Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare: review

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Don’t mistake Undead Nightmare as just another DLC pack for Red Dead Redemption. Unlike the previous expansions, which brought features into multiplayer that probably should have been there to begin with, Undead Nightmare is much closer in spirit to GTA IV’s Ballad of Gay Tony or Lost & Damned. With that said, it’s probably best enjoyed after you’ve already played through Red Dead Redemption’s single-player story.

A big part of the appeal of Undead Nightmare is the return of old characters in completely different circumstances. The expansion doesn’t really fit into any part of the Red Dead timeline, but when you start mixing cowboys and zombies, continuity doesn’t really matter anymore. The point is that aside from the new zombie-fighting gameplay, Undead Nightmare also tells a great story full of familiar faces you probably forgotten you loved. For fans of the Red Dead storyline, it’s an essential bit of fan service.

PhotobucketThe cinematic presentation – hell, all of the presentation – is entirely on par with the full game; just on a smaller, 5-7 hour scale. John Marston is as entertaining as ever, offering his witticisms and simple-minded motivations in an entertaining narrative. Marston’s goal is to solve the mystery of what’s caused the undead to walk the earth, which ends up being as good a cause as any to revisit a cast of unsavoury characters.

As Marstan’s journey begins you’ll face two immediate challenges – zombies only die by headshots and ammo is scarce. The latter becomes less of an issue as the game wears on, but the opening missions are decidedly survival horror-esque. The former challenge is something that may be the most divisive aspect of Undead Nightmare. Aiming isn’t easy in Red Dead Redemption – it never was – and headshots are really the only kind of shots that matter here. Combat takes precision, patience, and planning, something that’s in short supply when mobs of zombies come running. Simply put, Red Dead’s aiming isn’t tuned to a controller the way most first-person shooters are. The aiming is smooth, but the amount of skill it takes to line up that tiny little dot with the head of a distant zombie is far greater than it is in most games.

PhotobucketThis may end up being a frustrating dealbreaker for some people, but it also makes the combat in Undead Nightmare feel a bit different compared to other shooters and even Red Dead itself. You’ll rarely have any reason to take cover, but you will want to get to higher ground. When you don’t have a safe vantage point you can use dead-eye for some slow-motion zombie dispatching or you can keep moving atop your trusty undead steed.

Yep, you can ride a zombie horse. In fact, Undead Nightmare is full of monsters and mythical creatures to track down. They play into the expansion’s additional side missions and challenges. Just like the main game, you can waste hours going for that 100% completion stat. With a surprisingly meaty main quest and a ton of additional bits, this expansion could easily last you over a dozen hours.

Undead Nightmare is absolutely a ride you should take, as long as you’re up for a bit of a challenge. If anything, it’s a return to a great world and cast of characters, and a clever reminder by Rockstar that Red Dead Redemption is a game of the year contender.

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Written by Joe D

Inspired by a love for obscure Sega Saturn games in the 90s, Joe is pretty much open to anything gaming has to offer. What he looks for in a game: creativity and strong design, or sometimes just an overwhelming sense of style.

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