Red Dead Redemption – Undead Nightmare hands-on

Fortunately, Marston has a few new weapons that work a little better in the heat of the moment, the most immediately useful being a torch. Not only can Marston swing it around to set the undead on fire, but if they get too close he can stab them in the face, conveniently ending them.

It also plays a major role in clearing out the cemeteries. When we reached Coot’s Chapel, we found out that the only way to purify the graveyard was to set fire to several unearthed coffins. Setting one on fire causes more to emerge from the ground, along with a few dozen hungry zombies, which continues until the last coffin’s been burned. After that, a “boss” zombie (in this case a pale, twisted version of deranged “stranger” Alma Horlick) will claw its way out of the ground and attack; kill it, and the ground is holy again. Think of these segments as being like the regular game’s Gang Hideouts, but with less gunfire and more biting.

The rest of Marston’s new arsenal isn’t quite as down-to-earth. For starters, he’s got holy water, which acts like a firebomb that envelops zombies in blue flames. There’s also Zombie Bait, a chunk of gross-looking meat that draws zombies toward it, and Boom Bait, which is zombie bait that explodes (just like the pipe bombs in Left 4 Dead).

But the awesomely ridiculous centerpiece is Marston’s new blunderbuss. Far from being just an antique firearm, the Blunderbuss uses zombie parts as ammunition, and can instantly reduce any zombie standing in front of it to an explosion of red mist. It’s quick, it’s powerful and ammunition for it is everywhere; all you need to do to fill up is loot a few dead zombies.

Clearing cemeteries may be your central goal in Undead Nightmare (at least, we’re assuming it is; other story missions are also likely), but it’s far from your only one. Because you can’t camp anymore, you’ll only be able to save and fast-travel from safe houses – and in order to earn those, you’ll have to clear out the towns they’re in. At this point in our demo, we were jumped to some little nothing town that was populated only by the undead and a handful of armed survivors standing on the rooftops.

To clear out the horde, we climbed up to the survivors, jumped behind a Gatling gun and started laying waste – which turned out to be trickier than we would have thought. Even with a machinegun, kills required headshots. Once we started picking them off, it was just a matter of lasting through several waves of undead – not too difficult, really, when you’re standing on a roof – until the town was declared safe. In the end, the Boom Bait turned out to be especially useful for killing off the horde, as did the Explosive Rifle from the Liars and Cheats DLC.

In addition to cleansed towns, you can also find a safe haven at the various military-controlled “clean zones” (Fort Mercer, for instance). These are also where you’ll be able to pick up Missing Person missions, which stand in for the regular game’s Wanted missions, and usually entail riding out into the countryside, rescuing someone from a zombie-besieged building, and then escorting them back to the clean zone. In our case, we rescued a man who’d holed up on the top floor of the Ridgewood Farm house and refused to come out until we’d killed off all the zombies trying to find him. Luckily, he turned out to be able to defend himself, and rode with Marston instead of on his own horse, both of which made keeping track of him less of a chore.

In addition to what we saw, we’re told Undead Nightmare will feature new, spookier music tracks by Red Dead composers Bill Elm and Woody Jackson, including a few new vocal tracks. There’ll also be a new multiplayer mode, although we can’t tell you about that just yet. As of this morning, Rockstar's pegged the DLC's release for Oct. 26 (yes, just in time for Halloween), whenyou can expect to shell out 800 Microsoft Points, or $9.99 on PSN. From what we’ve seen so far, it should be worth it.

Oct 14, 2010