Did you ever watch an old spaghetti Western flick and think to yourself, “This movie would be so much better with zombies”? Well apparently, the minds at Rockstar did as they bring us the fourth and final piece of downloadable content for their critically acclaimed Western epic.
Without spoiling anything, the game takes place during the “home” section of the regular campaign, near the end. However, this story is considered an alternate reality since nothing that happens here affects the events of the main game. It starts with John Marston, his wife and son happily at their house in Beecher’s Hope when a zombified Uncle stumbles home, kicking off the adventure with Marston trying to find a cure and the source of the infection.
Undead Nightmare is a fairly lengthy adventure for the price of admission. It clocks in at roughly 6-8 hours depending on how focused you are on main story and that’s not even counting multiplayer. Like GTAIV‘s DLC, it is an entirely self-contained adventure. Because of this, nothing you had in your inventory in your regular RDR save will carry over, including weapons and deeds.
The zombies here are a mix of George Romero’s zombies and the more modern Dawn of the Dead style. They’re slow and lumbering zombies that rise from their graves but once they get close to you, they’ll burst into a run. In addition, there are special zombies such as the hulking Bruisers, who charge at you and knocks you down when they’re close, or the Bolters, who are extremely fast and hard to hit without the Dead Eye targeting system (which you’ll be relying on a lot in this game).
This unexpected twist on the Western throws an interesting bone in the gameplay. While the core gameplay and mission structure is the same as the vanilla RDR, the combat changes dramatically. Whereas before it was very much a cover-based shooter, this stop and pop strategy does not work when your enemies drop their guns and run at you to eat your brains instead. Because they attack in overwhelming numbers and are quite fast, the combat becomes more about frantic running and gunning.
There are also elements of the survival-horror genre since ammo is scarce and you can’t purchase more because none of the stores are open. This also means that you can’t buy campsite kits, which takes away your ability to save and fast travel on the fly. This is now done at your houses in the various towns but you must first clear the town of zombies before you can safely go to sleep. After a couple of in-game days, the towns will be under attack again.
The sidequests return in Undead Nightmare with various twists. Gang hideouts have been replaced by clearing out graveyards. Stranger missions are back, though most are no longer technically strangers because many are returning characters from the main game. Bounties are replaced by missing souls quests.
Even old random encounters have been given new twists. For example, I’m sure everyone who played the original for a few hours has seen the random encounter of a man kneeling and weeping beside his dead wife’s body, who then shoots himself in despair. Well that encounter is back except his wife now comes back to life as a zombie during his mourning and bites him in the neck, turning him into a zombie. Surprising and hilarious to see, especially if you played the original extensively and knew what was supposed to happen.
There are also new outfits, challenges and weapons such as the torch, holy water, undead bait and the devastating Blunderbuss. There are also zombie animals, which includes your horse. If it dies, it may come back as an undead steed that has upgraded stamina and health but has a nasty habit of suddenly veering off.
In addition to these are mythical creatures such as the Four Horses of the Apocalypse, which you’ve probably already seen in previews. These badass horses each have their own unique abilities ranging from making zombie heads explode to lighting them on fire.
Although you’re wandering around the same areas as the original game, things look different this time around. The color palette is a lot softer than in the original game. It’s always overcast or rainy during the daytime and there is a fog covering some of the land so everything looks bleaker. Because of this, you’ll never have those picturesque moments in the original game with you and your horse in front of the glowing orange sun peeking over the horizon.
Likewise, the music has been reworked to give it more of a horror feel. The sweeping soundtrack of the original is replaced with creepy, sparse piano notes and subtle strings for ambient music. There are even the occasional cheesy organ stabs from early horror movies to accentuate certain moments. Nice touch.
The voice work is also top notch, as you would expect from playing through the original RDR. However while the original was a pretty serious tale, Undead Nightmare never takes itself too seriously and often throws you in-jokes, humorous lines of dialogue and bizarre situations. While it’s a bit of a stretch to compare it to Shaun of the Dead or Dead Rising 2 levels of absurdity, the light humor is definitely a welcome touch.
Lastly, if that’s not enough for you, Undead Nightmare adds two new multiplayer modes. The first is a co-operative mode called Undead Overrun, a horde mode similar to Call of Duty‘s Nazi Zombies. The difference is that you and up to three other players have a large area of the map to explore rather than being confined to a single building while defending against endless waves of zombies and burning coffins to get time, weapon and ammo bonuses. The second new mode is called Land Grab, which actually has nothing to do with zombies, despite coming with the Undead Nightmare DLC. It is a competitive, King of the Hill type game. While fun, I would have enjoyed a multiplayer zombie free roam instead of the latter game mode but I can’t be picky when we’ve been given so much content already.
Overall, Undead Nightmare is an amazing download and is a showcase to other developers of how you’re supposed to do downloadable content. You get almost a full game’s worth of game time plus two new multiplayer modes. It puts an entirely new spin on the game, turning it into a completely different beast and best of all, it’s only $10 (800MSP). If you like Red Dead Redemption and zombies, you’d be crazy not to buy this.