Halloween has been and gone...
I spent it (mostly) killing zombies, not literally, though had that been the case this would be one of those weird post-apocalyptic reviews, posted from the last internet source on the planet. I’m talking about Rockstar’s brand-new undead themed side-story/alternate for Red Dead Redemption, which deserves GotY 2010 if you ask me.
Set during the ‘home’ period of the game and costing a reasonable 800 msp for the 360, or £7.99 on the PSN. Undead Nightmare is the story of a world gone mad, of one man’s stalwart battle to survive a true zombie apocalypse in the west. The story is punchy and doesn’t take itself too seriously – often having a B-Movie feel to the cut-scenes which suit this rendition perfectly.
It’s great to ride out again as John, who is by far the best protagonist that Rockstar have created for a game, so far. Watching how he interacts with a world turned upside down is as interesting as playing the game. Simply put, John’s wife and son contract some deadly zombie virus that spreads like wildfire across the west and Marston rides out to find a cure.
His first stop is the Town of Blackwater, which has come under assault by the living dead. The story lasts between 6-7 hours and provides an interesting capstone to the DLC and some curiously alternate endings to Marston’s journey as he goes in search of the cure.
What Rockstar have done is provide a substantial DLC here with a subtle redressing of the game’s core mechanics and feel. They have taken RDR and made it new again; putting zombies in the west and making it feel like a natural fit. Of course I love the pen and paper RPG Deadlands, so seeing zombies in the west was an even bigger pull for me in this DLC.
For a start, mechanics aside, they have redressed the whole world and turned the already post-apocalyptic feel of the desolated Wild West into something else. The colour palette for the game has been changed and everything has been tweaked. The world feels sick and the map takes on a bio-luminescent green/yellow tint with red splotches. The sun doesn’t quite shine through the clouds properly even on a good day.
The landscape is torn and littered with dead animals, carts and coaches. The towns and cities of the game are rag-tag battle worn points of light in an ever-spreading darkness, burning with fires from the residue of their last battle. As the game progresses you’ll see more and more of the walking dead as they amble around, collecting in great amounts in places close to graveyards and population centre safe-zones.
It is impossible to hard-save in the game at first; you must ride out and defend a town from zombie assault. This means getting your hands on a gun and some ammo, ammo is scarce and you can try and scavenge some of the undead that have ammo belts, good luck though since the walking dead tend to be stingy with their corpses. You can talk to the lead survivor and find out they need ammo, give the survivors ammo and you can cut down the waves of undead that come at the town. Or you can go in guns blazing and kill every zombie that walks or crawls until the town’s safe.
You can loot chests in town for extra ammo too, they all show up on the mini-map and mercifully only corpses that can be looted show up, just like the animals you can skin in the core game.
Once the town’s safe, it’ll be a safe zone for a while and you can get to a bed, change outfits, fast travel to unlocked safe houses (there’s several new costumes that are unlockable) and more importantly save the game. The game does a good job of handling saving though, with auto-saves and so on so it never feels like a chore, just a race to survive. Fortunately the town’s folk are happy you rode in to save their hides and you’ll get a shiny weapon as a reward.
If you do die, you’ll be given an option to reload a save or restart at the nearest town. The ammo you lost won’t be back, but you’ll keep your survivor state and mission completion progress.
There are quite a few towns to save and you can save them all, some of them will also come under attack again and again as you play through the story. Riding out long distance has its perks as well, you’ll encounter dozens of new undead themed events and there are new zombie versions of animals too. From the zombie wolf to the zombie cougar (they’re mean) and the zombie bears, the sickness has reached new heights. If your horse dies expect it to return as a zombie too, zombie horses are more trouble than they’re worth – but hilarious at the same time.