Saturday, October 9, 2010

Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare Hands-On

Adding zombies to any game seems to be the one way to assure interest and indeed, reasonable sales once gamers get wind of the undead aspect creeping into their favorite games. Rockstar Games has something wicked this way coming for Red Dead Redemption fans this winter with the release of the Undead Nightmare expansion for the PS3 and Xbox 360. At this year's New York Comic Con, thousands of gamers got the chance to go hands-on with the upcoming DLC and walk away with a cool poster and a chance to score a pack of extremely limited edition playing cards. UN will feature a solid single player campaign plus yet to be announced multiplayer features, some amazingly creepy zombies of different speeds and a number of missions to tackle set in and around familiar locations from the main game.

In the demo build, you play as John Marston as he sets out to cleanse a graveyard of undead by burning coffins and battling a few types of zombies that show up to stop his efforts. Exactly how and why there are zombies in the game is actually part of the plot, so Rockstar reps on the floor were rightly tight-lipped about the overall story line. Of course, if you've completed the main game, you may have a few questions about what's going on, but let's just say a few surprises are in store any way you look at what's here. As far as the game, it absolutely nails the atmosphere you'd expect from a great zombie film without seeming campy or overcooked. Seeing the undead arrive on the scene complete with some fantastically gloomy weather effects lent the game a nicely eerie aura to things.

Of course, putting down as many of the shuffling, running or scarily scampering flesh-eaters was the order of the day and the game doesn't shy away from the gore at all. In fact, in addition to the nice set of familiar guns from the original, you'll see a few new weapons including a big ol' blunderbuss that blows anything it hit into a red spray and chunky bits. You can also set zombies on fire, but in close quarters this isn't a good idea as they don't just keel over when set aflame. There's nothing scarier than being chased by a small pack of flaming undead as you're trying to reload a one-shot weapon or worse, end up running into some fire yourself.

From the small portion I played, there's a definite Night of the Living Dead vibe mixed with a sprinkling of other zombie films and games from over the years. It's pretty clear that the team at Rockstar San Diego was inspired by classic zombie and other horror films along with a a few undead-packed games you might remember. Screen shots promise undead bears, wolves, mountain lions and even horses, an interesting touch to an already creepy set of enemies. As you move from area to area burning coffins and dispatching different types of zombies and bosses, the weather will clear up as the taint is lifted from those portions of the map. Thanks to the period weapons, the added layer of tension from needed to reload manually or sprinting away from near death should keep players on their toes throughout the expansion.

While no concrete release date has been set, Rockstar says we'll get to experience Undead Nightmare later this year. Of course, I'd love to see Red Dead Redemption get some sort of Game of the Year edition with ALL the download content on a disc for those without broadband access, but we'll see what happens down that particular road when the time comes. Anyway, set your clocks and calendars for "whenever it's done" and get ready to be a little more frightened of the dark when RDD: UN finally hits PSN and Xbox Live Marketplace. We will, of course, keep you posted with updates as they come in - stay tuned...

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