Zombies are a funny old bunch; monotone and ugly and yet, somehow - like the kid who looked old enough to buy alcohol at school - they manage to make any party more fun just by turning up.
With the success of Resident Evil, the manic, undead maiming madness of Dead Rising and the epic success of Nazi Zombies, you'd be forgiven for frowning at the likes of Yakuza and now Red Dead Redemption for jumping on the dusty old bandwagon - especially since the worlds their franchises reside in don't logically allow for the reanimation of grave-dwellers.
We too were sceptical when we first heard about Rockstar's new zombie direction for Red Dead. It felt like a bit of a cash-in. Yet we only needed to see the first few screenshots for the Undead Nightmare Pack to remember that with a game the quality of Red Dead Redemption, Rockstar can pretty much do what it wants.
If the Undead trailers hadn't convinced us (which it did), now we've ridden the plagued West first hand - and we're grinning from ear to slightly chewed ear, safe in the knowledge that Red Dead zombies works.
First things first, we need to establish what the darn tootin' is actually going on here. The cause of the zombie epidemic isn't made clear, but that's the point. Taking place between the "home" period of the main game and the end, John Marston wakes to find deranged hordes of the undead occupying the local towns and outposts in a terribly unsociable manner.
The mission, then, is simple - in a whole new story-based, single-player mini campaign, you've got to find out what exactly is going on and return the zombies to a state of deadness.
We take the pad and whistle for our trusty steed, which is missing quite a bit of flesh. In fact it looks truly disgusting with its head perched on the thin stick of bone that is its neck. The animals in particular are grotesque - we suppose that's a tick for Rockstar from a design point - but the horses, for example, have new zombie abilities. They're faster, with more stamina but more erratic, which manifests itself as under-steer and over-steer.
We trot off to see our good ol' pal Seth. He's a grave robber, remember, crazy and doesn't look much better than the zombies themselves, so it makes sense to get his opinion on what this is all about.
GOOD OL' SETH
Seth is playing guards with zombie friend Moses, who is little more than a drowsy post of meat with five cards resting in his hands. There's that dark humour again then. Seth's obviously delighted that the guys he's spent so long hanging around with (and stealing from) prior to the undead rising are now showing a little more personality, but Marston manages to get his attention for long enough to get a new objective. Seth tells him that if he wants to cure the plague, his best bet is to clean out the graveyards. This is the advice of a loon, granted, but it's the best we've got so we got to do just that.
Graveyards are essentially the equivalent of gang hide-outs in the main campaign. The idea is to burn all the coffins in the ground, but setting fire to the first attracts the attention of zombies who crawl out of the ground to try and stop you.
This is where the crux of Undead Nightmare becomes apparent and the real fun begins. The pack is basically about out-numbering you time and time again against loads of zombies. Simple. Simple and very entertaining.
So you're standing in a graveyard, you've got a bunch of coffins to burn (don't ask why that works it just does) and you're surrounded by zombies. Things are looking pretty bleak but Marston is equipped with a brand new arsenal of weapons specially geared towards zombie smashing.