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By PeterChi28-11-2013
StuntmanLT (editor)
Bobfish (editor)

The Defence

Monochrome LLC
Monochrome LLC
Action, Horror, Indie
Release Date:

The Prosecution

Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4GHz
AMD equivalent
Nvidia GeForce 8600
AMD equivalent
8 GB
7 GB

There is a pathogen spreading. It has been spreading for a few years now and has culminated in the gaming industry being overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by zombie games of all shapes and sizes. Some shamble into view only to disappear into the shadows, your wallet in their decay-swollen hands. Some come gurgling about post-apocalyptic survival challenges when really they just want you to shoot them repeatedly. But there is hope. Out in the smelly darkness of zombie-gaming, Contagion is tearing its clothes and shaping up to make itself the rottenest of them all (in a good way).

Monochrome Games are the team behind the popular Half Life 2 mod Zombie Panic! Source that was released way back in 2007. The spiritual successor, Contagion, a multiplayer first-person zombie survival-fest, has been developed as a stand-alone game and released on Steam’s Early Access program. So how is it shaping up?

He he, he forgot to put it on silent!

He he, he forgot to put it on silent!

Graphically, Contagion is very pretty. The game opts for a more realistic graphical style than the likes of Left 4 Dead, and zombie damage both looks and feels great. If you shoot a zombie in the head you’ll see a chunk of skull pop off the back as they topple to the ground. A shotgun blast to a zombie’s stomach will reward you with some shiny entrails that swing with each step. Blow one of their legs off and they’ll come crawling after you.

The game’s levels are maze-like and varied, with the paths available through each being remapped every time you play. Currently available maps are a bright sunlit park, a suburb at night and a police station. All are overrun by nasty undead and showing signs of how the previous inhabitants struggled against the infection. Items including weapons, ammunition, and keys that are needed to progress in the police station, are scattered through each level differently on each play through, making game play a scavenger hunt for limited resources.

The emphasis in-game is on conserving what you have and making the best use of it. You will see people firing three shots trying to bring down a single zombie and you will shake your head in disgust at the waste of ammunition. It is always best to take a zombie down with a melee weapon if you have the opportunity and it helps that Contagion uses the old slow-moving zombie style, rather than the run-at-your-face-screaming one.

What really separates Contagion from other zombie games in the market is its intelligent use of sound. When playing you quickly realise that these zombies react much more quickly to sound than to vision. They will see you if you’re close and obvious, yet they will hear you much more quickly and move toward the sound. This may not seem like something that would be hard to avoid when combined with their slow movement, and most of the time it’s not. You can run past a small group, but they will follow you. Then you’ll run into another group and be surrounded, leaving you no choice but to pull out a firearm. Your gun will make a lot of noise, pulling every nearby zombie away from every half-eaten corpse, and before you know it you’re being wrestled to the ground and complimented on your exotic flavour.

How's that taste?

How's that taste?

This is the real joy of Contagion. It forces you to be smart. You will be pushed into situations in which you will panic and make mistakes, like shooting instead of running, or smashing a window instead of sneaking past a horde and opening the front door silently. The sound mechanic is used to its best in the versus game mode where you and the rest of the survivors are set against one another amongst the zombie horde and the only way to win is to be the last standing. There are different ways to play this. You can run around guns blazing, trying to kill all the survivors while attracting hordes of the dead to your position. You could also slowly and quietly stockpile weapons and ammunition, relying on your melee weapon to dispatch zombies silently. This will attract as little attention as possible and you just wait and watch, letting the other survivors make mistakes. In one match I killed one another survivor by repeatedly calling his cell phone while he was in a room with only one way out. I watched from the bushes as the ringtone attracted zombie after zombie, who he shot, bringing more. They eventually overwhelmed him while I sat and chuckled evilly until he ran out of ammo.

I stopped laughing when he came back to life and ate me.

When you die (something you will do a lot) you come back as a zombie version of yourself to hunt down the rest of the survivors in every game mode. You can do a zombie roar to attract more of the dead to follow you and make a mini-horde of your own then follow the noise to find the players who still have heartbeats. Contagion makes you play like the zombies in the game. You will watch for non-zombie-like movements and listen for running footsteps, breaking glass, or gunshots.

Monochrome is very active in development and keeps the game community up to date with the game’s changes. The most recent update greatly enhanced the performance of the game’s graphics and made it much easier to run at its highest settings as well as fixing some bugs and more than halving load times. At the moment content is limited to the three maps mentioned and three gameplay modes; versus, survivor rescue, which has you navigate the hordes in an attempt to rescue non-playable characters and escape. Escape is currently only playable on the police station map and sees you and your group try to find your way out of the facility.

He's a goth not a zombie.

He's a goth not a zombie.

The intelligence of the gameplay means it doesn’t need to rely on special infected or special events on each map to make the zombies more of a threat. They are a threat, but the situation is the real threat - the player who makes the bad decision and fires when he doesn’t need to, not finding enough ammunition and becoming surrounded, forgetting to close the door. Contagion may be the multiplayer zombie game fans have been looking for. With more maps and game play modes coming as development continues, it is difficult to see any way in which this will not be a great game on full release.

Comments (3)
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Posts: 1317

So far I'm really digging the game, but it suffers from the lack of an option to make sessions PRIVATE. I'm sick of having random idiots joining my server and screwing things up by shooting willy nilly. IDIOTS.

Posts: 1317

Screw it, I better just get it now when it's cheap. At least the flashlight beams are visible to other players now - you can't say the same for most other Source-games!

Posts: 596

This game looks really enticing I must say. Better yet it has cool origins and I did actually play the original mod which had a lot of potential but was limited by the fact it was a mod. This however seems to have taken it to the next level. Really want to try this game!