Contagion Video Game Preview
Developed by Monochrome LLC
2014, Rated MA
Game released on 11th April 2014
Zombies are everywhere. Not in reality, but popular culture and you can thank the success of AMC's The Walking Dead for making a big contribution to that. And once you put down your comic book, novel or switch off your TV there's always gaming to give you your fill of the undead. Indie developer Monochrome LLC is looking to provide a solution for bloodthirsty gamers who want to fill their spare time with some zombie survival action. To this end I've been playing the Early Release of Monochrome's forthcoming game Contagion on Steam for the last few days and I like what I see.
Rather than go down the route of crowd funding to bring in cash to develop the game further, Monochrome opted to make the game available to early adopters in its unfinished state. On the one hand you get limited functionality and the potential for bugs, but on the other it gives Monochrome vital funds to complete the game to its full potential. While the early release offers limited game modes and maps, the full version will offer a variety of maps, three game modes, eight survivor characters to play as and 16 weapons, each with its own unique ammo type.
So what do you get with Early Access? Well, you get a pretty decent game to start with. Set in either a suburban housing estate or an abandoned office building, players have to utilise their trusty smartphone to find their way through the environment and hook up with other survivors to complete their escape. That escape is facilitated by various items that spawn around the environment, keys, bolt cutters, weapons etc. but the game randomises each time so each game will be different from the last. You can choose to hook up with a band of survivors or go it alone, even to the point that you can kill other survivors if you wish. If you're killed during a round, you will respawn as one of the undead, which is a neat feature to kill (no pun intended) time until the round is complete. Expect to be killed a lot as a zombie though, you're fairly slow moving and ineffective against armed survivors unless you're part of a horde.
The graphics side of the game is perfectly adequate in its first-person perspective. I'm very much of the opinion that the aesthetics of games and films are secondary to the content, so while Contagion might not be mind-blowing graphically that's soon forgotten as you immerse yourself into a mission. Killing a zombie is very satisfying; a true headshot will pop the top of his skull off, exposing the brain. Similarly, a blast from the shotgun will blow a nice sized hole in his body. The soundscape was a little confusing; when other players are near you can hear their gunshots but there doesn't seem to be any adjustment to the volume to indicate proximity. Remember, however, that this is Early Access and tweaks to improve things like this can come later.
At the moment you can still purchase Early Access for Contagion and benefit from the online co-op gameplay in a limited environment. Obviously you're buying into a game that is still in development so 100% perfection is neither offered nor to be expected. However, for your early stake in the game you will be eligible for new and upgraded maps and game modes with the continuing improvement of characters animations (players and zombies), game interface and sound features. In addition to the six fully-featured maps there will be three game modes:
- Escape: Survivors find themselves in a location with one goal in mind: do whatever it takes to escape. Every round is completely different than the previous and completely unpredictable by all as paths, objectives, item/weapon/ammo spawns, and zombie spawns are all randomised, including the final escape route.
- Extraction: Instead of using your smart phone to escape you use it for its GPS to track fellow survivors. The aim is to group up and find AI Survivors in need of your assistance where barricading, teamwork, and spatial awareness is a must as the horde will be drawn to each location. When help arrives the survivors can be lead to safety where you will be supplied with additional weapons, ammo, and/or items to help you continue the fight. From here players can regroup, check stock, and make it to the next location until all AI Survivors have been evacuated successfully. This game-mode cannot be won without strong teamwork and the sharing of resources otherwise players can end up surrounded and joining those who feast on former teammates and friends.
- Hunted: All the basic rules are thrown out the window. Originally it was the developers griefing one another that led to this particular game-mode. In Hunted you trust no one, resources are light, and the only way to survive is to be the last man or woman standing. Using your phone you can use bluetooth to ping other players to locate their position in the hope of finding them unaware. It's vital you make use of your melee weapons for silent kills otherwise you may get boxed in by the wandering zombies as any loud noise will grab their attention as well as the attention of others hunting you.
Monochrome currently runs weekly build stream on its Twitch channel and uploads highlights to its YouTube channel to show interested users what the game is about. If you like what you see there's still time to benefit from Early Access by purchasing the game on Steam here: http://store.steampowered.com/app/238430/
Catch you later, I've got zombies to kill.