Contagion Hopes To Catch Kickstarter Fever

By Craig Pearson on September 26th, 2013 at 8:00 pm.


Ever since the first PC was bitten, the zombie game plague has spread across the world. It was initially contained, but since Steam arrived the contamination has taken hold, spreading through the interpipes, hunting for new games to infect. We are now at day 8402 of the plague and a new strain has just landed on my PC. Contagion has the same form of contamination that Killing Floor has: a co-operative zombie killing mod turning pro, in this case it’s a mutation of Zombie Panic Source that’s become a full-fledged Source Engine title. It’s currently Kickstarting its little legs off, and I’ve had a very quick play.

I joined an in-progress game in an overrun police department. Instead of warping to the current team’s position, I spawned at the start of the level and had to navigate to them. Their gunfire led me there (and I discovered it has a use in another mode): the muffled bangs getting sharper and louder as I hunted for help. This is a slower, more oppressive co-op game than Left 4 Dead. You start with only a few bullets and your top speed is nothing more than a jog. You’re supposed to walk and deal with everything in a careful manner, illuminating enemies who lumber towards you and deciding if they’re potent enough of a threat to deserve your bullets, or if they’re melee fodder. Axes and gunbutts are liberally used to split the face of the decomposing targets, and you can take an arm or a leg off to slow the things down and flee. My absolute favorite moment was stopping a zombie mid-swipe on a team-mate. He had his back to her, taking care of a doorway packed with corpses, and I turned to see her preparing a swipe. My shot sliced her arm off at the shoulder before she made contact with him.

Even at a slow pace, things can leap out at you: locked doors and shadowy corners conceal the shuffling deadites, and the police station level that we were slaughtering our way through seemed to be made out of dark corners and odd angles. It was also huge, a place to get lost in and discover empty offices while attempting to keep everyone together. I got lost a second time, but traced them through gunshots, eventually spotting a flickering flashlight at the top of a stairwell. Even though we were heading to the basement, various building calamaties sent us up to the roof before heading down to the lower building.

I spent an encouraging 30 minutes in the company of strangers. There’s no otherwordlyness here, apart from the undead. Just a slow burn trudge through the horror of a zombie outbreak. We stuck together, picking through the building and sharing ammo and weapons. The ending was abrubt: we got to the basement and a gate slowy creaked open, allowing us to crawl under. It was over.

I didn’t have the chance to play the other modes, but they do intrigue me. There’s an extraction mode where you rescue some unarmed AI, and a deathmatch that I really want to play: you fight off humans and zombies, and the same sound that dragged me to the safety of the team in the PvE mode will give away my position in the PvP. That sounds like a cruel joke.

Here’s the Kickstarter pitch. I own both Valve monster shufflers, and enjoy a bit of Killing Floor now and again, but there’s still room for this in my life.

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58 Comments »

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  1. Freud says:

    How about instead of killing zombies you have a game where you have to capture them and give them a cure. Then in a final twist it is revealed that the humans have been the monsters all along and you are creating more of them.

    • Dudeist says:

      “The Only Cure is Dying”. Do you know other cure for zombies?

      • HadToLogin says:

        You probably need to define ZOMBIES, as for example everybody calls enemies in Left 4 Dead zombies, even through they are just very-crazy people…
        But if zombie=walking dead meat then yeah, kinda hard to cure death…

    • julli1 says:

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  2. Lagwolf says:

    Woah, how original a zombie game, I am so glad no has thought of that plot in the last few years. It is nice that game companies are going out of their way to to be original with their game ideas.

    It is my hope this thing bombs on Kickstarter… and doesn’t reach its goal. Maybe if a few zombie games fizzle, game devs. might use their imaginations and try a bit harder.

    • int says:

      What’s next then? Zombie comics? Zombie tv series? Zombie… movies!?!

      • FurryLippedSquid says:

        Zombie loo roll. Zombie’s Got Talent. I’m A Zombie, Get Me Out Of Here. Zombie Shore. Zombieoaks. Domino’s new Zombie-Crust pizza.

      • bigblack says:

        I liked your written piece there, Exuro, thanks for that link. I absolutely agree.

        To the OP who wants this game to fail on KS:

        I don’t understand all your whining and crying about zombie games. Why are you complaining about things you will never try or experience? Are you under some delusion that these developers AREN’T making the game they wanted to make? You have no interest in the type of game Monochrome is making, so you hope they fail. Are you this way about foods that other people like, but you hate, as well? Books that are in genres you fail to appreciate? You are being a total dick.

