Rockstar’s long-gestating epic Western Red Dead Redemption 2 is finally here this week, likely to set records and gain plaudits by the metric ton.
You can understand why. Rockstar may be known predominantly for Grand Theft Auto, but Red Dead Redemption became one of its greatest triumphs when it released eight years ago. That ride to Mexico! That sucker punch! That Redemption! More moments like these in Red Dead Redemption 2 will be most welcome, but personally, I’m dreaming of a different kind of Red Dead sequel. Namely a return to Undead Nightmare.
Released eight years ago on the very date Red Dead Redemption 2 is set to launch, Undead Nightmare is an expansion to Red Dead Redemption, but it takes a rather unexpected turn from John Marston’s cowboy adventure and drags the realm of horror firmly into the Old West. So much so it ended up being a standalone game in its own right. It was Rockstar toying with the zombie game they wanted to make whilst shifting a familiar landscape.
Undead Nightmare is set in an alternate timeline, where the dead have risen and all manner of nasties prowl the wilds. John Marston seeks to cure the zombie plague and rid his ailing wife and son of it in the process. Zombies were already being overused in games at this point, but credit to Rockstar, it really went somewhere different with them.
Being set in the Old West is obviously chief among the reasons Undead Nightmare stands out, but it adds other fun elements too. For instance, John’s arsenal is bolstered by Holy Water and a Blunderbuss that actually shoots bits of undead out of it. Then there are touches like having undead horses to tame and being able to hunt down mythical creatures such as the Chupacabra and Bigfoot. It’s all so wonderfully bizarre and incredibly loving the horror genre, and is Rockstar’s only other stab at it outside Manhunt.
It even had its own multiplayer modes, include a 4 player co-op horde mode that was an absolute blast. Truly, Undead Nightmare remains one of the greatest expansions to a game ever made and damn if I didn’t want to see it come back for Red Dead Redemption 2.
I’d doubt we’d see something exactly like it this time though (though I wouldn’t be surprised to see a mission take inspiration from the film Bone Tomahawk). GTA V came and went without ever delivering single-player DLC after GTA Online kept that game in the Top 10 of most charts for most of the last five years, that became the sole focus. If Red Dead Redemption 2‘s Red Dead Online follows suit, I can’t see a traditional Undead Nightmare return, but I could see it appear in Red Dead Online to some degree.
See, GTA Online has evolved beyond mere deathmatches and heists on the streets of Los Santos, and now boasts things like sky track racing and Manhunt-inspired murder matches alongside the traditional fare. For Red Dead Online to have longevity in a modern gaming environment full of viable choices (from Fortnite to Overwatch to Rocket League) for swallowing up free time, it needs to have the kind of variety its stablemate’s online portion has built up, and that should allow, eventually, for things outside the conventional cowboy box.
That should include some trace of Undead Nightmare‘s D.N.A. be it a zombie horde co-op, seasonal event or even Legendary weapons and items (that blunderbuss would be a welcome, if macabre, addition!). Of course, it’d be even better if Rockstar surprised us all and sought to emulate the great feat they pulled off eight years ago.