only strive to survive the undead but survive the locals as they exhibit somewhat erratic and quirky behaviour.
Familiar yet impressive is how you would describe the way Undead Nightmare presents itself. Beautiful vistas and hilly horizons are hindered by oppressive and dark clouds to set the horror mood. Having said that, it also shares a blemish with the original Red Dead Redemption, concerning occasional pop-in during the well scripted and voice acted cut scenes. Swinging the pendulum towards the audio front, zombies growl, moan and hiss violently. Sure to send shivers down a player’s spine no matter how well they can stomach their zombies while fitting upbeat music plays as you engage the shambling yet lethal zombies. There is enough western influence in the audio design so players are always reminded that they’re still in a fictional 1911’s America and not an urban city street where zombies and gunplay are normally associated with.
Combat is changed drastically in Undead Nightmare. Instead of gradually chipping away at an enemy group whilst behind cover as you would in Red Dead Redemption, repelling the undead onslaught forces the player to keep at safe distances and rewards cleverly aimed shots at vital body parts. To ensure this approach is undertaken, ammunition is scarce, forcing players to conserve and rely more on melee and unconventional weapons like a torch or lasso. New weapons and tools encourage the player to vary and broaden their modes of operation regarding the practice of zombie genocide. Tools like the blunderbuss, undead bait and holy water are best used when zombies are rounded up and in close proximity. This supports the notion that players eventually realise they need to adapt a new game plan or playing style, and these deadly additions are the perfect fit.
Red Dead Redemption Undead Nightmare not only piques the interest of fence sitters who appreciate hearty single player offerings, but also brings a couple of new online playlists to the table. These include ‘Land Grab’, where sections of large towns are fought in for control and more appropriately ‘Undead Overrun’, where endless waves of infected civilians are unleashed in similar fashion to the famous Gears of War 2 horde mode, except more monotonous and unfair due to very fiddly controls and cliche zombie archetypes. Story based missions will take a full 7 hours to go through. If you’re a perfectionist or just enjoy indulging in the many side missions offered, you’re looking at an extra 5 hours of single player content.
Undead Nightmare is a mindlessly entertaining experience that holds its own flavour against the main game, yet is hampered by a few buggy and control related issues. Chances are if you’ve played and enjoyed Red Dead Redemption enough to look past these nuisances, you’ll be dying to play it.
Red Dead Redemption:
The Good –
• Reworked combat mechanics, stands on its own compared to Red Dead Redemption.
• Cheesy B-Grade horror movie inspired plot; is all over the place but works to the game’s advantage.
The Bad –
• Multiplayer: Undead Overrun is a thoughtful addition but plays like a poor man’s horde mode.
• Controls are not suited to aiming at fast paced and hungry zombies. Aiming is jerky and positioning Marston strategically is a downright pain.
• Bugs. Expect game crashes on rare occasions, so save often.