Available on: PS3, X360
Developer(s): Rockstar San Diego, Rockstar North
Publisher(s): Rockstar Games
Whether you liked it or not - I can't say I understand why not - Red Dead Redemption was the most talked about game in 2010. What was left after the literally sad end of the game? The extensive multiplayer experience, of course. The possibilities of roaming the prairie online were some of Rockstar's main focuses when they made the game. It surely showed in downloadable content for the game. Multiplayer challenges, online co-op missions, new weapons and skins, the long-anticipated patch that enabled online minigames... but what about those people that never were quite into playing online? John Marston's story came to an abrupt but an immensely beautiful end, that doesn't really call for a direct sequel. And besides, even if there was a possibility for a sequel, its development would take years. Just in time for Halloween, those eager for more single-player content for Red Dead Redemption got their wish... in the form of a completely tongue-in-cheek sidestory about John Marston and his efforts to put an end to a zombie plague spreading all the way across the U.S. and Mexico. Red Dead Redemption meets survival horror? Hardly! Undead Nightmare is one damn funny, action-oriented add-on that pays homage to campy b-horror, and does it in a way only Rockstar Games can deliver.
Night of the Living Red Dead
Rob Wiethoff : John Marston
Josh Blaylock : John "Jack" Marston, Jr.
Sophia Marzocchi : Abigail Marston
Kimberly Irion : Bonnie MacFarlane
Anthony De Longis : Marshal Leigh Johnson
Don Creech : Nigel West Dickens
Joe Ochman : Professor Harold MacDougal
Kevin Glikmann : Seth Briars
Ross Hagen : Landon Ricketts
Jay O. Sanders : D.S. MacKenna
Just a while after disposing of his former partners in crime and reuniting with his family, devoted rancher John Marston finds himself in a bit of a situation. Overnight, a mysterious epidemic has fallen over the frontier and turned most citizens, even wild animals, of West Elizabeth and New Austin into whole hordes of flesh-eating zombies. Since Abigail and Jack have also been infected, John takes it upon himself to find the source of the disease and a cure for it - armed to the teeth, of course.
Serious gamers, beware. Red Dead Redemption was all about telling a dramatic story. It was a funny game, sure, but it was also extremely dramatic and famously featured missions that used to be very unbecoming of an action game. Undead Nightmare is the polar opposite of the main game. It's not even a part of the true story, it's more of a sidestory that seems to take place in a wholly alternate reality of John Marston's life. This action-packed six-hour journey will be filled with laughter, there's not one drop of serious drama in it. Some old friends drop by to say their hellos and share their views on the situation, usually just to die in some b-horror fashion. Everyone dies and John just doesn't care, as long as his family is safe - that's by far the only thing in common between Red Dead Redemption and Undead Nightmare.
However, lingering themes and taboos from Red Dead Redemption are cleverly used in Undead Nightmare as well. The term "zombie" or the whole concept of the undead walking the Earth didn't really become known before the 1930's. No one quite knows what to make of the epidemic, then, so the cards of racism and religion are played, among others. Many people believe that the epidemic's happening because there are so many immigrants in the United States, and deeply religious people believe that it's some sort of curse or divine punishment for people gradually turning their back on God. The truth? Well, you'll have to see for yourself. Overall, as far as the story is concerned, Undead Nightmare doesn't quite hit all the notes - they could've squeezed out a little more gray matter from this subject, but for now, I'm quite pleased just by having a crazy amount of blood and guts spilling to the left and right, nuns with shotguns, Seth at his craziest ("I've seen a lot of sick bastards in my time, but Seth - you're special") and all the mythical creatures John might encounter on his travels, including sasquatches (FINALLY!) and the Four Horses of the Apocalypse. My point is, as much as you try to analyze the story and its small nuances, in fact it's a totally, completely and moreover, shamelessly brainless monster mash all the way, graced with some incredible, usually pitch black humour deep in the vein of Red Dead Redemption.
|John Marston don't like them God damn zombies.|
Of course Undead Nightmare looks just like its source, for the most part. Like the graphical differences between Grand Theft Auto IV and its two expansion packs, the changes made are artificial, but noticeable and becoming of the theme. The general font used is straight out of any horror comedy film ever made, and the main colour scheme is switched from red to green, with a shade of yellow. The first thing that comes to my mind after having watched the undead nightmare unfold for five minutes, is something along the lines of "Tales from the Crypt: The Outlaw's Return". All we need is the Crypt Keeper.
The voiceovers are still the shite. There's close to no new characters, most of the cast was part of the original game in some minor or major capacity. If possible, the actors give some even better technical performances and the characters deliver a small host of even better punchlines than they did in any part of the game. It's missing some of the subtle dedication, but it's great nonetheless. Many pieces from the original soundtrack appear, but there are many new tracks by Elm and Jackson, including some ambient horror music and some tasty, jazzy jams to bring out the flesh (no pun intended) in the epic battles against dozens of poor, rotting bastards hungry for your brain. Unfortunately some of these jams have an annoying industrial vibe which doesn't fit the bill at all. In addition, there's one licensed song, "Bad Voodoo" by The Kreeps, which in turn fits the atmosphere of the game perfectly.
I'm sure many people will attack the expansion pack head-on and point out all the features that made Red Dead Redemption the game it is, and are gloriously missing from Undead Nightmare. Well, during the first playthrough, I felt disappointed as well. No minigames, no real connection to the main character apart from the one we already established in the game, no real exploration, just straightforward zombie massacre all the way, with a few cutscenes featuring familiar faces sending you on fancy sounding errands that have the ultimate goal of slaughtering some more zombies. Bounty hunting is replaced by finding missing persons all over the world, and even that's practically just about killing zombies. Then I figured, that first of all, Undead Nightmare is 9,95 in euros. It gives us the chance to kill hundreds of zombies as John Marston - we're getting somewhere already, right? Lastly, and this I figured out just today by browsing through my fabled game shelf, Undead Nightmare has more gameplay in it than 80% of even the best action games released in the last few years, as generic and straightforward as it might be in comparison to the main game. Think about it: a casual playthrough of Metal Gear Solid 4, minus all the cinematics, takes about five hours. A casual playthrough of Undead Nightmare, minus the time it takes to conquer the whole new Ambient Challenges, takes about six. Just suck it and pay that lousy tenner, would ya partner?
|The zombies like to get up, close and personal, |
so close-encounter executions are quite common
in Undead Nightmare.
There are no stores in the game; for obvious reasons, I think. New weapons, consumable items, including ammo, and special items are rewarded to you by killing zombies, saving whole towns and settlements from the undead menace, reacting to random world events, finding missing persons, doing the few survivor missions available, and looting everything and everyone in sight. Every time you enter a previously unvisited town or settlement, you will have to clean it out of zombies completely before you're able to save your game there, or do a survivor mission, if there's one available. The towns will become overrun by zombies again over time, but luckily it's a long period of time we're talking about. If shooting's not really your thing, you can also advance town safety by donating your ammo to the survivors you are there to aid.
Graveyards also need cleansing by the purifying fire and some relaxing shotgun madness against the zombies who don't want to crawl back into their holes. All this is really cool at first, but it's pretty repetitive. It's best to save a few towns and then just finish the storyline. Yep, in this expansion you can't miss anything and you can tie up all loose ends after the storyline's ended. Survivor missions are marked on your map as soon as they are available, and if you don't go doing something stupid, like blasting a Horse of the Apocalypse into oblivion instead of lassoing and breaking it, you simply can't botch your chances to nail 100% of the DLC.
The controls are not quite as smooth as in the original game. There are some new gameplay mechanics and control dynamics that are optimized for attacking large groups of enemies at once. In turn, John moves a little slow and stiff, and climbing ledges is pure hell at worst. The new weapons are cool, though. There's a good ol' classic blunderbuss shotgun, that uses zombie limbs and organs for ammo. There are also a couple of new melee and explosive weapons, as well as special coating for bullets.
As tradition goes for DLC for Red Dead Redemption, Undead Nightmare is full of multiplayer goodies in addition to the single-player campaign. There's an array of new characters, multiplayer modes, and a good deal of the stuff introduced in single player.
It's Michael Jackson's "Thriller" vs. Tales from the Crypt vs. George A. Romero vs. the wild frontier of the Old West. Overall, Undead Nightmare is a mandatory purchase for each of those people who enjoyed Red Dead Redemption. Don't expect anything but some relentlessly bloody head-exploding goodness, and a truckload of b-horror slapstick of pure Rockstar quality, and you should be fine.
Graphics : 9.8
Sound : 9.3
Playability : 8.8
Challenge : 8.2
Overall : 8.7
GameRankings: 89.22% (PS3), 89.74% (X360)
The retail version of Undead Nightmare comes complete with all previous downloadable content for Red Dead Redemption.
The names of most of the new multiplayer characters are usually puns or combinations of important - or otherwise famous - figures of the horror genre: Poe Boll (Edgar Allan Poe/Uwe Boll), Viper Craven (Wes Craven), Ishmael Raimi (Sam Raimi), Paco Romero (George A. Romero), Sarah Reese and Magic Jackson. Sarah Reese may be a reference to horror author Sarah Reese Brennan, or the main characters of The Terminator - Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese. Magic Jackson is possibly a reference to the late Michael Jackson, whose classic music video for "Thriller" was a tribute to b-horror in itself.
There are a lot of "plotholes" that have been pointed out by fans such as the whole ordeal with the zombified Uncle, and John's encounters with Nastas and the female bank clerk, who were supposed to have died long before the events of Undead Nightmare. Although it hasn't been confirmed, it's safe to assume that Undead Nightmare is a sidestory with no rational ties to the game whatsoever.
The game always starts on Friday, and time flows very fast and without logic. Friday is a reference to superstitious beliefs surrounding Friday the 13th, and the awkward flow of time may be a reference to one of the strongest recurring themes in The Twilight Zone.