Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare Hands-On Impressions

This Wild West action game takes a turn toward the weird. [Updated with multiplayer details.]

[Update: We've added multiplayer details to this preview, which you can find below.] You've probably heard that the Old West was a dangerous place, that the rugged terrain and lawlessness was an incredibly tough environment in which to carve out a peaceful living. But history books and spaghetti Westerns never told you the real threat that dominated that period of American history. No it wasn't contagious diseases, or bears, or bears with contagious diseases. It was zombies. The Old West was absolutely riddled with the undead.

OK, so that might not be 100 percent accurate. But that doesn't mean it's a scenario that won't make for a fun video game. For proof, look no further than Red Dead Redemption's latest downloadable content, a new expansion called Undead Nightmare. This DLC takes the world of John Marston and company and asks what would happen if the rugged frontier in which the game is set were overtaken by zombies. It's something of a stretch for a game that felt so serious compared to Rockstar's previous work on the Grand Theft Auto series, but with Halloween on the horizon, the timing certainly couldn't be better.

The obvious question facing Undead Nightmare is how its events relate to Red Dead's main storyline. The simple answer, according to Rockstar, is that it's purposely left vague--at least at the outset. It's mostly up to you whether you want to interpret this DLC as something that fits neatly into the main narrative or simply the result of a John Marston fever dream. What's much more immediately apparent is the stark transformation that the gameworld has undergone. The moon glows with an eerie greenish hue, the weather is consistently gloomy, and the music and ambient sound effects are decidedly creepier. And, of course, there are zombies.

Boy, are there ever zombies. The first cutscene we were shown introduced a new friend of Seth the grave robber: his zombie pal Moses. John Marston walks up to the two of them as Seth is pleading with Moses (who simply stands there, undead, groaning like the zombie that he is) to start playing the hand of cards he's lifelessly clutching. Marston then chats up Seth, and what we get out of it is that Seth's grave robbing may have played a part in the outbreak, after Marston tells Seth he never should have robbed that mysterious, undoubtedly cursed glass eye from a corpse. This cutscene was the only real story exposition we were shown in our hands-on demo, because after that we were off to complete a few missions.

This horse has seen better days.

At this point it's probably worth noting that the horse we rode to our first mission was also a zombie. Decaying flesh, exposed bones--our steed was very much undead. It comes with the benefit of higher stamina than a regular horse, but with a tendency to veer wildly to either side when you're trying to steer. At any rate, we made it to the first mission, which asked us to burn a number of coffins in a graveyard while dealing with the onslaught of zombies crawling up out of the ground the whole time. Most are run-of-the-mill movie zombies, lurching slowly at you to the tune of a ravenous moan. Then there are the special types, the hulking beasts who come running at you full steam and the ones who skitter along on all fours--the latter of which have a tendency to catch you by surprise because of how low to the ground they are.

As a countermeasure, Marston has a number of new weapons he can use to deal with these undead enemies. Most notable is a gun called the Blunderbuss, which looks like an elephant gun that fires zombie parts at such high velocities as to instantly and rather violently explode any zombie in its way. Looting zombies not killed by the Blunderbuss--those that are still intact--lets you collect undead body parts to use as ammo for the Blunderbuss. Then there's the holy water, which acts as a counterpart to the Molotov cocktail, engulfing enemies in a bright blue fire. You can also throw zombie bait to attract them all into one cluster for tactical purposes (use your imagination--ours involved TNT).

Next was a mission that involved the help of a few other survivors. A small farm was being overrun by zombies, and we had to aid some folks hiding on the roof in eradicating every last zombie from the property. This mission gave us the choice to be a team player and ferry rifle ammo between the survivors and the crates down below, or simply take matters into our own hands and find the Gatling gun conveniently mounted on another rooftop. We started with the former but eventually moved on to the latter. Then, at one point we started hurling zombie bait and TNT into the middle of the farm to get the job done even faster, though tragically our zombie horse fell victim to the alluring scent of that bait as well. Poor little guy.

A later mission had us breaking into a house surrounded by the undead in order to rescue a lone survivor and escort him on horseback to Fort Mercer, one of the few safe zones in the gameworld. This one allowed us to traverse a wide stretch of land in which we ran into zombie roadside bandits, zombie wolves, and more zombie horses. At one point, we saw one of Undead Nightmare's mythical horses, which include the steeds of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, such as War, the horse who's constantly on fire.

Zombies or no, that's a beautiful sunrise!

Undead Nightmare isn't just a single-player experience, however. There's also a pretty sizable addition to Red Dead's online multiplayer as well. We had a chance to go hands-on with a new multiplayer mode called Undead Overrun. At its core, this mode is similar to a Horde or Survival mode: it's you, a team of co-op partners, and waves upon waves of enemies. The twist is that you need to chase down the randomly generated coffins that appear in unpredictable locations on the map at the beginning of each wave. These coffins serve to extend your overall survival time as well as give you some fun new weapons and ammo, so it's definitely in your best interest to keep on the move in search of the coffins instead of just holing up in one safe spot.

This DLC pack will also give you an addition to the multiplayer Free Roam experience in a new mode-within-a-mode called Land Grab, which is completely free of zombies. Yes, doesn't feature the horrors of groaning, shambling enemies--unless you count the NPCs who've had a few too many drinks at the cantina--as Rockstar wanted to make it so that anyone can engage in Land Grab battles, while only players who have downloaded Undead Nightmare can start them. The basic gist is that players split into posses and fight over territories within one of the major towns in the game world. Players can steal territory away from opposing posses, and ultimately receive greater XP for holding territories the longest. While we didn't get to play this mode, it's great to see that Rockstar is carrying on the tradition of allowing players who haven't bought DLC to still use those features as long as their friends have--something it did last year with Midnight Club: Los Angeles.

