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Review: Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare (DLC)
by Greg Mengel

Let's imagine for a minute that Red Dead Redemption is a delicious German Chocolate cake, baked long, long ago in a quaint small town bakery, Uncle Hans' Loafin' Buns.

When it was released, Uncle Hans' German Chocolate recipe became an instant sensation. It was tremendous! Cake critics from the far side of town raved about it, exclaiming between bites that it was, quite possibly, the most delicious cake in the history of baking. Cake connoisseurs demanded that Hans don his apron again and improve on his masterpiece.

Ecstatic at the positive reception to his recipe, Hans turned back to the drawing board, twirling his moustache in deep, sugary thought for months. Finally he rose from his thinking chair, snatched his finest chef's hat and marched to his bakery. After a few months he emerged from his dessert lair, hair standing on end and face covered with a film of powdered sugar, to announce that he would indeed be re-releasing his German Chocolate recipe, this time with a Hallowe'en twist - pistachio ice-cream filling!

It would be dubbed 'Zombie Chocolate'.

The response was mixed. Some cake critics were enraged, decrying the inclusion of pistachio ice-cream as an abominable insult to the pure, historical goodness of Hans' original German Chocolate. Others lauded Hans. His baking skills were so great, they declared, that he would make German Chocolate and pistachio ice-cream seem as naturally compatible as cookies and milk. Still others remained neutral, stating quietly that nobody could predict the future, and the town would all have to just wait and taste for themselves whether or not Uncle Hans had gone mad.

The verdict?

Uncle Hans' Zombie Chocolate, otherwise known as Rockstar Games' Undead Nightmare, may be the most delicious downloadable expansion ever baked.


The game starts in symbolic grindhouse fashion, with a cutscene of a dark and quiet night in the Old West. An eerie, disembodied voice (that you wouldn't be surprised to hear reciting the complete works of Edgar Allen Poe) narrates, as a relieved John Marston returns home after a day of chores, the trials presented to him in the last few months practically forgotten. He's tired, and happy enough just to share in his wife's lacklustre supper or listen as his son describes the plot of the latest book he's reading.

Unfortunately, the rabid, cannibalistic corpse of Uncle spoils the familial tranquility, infecting John's wife and son with the plague of undeath. Unwilling to let his loved ones wander the world as mindless cadavers, John grabs his revolver (and shotgun, and rifle, and repeater...), mounts his horse, and rides to nearby Blackwater to find a cure.

John's journey across the original map of Red Dead Redemption is a strange exercise in nostalgia. When you find yourself saving the McFarlane Ranch from cadavers under a green-tinted moon, or hunting down and escorting survivors to their family members in a government-run Fort Mercer, you may sense a strange mixture of déjà vu and surrealism. Things are the same... except that they're different. Rockstar picked a perfect name for this expansion, as this zombified, mystical West could easily be one of its residents' nightmares.

Don't get lost in the woods.

To match its nightmarish environment, Rockstar once again produced an incredible musical score - subtle, poignant, and perfectly timed. Here is one of the user comments found on the YouTube page for Blackwater, U.S.A.:

"Desolate, yet you know something happened there. Fires and damage surround you, yet strangely... where are the corpses? There are definite signs of fighting: Overturned carts, bullet holes in the wall, painting on the walls "The end is nigh!" "The dead have risen!" Risen? That can't be right, you know that's impossible. An old legend to keep people inside at night... But... where are the bodies? Where is everyone.....  what was that? Something's coming. You are not alone here. Run... RUN!"
- wkunzelman1

I couldn't have put it better myself. Or how about Dead Sled, by The Kreeps? As you play this song, imagine yourself on an American Army cargo train headed full-speed for Mexico, pinning your hat against the wind as you pick off a horde of ambling zombies under the moonlight. The image will stick.

What Undead Nightmare does, it does well. My only complaint regarding the game would be that I wasn't ready for its story to end when it did. I wanted more than a mere seven hours of nightmare. I'm not sure I would have been content with seventy-seven. Good zombie westerns make me greedy.

Zombies, this is Death, Felhorse of the Apocalypse. Death, zombies. What do you mean you've met?

Now that I've tasted the forbidden fruit, and inevitably find myself periodically succumbing to the siren's call of zombies in the Old West, I sate that appetite by either:

a) Replaying the story. One of the benefits of a storyline under ten hours is that you can churn through it in a weekend.

b) Wandering the endgame, finishing challenges, and unlocking the Undead Hunter (a much-deserved Army of Darkness reference) and Legend of the Apocalypse outfits. Also, there be mythical creatures to find ...and slay.

C) Multiplayer modes: Undead Overrun (basic but fun survive-as-long-as-your-ammo-holds-out-then-pray game) and Land Grab (a free roam game in which any player on the map claims a piece of land, then defends it from the neighbours). Both add enough spin on traditional Red Dead Redemption multiplayer to keep you entertained. Undead multiplayer skins are a nice touch.

With its terrific grindhouse style, nostalgic twist on Red Dead Redemption's characters and world, and new challenges, outfits, and multiplayer game modes to explore, Undead Nightmare is a must-buy for anyone who enjoyed the original game. Taken as a whole, Undead Nightmare is more complete - more feasible as a standalone product - than any other DLC I've played. Simply put, it's as much a masterpiece as its predecessor.

I, for one, am glad that when there's no more room in hell, the dead will walk the Old West.

Next Hallowe'en, Rockstar? I expect an L.A. Noire expansion in which flying saucers land in Los Angeles.

10/10 [?]

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- Greg Mengel

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