      • Shuck says:

        That starts to get at some of the issues I have with people complaining about “yet another zombie game.”
        For one, the spate of games we’re seeing right now are attempts to create a particular type of “zombie experience” that we really haven’t actually seen before – the classic, Romero zombie movie (with desperate humans barricading themselves away, coming into conflict with other people, etc.). The few games trying to do that which are both out and complete so far aren’t necessarily worth playing, so the games in development are all competing largely with games that don’t yet exist.
        Second, we have huge numbers of other games that take very specific things as their point of reference without people complaining – Warhammer 40k, Lord of the Rings (in games, the very word “fantasy,” by default, evokes a standard set of Tolkien-derived elements), etc. The number of games just trying to recreate some aspect of “Aliens” is enormous. “Roadside Picnic” has apparently become the primary point of reference for ex-Soviet made games with post-apocalyptic settings. (In the West, the point of reference for such games is the Mad Max series.) How many “special forces” games are there, and do people complain about the lack of originality when another appears? “Zombie” has become a genre – it’s a set of narrative/setting conventions that’s easily understood, and which you can distinguish yourself via relatively small variations. Just like games in other genres.
        Third, the fact of the matter is that people don’t really like a lot of novelty, ultimately. I include setting, narrative, mechanics, UI, etc. in that. Generally speaking, the more innovative a game is, the smaller the potential audience. People like to have a sense of familiarity with their entertainment. Having to expend a lot of mental effort to understand the game (that is, the sum total of the narrative, setting, mechanics, etc.) is going to lose you audience. Being able to pigeonhole a game is really useful to describe and market a game, too: Platformer. Zombie game. Fantasy. JRPG. You hear those and you have a sense of what you’re in for, as a player.

        • Exuro says:

          Yeah, well that’s essentially what I was trying to get at. I was just trying to come at it from a universal perspective. It’s exactly this kind of ‘ugh, another one of these?’ comments that I was responding to. They’re just so asinine and they achieve nothing.

        • HadToLogin says:

          You’re right in general, but wrong in details. Name 5 games about aliens from last 2 years. Or about cops. Or about special forces (real SF, not Battle-of-Duty ones). Or about World War 2.
          And now, name 5 games about Zombies…

          Not that games about Zombies are bad things – there are few I can’t wait to get into my hands. But I really think they could use a bit of creativity when it comes to choosing enemies. Would State of Decay became worse game if it was Martians Invasion instead of Zombies? Would Contagion became worse game if it were for-example werewolves (chosen because those can infect too) instead of zombies?
          Just look at success of “zombie genre” game – PayDay. And all they’ve done was exchanging zombies with cops to not look like “another zombie game”TM…

          • Shuck says:

            There have certainly been two year periods with five (and more) Aliens-derived games, and I suspect we could come up with a list of five from the last two years without too much trouble, even if there is a lull in that particular area. There have been a hell of a lot more than five Tolkien fantasy games in the last two years. Military shooters? Waaay more than five. As for substituting something else for zombies – “Martians” or werewolves come with certain expectations. You could bend “Martians” to fit the role of zombies, but at some point they would simply be zombies, albeit alien ones. Werewolves change the whole dynamic – they’re expected to be fast, solitary, etc. The human-on-human violence that’s part of the societal collapse in zombie movies wouldn’t be appropriate, or at the very least would require complex explanation that bogs things down. Other elements wouldn’t fit. This leaves aside that it’s trying to recreate a particular movie experience that hasn’t been done yet. (And what’s a “werewolf game”? That’s a marketing problem.) Payday certainly isn’t a zombie game in any meaningful way. The dynamics and mechanics are completely different.

    • airmikee99 says:

      The oldest zombie video game I can find was released for the Amiga, Atari, and DOS in 1990, Horror Zombies from the Crypt. Since then there have been nearly 100 zombie games. Since many of them failed, just when is it that developers will start using their imagination and trying harder?

      Or, since you’re a self claimed expert on making zombie video games, why don’t you shit or get off the pot?

      • FurryLippedSquid says:

        Where did he claim he was an expert on making zombie-based games?

          • FurryLippedSquid says:

            So, utterly unnecessary then?

          • airmikee99 says:

            I’m not sure how you got unnecessary out of that definition, but whatever floats your boat, I guess.

          • FurryLippedSquid says:

            Exaggeration, rhetoric,, yada yada. Unnecessary.

            I suppose what really annoys me about your post was that you were having a pop, insinuating, and generally being slightly unpleasant. But whatever floats your boat.

            I guess.

          • airmikee99 says:

            Aw, I’ll let you know if I ever decide to care about your opinion, but don’t hold your breath.

          • FurryLippedSquid says:

            As long as you feel good about yourself.

          • airmikee99 says:

            Why wouldn’t I? Someone made a snarky comment, I replied in the same snarky tone. Do you let stuff like that affect your self-esteem? If not, why would I? If you do, that’s just sad, and something you should fix, ASAP.

          • FurryLippedSquid says:

            I’ll direct you to an old saying, and say no more on the subject.

            Two wrongs do not make a right.

