Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare – Audio Review
Impressions from the game:
In addition to the news of Batman rising, there have been some recent reports of the undead clambering out of their graves to feast on the flesh of the living. Luckily, such news also means the return of that homicidal, yet lovable patriarch: John Marston. The new Undead Nightmare DLC for Read Dead Redemption has arrived and is just in time for Halloween. The premise, cowboys versus zombies, which might sound like nerd catnip, but does Nightmare stand up to the lofty dreams we might have of such a showdown?
First and foremost, fans of the original game won’t be disappointed. The world of Red Dead Redemption is still amazing, even when corrupted by an undead plague. From the streets of Blackwater to the cliffs of Torquemada, the game offers an amazing level of immersion. Rockstar is able to shift from a creepy mood to a funny conversation, then to a sad moment without dropping a beat. Nothing feels like a scripted event. The weather and environment reflect the tone. You can basically get lost in how it feels to be in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. The game still plays like John is a small hero trapped in a much bigger world.
The dialog and story-telling hasn’t suffered from the transition either. Some characters from the story of Red Dead Redemption return, bringing new charm to people you might be tired of seeing. Unlike their roles in RDR’s narrative, your compatriots do not serve as the introduction to “yet another fetch quest” (The DLC even goes so far as to poke fun at the lengthy and arduous relationship John was forced to have with Mr. West Dickens). People speak and interact with you, as John, instead of just advancing the plot. Players may find themselves ignoring the side quests and challenges in order to see the next cutscene. Given that games like Metal Gear Solid 4 exist, that may be the best compliment one can offer Undead Nightmare.
Conversely, the worst thing that can be said about Undead Nightmare is that it is still very much Red Dead Redemption. While such a pedigree may boast the emotional and enjoyable elements other games lack, clunky controls, resorting to gimmicks to carry gameplay, and dreadful repetition do nothing but hold Rockstar back. Too much of the DLC is repetition. For every interesting and original moment, you will find yourself liberating yet another town from the zombie horde. The process can be sped along by parting with precious ammo, but it would have been nice to see different objectives in some of the towns. The less emphasis put on trying to escape a crowd of maniacs in an obstacle-littered town, the better. While the zombie enemies are wonderful (if not derivative), the true villain is still John Marston’s inexplicable need to act like the Tin Man. Most of my deaths came from not being able to get in doors, up ladders, onto roofs and generally away from the zombies chasing me. One memorable instance came about in the cluttered Cochinay: John was run down by a pack of undead because he got stuck on a chair. Seasoned players of Red Dead will be able to handle the increased difficulty despite these problems, but players new to the game may find Undead Nightmare quite annoying at times.
The Undead Nightmare DLC is solid. The single-player story is fun and for a zombie game, surprisingly different. The multiplayer content is a great addition for those craving more after being done with the story. While there is room for improvement, the quality and quantity trump the detractions. It’s rare that you will see this sort of an offering for the paltry sum of ten dollars. With a seven to eight hour play-time for the single-player and hours more in the multiplayer, I could see another developer selling this for $60 as a disc-release (Rockstar is offering a disc-release of Undead Nightmare, for $30 as a stand-alone disc with all of the other DLC content to date). For fans of Red Dead, zombies, B movies and/or morbid humor, this pack is for you.
Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare was released on October 26th, 2010 for Xbox 360 and PS3. Review is based on the Xbox 360 version.