Snowballs, tanks, crabs and wolves: ooh, we have done well today. Lest we rest on our high concept laurels, let’s throw some zombies into the mix too.
Old Half-Life mod Zombie Panic finally gets its HL2-powered sequel, Zombie Panic Source. Given that so many ambitious HL2 mods seem to grind silently to a halt, it’s superhappytime to have one of ’em see the light of day.
The concept? Man versus Undead Man – each warmblood the zombies fell then joins the shambling horde, so it’s all about ever-increasing weight of groaning numbers versus superior weaponry. Ammo’s harshly limited though, so there’s a lot of scope for bitter arguments about sharing between the survivors. Not a lot of that on the servers I’ve played on thus far, but there have been a lot of people quoting Still Alive ad nauseum.
This release carries the ever-abused ‘beta’ handle, though in this case it seems used in the more traditional sense. This is very clearly an early release, as evident in the limited player models and an unfortunate bug that sees the human characters all posed as if ready for crucifixion (or as if they were Deus Ex: Invisible War NPCs) on some servers. It’s a giggle, and the deliberately clumsy nature of all the running and hiding involved is a fine change from the intense precision of all those more militaristic mods that feed off the Source engine. Plus, y’know, zombies. Zombies are cool these days; no longer just a lazy crutch for rudimentary AI and dodging an 18 rating by using green blood. Plus we haven’t had many zombies for a while, HL2 Ep2 aside – it’s nice to welcome the festering old dears back.
I’m not likely to play this initial, relatively crude build of ZP for much beyond curiosity, though. While the concept works and there’s plenty of promise for its future, it needs a little more zest in practice to whet my whistle in the longterm – it doesn’t really nail either the horror or the humour of zombies just yet. I’ll keep an eye on it, though – now the framework’s up and running, tweaking it into something a little more characterful hopefully won’t be too punishing for the ZP team, who deserve huge respect and huger hugs for getting a big, working mod out on time.
And, unlike the Fortress Forever guys, pipped resoundingly and unfortunately to the post by Team Fortress 2, at least this lot have a head start on Valve. History looks set to repeat itself a little, as Valv’es own Left 4 Dead is due later this year, which barks up a fairly similar zombie/survivor tree. While Zombie Panic may lack the funds and creative experience to go truly head to head with Valve’s ghoulish opus, at least it’s got a few months to build up a community before the bigger boys turn up and stamp on their toys.
Left 4 Dead’s something we’ll be talking about in RPS in due course – post-Orange Box, expectations for Valve’s next step are crazy-high. If there’s anyone who can challenge Team Fortress 2’s teamplay crown, it’s the company that actually made Team Fortress 2. Even so, it’s quite the tall order. Oh, and there’d better be a song in it. Serendipitously enough, Portal musicman Jonathon Coulton’s already written one about zombies: