Video Game: Contagion

Developed by Monochrome LLC, Contagion is a zombie-themed Indie First-Person Shooter running on the Source engine. A spiritual successor to the Half-Life mod Zombie Panic, it was originally a Kickstarter game. It hit its goal in October 13th, 2013 and was released as a Steam Early Access game on the 25th of the same month. The game entered full release on April 11th, 2014.

There are 3 main game-types: Escape, Extraction, and Hunted

In Escape, players work together to accomplish a set of goals and call in a rescue vehicle.

Extraction is more arcade-like, with the players cooperating to hold off waves of zombies and help poorly armed A.I. controlled civilians to a rescue vehicle.

Hunted is completely different from the other two, pitting the players against each other in a fight to the last man standing in a zombie-filled environment.

Like its predecessors, getting killed means joining the ranks of the undead. Unlike them however, each map carries randomized elements, and every single one is littered with AI-controlled zombies.

The game is overall slower and more methodical than other games in the genre (most notably Left 4 Dead or Call of Duty's Nazi Zombies). Zombies are generally of the traditional slow, shambling Romero type (although they can individually vary in speed to a noticeable degree), and ammo is fairly limited, especially if it's being shared between 4 or 8 players. You can survive a decent number of hits, but healing items are also extremely rare; usually there is only 1 or 2 in the entire map, so you're generally limited to the health you start the level with. The overall pacing and atmosphere is comparable to a first-person version of the early Resident Evil games, if they only had zombies and no special mutants.


Contagion contains examples of:

