I want to say that Red Dead Redemption was one of the biggest surprises of the year. A second game in a franchise that was seemingly DOA and didn’t have gamers fawning all over it, you wouldn’t expect it to be one of the best games of the year, if not THE game of the year. Then you have to remember that this is Rockstar that created it who basically took Grand Theft Auto and gave it a spaghetti western makeover, albeit much more depth and sincerity than GTA4.
As they’ve done with releasing individual side story DLC for GTA4, Rockstar has done the same with Red Dead Redemption, releasing the Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmares collection which includes the previous DLC packs as well as the DLC side story, Undead Nightmares. The question is whether this game will be only for the fans or can anyone pick-up and enjoy it?
Zombies, Zombies Everywhere - As you may have guessed by checking out the ads, trailers, commercials, and the box art itself, the game is based around a zombie outbreak. Yes, a zombie game itself is nothing new these days, but this is the Old West, so that warrants a bit of credit there. The zombies range from the shuffling along walkers to the speedy chasers to the ridiculously blinding fast zombie bastard that runs at you like a monkey on a mix of Red Bull and cocaine. Making your way further into the game you will fight off more variations of zombies and what seems to be some undead animal life as well.
Riding A Pale Horse - Being that the game already involves a silly and unbelievable version of the Old West (I mean, come on, there were no evil biochemical companies back in the frontier days) Rockstar decided to further lose a sense of reality by adding mythical wildlife to the already vast amount of animals roaming the land of New Austin. This includes Sasquatches, a unicorn and very appropriately, the four horses of the apocalypse. The unicorns and the apocalyptic horses are available for capture with each having incredible stamina and the ability to leave a trail of havoc on the zombies that they trample upon. They’re not the easiest bunch of horses to find and break, but once they’re yours; you’ll never want to let them go.
Creepy Atmosphere Is Creepy - Those who have played through the original will find Undead Nightmares an unnerving game. What was once a lavish landscape filled with all the beauty that Mother Nature can provide has become a haunted shell of itself. I used to love roaming the wilderness, checking out the river and sucking in the entire virtual wilderness in Red Dead Redemption. In Undead Nightmares, I haul ass to the next area because I do not want to stick around any place for too long. Farms and homesteads that were a shining example of simple life in the Old West share the same feel as the Bates’ Hotel in Psycho. It’s also a nice addition to make ammo very sparse making it a sandbox survival horror game if you will. If you’re goal was to freak me out, Rockstar, mission accomplished.
Surviving The Waves - Survival modes are becoming a common sight in games. Undead Nightmares does the survival mode a little differently by having a much bigger space to fight off the zombie horde instead of the more confined stages that you usually find. The result is that it doesn’t take long to find yourself fighting off tons of zombies at once as well as having everyone on your team running away in fear from the zombies chasing them. In later levels, it looks like multiple Benny Hill trains going round and round. Your team can pick between different weapon layouts that correspond to the various distances you can engage the enemy. As the survival mode is nothing new, it’s still a treat when it’s done well.
SHOTGUN TO THE HEAD
Is This A Joke?! - Red Dead Redemption was a very well told tale of a man trying to redeem his past sins by doing whatever it took to save his family. Undead Nightmares, however, takes that seriousness and throws it right out the window. Instead, the plot is a mix of the most classic of Spaghetti Westerns with the ridiculousness of your standard Grindhouse B-movie. Even the music switched over from a Sergio Leone score to a beat that Quentin Tarantino would love. While I did have the occasional good laugh, there was something lost in translation when the characters tried to throw in humorous jibes here and there. After awhile, it just gets irritating for someone that was so moved by the original story. Yes, it’s a tale from an alternate world, but that doesn’t excuse Rockstar to go make a joke of established characters that I cared for. I mean what’s next? Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin starring in a light-hearted musical based in the Old West? Oh wait...
Where Is Everyone? - I know it’s the zombie apocalypse, but you think there would be a few more characters to meet. The way the game is setup, each "town" (very loosely used as some places are just farms) has a couple of survivors that are fighting off the zombies. You can choose to save the town by killing a certain amount of zombies to make the town safe, or give the survivors some of your precious ammo to help them win the fight. Once you save the town though, that’s it to your interaction. No people selling stuff, no drawn out side mission, no mini-games, nothing. You’ll occasionally get a line of dialogue here and there, but your interactions with those characters are only those that advance the story making for a very lonely game.
Should Red Dead Redemption fans rush out and pick up Undead Nightmares? Well, not necessarily. If you fell in love with the story and characters of RDR, and would hate to see them taken so light-heartedly, don’t buy this game. If you’re tired of zombie games, don’t buy this game. If you can put up with more zombie nonsense, enjoy a little survival horror, and don’t mind some eye-rolling humor, then pick this game up.