The source engine has produced many a good zombie survival game in recent years. If you have played either Killing Floor or No More Room in Hell, Contagion’s premise should be easy enough to understand. Survive from a high raft of zombies and sometimes do an objective while killing the undead.
Contagion is the spiritual successor to Zombie Panic: Source, the Half Life 2 Mod. It seems to have been a great decision to keep with the theme as Monochrome clearly know what they want to achieve.
To start with, the game looks absolutely brilliant. The mood is certainly set with a wide array of areas to explore and scuttle around in. Walls are sprayed in blood, lighting reflects off broken vending machines and houses are left in a state of despair. Some textures disappoint, but for the most part, the game looks drop dead gorgeous.
Although this is in Beta, map variety is just fine. Aurora Estates is the best map out of the three available, where tension lies around every corner. The houses (although most are mere set pieces) are filled with subtle nods to the zombie epidemic and sometimes even paint grim possible events of death and destruction. When your flashlight is on, the light reflects off different objects, producing lens flare. It’s moments like that when the game sets its self apart from its competitors. You feel immersed in the exploration, striving for the light. With each area being seemly empty, there is an almost sadistic chill across traversing the map. That is until the zombies hoard in from every possible angle.
During my play time previewing the game Contagion’s zombies are so-so. There isn’t any special zombie type, which is probably for the best, as Monochrome clearly want to paint a realistic picture with this game. Although there isn’t a defined set of different enemy types, there is the occasional zombie that seems to be a bullet hungry being. I can’t count the amount of times I almost died because a zombie just tanked all of my bullets. Zombie’s animations were so-so, almost suffering from some of the problems that fill No More Room in Hell with anger and frustration. Often zombies will get stuck on stairs and doorways, reducing your exit points. If a zombie was behind a door, the door would hit them, pause for a second, and then close itself. Luckily you can blast through most doors and open up a gap for yourself.
At its core, Contagion’s gameplay is in its gunplay, and good news: it’s fantastic. Each gun feels distinctly unique with the recoil feeling super realistic. The Colt flies up as you fire of a bullet into the undead, managing the recoil and space around is important to survival. The sniper rifle itself is good when on your own on the roof, but in the middle of an open area, you are too exposed to the zombies. The weapon selection should suit any play style, with SMG’s to assault rifles, you’re covered in every aspect. Although you may find the guns, finding the ammo is another story. Ammo is scarce, especially when in the middle of a fire fight. The ammo you find may not match the gun you have, lulling you into a self-sense of security until you are shooting zombies and run out of ammo. It’s great that the core component of the game works so well, but there are a couple of negatives. Grenades are certainly the weakest of all the weapons. Both the animation and the sound don’t feel right to me. I don’t know if that’s just a person opinion, but I’m certain that is something that will change sometime down the line.
Ultimately the enjoyment of this game relies on the people you play it with, and playing it with people is the only real way to enjoy this title. Single player is an option, but it feels empty and lifeless. There are plenty of servers available for playing with strangers, but playing with friends is where the real fun is. Holding down a house on Aurora Estates with a buddy is frantically chaotic, and an absolute blast to play. Effectively this game is one of great potential, but it needs to be played with the right people. Having the right people amplifies the experience and delivers a fun time, albeit not exactly a memorable one.
The future is bright for contagion, the addition of extra maps and bug fixes would make this a killer (excuse the pun) game at a fantastic price-point. As with any beta product, there are some bugs, long load times and the occasional frustrating moment. These in no way ruined my experience previewing the game. Stay tuned to 6aming for more previews as the game progresses, as well as in-depth articles about game modes and map updates.
Have you played Contagion? What do you think of the game and are you excited for the full release, let us know in the comments below.