And the Dead Shall Rise
Oh, zombies, we have an unusual relationship. I have seen you slow, limbless, crawling, running, pulsing with ooze, roided out with tongue wagging, and even as Nazis. I thought you had shown me all of your best tricks, but this is not true; you saved one for under the frontier moon. I am, of course, talking about the recent Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare DLC. Oh, what surprises you had in store for me, wrapping one of my beloved games in a hellish nightmare, just to see how long it would be before I saw the new things I could bring to the warfare.
Sorry about the poetry; Vincent Price apparently took over my keyboard for a moment. If are like me, then you are one of many who enjoy playing games around Halloween that can scare the hell out of you. Thankfully, this year we have something a little different. Rockstar Games has taken one of the biggest titles this year and added a surprising, if not unusual, element. Zombies! I know what you may be thinking: how does this work out considering the end of Red Dead Redemption, or,even better, how does this work considering the time frame of the epic western? Let me explain.
It’s never made completely clear where the storyline takes place in conjunction with the original story. Suffice to say, your imagination will help fill in the blanks, especially if you have not completed the original single player experience. You play as John Marston, the rough around the edges “hero” of the original story. In a matter of minutes, you find out John is a family man, and is willing to do what must be done to keep his loved ones safe. Unfortunately, his luck runs out when – BAM! – a blood-soaked and snarling family friend bites his wife. Things look bad enough already, but then she turns and bites their son. The mother and son both stand blood-soaked and snarling, ready to take a plug out of John. John does the only thing any self-respecting family man would do; he ties them up. To further show he cares, he puts raw meat on a plate for each of them before he sets out to try to find a cure. Along the way, you run into familiar faces, all of whom have a different take on the Zombie Apocalypse. However, I would not expect every reunion to end happy. This is no longer the Wild West, it is now the Horror West.
Even though the mode is different, this is still the same game people fell in love with earlier this year, except with ZOMBIES! Nearly everything has been tweaked to support the zombie aspect of the DLC. For example, now instead of setting out to find outlaws to collect the bounty on their heads, you will use the same mechanics of seeking out missing people. Another example is the change to the Gang Hideouts from the original. Now you have to clear out the Graveyards across the land. You even have to clear out the towns for small respite periods to search the towns for survivors, rest, or anything else that may need to be done. Nevertheless, be warned the town’s safety only lasts for a period of time. Soon it will be under attack again, and you must put the dead where they belong once more to bring safety to the towns.
Of course, how repetitive would it be if you just handled zombies the old traditional way of shooting them in the head? Ok, you’re right, it would still be fun, and this is still a very prominent way to defeat the zombies. However, there are a few new things, the torch being my personal favorite. A powerful melee weapon, the torch acts as your first surefire way to dispose of the undead without disposing of all of your ammo. Albeit slow, and a small issue with its connectivity, the torch adds to the already ambient smell of the west, now with burnt zombie flesh. There’s also holy water, burning zombies with a splash of the church’s cologne. Using regular water on the living in the west had the same effect. You also have “Zombie Bait” (works exactly as you assume), and then you have one of the most interesting weapons â€“ the Blunderbuss. What makes the Blunderbuss interesting is you can use parts you have removed from the zombie’s “dead” corpse as ammunition. This will help you conserve on ammunition, but I have to say I have never seen or even really thought about the possibility of using zombie parts in a gun to help with the Zombie Apocalypse. Therefore, bravo, Rockstar, bravo!
In addition to the new weapons, there are a few other epic additions. Have you ever wanted to ride the Horse of War or the pale horse of Death? It only seems to make sense, with the Zombie Apocalypse, that the Four Horses of the Apocalypse would show up. Except they are not mounted by their horsemen, which leaves John access to these mythical steeds. Each horse has their own attributes as well. Famine has infinite stamina; Pestilence is near invincible; War sets zombies ablaze just by passing by them; and Death causes the heads of the undead to explode as you ride past. These mythical creatures are not the only ones you will come across. There are a few “hunting” missions you can do; I won’t ruin all of them, but I will share with you the one that is both amazing and a lot of fun to do â€“ Bigfoot. Yes, Bigfoot was around during the Western Zombie Apocalypse. Most might say this addition nullifies the zombie tale, and to those I say they need to rethink the validity of the zombie tale to begin with. Oh, and it’s freaking Bigfoot!
Not wanting to leave out the online community of Red Dead Redemption, Rockstar has added a couple of new modes. The first, directly related to the Undead Nightmare DLC, is Undead Overrun. You and three other friends will face wave after wave of zombies with one goal â€“ survive. This is fun and reminded me a lot of the past successful variation on “Horde mode” made popular in the Gears of War series, and copied by nearly everyone since. Undead Overrun works well and is a lot of fun; it will especially appeal to those who are fans of Left 4 Dead who need a newer fix of zombie killing fun. Then there’s Land Grab, which works in the free roam multiplayer mode. The basis of this mode is just how it sounds. You have to find and maintain land to claim it; like that crappy Far and Away movie, except with more killing.
While the new content adds a certain amount of freshness to the game, much like the original game mode, the music and voice acting stand out. The score primarily is still as rewarding and melodic. The only difference is the eerie overtone added to mix in the horror element, and this is accomplished rather nicely. The voice actors of the original all return as well. I felt the original had fantastic one-liners displaying the simple-minded “ignorance” of John at times. These moments are full force in the DLC as well. One of my personal favorites uttered by John in complete seriousness, “It ain’t right to drink your loved one’s bloodâ€¦” These lines remind me of old B-rated horror films that take themselves seriously. Here they work on both the serious level and laugh-out-loud levels. This is due to the same level of professional voice acting as was displayed with the original story mode. The same can be said about the visuals. With the same level of detail and attention, Undead Nightmare captures the beauty of the west, except with ZOMBIES!
It can be said the repetitive nature of the gameplay, the same environment, even the same melodic music, all give credence to the questionable purchase of the DLC. However, I think it is well worth the price tag. Offering a new element to Red Dead Redemption, one of this year’s best titles, Undead Nightmare refreshes everyone’s mind on the title right during award season. Plus, did I mention there are ZOMBIES and BIGFOOT?! In a time when every DLC seems to scream online multiplayer, it is refreshing to see the importance of the single-player experience is not forgotten.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.8 Graphics
The same great visuals, with ZOMBIES! 4.5 Control
Controls are mostly the same, with ZOMBIES! However, there is an occasional issue with connectivity of certain weapons. 4.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Voice acting is once more a highlight as are the now eerie melodies of the score, with ZOMBIES! 4.7 Play Value
While the single player’s initial outing may not be as long as I would have liked, it does offer a great zombie inspired western tale just in time for Halloween. 4.7 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.