Zombies; you’ve gotta love ‘em, but the last few years have seen a relentless assault of zombie related content across media that has all but left the genre dry. Still, the zombie apocalypse isn’t over yet, with Rockstar having their first jab at undead shenanigans, rather ambitiously throwing the undead back a 100 years to a time when folk lead a much simpler, zombie free life – you’ve gotta be interested in playing this out of curiosity alone, right?
How everything has changed. The once hustling and bustling towns that littered both America and Mexico have been replaced by almost empty ghost towns ruled by the dead. The few survivors you run into are paranoid, scared and confused, and trust is something that is no longer earned, but something that doesn’t exist at all.
The latest DLC for Red Dead see’s the return of Marston as our hero once again, as he makes it his personal mission to find a cure for the illness when his beloved wife and son get infected. Along the way John re-acquaints himself with many characters that you will be familiar with from the main game, but to fully enjoy these encounters it’s recommended that you finish Red Dead before playing Undead Nightmare. While zombies may sound like sinister grounds for John and Co., the game is far from a serious zombie killing spree. Its tongue is firmly in its cheek with the game having a distinct whiff of a B-movie horror flick, complete with funny one liners and a general over-the-top attitude, it never strays too far into the realm of a serious undead hunt.
While you will be familiar with the art of spraying bullets all over the place, this is an impossibility in Undead Nightmare. A lack of ammo means you’re constantly planning out future attacks and movements – going head first into battle is not an option, and melee attacks have never been so important before. Using new weapons such as the torch is a must; setting fire to attacking zombies is both fun and a useful technique for ammo conservation. Dead Eye is even more useful too, as the only way to fully take out a zombie is by the classic blow to the head, so slowing down reality to get the perfect aim will soon become a familiar event. You will also notice your Dead Eye gauge will go down at a slower rate, allowing you to get more crafty head shots in before the carnage continues. All in all Red Dead Redemption hasn’t just been expanded, its dynamics have been altered giving the game a complete change of pace.
Combat is essentially the same as before, but fighting the undead is very different to an encounter with a gun-toting cowboy. A single normal zombie possesses next to no threat to Marston- they may be speedy but with no weapons other than to get close and chew, they’re an easy kill. This changes when faced with a group of flesh eaters; with little ammo, becoming overwhelmed by the undead is an often all too familiar occurrence, and you may find yourself running off rather than fighting just to stay alive.
It’s not just standard zombies that pose a threat either, variations occasionally show their face, such as acid spitting and fast zombies. As well as human based zombies, the plague hasn’t been discriminative, with animals also infected, from horses and goats, to more dangerous critters such as bears and wolves that will launch an attack if you stray too close. If that wasn’t enough, Rockstar have thrown in a few mythical creatures to spice things up, predominantly the four horses of the apocalypse, who can all be tamed and used for your own benefit. They each possess different abilities that can affect play, such as War who sets nearby enemies alight. These are just some of the oddities you’ll wander into in Undead Nightmare, but it’s much more fun to discover these wonderful moments yourself rather than be told about them beforehand.
Undead Nightmare doesn’t feel like an expansion pack at all, but rather a full game in itself. It’s packed with around five hours of single player action alone, and that’s without fully exploring the world map and completing the many side missions available. Missions have been varied to cater for the inclusion of the dead, with Marston looking for lost people, clearing towns and graveyards and various other objectives that take him across the map in his quest to cure the illness.
Towns are only safe for a while, and they will need to be spring cleaned of the undead now and again to make them semi-inhabitable again. Clearing towns will require you to talk to survivors as they do battle with the horde, passing them ammo for various weapons as you do your best to subdue as many zombies as you can.
The game isn’t just a single player venture though; multiplayer has been expanded to cater for online zombie mayhem. A new mode, entitled Undead Overrun, pits up to four players against a constant stream of zombies, testing your skills as a team while trying to survive for the longest time possible. Taking on the horde alone often results in a short lived zombie killing career, and cooperation is key for survival as teammates can revive fallen comrades. It’s a welcome addition to Redemption’s already impressive multiplayer offerings.
There are no downsides as such, and it really comes down to nitpicking at little things to try and balance things out. Take for example the lack of camping up and fast travelling to waypoints. You can fast travel from town to town, but only to towns that you’ve cleared out and that are still safe. Presumably this is because you probably wouldn’t wake up in the morning, but it’s still tedious work traipsing across America on a horse. That being said, the arrival of undead horses is a godsend; they’re super fast and never lose stamina. They tend to be a bit…unresponsive at times, sending you this way and that, but it’s a small price to pay when escaping an extra aggressive horde and when your next objective lies off in the distance.
All in all Rockstar have raised the bar for game expansions. This may seem like a list of things that I absolutely love about Undead Nightmare, but that’s only because there isn’t much at all to say that is negative. It’s a brilliantly well-crafted masterpiece, and one that should be played by zombie fans, Red Dead lovers and gamers in general. It’s highly humorous, action packed and brilliantly paced, and for 800 Microsoft Points, saying it’s value for money is an understatement. To put it simply Undead Nightmare has breathed life into a genre that has been flogged so much it was starting to become stale. Nigh on perfect.
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