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Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare

21:1709/11/2010Posted by Chris MorellNo Comments

If the Wild West was dying in Red Dead Redemption, then it has collapsed, been reanimated and returned with a vengeance in Undead Nightmare, the first true expansion to Rockstar’s dusty blockbuster epic. Zombie games have been all the rage in recent times, but never before have the walking dead invaded an open world in quite the same way, often omitting a sense of fear and foreboding in the past for a more amusing take on things. Thankfully, Undead Nightmare manages to cram healthy quantities of humour and menace into this worthy add-on, never releasing you from its grasp as you embark upon a quest far removed from anything seen in the main game. Developers take note; this is how downloadable content should be done.

The game thrusts players back into the capable boots of likeable gunslinger John Marston, who has once again been forced to don a bandolier and six-shooter in the name of his beloved family. His moral standing and modest demeanour make him easy to empathise with, and the snappy script and witty dialogue progress at a pace likely to keep you intrigued enough that you will genuinely hope to uncover the true cause of the plague. As Marston travels the land in search of answers – and indeed a cure – he’ll run into familiar faces from his original journey. Relationships with the likes of dodgy-dealer, West Dickens and the grave-robbing Seth are just as strained as ever, but each character plays an important role in pushing the story forward as well as offering John some neat new items with which to thin the herd.

Thrifty spenders will be interested to know that money is completely absent this time around. In its place you’ll find ammo, which is otherwise fairly scarce given the obvious lack of gun-wielders. Pistols, rifles and shotguns return in full force, unlocking as you complete missions for the survivors. Holy Water can engulf the hordes in blue flame, Bait (and later, Boom Bait) attract them to a specific area, and the Blunderbuss – a one-shot kill device that runs on zombie body parts – may prove particularly useful in a pinch. Generally though, your main reliance will be on Dead-Eye to slow time long enough to crack open some heads and put the miserable lot down for good.

The main play-style has changed just as much as the world itself, as you’ll spend much of your time either running – occasionally turning to fire off some well-placed rounds – or climbing to higher ground to assist survivors in battle. Not once will you need to bunker down behind cover, and it’s certainly not something we’d recommend given the sheer number of enemies that roam. Beyond town defence, there’s a good deal of variety on offer from having to hogtie a special type of zombie for a filmmaker’s disturbed vision, to hunting down a group of sasquatch, supposedly due to their taste for infant meat. One recurring mission type is to clear out the graveyards to purge the curse at the source; these stand in as a decent alternative to stronghold clearouts, but also tend to encourage the same tactic every time – namely circling the grounds in a panic while blasting brains like a maniac.

The land may have been engulfed by the ravenous hordes, but that doesn’t mean Marston can expect to encounter just a single type. He’ll come up against the freshly turned for the most part, but he’ll also have to take arms against the speedy Bolter, the hulking Bruiser and the vomiting Retcher as things steadily escalate. The different undead might call for different tactics on occasion, but a single shot to the head performs wonders each and every time. The curse isn’t limited to humans either, as going off the beaten path will often result in half-rotten wolves, bears and cougars attacking on sight just as they did before.

It isn’t all doom and gloom however, as the good folk at Rockstar have seen fit to throw a few mythical creatures into the mix, and all can be found and interacted with at some time or another. Most notable are the Four Horses of the Apocalypse, each offering a specific ability from general hardiness and infinite stamina right through to popping heads on contact or setting zombies on fire. The Chupacabra and elusive Unicorn might also put in an appearance if you know where to look, so if it’s the finer details that make for the icing on the cake then Undead Nightmare offers a sugar-frosted coating rarely seen in such a modestly priced download. Whether it’s a recently returned husband gorging himself on his wife or a shackled woman being fed severed parts by her man, there’s almost always something noteworthy around the corner, giving testament to just how much care went into immersing the player in this desperate and changing frontier.

Although a decidedly single-player affair, Undead Nightmare does offer a co-op mode by the name of Undead Overrun. Standing in as a type of horde mode, the action takes place in graveyard maps with progressive waves of increasingly ferocious zombie types. Working together is a must in the name of survival, as you attempt to increase the amount of time left on the clock by opening coffins, battling away for the purpose of a higher score. Land Grab (a form of King of the Hill mode) will probably be most appreciated by online aficionados, and it’s here that zombies are completely absent.

The tale is a non-canon side-story set towards the end of the main storyline, and while it doesn’t tread on so many plot threads and characters to be completely disavowed as a ‘what if’ adventure, it’s clearly been designed for the sake of fun instead of any sense of literature or art. Even so, every effort has been put into making this well worth the 800-point/£7.99 asking price, with an impressive number of high-calibre cutscenes that bookend the many missions. It’s also a good length for what you’re spending, taking between five and six hours to conquer with the occasional town battle in mind. A treat to behold for fans of the zombie genre or otherwise, this add-on comes recommended to anyone looking for a macabre twist on the Red Dead formula.

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