I think it’s safe to say that Red Dead Redemption impressed everyone when it released back in 2010. It was nominated for numerous accolades, and won many as well – including Game of the Year. Nowadays, it’s widely regarded as one of the best games of all time. But its zombie-infested follow-up Undead Nightmare deserves as much if not more praise for being one of the best DLCs ever made. It expanded a narrative already rich in lore and added a ton of new content.
Even though he was a criminal, John Marston’s original story was relatable. Unwillingly, he worked with the government to reunite with his family and maybe, just maybe, somewhat redeem his past misdeeds. At the end of it, John got his reward and was together with his family at last, if only for a short while. Those government bastards, they killed him! Slaughtered him with a merciless barrage of bullets! Sent him to the afterlife, they did! John Marston was dead!
Oh… you didn’t play the game yet? Sorry, yeah, he’s dead. But what if John Marston didn’t die? What if his story took a different turn? That’s exactly the “what if” scenario that Undead Nightmare explores.
By the way, there’s a horror movie reference hidden somewhere within the article. Can you spot it? If you do, leave a comment with your answer and I’ll… I dunno, I’ll say that your horror movie knowledge is impeccable and you’re the bestest person ever. For now, let’s travel back to 2010 and take a look at Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare.
He Never Died
Undead Nightmare takes place in an alternate timeline where John doesn’t die. He lives a peaceful life with his family at Beecher’s Hope. But one stormy night John wakes up to the realization that an unknown disease has turned almost everyone he knows into a flesh-thirsty zombie – starting with his uncle, his wife Abigail and his dear son Jack.
But John ain’t one of those sickos who keeps his dear wife hogtied and continues to live a normal delusional life. John once again sets out into the American Wild West, this time in search of a cure. And unlike many other zombie games where the cause is a virus, Undead Nightmare employs much more supernatural and sinister reasoning. It’s a satire alright, and one that works exceptionally well, especially given the 1960’s zombie movie-inspired presentation.
On his journey, John meets old friends and enemies, some of whom get munched on right in front of his eyes. Some, like John’s old nemesis Vicente De Santa, rise from the dead to haunt him once more. Some of them have gone insane and others, like Seth, have simply become insane-er. And those with entrepreneurial skills have found ways to capitalize on the apocalypse, and you would often find yourself assisting them in their endeavours.
Seeing Nigel attempt to sell a fake cure or assisting MacKenna in filming a zombie movie brings welcome dark humour to the game. But Undead Nightmare still has heart-breaking moments up its sleeve, like telling Bonnie McFarlane about her father’s demise. Or killing a whole tribe of harmless sasquatches and realizing the horrible mistake you’ve made. But overall, it’s a light-hearted story, one which shouldn’t be taken seriously and by no means considered as canon.
In essence, Undead Nightmare is Red Dead Redemption with zombies. The American wasteland and Mexico down south are available for exploration just like in the main story. Undead Nightmare introduced a variety of new activities and the shooting mechanics of Red Dead Redemption lend themselves perfectly to disposing of zombies. These included Nimble Bolters, tough Bruisers, poisonous and exploding Retchers, and the regular slowpoke zombies. It feels extremely, and I mean extremely, satisfying to explode a zombie’s head with the rifle while riding on horseback.
Have you ever dreamt of an invincible mare? In addition to regular mortal horses, you could now discover and tame the Four Horses of the Apocalypse, four horses named after Death, War, Pestilence and Famine. Each came with its own distinct look and unique abilities useful against ploughing through hordes of zombies with ease. The world of Undead Nightmare was filled with supernatural creatures, including zombified bears, a Unicorn, and the legendary Chupacabra.
It introduced new weapons, such as the destructive Blunderbuss and Holy Water – nothing works quite as well against the undead as a sanctified liquid. And you needed every bit of advantage you could get to protect towns and settlements from zombies, clear cemeteries from the tainted, or rescue a missing person from their predicament. Undead Nightmare is atmospheric and immersive. And when you’re surrounded by a horde deep in the woods, it’s also very, very scary.
Remember how I said, “What if John didn’t die”? Well, what if he did die and then came back to life? Indeed, Undead Nightmare briefly showcases an undead version of John, with a rotten jaw and maggots coming out of his eyes. Playable, no less, in the DLC and the Multiplayer upon meeting certain conditions.
Undead Nightmare is a prime example of a DLC done right. Not an overpriced costume which could’ve been in the base game. And not a trivial item like a laser sight for your weapon, adding virtually nothing to your experience. Undead Nightmare is so packed with narrative and content that it may as well be a standalone game.
Simply put, Undead Nightmare is one of the best zombie experiences ever. It combines an excellent alternate narrative with a distinct classic horror movie presentation, and adds all the right content to make your time with it unforgettable.
Halloween is approaching, and if you’ve never tried Undead Nightmare yourself, it costs only £6.79 on the Xbox Store.