Ah, I’m so glad the Game of the Year edition merges with my old RDR save files. I was apprehensive at first when I got GotY because I thought I’d have to start all over again. Thankfully, PS3 and Rockstar have been wise enough to foresee the situation.
I had no idea about the awesome additions you get when you have Game of the Year! When I whistled for my horse I was surprised to see that it wasn’t my usual Kentucky Saddler, but a super black one instead. I thought, “Could this be the War Horse I’ve been hearing about?” I thought you could only get it if you had low honor. Oops, that’s the Dark Horse.
Hehe, funny story on me learning about these new DLCs that come with the game:
buys Explosive Rifle after seeing a new challenge appear
stranger’s horse is stolen and asks for my help
I chase after the thief
forgetting that the Explosive Rifle is selected, I shoot at the thief and he and the horse both explode. You failed to stop the crime. The horse has died.
Ooooohhh, so that’s why they call it an Explosive Rifle! Whoops.
We love zombies in our films, in our music, on our TVs and certainly in our games. Yet with all this Zombie saturation, you could be forgiven for feeling a little bored with animated, brain-eating corpses. Enter Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare, the largest expansion for this summer’s acclaimed Western adventure that switches out the cut-throat bandits of the Old-American West for a horde of shambling corpses. It’s both a fresh take on zombie themed games, and the slightly more straight-laced atmosphere of the initial Red Dead Redemption experience. The result is a slightly difference approach to the Red Dead Redemption formulae that, while not elevating it above the drawbacks of the base game, is enough to provide fans with a solid experience that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Set shortly after the completion of Red Dead Redemption, and out of the official narrative arc, players will once again don the boots of John Marston. Late one evening on a suitably stormy night, the dead rise and Marston’s family are infected. After hogtying them up, leaving them a plate of raw meat and barring the door behind him Marston sets out to find the cause of the undead invasion and once again save his family. The expansion doesn’t have the narrative kick of the original game, choosing instead to switch out the thoughtful and introspective conversations for some truly funny scenarios involving the past cast and the new zombie threat. While the original game was occasionally funny, this expansion takes this element and truly capitalises on it, making one of the biggest reasons for continuing with the story missions the chance to see the bemused denizens of West react to the undead invasion.
Undead Nightmare comes across as a very successful mating of the Western and Horror genres.
Most of the game, as you might expect, revolves around combat with the brain-hungry undead. Zombies are weak on their own, but dangerous in numbers, and the only way to put them down for good is with a well-placed headshot. Combat is the main way in which the expansion offers a substantially different experience to the core game. Zombies don’t use guns, and as such manoeuvring about cover is useless. Instead you’ll often be gunning though hordes in order to take refuge on higher ground. Combat feels less methodical, and as monsters begin to overwhelm you may well find yourself getting panicky and wasting precious shots shooting zombies in the leg just to buy yourself a moment to aim straight. The necessity of shooting the undead square in the head, coupled with a relative scarcity of ammunition means the game takes on a slightly more survival horror style of play. In the midst of the apocalypse there’s naturally nobody around to sell you more bullets, so guns can only be reloaded using the few bullets found on downed corpses, or the scarce chest of ammunition you might stumble across.
In addition to the main mission line, each of the towns and settlements in the game will require your help against the marauding undead. Clearing the undead from the towns will give you a bed you can use to fast-travel to other liberated towns from. However, helping these towns out will often require a sacrifice in ammunition, creating a system of choice. Do you burn through some of your ammo stash to create a safe-zone, or simply ride past the burning barns and groaning corpses on route to the next story mission? In addition to liberation of individual towns, there are missing person quests, graveyards to purge and more ‘stranger missions’ with some new, characters and scenarios which are just as engaging as those in the base game.
Yet all of these are mere distractions from the main missions, and very few of them involve anything new from a gameplay standpoint. While combating the undead is a new experience to the cover-based shooting of stand-alone Red Dead Redemption, everything in Undead Nightmare ultimately bottles down to the repeated decapitation of the undead and this can wear thin after just a few hours of play. There are three special zombies which are slightly more irksome than their regular friends. One which runs at you on all fours, overweight ones which can charge you down, and one which can fire projectile, acrid spit at you. On their own these class of undead scarcely present a challenge, but mixed in with a larger horde, they quickly become the most dangerous foes in the pack.
You do, of course, have to shoot them in the head.
