Video Game DLC Review: Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare [Xbox 360, 2010]

Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare [Xbox 360, 2010]

Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare
System: Xbox 360 (also on PS3)
Genre: Third-person shooter
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Developer: Rockstar San Diego
Release Date: November 22, 2010

Whoever came up with the idea for Undead Nightmare deserves a pat on the back. Inserting zombies into the wild western world of Red Dead Redemption? That is a stroke of genius, my friends.

What makes Undead Nightmare so great is that it isn’t just a killer concept — this is premium downloadable content. For a mere $9.99, you get access to a lengthy single player campaign (approx. 10 hours to get 100% completion) as well as two new multiplayer modes. That’s more than some full-priced retail games offer! Expansion packs don’t get much better than this.

Reformed outlaw John Marston is once again the main protagonist, and this time he is out to find a cure for the terrifying new plague that is sweeping the land, all so he can get his wife and child back to normal. The entire Wild West is being overrun with zombies, with the undead rising from their graves all over the area.

Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare [Xbox 360, 2010]

The plague hasn’t just infected humans. It has spread to animals, too, even in John’s preferred method of transportation: horses. I was horrified (yet also amused) when I whistled for a horse, only to have one arrive with half of its face missing. It must also be stated that you don’t know fear until you are attacked out of nowhere by a zombie bear.

Rockstar didn’t just include zombie animals, they also opted to entertain by introducing mythical creatures to the game. Now you can randomly come across chupacabras, sasquatches and unicorns. It’s pretty clear that the developers had a damn good time making this DLC.

As stated earlier, the single player campaign can last a good ten hours or so to finish completely. Aside from the main storyline that brings back some old favorite characters, there are also side quests and random encounters with loners out in the wilderness. Perhaps most fun are the objectives where you can clear out a whole town’s mess of zombies and let them live in peace, albeit most likely for just a few days. This brings a sense of heroism to John’s meandering adventure.

Fans of Red Dead Redemption’s multiplayer will be pleased with Undead Nightmare’s two new modes: Land Grab and Undead Overrun. The former is a free roam feature in which you attempt to hold onto a piece of territory for a certain amount of time, all while fighting off any attackers. The latter mode is my personal favorite, as it is basically a Horde mode against increasingly difficult waves of zombies. Even with a good group of players, this mode can get pretty damn crazy. There were times when I was the last survivor and had to run for my life against a seemingly endless onslaught of zombies. It beats the hell out of Call of Duty’s Nazi Zombies feature, that’s for sure.

Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare [Xbox 360, 2010]

While Undead Nightmare offers an impressive amount of content, it isn’t quite perfect. I ran into some weird glitches, including one particular annoying bug in which I had cleared out the zombies in a town except for one that remained somehow stuck in the walls of a building. I couldn’t get to the bastard, so I had to restart at the last checkpoint and save the town again. Not a huge deal, but an inconvenience nonetheless.

Glitches be damned, this is still a fantastic expansion for those looking to continue the wonderful Red Dead Redemption experience. It is a shame that more developers do not create such engrossing DLC as Undead Nightmare, as this really is one of the best that I have come across. Every now and then this expansion goes on sale for $5, but even at its $9.99 price it is more than worth purchasing.


Movie Project #24 and #25: Night of the Living Dead [1968] and Double Indemnity [1944]

The 50 Movies Project is a personal “marathon” of mine. In June, I compiled a list of 50 movies that I felt I needed to see by the end of the year. Old, new, foreign, English — it doesn’t matter. These are all movies that I have heard a lot about and have been wanting to see for some time. This project gives me a way to stay focused on the goal.

Night of the Living Dead [1968]
Night of the Living Dead [1968, Romero]
Starring Duane Jones, Judith O’Dea, Karl Hardman

Ah yes, the godfather of zombie films. Romero’s low budget black-and-white horror classic can be found EVERYWHERE thanks to its public domain status, yet I didn’t actually sit down to watch it until recently. This movie’s influence is massive, as the popularity of zombies has went through the roof in recent years. And to think, none of this would be possible without this 1968 film. The premise is simple: a group of survivors are holed up in a farmhouse and are trying to survive the attacking hordes of zombies (of the slow moving type). During this, the humans fight amongst each other (as expected) and struggle with their collective intelligence. The women, in particular, are a waste of bodies as they mostly just act comatose and offer little value to the group. You would think that if your house is being swarmed by zombies that you would actually make an effort to fight for your life! The men in the group suffer from testosterone issues (“I’m right!” “No, I’m right!”), but at least they try to survive.

While I was annoyed with the general ineptitude of some of the characters, I still really enjoyed the movie. Perhaps aided by the low budget, the film feels more authentic and is still genuinely frightening today. It was also refreshing to see a black lead character (Duane Jones), which was not a common occurrence during the time period. Night of the Living Dead holds up rather well, and is a fun watch some 40+ years later. 8/10

Double Indemnity [1944]
Double Indemnity [1944, Wilder]
Starring Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson

Double Indemnity is a film that I have been looking forward to seeing for a while now, as it seems to get brought up often when discussing Film Noir. I was especially excited to watch this because I had never seen a Billy Wilder film before (a travesty, I know). This classic tale seems to be the quintessential example of Film Noir. Fred MacMurray stars as an insurance salesman who gets caught up in a dangerous murder plot. He becomes deeply enamored with a lonely housewife (Barbara Stanwyck, the fantastic femme fatale), who comes up with the idea of having her husband murdered while making it appear as an accidental death. The duo concoct a plan that would evoke the double indemnity clause in the insurance contract, meaning that the payout would be double the normal amount. While the murder plan is meticulously carried out, other unexpected issues come up, particularly from the insurance company who have their suspicions about the incident.

The screenplay, co-written by Wilder and Raymond Chandler, is fantastic. The dialogue is fast and witty, with lots of sharp one-liners. The story is well-crafted, with many twists and turns. I was impressed with the two leads, as Stanwyck and MacMurray have a dynamic chemistry. I believe this was the first movie I had seen with either star, though I am sure it will not be the last. I would be remiss not to mention Edward G. Robinson’s role as Walter’s boss, as he was a very likable and intriguing character with exceptional investigative skills. Essentially, Double Indemnity is a perfect example of everything I have loved about Film Noir so far. It’s easy to see why this is so well-regarded. 9/10

Video Game Review: Dead Nation [Playstation 3, 2010]

Dead Nation [Playstation 3, 2010]

Dead Nation
System: Playstation 3
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Housemarque
Release Date: November 30, 2010

Dead Nation is a top-down shoot ’em up game in which you play as one of two survivors in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. Your goal is to survive through ten different levels while slaughtering countless zombies along the way. Early on, you are given basic weapons – a rifle with unlimited ammo, an SMG and a shotgun, to name a few. As you progress, you can obtain new weapons and also upgrade anything you get your hands on, including grenades and armor. This upgrading system is a great addition and adds some depth to what is otherwise standard shooting fare.

The game uses the analog sticks as its primary controls — the left stick is used to move, the right is used to aim. Unfortunately, where Dead Nation differs from other similar titles (Zombie Apocalypse immediately comes to mind) is that it requires the use of another button, R1, to shoot. This takes a little bit of time to get used to, and it never really feels natural. I’m not sure why the developers didn’t just allow the right stick to control aiming AND shooting.

Dead Nation [Playstation 3, 2010]

Dead Nation is a challenging game, and it has a tendency to get absurdly frustrating. Housemarque made bold claims before the game’s release date that this would have more on-screen zombies than any game ever made. While it is true that an impressive number of zombie hordes come out of nowhere (and the variety in enemies is equally strong), the game’s top-down view is sometimes too high up and distant to get a good view of all of them. There are occasional problems with straggler zombies coming out of nowhere and getting in cheap hits. The extended camera angles and generally dark atmosphere make it hard to see these loners. On higher difficulty levels, getting hit with these cheap shots can be a major problem.

Although Dead Nation is a solid single player game, it is best played co-op, especially on the higher difficulties. Housemarque put together a well-made zombie shooter, but the odd controls and occasional frustrating gameplay hold it back from being a step above the rest. I got the game on sale for $7.50, and that’s not a bad price. If you can find a similar deal, go for it, but otherwise I would hold off unless you are a big fan of all things zombie.