Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare Review
Rockstar is not known for taking DLC lightly, but Undead Nightmare is undeniably the crowning achievement in their growing list of high quality supplementary content. Unlike the rest of the Red Dead Redemption DLC, Undead Nightmare is a standalone offering, separate from the original campaign. That's because Undead Nightmare doesn't just add a colossal dose of new content, but also irreversibly tweaks the entire game world and story.
The plot begins with John Marston returning home to a normal evening with wife and son. That night, their sleep is disturbed by a zombie attack, and once Marston's family is infected, he goes out in search of a cure, or at the very least an explanation. The game dips simultaneously into humor and horror, but never goes so far as to destroy the atmosphere for a cheap joke. The game still takes time to introduce random survivors and tell their story through well-written, movie-quality cutscenes.
Once Marston leaves the former safety of his ranch, he will find a much different world than the one he shot up just a few months ago. Zombies have overrun every location on the map, and they come in a variety of flavors a la Left 4 Dead. Basic undead are not much to worry about, but they can easily take down Marston in groups. Red Dead Redemption was primarily played from a distance, meaning Marston sniped and shot his way to victory in most cases. Undead Nightmare focuses mainly on up-close combat, and Marston isn't exactly Raiden from MGS4; in fact, this shift brings out a lot of the flaws in the core gameplay mechanics, such as how sluggish Marston's movement can be when doing pretty much anything.
In addition to standard zombies, Bruisers (aka Tanks) are hulking undead behemoths that will charge into you, stunning you and rendering you vulnerable to follow-up attacks from the horde; Bolters crawl on all four but are extremely quick, moving in a zig-zag pattern as they rapidly close in on you; and Retchers (Spitters) snipe from afar with acidic goo. They actually have surprising range and can be a serious detriment to your health if you're trying to do something while also fending off other zombies.
But those aren't the only things that go bump in the night. A few mythical creatures can also be found, such as the wolf-like chupacabra and even Sasquatch itself, finally realizing the rumor of Bigfoot appearing in a Rockstar game. To combat these threats, Marston will have access to all of the original game's weapons, as well as a few new ones. The torch is a melee weapon that can light zombies on fire, burning them to death shortly thereafter, or you could give your bullets a phosphorous coating for a temporary flammable boost that ignites all targets and undoes the usual need to get a headshot. Undead bait is like Boomer Bile, causing zombies to run to it and acting as a distraction when needed, while boom bait does the same thing but with a dynamite stick stuffed in it for a delayed zombie surprise. Rounding out the new arsenal is holy water that explodes and burns all zombies caught in its radius, and finally the blunderbuss, a shotgun that uses body parts found on corpses in place of normal ammo--an increasingly rare commodity in the Undead West.
As Marston makes his way towards Mexico in an attempt to solve the mystery, he will come across familiar locales in need of his assistance. By clearing out the zombies, he'll save towns and be able to change his outfit/save your game/fast travel between safehouses. Unfortunately, after three days of in-game time, those towns will come under zombie attack and if Marston doesn't return to aide them, they will become overrun again. If they're not assisted after that, survivors will start permanently dying. Once all the survivors have been killed, clearing out towns will become much more difficult. Saving towns also grants a weapon that Marston doesn't have yet, so it behooves him to lend a helping hand when possible.
Since travel is mostly done by way of horse in Undead Nightmare, Rockstar has added five unique steeds to be found and broken in. The Four Horses of the Apocalypse each have special abilities, such as War's ability to burn any zombies it runs over, and Death makes all trampled zombies' heads explode. All undead horses have unlimited stamina, but for the ultimate in ridiculous mounts, an ultra rare unicorn is waiting somewhere to be conquered. Marston will need the extra stats granted by these special equines as humans aren't the only things that have been zombified; the unbeaten path is riddled with cadaverous cougars and other angry wildlife that are sometimes more dangerous than the actual zombies.
Undead Nightmare may sound gimmicky at first, but it quickly becomes clear that Rockstar spared no expense creating what is arguably one of the best DLCs of all time. It's not just the sheer amount of content that's included, but also the method in which said content drastically renovates the Red Dead experience in an exciting and meaningful way.
[Reviewed on Xbox 360]