The expansion offers a handful of new guns, mounts and outfits – the best inclusion being the blunderbuss, a shotgun fed using zombie ribs and eyeballs that turns multiple undead into a putrid puff of blood. Powerful new mounts are available for those with the patience or luck to track them down as well. The four horses of the apocalypse – War, Famine, Pestilence and Death, as well as a Unicorn – can all be found in the wild, tamed, and used as fast quicker ways of crossing the landscape, each with different effects. It is this absurd, anachronistic feel of zombies and mythical creatures in the old West is what makes this expansion most enjoyable. The atmosphere of a traditional western is still thick, which much of the old music returning, but it’s laced with some extra touches which give the game the fresh feel of a horror. New, spooky music, plays during night-time encounters with the dead, and the expansions features at least one, excellently chosen licensed track that fits the western/horror mood of the game absolutely perfectly.
Bottom Line: Undead Nightmare provides a fantastically atmospheric and well written addition to what has been many people’s favourite game of the year. The new, survival-horror tinged combat is enough of a difference from the cover-based styling of the main game to ensure that the expansion plays out differently, despite its occasionally repetitive nature. If you enjoyed immersing yourself in the environments of Red Dead Redemption, enjoyed the characters, the ambient challenges, and didn’t terribly mind the basic combat mechanics, then Undead Nightmare will be the perfect expansion. It’s different enough to the main game to warrant its own existence, taking the overall feel of the main game in a weird new direction. If you didn’t find the core game to be your thing, then you still might find the more manageable size of Undead Nightmare to be more accessible, and at an excellent price-point (800 points for just under ten hours of play-time) this might just be the best piece of downloadable content to have been released all year.
When I play Red Dead Redemption, I don’t do what I would personally do: I do what I think John would do, because his character is so rich and engaging that I feel like I have to live his life responsibly out of respect.
I was going to be dishonourable and wicked on this second playthrough, but I just can’t. It’s not what John would want.
Anyway, he just got totalled by a mountain lion and it was hilarious. That fucker came outta nowhere.
Ditto. I couldn’t even bring myself to go for the “Friends in High Places” and “Heading South on a White Bronco” trophies until I was playing as Jack (even then I didn’t save what I’d done).
okay, so i may be a little late playing this but who cares? not i. before i start this is going to be biased, so if you don’t want to hear me gush my little fangirl heart out then don’t read.
i was sceptical as i started the game, john marston an ‘ex’ gang member that used to ride the old west robbing and murdering and doing all of it for the good of humanity etc. you pretty much know the drill before you’re told any of it because last time i checked, in popular culture at least, that’s all the midwest/westwest was good for pre world war one. it’s old world vs. new world, and no world is free of an ambivalence to morality.
the big, mean and untrustworthy government has your wife and child and they won’t let you see them till you track down your old ‘riding’ friends will and dutch. you do this they’ll let you have a normal life, a clean slate and a chance to start anew. hmm. when you go and confront will, really for his own good, well, he shoots you. and so the tale begins.
it took me a long time to adjust to this game, the third person threw me off as normally i only play first. in fact it really annoyed me that i couldn’t pick which perspective *i* wanted. another thing i found nigglesome was the iron sight. at times the small white dot was practically invisible and i had no clue where i was shooting or what at.
but but but, as i previously mentioned i was going to gush like a fangirl. and gush i shall. the story, be it obvious, was extremely well written and acted. the dialogues were long but i found them to be necessary and by the end i found myself waiting for the next cut scene. once my brother walked in and said ‘i didn’t know true grit was on’.
another aspect was the length of the whole thing, no wonder it took rockstar so long to get this specimen onto the shelves. by the time my john had landed on the side of the mexican border i was preparing myself for a small gunfight and then a short ending. mexico was (for me at least) the most time consuming of the three locations but it was where i found myself captivated by the plot 100%.
the side missions were brilliant, the highlight being ‘i know you’. each time i arrived at the new location of the moment i looked out for that purple question mark so that creepy man with his too fancy for words top-hat could torment me. ‘who is he?!’ i shrieked.
the ending was predicable but i still didn’t want it to happen, i grew too close to john. even before the end, as he was reunited with abi and jack i felt like it wasn’t worth it. jack annoyed me for some reason and my mum looked on at me perplexed as i shouted at the tv what a disappointment he was. abi herself was okay but i still found myself preferring bonnie, but hey, rules are rules. and vows are rules.
i was however pleasantly surprised (at least until the barn … incident) that the game didn’t just end after dutch was savaged by rocks (a beautiful speech before his demise made it one of the best deaths in the game). i enjoyed living my little ranch life which made the ending more poignant, i suppose what rockstar wanted. those life ruiners.
the epilogue was a nice touch though i felt no connection to jack. stupid jack.
in the end, i loved it. it doesn’t matter how annoying it was when you had to escort someone with a carriage, or a train. when pumas or cougars or whatever they were tore your horse up from under you. when people stole your horse. those fucking gatling machine guns! at the end of the day this giant sandbox provided me with all the things i need in a game. i got well into it and i’m not even ashamed to say it. they worked hard on this game and it shows.