          • airmikee99 says:

            Ah, so that explains why you’re chastising me for chastising someone else for chastising the article. Makes perfect sense.

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        DrScuttles says:

        Ha, you just reminded me of a weird unlicensed version of Dawn of the Dead I had on the Amiga, appropriately titled Zombi. You even got to block the doors to the mall with trucks. Controlled as a first person party RPG adventure type thing, vaguely like Eye of the Beholder or Hired Guns but not as good.

      • roberthdylan says:

        @airmikee99 Rather I think the onus is on you, kind Sir, to clearly explain how this cookie cutter zombie game isn’t bland, generic, uninspiring and generally disposable – even actively cynical.

        Not to say it won’t be minimally playable once released, or fail to provide one solid hour of rapidly diminishing amusement – but that to so boldly leap to its undead defence seems unwise at this particular juncture.

        Zombies: the video gaming equivalent of Zizek’s ‘Big Other.’ Discuss.

        • airmikee99 says:

          So you can claim a game you haven’t played is boring and bland, but I can’t tell you that you’re wrong because you haven’t played it yet unless I detail how a game I haven’t played isn’t boring and bland?

          Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. If you’re making a claim that a game is bland and boring, the onus is upon you to prove it. Since you haven’t played the game, that makes it impossible for you to accurately make that claim, and so of course you would shift the burden to me because that absolves you of having to back up your claim with evidence. How convenient for you, isn’t it?

          • roberthdylan says:

            Fair enough. Thanks for the reply.

            Zombie Panic: Source was kinda fun, but (imo) the arbitrarily slow walk speed for zombies was often frustrating. Players familiar with map layout and objectives would also run off, leaving new players at a loss. Few people would share ammo. While map design was only adequate, ‘Zombie Vision’ was neat.

            It’s just that the underlying concepts of this particular game feel too similar to other mods. It needs.. Zombies or something. Oh wait.

            – Check out Crackbone playing Z.P on loltube. Interesting how players and their human quirkyness are often more interesting than the game itself.

            L8ers.

    • The Random One says:

      I’m tired of these games in which you control an entity in a virtual world that interacts with other entities! Is it too much too ask for something else?

      • Premium User Badge

        cpt_freakout says:

        I mean, what the hell man? You can JUMP!?!? What the fucking fuck unoriginal sheeple would introduce an overused mechanic like jumping in a game?!?

    • Universal Quitter says:

      Your blog is….interesting…

      I don’t know what to call a British person that raves about bias in the “mainstream media.” Here we just call them Republicans.

      • Exuro says:

        I’m not sure if I’m being insulted or not… but oh well. I prefer to think of it less as raving and more as calmly raising points of discussion.

    • Derpa says:

      The devs for the game have continuing their zombie game since HL1

    • JediShoki says:

      Zombie Panic Source (which this game is an evolution of) was I mod I played for months before L4D came out. By coincidence I was just telling a friend about it and it’s “zombies look like barrels” level that prop hunter reminded me of.

      I love L4D but as this game was out first, and many of the mechanics are identical to what I remember, it strikes me as wise to get your facts straight before you claim that this game is following the trend.

      Remember, before L4D there wasn’t a lot of. Zombie game options beyOnd Resident Evil games… The pickings were super slim in the multiplayer PvP or PvE range. This game was first… And it was great fun. L4D scratched that it h good though… But I’m ready to come back.

    • El_Emmental says:

      If you weren’t buying all these zombies games, and buying original games instead, game devs might try new environment/stories more often.

      Just take a step outside and check the indie games world: originality everywhere. Does it make these games much more enjoyable ? Yes and no, just because it’s about zombies or not about zombies doesn’t make the game experience enjoyable or actually original, same with the gameplay.

  3. DrManhatten says:

    Please can we just get over this zombie nonsense it is getting really tiring.

    • treat says:

      Not as tiring as these comments.

    • airmikee99 says:

      How sad. Someone has a gun to your head, forcing you to click on, read, and comment upon articles that do not suit your needs. Right?

    • El_Emmental says:

      Please can we just get over this Internet nonsense it is getting really tiring.

  4. Tjee says:

    I actually loved Zombie Panic Source so I am kind of looking forward to this game. The Deathmatch feature ZP:S offers, with zombies vs humans, is really well implemented. The barricades are fun, and the maps allow for special ways of barricading that require some experience but can stop a lot of zombies. The fact that guns weigh you down makes the mod all the more fun.

    I agree that the zombie theme is overused. But let’s face it, not a lot of those Zombie games are actually good at competitive multiplayer. I want more focus on deathmatch. I want to fight human adversaries as a zombie and of course the other way around and I want it done a whole lot better than LFD (ZP:S basically nailed it).

