Review: Red Dead Redemption – Undead Nightmare DLC
I don’t often (or ever) purchase DLC. But, when I first heard about Undead Nightmare DLC for one of my favorite games of the year, Red Dead Redemption, I knew I’d purchase it. But should you?
Short answer: Absolutely.
Long answer: if you enjoyed Red Dead Redemption, and are looking for a Halloween-y themed game with terrific graphics, a great story, and some of the funniest dialog this side of GLaDOS, then you should run to your PS3, go to PlayStation Store and download this game right now. It is completely and utterly worth it.
After you download and install Undead Nightmare, you’re greeted with probably one of the greatest opening cutscenes in history. I laughed out loud a couple of times. Undead Nightmare plays itself off as a B-movie parody, and it’s pitch perfect. The laughter continues during Marshall Johnson’s mission, when a cutscene has John Marston return to Armadillo, and have a conversation with Armadillo’s resident homophobic, antisemitic racist bigot, Herbert Moon. After Moon launches into a tirade about how “Jewish British Catholic homosexuals” are responsible for the zombies infesting RDR’s world, he then walks away, and is almost immediately attacked by three zombies is by far the funniest part of the game.
However, the missions are repetitive, and at the beginning of the game, it’s not clear that you should aim for the head. In the first combat sequence, I shot the zombie about sixteen times in the chest with a shotgun, yet it still kept getting up. It was only after I was about to shoot at the chest again, like the idiot I am, before something clicked and said “hey, why not a head shot?” Lo and behold, it worked. After that, I was sent roaming around New Austin and West Elizabeth (Mexico isn’t open from the beginning).
There’s a ton of new minigames to do, my favorite is retaking towns which have been overrun by the undead. You look for survivors on rooftops, climb up there with them, and begin sniping the undead with pretty much every weapon you have. You can also go into one of several graveyards in the game and “cleanse” them, by burning unburied coffins whilst zombies begin crawling out of their graves. At the end of these missions, bosses will climb out of their graves and attack you. These bosses are usually characters from the original game that Marston killed. Cleansing is a very challenging minigame, as you’re trying to balance Marston’s personal safety with destroying coffins while trying to kill a graveyard filled with zombies. There’s also “Missing Persons”, replacing Bounties from the original RDR. They work the same way Bounties did; you ride out to the area where the person is, except instead of taking down a horde of gang members, you have to take down a horde of zombies surrounding the person.
Another feature is multiple Bigfoots (Bigfeet?) roaming the forested region of the map, Tall Trees. Six of them roam, but you have to kill them for a Stranger Sidequest, “The Birth of the Conservation Movement”. Once you kill one of them, you’re rewarded with the Trophy “Six Years in the Making”, a clear reference to the unconfirmed Bigfoot sightings in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, which was released in 2004. Bigfoot isn’t the only mythical creature appearing in Undead Nightmare.
The Biblical Four Horses of the Apocalypse, Death, Pestilence, Famine and War, appear as mounts for the player to tame and use, each with their own special undead-fighting ability. Also appearing is the Chupacabra (sort of the Bigfoot of Mexico in real life) and a unicorn. Yes, a unicorn appears as a mount in this game. It’s next to impossible to find, but it’s there.
There’s a few new weapons; phosphorus bullets, bullets that light the undead menace on fire and provide for one-hit kills, the blunderbuss, a huge rifle-shotgun hybrid that obliterates zombies into a red puddle, and is great to use in close quarters, Holy Water, which lights zombies ablaze in blue fire, zombie bait, similar to animal bait from the original RDR, zombie bait is a concoction mixed by Nigel West Dickens which attracts zombies to a single location, providing for easy shooting as they’re all crowded around the bait, boom bait, which uses a bottle of zombie bait with a stick of dynamite inserted in the neck, for zombie-blasting fun, and the torch, which replaces the hunting knife from RDR. It’s not the most affective weapon, but useful as a melee weapon with a one-on-one fight with a zombie, as well as for cleansing graveyards.
Several zombified animals have also made their way onto the map. Zombie bears roam Tall Trees, zombie cougars are everywhere, zombie wolves roam in packs of terror around New Austin, zombie coyotes in Mexico, zombie boars are around the MacFarlane Ranch and other areas of Hennigan’s Stead, zombie dogs are found in overrun towns and zombie bulls are seen grazing trailside. All of these creatures are dangerous, and all of them are 20 times harder to hill now that only headshots kill them.
Undead Nightmare seems to borrow several zombies from another famous zombie shooter, Left 4 Dead. Bruisers, Bolters and Retchers are basically Wild West versions of Chargers, Hunters (sort of) and Spitters from L4D. They aren’t that hard to dispatch, as they’re susceptible to headshots just like the rest, but they will cause much more damage than the regular undead.
The DLC is not without it’s faults. There’s the occasional framerate drop that plagued the original RDR, and twice during cutscenes, all the character models became clunky and cartoony, as if they had just walked out of a PlayStation 1 game with terrible graphics, even by PSOne standards. The game corrected those glitches both times after only a few seconds, however, and didn’t affect the game very much. The zombie horses also are much more difficult to control than regular horses, but this publicized during the promotion of Undead Nightmare.
There’s also two new multiplayer modes, “Undead Overrun” and “Land Grab”. I haven’t spent any time with Undead Nightmare online, but I haven’t tried either of them yet. Apparently, “Undead Overrun” is a mode where you and a few buddies face off never ending waves of the undead, and “Land Grab” isn’t even zombie related, but has a group of players fight for control of locations in the major towns on the map, facing an onslaught of not-undead enemies.
Undead Nightmare is short, fun, addicting, and a great excuse to get back into RDR. Overall, I give the Undead Nightmare DLC a 95 out of 100. Pick it up off PSN for $9.99 ($7.99 for PlayStation Plus subscribers) or combined with the other DLC packs (Liars & Cheats, Legends & Killers and Outlaws to the End) for $19.99. It will also be released on a disc on November 23, costing around $30.
This review is based on a retail copy of the PS3 version of Red Dead Redemption provided by Rockstar Games.