It’s a gross night in the unruly Wild West. You’re stuck in a miserable downpour in a rundown cemetery, the kind with above-ground coffins. It’s raining so hard with such vehement intensity that you can barely see. But you know there’s hell in those wooden boxes, so you take a torch and start to burn the evil that lies within. You think that if you set the creeps in their coffins ablaze, eventually, you rid the world of zombies. But the Undead don’t like it, so they attack you. It’s up to you to rock this Casbah by taking these nasties out.
So begins the New York ComicCon demo of the Undead Nightmare campaign, the eagerly awaited downloadable content for Red Dead Redemption (Xbox 360 and PS3). According to Rockstar spokespeople in the booth, the add-on will be about six hours long. It features all new music and old and new characters who are now zombies, which John Marston must kill. Some zombies move slowly, some move with gruesome alacrity like hell on wheels. Don some headphones and you hear them roar, boisterous yet somehow mournful, like lions seeing their cubs massacred.
All the zombies seemed superfast, perhaps because it was my first encounter. If you try to outrun them, they catch up. In my first go round, I kept running in a circle, trying to aim my gun and avoid being eaten. But the zombies completely caught up. After Marston died, I tried again, this time, aiming the blunderbuss more carefully and moving backwards in an effort to keep the evil dead in front of me. This worked better. At the end of the level, a powerful boss leaps from his coffin and a group of zombies whales on you.
According to a Rockstar spokesperson, you’ll travel to various familiar locales during your trip to Undead Nightmare. “This is sort of our chance to do a B-movie style, over-the-top game,” said the spokesperson. “Your horse is a zombie, too, and he’s not that easy to control. He kind of moves this way and that, swerving because he doesn’t have a lot of musculature left. And you’ll deal with a lot of zombie animals, too, like bats. We’ve come up with some native American myths that come alive and manifest themselves as creatures during the game. It’s pretty scary.”
The campaign features reimagined towns, some of which are burning when you ride into them. So, for instance, the town of Armadillo will appear very different in the new campaign. And if you were to fit this DLC into the Red Dead Redemption timeline, it would generally fit into the Home portion, but before the big finale. The overriding question is, is this Marston’s awful dream or is it really happening?
There’s a passel of new weapons, but only two were playable. The melee weapon shown was a torch, which burns zombies to a satisfying crisp. (Not shown was Holy Water, which manifests itself as a blue flame that burns the many mauling cretins that come at you.) As I played, I ended up falling onto a burning coffin, and Marston’s whole body went up in flames. But when I bumped into a nearby zombie, he was all afire and I was no longer being burnt.
Marston’s weapon is a blunderbuss, a ball-firing rifle with a thunderous report which originated back in the 1700s. But Rockstar riffed on the ammo. It now can shoot zombie parts. And when the blunderbuss blasts a zombie in the head, man, it drizzles zombie arms, legs, ribs, marrow and pieces of unrecognizable zombie meat. For moments, the cemetery becomes reddened with the rain of blood. At the end, you’re breathless.
But you’d better gird your loins. There’s a nasty zombie plague out there in Marstonland, and you’ve got to battle these creatures until you discover a cure for humanity. There are pockets of survivors in various towns and they’re running out of ammo. Residents have no idea what caused this epidemic. Yet you’re the key to ending it all.
There was no multiplayer available to play. In fact, not much was said about the multiplayer aspects except that it’s survival of the fittest against waves of zombies. You’ll have to work together as a team to survive the teeming hordes of undead.
While this was a mere snippet of 10 minutes of play, you feel both panic and terror as these sickening, reanimated corpses attempt to bite off more than they can chew. Can Rockstar keep up this unbridled, heart-palpitating frenzy throughout the rest of this downloadable content? Will you feel sheer horror in addition to melee-like terror as the story unfolds? How new and fresh will multiplayer aspect feel? And when, oh, when, is Rockstar going to make an open world horror game? Stay tuned.