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    cpt_freakout says:

    I want this! I’m not tired of the zombie theme yet – I guess I am one or whatever. Anyway, a variation of L4D sounds great to me, because there are very few games (yes, even non-zombie ones) that do this kind of multiplayer well (and so engaging!). And it looks good for what it is, so I’m making my wallet suffer for a bit more this month…

  6. SkittleDiddler says:

    Apparently the phone companies will continue to offer service during the zombie apocalypse. Props to them.

  7. kwyjibo says:

    How on earth does a smartphone function in the zombie apocalypse?

  8. RProxyOnly says:

    So they want to kickstart something that’s subject is already at market saturation?

    Not the brightest bulbs in the fittings,are they?

    • El_Emmental says:

      “Oh, quick ! Let’s judge a game on its appearance and not its gameplay and game mechanics” – then it’s the same people crying because there isn’t innovative gameplay in AAA titles *sigh*

  9. Traxx says:

    Before bashing on it, you guys should really check it out.
    Instead of thinking, “A new company trying to put another zombie game, ughhh” keep in mind these are the guys behind Zombie Panic! A mod that was released back in 2003 and became very popular and successful.(Then Zombie Panic: Source came making it a bigger hit) This game is that spiritual successor, so it actually has a lot of potential and a game to be reckoned with! They know their stuff and after all, it’s all about execution.

  10. The Random One says:

    The PvP mode looks like something out of the 7DFPS jam. An arena shooter in which you can tell when enemies are nearby because they left their bluetooth enabled.

  11. Tatsur0 says:

    Want to thank RPS for giving Contagion a look! Our friends who know who they are for looking out for us, and all those who have been supporting us and our Zombie game(s) since 2001 or 2003 for Zombie Panic release Halloween 2003! 10 years now!

    Thank you :)

  12. razorramone says:

    Zombie games allow a dev to use simple AI, poor sounds (‘blurrrrrrrr’), and shitty brown textures. That’s my theory for this glut of zombie games that all look alike. Something about the enemies being completely mindless turns me off from all these games, i’d rather they were dogs, and at least had some thought and rationality.

    • Tjee says:

      Not really a dog person, I take it?

    • Derpa says:

      So guess you never looked into ZPS?

      Or the fact this game also has player controlled zombies.

    • El_Emmental says:

      “simple AI” – oh yeah, having an AI code able to handle more than 30 (even more if you have 4+ players covering the whole map) NPCs movements (and if the zombies are fast-zombies, very fast movements) at the same time, with proper collision between them (and not just lazy going through each others), capable of finding a credible path through tons of obstacles and destroyed elements, is a simple AI.

      The AI in a game isn’t just getting the generic-soldier-with-a-mp5/ak crouch behind the chest-high cover and lean to lay down suppressive fire on your last know position.

      If you want flanking, ambushing and waiting AI in a shooter, you can go play Vietcong 1 (2003) and see how it’s done.

      “Modern” AIs are or feel like shit only because the majority of video game buyers don’t want a smart AI and stop playing if the AI is smarter than them. Investing money in AI in AAA video games is a budgeting mistake.

      If people were OK with smart AIs, we would get a few good AIs. If people were PAYING for smart AIs, most titles would have smart AIs. As a matter of fact, it isn’t the case at all.

  13. Premium User Badge

    G-Lord says:

    Sure there are a lot of zombie games already, but I could easily get into another Killing Floor or Left 4 Dead.
    Also like the Evil Dead reference with the deadites Craig ;).

  14. Secundus says:

    please vote on my “worst zombie game of 2012-13″ yall http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/MQJ3NYB

    • El_Emmental says:

      Ho my… are these real Greenlight projects ? o_o

      I feel bad for these people, shelling $100 for yet-another-2D-units-spam shovelware.

      Or the zombified lady in a bunny suit and huge round breasts implants, with a terrible pun as its name (Zombeer, seriously).

      Or the hipsters somewhat learning to code and making cheap flash-like 2D base defender with themselves as the zombies (omg so ironic – we’re like, hipster-fashion victims and stuff).

      Or the game that doesn’t even try to be any subtle: a smirking raised-eyebrow blond-haired guy with shades, on a tropical beach with a full-plate heroic-fantasy bronze-like armor (blue cape included), with the stereotype of the blonde erotic model/pornstar in a wahine costume (dried palm tree skirt, coconut bikini and red hibiscus flower in the hair) caressing his chest. I don’t know how they could forget the roadster motorbike on the beach shooting flames out of the exhaust and the electric guitar throwing thunderbolt in the sky. And monster truck jumping over an erupting volcano in the background (with the main character’s smirking face poorly painted on it). It’s a RPG, apparently. Some people love the humour in it.

      Btw, I don’t see why “Zombies” (the office carnage game) is listed there, it’s a rather clever little game criticizing “modern” management – it’s not using zombies because of the game designer laziness, it uses zombies to denounce the current trend in management methods.