  • Air-Vent Passageway: Roanaoke PD has some. Zombies can pass through them as shortcuts.
  • Alternate History: According to the game's web site, Contagion takes place in an alternate history where the original Roanoke colony flourished instead of vanishing mysteriously. The game takes place in Roanoke town, although other than the location there's no real difference from the real world.
  • Artificial Brilliance: Zombies reach to noise and will home in from well across the map towards the sound of gunfire.
  • Awesome but Impractical:
    • Executions are this. Sure, they're a guaranteed kill, but getting locked into a 3rd-person view animation unable to move isn't very practical when you're next to a zombie mob.
    • The grenade and IED are certainly awesome to use, but beyond killing Riot zombies, they take up an inventory slot, they can only be used once, and their high damage area tends to end up hurting other players.
    • In the PVE game modes (Escape and Extraction), weapons that sacrifice ammo capacity, rate of fire, or the flashlight attachment for increased damage, such as the Colt .45, the .357 magnum, or the sniper rifles. This is because you'll only be fighting zombies, and when fighting zombies one-hit-kill headshots are all that matter.
      • Sniper rifles aren't that useful in general. They trade ammo capacity and firing speed for range and damage. However, very few firefights are long-distance ones. The BLR fares a bit better for medium-ranged combat, but even so, the rarity of its ammo makes it less than practical.
  • Boom, Headshot: A headshot from any weapon will nicely pop a zombie's head (or anyone's head, for that matter). This is important, because zombies can otherwise soak a few dozen rounds before dropping, which means you'd run out of ammo after only killing a couple of zombies if you only aimed for the torso.
  • Boring but Practical: The SIG. It's not the most exciting of guns, but it's accurate, ammo is plentiful, and it can kill zombies with a single headshot.
  • The Dev Team Thinks of Everything: In Roanoke PD, there's a stuck elevator door that teases players with an item inside of it. Later on through the map, they can drop down and open the door from the inside. However, if a zombie gets stuck in here, they can actually manually open it by bashing at the control panel.
    • Another Roanoke example. A wooden board shuts a door leading to the staircase in the beginning of the map. Normally, players can break this board when they reach it, providing them easy access to the beginning of the level. This board cannot be broken by zombie players.
  • Difficult but Awesome: Melee weapons. They cost no ammo to use and a properly aimed charged attack will kill most things in a single hit. On the downside, using one eats a large amount of stamina, and only some like the baseball bats or the sledgehammer can kill reliably.
    • As mentioned before, the grenade. The weapon possesses a large explosive radius, deals a huge amount of damage to anything within it, and has an awkward throwing arc (it flies straight). Usually, a poorly-aimed toss ends up hurting allies and killing the throwing player. In Hunted however, there are no allies to be careful of. Suddenly, it becomes a surprise weapon fully capable of clearing out entire streets, hallways, and passages. The one-use nature of it removes the need to find ammo for it, and its straight throwing arc allows it to be thrown both in and out of openings. The large damage area ensures that anyone nearby will be hit, making it effective as a suicide weapon, a means to flush out campers, or a method to finishing off runners.
  • Elite Mooks/Elite Zombie: Riot/SWAT zombies. They're extremely resistant to damage, soaking up bullets like a large sponge soaks up water (it takes at least a full mag of assault rifle fire or 7 shotgun blasts to kill them, and headshots don't do any extra damage to them). Player zombies probably count as well due to their special moves and the significantly increased threat they pose.
    • Stone Wall: Like other zombies, Riot Police zombies are actually pretty slow when compared to survivors. They deal the same amount of damage as other AI-controlled zombies, and they're just as stupid.
    • Lightning Bruiser: In the Panic game-types, players are put in the shoes of a slightly weaker Riot zombie. With the ability to sprint, strafe and actively pursue players however, they become a much larger threat.
  • Glass Cannon: Living players are nowhere near as durable as zombies, but they've got firepower backing them up.
  • Hammerspace: Just where in the world do players store all that ammo?
  • Harder Than Hard: Extreme difficulty. You die in 2 hits and friendly fire is on by default. Similar to Left 4 Dead, jumping into a server on this setting with pubbies is a good way to get shot in the back within the first few seconds of gameplay.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Zombies can occasionally be seen eating the corpse of a recently killed player. Sometimes, the aforementioned player, respawned as a zombie, may even start eating their own former body.
  • Improvised Weapon: Ditto for the IED, the game's equivalent of a C4 made from a cell phone and some other stuff.
    • In a game-play sense, the Fire Extinguisher acts as one for melee weapons. Its bashing attack deals more damage than any other non-melee weapon's, and it can be found in the beginning of Roanoke PD. Oh, and it's also really good at breaking doors.
  • Logical Weakness: The Riot zombie is completely clothed in bulletproof armor from head to toe. What's the easiest way to deal with him? With explosives of course.
    • The armor also doesn't seem to protect them at all from melee weapons. In real life, tactical armor works decent against bullets, but isn't so hot against blunt force trauma.
  • Lost in a Crowd: A built-in feature for player zombies. With the push of a button, they can switch their controller to the zombie AI, and vice verse. Subverted however, in that they're the ones doing the chasing.
  • Multi-Mook Melee: The finale of each Escape game involves the player(s) holding out against a massive horde of zombies, while attempting to accomplish an objective such as activate a generator then waiting for a gate to open or a rescue helicopter to arrive. The horde may seem infinite, but it actually is possible to kill them all provided you have enough ammo and manage to avoid being boxed into a corner and overwhelmed.
  • Nintendo Hard: While Contagion itself is already pretty difficult, Extreme difficulty jacks it up even higher. Zombies can kill in less than 5 hits, infection is more-or-less guaranteed from a single strike, and doors can be destroyed in less than 3 seconds. The scarcity of ammunition only exists to reinforce that status. Run into a player zombie, however...
  • Random Drop: In Hunted, zombies can drop ammo when killed.
  • Removing the Head or Destroying the Brain: A head-shot with any gun or charged melee weapon will kill any zombie or player for that matter. It's impractical to kill zombies with anything other than headshots, because they can otherwise soak a very large amount of damage before dying.
  • Secret A.I. Moves: Both played straight and inverted. AI zombies can crawl, but only player zombies can grapple survivors and roar.
  • Shout-Out:
    • You can't really look at the crossbow weapon without thinking of The Walking Dead.
  • Soft Glass: Averted. Walking into a broken window without clearing it will damage the player going through it.
  • Spiritual Successor: To the original two Zombie Panic games.
  • Standard FPS Guns: Carries the standard FPS armory, in addition to distinct sidegrades to most of them.
    • Handguns: The SIG and the Colt 1911. Despite both of them being starting weapons, neither use the same ammunition.
    • Revolvers Are Just Better: The Revolver, which is an alternative to the 1911. It shares the same ammunition with the latter, but it carries less shots and lacks a flashlight. However, it can kill a survivor with 2 shots to the chest.
    • Shotguns Are Just Better: The Mossberg and the Over & Under. The first is your standard pump-action shotgun, while the second is a more exotic double-barreled shotgun.
    • Sniper Rifle: The Remington and the BLR. While the former is your normal run-of-the-mill scoped bolt-action rifle, the latter uses iron-sights.
    • Two assault rifles, the AR-15 and the AK-74U, are present, taking up roles as the Jack of All Stats of firearms. They boast high firepower, decent recoil, and a healthy magazine size, giving more individual bullets per ammo box than any other weapon. The AR-15 is the weapon to use for a long range battle as the AK is less accurate.
    • There are also two SMGs, the MP5K and its flashlight-less alternative, the KG9. Both share ammo with the SIG, but due to their higher firing rates and superior ammo capacities, they're more-or-less direct upgrades to it. The MP 5 K will outpace the KG 9 in range and accuracy but the KG 9's rate of fire is a death sentence in close encounters.
    • Beyond the previous mentioned, there are the several melee weapons, a crossbow, a healing item, a pocket light, the grenade, and its alternative, the IED. The baseball bats, sledgehammer, golf club and wrench are usually one-hit kills with a headshot while the machete, kabar knife and fireaxe may require more than one swing. The pocket is brighter than the standard flashlights, but it's fairly useless as the difference is not too drastic, it takes up a space that could be used for a weapon, and even if none of your weapons have a light, your free-space phone does.
  • Super-Persistent Predator: The Riot zombie will continue to pursue players throughout the entire map until it is killed.
  • Universal Ammo: Averted for most guns, but played straight in that the Colt .45 pistol and .357 Magnum revolver both share the same type of ammo. The Devs have stated this is for practical reasons; they didn't want to code an entirely separate ammo type just for a single gun. However, they later said they would reconsider after firearm enthusiasts continued to make it an issue.
  • Zombie Infectee: If you get grappled/bitten by a player-controlled zombie, you run a high chance of becoming infected and will die and respawn as a zombie after a couple minutes. There is no way to cure the infection; healing items were rumored to be able to do this, but that is inaccurate.