Red Dead Redemption is one of my all-time favourite games. And this week, the guys at Rockstar gave me the opportunity to spend a bit of time killing off zombies in the new single player expansion pack, Undead Nightmare.
Set during the Homestead period of the game (or towards the end, for anyone who hasn't quite finished it), the expansion pack sees John Marston wake up to a world gone mad: "I’ve seen husbands eating wives, mothers eating sons!" as Marston explains to graverobber Seth as he searches for an explanation to the madness that has erupted throughout the Red Dead universe.
Seth's response may not have been as satisfying as Marston hoped for, but the creepy man does give John a place to start fixing things - clear out graveyards. As I mounted the zombie horse, it was clear to see just how much the guys at Rockstar had put into their first attempt at a horror game. The world of Red Dead - spectacularly beautiful in the original game - has taken a greenish hue. It looks sick, like overrun with a bad virus. Which it sort of has, I guess. The whole game world has been touched by the zombie infection, from the flora to the animals. Mounting your zombie horse is only the start - there are zombie cattle, zombie wolves and zombie bears all over the world. And naturally, they're all significantly harder to kill.
Just like the original game, there are spontaneous encounters throughout the world, although in this time they're in the form of mythical creatures - like the four horses of the apocalypse. You can capture these horses, break them in and ride them, taking advantage of their special abilities against the zombie hordes that litter the countryside.
And that's one thing that's nice about the expansion - the four classes of zombies travel in packs. You can still roam across the countryside without being accosted, but when you encounter some zombies, there are generally quite a few of them. And because they're zombies, few of them carry around weapons or ammo, making your decision to engage with them a lot more strategic than just lining them up for a series of headshots.
During my hands-on with the expansion, I got to clear out a graveyard - a task that will lift some of the pestilence off the area - and involves burning some coffins, killing a heap of mindless zombies and taking down a main zombie. To do this, you're given a few new weapons - holy water; zombie bait; boom bait, which is just like zombie bait but with the added kick of explosions after a period of time; and the blunderbuss, a shotgun that shoots body parts, which you harvest from dead bodies.
Because the zombies tend to not carry ammo, helping survivors in towns can be done by either killing off the undead, or finding the survivors spare ammo. Once you've cleared a town of zombies, you unlock a save point, but over time the town is in danger of being overrun again. Thanks to the zombie problem, you won't be setting up camp in the wilderness to save, either.
Where there were once bounty hunter missions, there are now rescue missions to save someone from a horde of zombies. There are all new stranger missions, and a new multiplayer mode that will apparently resemble a horde-mode where you and your teammates battle wave after wave of zombies.
Sure, zombies have been done before. But not by Rockstar. And given the level of depth I experienced with an hour I played, I'll definitely be downloading this when it becomes available on October 26.
The Weekend Wanted is a new weekly column showcasing the single coolest thing we encountered during the week just gone. What was yours?