Undead Nightmare certainly struck us as an odd direction in which to take Red Dead Redemption. But then you see things like a cowboy riding atop a flaming horse while chasing down zombie wolves, and suddenly everything seems right with the world. Expect to see the DLC released on October 26 for 800 Microsoft points, or $10.

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Discussion

333 comments
Mustangooos
Mustangooos

Just ordered Red Dead I could well end up getting this too

Dviresha
Dviresha

TheGreyArea: that's a Sasquach (tragic what happens to them)

BehzatPinar
BehzatPinar

Chiper go and play Resident Evil instead of trying to kill GTA

Interpol124
Interpol124

Mine doesn't work!!! Anyone else having glitch problems? It freezes during the opening cinema. Downloading it again...hopefully that will work :-/

Greg963
Greg963

@ chiper1997: They do have multiplayer free roam.

chiper1997
chiper1997

the single player looks good and multiplayer looks as good but only if they had multiplayer free roam

TheGreyArea
TheGreyArea

Rockstar, currently have a picture of what appears to be BIGFOOT!!! (in Bearclaw camp by the looks of things) on their site !!! What the...! ... I'd LOVE to play "as" bigfoot!!!

Kirbosis
Kirbosis

Red Undead Redemption, can't wait!

CEMETARY_GATESx
CEMETARY_GATESx

Rockstar knows what the fans want. Undead survival modes are king.

redmachine
redmachine

looking forward to it.. i'll be buying it for sure.

knightman
knightman

gonna be a blast , literally. :)

TreFacTor
TreFacTor

@NerosCurse The stand alone disc contains all of the dlc released to date. -Outlaws to the end co op pack -Legends and Killers -Liars and cheats -Undead Nightmares

LDoon
LDoon

RDR just got a little more exciting.

NerosCurse
NerosCurse

ok, I just reserved this at Gamestop for $29.99 on a standalone disc. Any know anything about this?

chiper1997
chiper1997

I wanna see Rockstar put zombies in GTA

Stealin-Shadows
Stealin-Shadows

I gave up on Red Dead Redemptions multiplayer. I just didn't like it much. But this will bring me back. You can't beat it for only 10 bucks.

Psy_m_on
Psy_m_on

one of the originalest DLC i'v ever seen .. instant buy!!

eddyoshi
eddyoshi

@Connman68 thats so true, and its also funny in a way

Connman68
Connman68

haha i love how R* can take a serious western game like red dead and just say "screw it put zombies in there!" awesome R* ^_^

Sticker704
Sticker704

Probably the best thing R* could do with Zombie games being the thing right now.

TheWickedEnd101
TheWickedEnd101

might not be original but zombies are always a pleasure :D

el1papi
el1papi

does anyone still plays RDR online?

mattman127
mattman127

My first thought was "well this looks stupid" but hey, zombie cougars. My all time favorite Zombie mode has to be in World at War though, I thought that was stupid too, then I played it, holy crap. Played best with 3 of your best buddies backing you up, nothing like shooting hordes of the undead with purple MG42's lol

peanut-butter
peanut-butter

At least if John Marston taps the "A" button fast enough, he can infinity sprint away from all the zombies.

CHAMPION6171994
CHAMPION6171994

Yeah, just look at how very few people bought COD WAW map packs just for Zombies, and the fact that Black Ops has exceeded the pre orders of MW2 and it has Zombies in it as well. Zombies won't die out for a while, get it, cause they're already dead (que laugh now) That was a terrible joke so don't laugh

firgie
firgie

ahaha its gonna be fun...awesome R*...definitely buy this

jmgar24
jmgar24

For sure the best DLC pack i have seen ha.

azureblade89
azureblade89

Now make a game based around zombies plz R*, it'd make every zombie fan happy

RickyRevolver
RickyRevolver

if I was a game creator, I would bring something new... like the Vampires from that movie: 30 days of night. I'm just saying...

eddyoshi
eddyoshi

how can u not like this pack, i mean its got zombies in it for christ sackes

nazhoyuriar
nazhoyuriar

@momo4070 actually.. nazi zombies is a copy from gears of war horde... and this is not just a solo/multiplayer survivor mode.. this shhit got history..

Gargaglio5tatus
Gargaglio5tatus

This game already had too much content to begin with. Do they really think people will have the time for this?... Sadly yes...

momo4070
momo4070

its fun i say , but since nazi zombies , every compnay tries to make one ,,,

jm3811
jm3811

Rockstar are milking to the bone a game that was beautiful in theory but which has become the ultimate boredom.

Skargamer
Skargamer

I wonder what happens to Tumbleweed and that 4 horsemen easter egg...

tobelight
tobelight

@gelugon baat Thats what I said. Already named it Green Dead 51

Anayalator408
Anayalator408

sounds like the funnest dlc im getting this year!!! :D

HSV002
HSV002

You may aswell have my $10 now!

CruiserCaptain
CruiserCaptain

I think you guys might be under estimating Rockstar, and RDR. I was hesitant at first too, but after doing some research I think this may be yet another standard setter, not only for OpenWorld Genre, but for the Zombie Genre as well. My only real concern by now is: Zombie FreeRoam?

AnimeNutJill
AnimeNutJill

As cool as this looks, the idea is extremely stupid. This whole zombie fad is dying out real fast. "/

Creigz
Creigz

I am definitely buying this. This looks like a 'screaming' good time.