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.