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Undead Nightmare Review

I recently played through Undead Nightmare on my Destructiod Live show at http://www.twitch.tv/destructoid (I cast at 6PM GMT, Midday Central, 10am Pacific Monday-Friday)

Here is a review I wrote this morning...

Let me know what you think, 1st proper review I have wrote in a few years...

PS3, Xbox 360 (Version Reviewed)

Whether it's barricading yourself in an empty pub, navigating an abandoned shopping mall, or setting up a camp in a remote location, movies have been preparing us for the (inevitable) zombie apocalypse ever since Romero's first undead minion rose from the grave.

This infestation that has been feasting on the brains of cinema-goers for generations had largely been resisted by a few hardy heroes of the video game world.

Leon Kennedy. Jill Valentine. That spiky-haired dude with 3D glasses. G. This is all we needed to protect us from the slavering horde. Then all hell broke lose. Like a zombie outbreak itself, suddenly they were everywhere.

It started, like it always does, from a few clever/mad individuals messing around with stuff they probably shouldn't. In 2005 Alex Quick released a demo, based off the Unreal Engine 2, called Killing Floor. It was a simple game, survive wave after wave of zombie attacks whilst upgrading your gear as you go, but the central mechanic was great and people couldn't get enough of the 'just one more go' game-play.

Before the world had a chance to realize what was happening, it had begun.

Frank West (he covered wars, you know?) was using anything he could get his hands on, or body in, to smash hundreds of the undead into a festering soup in the Romero inspired Dead Rising.

A small group of unknown developers by the name of Valve, started experimenting with mob-spawning in the Source Engine in-between coding sessions. They quickly discovered the power of the undead tide was too strong to resist, and Left 4 Dead was born.

Before we knew it, the zombies had infected even the Call Of Duty franchise, with World At War's defining zombie-mode fully establishing a legitimate undead presence in the video game world, which now extends to an official George A Romero DLC for Black Ops entitled Call of the Dead.

Now we have a plethora of games, covering every platform and game type, shuffling, stumbling and/or running ceaselessly toward us. The survival-minded gamer can take on these abominations as a plant, a tourist, a tycoon, the army, a wrangler, a Japanese Yakuza, a driver or even a cowboy....

Released both as an expansion for the lauded cowboy-em-up Red Dead Redemption, and as a stand-alone game, Undead Nightmare is Rockstar's attempt to reanimate the (SPOILER ALERT) corpse of John Martson.

The story is totally separate from the main canon storyline of RDR, and sees Martson and family at home on their farm. Before you can ask 'What's that smell?' his wife and son have been infected, and John must set out again into the Wild West in order to find a cure for his family.

The game-play is much the same as the main game, albeit more focused and with less variety. Zombies are considerably more hardy than your average cowboy, as body shots will only provide a brief respite from attack before they stagger to their feet again. The best and only advice is, like Shaun said, 'Aim for the head.' Whilst you may have spent most of the time in the uninfected world lazily picking off cattle-rustlers and bandits with easy kills, each and every zombie kill feels like an achievement, and packs of zombies present a real challenge.

Undead Nightmare uses the original games 'Dead-Eye' system, which with a press of the thumb-stick allows the player to slow down time, and carefully pick your shots to maximize killing efficiency. It could be argued this was a rather redundant feature, as RDR's shooting mechanic and aiming system was such that you never really needed to use it except to show off or save time. This is not the case anymore, as you will need every advantage you can get your hands on to prevent Martson from becoming lunch. Even the generic, everyday zombie can be a problem at times, and when you add in large groups containing more advanced mob-types with refined attacks, it won't be long before your chewing tobacco to refill your dead-eye meter like a zombie will chew threw your brain if you don't.

Its not just the humans who are suffering in this outbreak, as RDR's much celebrated environments have succumbed too. Zombie bears and sasquatches will stalk you in Tall Trees, bats fly away when you disturb the bushes, and all the towns have been over-run. So it's up to you to save them.

Saving towns is the main non-mission mode in Undead Nightmare. You will see a town become over-run by an icon on your map, and upon entering you will need to help the last surviving residents by killing zombies. A bar will appear at the top of your screen, telling you how many undead you have to kill before you can claim back the town for the living. When this is done, you will be rewarded with ammo, the respect of the town, and the ability to save and fast travel. Be warned though, as those zombies don't give up easily, and it won't be long before the town is under attack again.

You will spend a great majority of your time in the Zombiefied West saving these towns from the ever-spawning masses, or attempting to stem the rise of the undead by burning graveyards and taking out boss zombies. There are a number of actual scripted story missions too, featuring some of the more memorable characters such as West Dickens and Seth. The cut-scenes that accompany these missions are on the same high level as those from the original, with returning voice actors and premium production quality shining through. Unfortunately, the cut-scenes, like the missions that follow them, are over pretty quickly, and it wont be long before your back saving towns and burning graveyards.

The single-player campaign will take around six hours to finish, but if you want to unlock and see everything (you will) that time is greatly extended. Even after that you could play endlessly if you desired, such is the compelling nature of the world. There are plenty of new challenges and tasks available so there is always a fun distraction to be had. These include the rather awesome Four Horses of the Apocalypse - War, Pestilence, Famine, and Death - unique-themed and skinned mounts that spawn around the world at certain locations. They are well worth the effort to track and break, and if you are able to tame all four, a pretty killer surprise awaits. You also get two new game modes for multi-player, Undead Overrun and Tilted Land Grab, and some new skins for your avatar too!

Undead Nightmare packs in more content than maybe any DLC that has come before. It can even could be argued as a stand-alone game it offers more fun and varied game-play that most full-price releases. Red Dead Redemption was a game that had a truly beautiful, cinematic world. It was an environment where you didn't need to do main story missions in order to have fun, in fact many people will have more fun just messing about and riding around, and Undead Redemption extends this sense of exploration, creativity and imagination.

Overall, this is a stellar piece of DLC, and the few concerns you may have about repetitive game-play is totally overcome by the brain-hungry, action-packed, content-filled experience that awaits you. Zombies might be taking over, but if this is what the Undead Apocalypse will look like, serving your brain up on a platter for the horde to feast on maybe a better option than hiding in the pub.
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About Spamfishone of us since 4:47 PM on 11.18.2011

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