News | 10/29/2010 at 3:38 PM

Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare Impressions

Halloween is this weekend and Rockstar has a treat for you!   In yet another stunning example of how zombies do indeed make everything better, Undead Nightmare is the fourth DLC for the open world western juggernaut, Red Dead Redemption, and it is the biggest and best one to date.  While the previous three DLCs focused on competitive and co-operative multiplayer aspects of the game, Undead Nightmare is a sizeable addition to an already substantial single player experience.  In addition to the new single player missions, there are some new co-op modes that gamers can sink their teeth into. 

The first thing players will notice after downloading Undead Nightmare is a new choice from the menu screen.  After selecting a single player game you are given the option of playing either normal Red Dead Redemption or Undead Nightmare.   The new content takes place near the end of the single player story mode of RDR, so be warned, very minor spoilers ahead.

Undead Nightmare opens on a dark and stormy night at John Marston's family ranch.  Due to circumstances beyond his (or your) control, he soon needs to seek out a doctor.  Welcome to the zombie apocalypse!  Rockstar San Diego has crafted an incredible game experience within the RDR world.  The entire map, yes, the entire world, has been transformed into a land of the dead.  The change in mood is everywhere.  The sickly green tinge of the map and menu screens, the inclement weather, and mood setting music change the entire feel of the game.

"Things are different now," is scrawled on a wall in the ravaged town of Blackwater.  They certainly are.  John Marston reacts with horror at the changes around him.  Towns have been overrun, and undead creatures roam the countryside.  The sense of sickness and decay permeate through the entire campaign so much that the rare sunny day feels out of place.  The mood for the game is just as you think an undead uprising in the old west should be.  Many characters from the original game make an appearance, some a little worse for wear.

This is more than just a few undead encounters.  This is a fully realized campaign.  There is a main storyline, side quests, and challenges.  The wilderness not only has undead animals, human zombies roam the countryside in packs and are eager to throw you from your horse.  Like most zombies, you need to shoot them in the head to put them down permanently.  Ammo is scarce in the beginning, making it the new currency in the west.  Tasks are paid for in shotgun shells or repeater rounds as opposed to cash or gold.  You have to clear towns of the walking dead so that you can bunk there to save your game.  Camping and wilderness fast travel have been eliminated, but you can fast travel between towns once you have initially removed the undead menace. 

'Run' is not a plan. 'Run' is what you do when a plan fails.

In addition to the single player campaign, two new co-op friendly modes have been added.  The first, Land Grab, is a Free Roam affair that has players trying to maintain control of certain areas of the open world map for a set period of time.  There are seven markers located throughout the world.  Simply walk up to one and stake your claim.  Be forewarned, you are basically picking a fight with the rest of the players in the session.  An announcement goes out to other players that you have staked a claim, and they come after you like you insinuated something about their collective mamas. 

This game mode cannot be found in Friendly Free Roam, since the object of the game is to shoot your fellow gamers as they try and jump you claim.  You can posse up and work together as a team to hold land against other players.  The more players you defend against, the more experience is awarded after the match.

The second co-op game mode is the zombie-flavored Undead Overrun.  Two to four players partner up in a lobby, similar to the co-op missions from the free Outlaws to the End DLC.  Each game will take place in one of five graveyards found in the world.  You can choose from four classes:  Ravager, Overkill, Longshot, and Mauler. 

The game pits your team against progressive waves of the undead, each harder than the last.  A timer is always winding down.  Once you are out of time, you enter a sudden death mode where you can no longer be revived by you teammates should you fall.  The only way to add time to the clock is to open a coffin which lightning-spawns at the beginning of each round, usually on the opposite side of the map from  your team's location.  After fighting through the zombies, who are constantly rising from graves, you can open the coffin by pounding the 'Y' button.  This will give you another precious minute and ammo for everyone's weapons.  Just hope your team has your back.  

I was the main coffin-opener-guy for my team for a few sessions, and I'll let you know now there is no glory in it.  While you are trying to open the coffin, your teammates are killing zombies.  My team was actually very good, so I managed to pop open coffins with ease, but which would you rather be doing?  I was adding valuable playtime to the clock, but there is no 'Coffins Opened' stat at the end of the game.  Experience is given out equally at the end of each session, so I guess it's just a matter of play style. 

Yeah, I'm a zombie and I am BRINGING IT with my BLUNDERBUSS!  BLUNDERBUSS is an AWESOME WORD! 

Like RDR, Undead Nightmare is not without its problems.  When a game is this good and massive it just makes its flaws all the more apparent.  There are 'special' zombies, which much too closely resemble those from the Left 4 Dead franchise.  John has a problem finding doors and ladders when you are running, which could be the difference between life and undeath when the hordes are on you tail.  Zombies occasionally appear out of nowhere, but I like this because it gives me more to shoot.  One good burst of head 'splodin' Dead Eye was enough for me to forgive these minor flaws.

This is a massive add-on for a ten dollar price tag.  I have thirteen hours logged into this DLC and I'm at 83% completion.  Admittedly, I am a slow and methodical gamer.  And I chase bats and undead bears.  And it just takes me a long time to clear a town because I miss a lot of head shots.  I haven't even discussed the legendary creatures or new weapons.  Blunderbuss, indeed.  Run, don't walk, to your gaming machine of choice and download the fantastic Undead Nightmare.  Or, wait until it comes out on disc with all of the other downloadable content on November 23 for $29.99.  If you are a Red Dead Redemption fan, this is the zombie content you've been waiting for.  Rockstar, I know you give so much but I have to ask:  Can we please have an Undead Free Roam?