“Red Dead Redemption” crosses zombies with cowboys in “Undead Nightmare”

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First Posted: 10/14/2014

I’m a zombie kind of guy.

My eyes are usually glued to “The Walking Dead” each Sunday, and I have a small collection of zombie fiction in my modest library. Yes, that includes Max Brooks’ “Zombie Survival Guide” — my motto has always been “better safe than sorry.”

I’m also a fan of Westerns, and almost anybody that knows me knows that “Red Dead Redemption” ranks as my all-time favorite video game. Set in the early 1900s, the game tells the story of John Marston, a former outlaw trying to live a new life as a rancher with his family. The government, however, sucks him back into the life he is trying to leave behind. The stakes are high — Marston must hunt down and capture (or kill) his former gang members, or his family will be killed.

Rockstar Games, however, added a zombified twist to that masterpiece.

“Undead Nightmare” was released on October 26, 2010 as downloadable content for the game. This is throw-away downloadable content — “Undead Nightmare” transforms the game into an open-world, zombie-infested game. Marston’s family become infected, and he sets off to find a cure.

Mythical creatures such as that chupacabra can also be found (and hunted), along with Sasquatch.

The great thing about “Undead Nightmare” is that it truly transforms the game into a new experience. In the original game, it was tempting to ride off into a field and just observe the wildlife or encounter a random group of bandits.

“Undead Nightmare” turns a once-gorgeous world into a dark one with danger at every turn. There is no safe place to go, as towns are constantly being overrun by zombies, but the player can step in to lend a hand to keep the hordes at bay for a short time.

Even then, the towns add to the horror of the new world. Buildings are usually on fire, and what survivors remain are usually on rooftops avoiding the undead.

I remember seeing messages like “please forgive us” or “eternal damnation”, and those little details gave me a chilling sense of despair.

All of those elements combined help make the game terrifying and add a sense of despair and hopelessness to the game. Sure, the dead are walking and consuming the living, but for me, feeling that sense of “the-world-is-ending and nowhere is safe” is chilling in its own right.

Much like commonly-accepted zombie fiction, the only way to kill zombies in “Undead Nightmare” is by headshots or fire. This adds to the challenge, as hitting a headshot can be tough enough — add in 10 or so zombies and their moans, and it really becomes a challenge.

Change auto-aim to expert aim, and it’s guaranteed to get that heart racing and make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. Ammo is also hard to come by, so the shots have to count. When I was really into the game, I prided myself in being quite the zombie hunter.

Nowadays, I’m a little rusty. I played the game a few weeks ago, and couldn’t help but laugh as I desperately missed an approaching zombie over and over again. A tomahawk to the skull still got the job done.

I remember playing “Undead Nightmare” for the first time on the night of its release, and I was hooked. From avoiding the undead while trotting through the undead prairie on horseback to frantically climbing on top of a roof to avoid a herd, the game was a blast to play. I still play “Red Dead Redemption” at least a few times a year, and “Undead Nightmare” still stands as the best zombie game that I have played.

If you’re looking for a scary experience heading into Halloween, saddle up with “Red Dead Redemption” and “Undead Nightmare.” Both are amazing games for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, and they can be picked up on Amazon and bundled together for about $23.