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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 last-man-standing free-for-all in a zombie-filled environment.
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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.

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Contagion contains examples of:

  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: Montclair has not one, but two sewer sections. The first one was being used as a survivor shelter and leaks Deadly Gas, forcing the players to deviate to look for a gas mask. The second one, for some strange reason, links to both the basement of a high-class manor and the back lot of a gas station.
  • Aerosol Flamethrower: One of the weapons in the game. It shoots a continuous stream of fire that can set a zombie ablaze.
  • Air-Vent Passageway:
    • Roanoke PD has some that zombies can pass through as shortcuts.
    • A tiny section in Barlowe Square, in the hardware store. There's a small area of the roof that's sealed off by a fence and a gate; sometimes the gate is open, sometimes closed, but the vent is a guaranteed access point.
    • Depending on how the map is generated for Biotec, you may need to drop down a short vent shaft to bypass a security lockdown.
  • 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 existing, there's no real difference from the real world.
  • Artificial Stupidity: A.I.-controlled Bots were officially added to the game in 2022. They're decent at fighting zombies if you crank their skill level up to max setting, but they have trouble following you through the level and have no idea what to do if a zombie manages to get into melee range. Overall they act remarkably like Half Life 1's Barney, which may not be surprising given that their A.I. is apparently based on that of Counter-Strike: Source. Overall they're decent for Horde mode and more open hub-based maps like Camp Whitner, but terrible for close-quarters linear maps like Roanoke Police Department.
  • Awesome, but Impractical:
    • Executions. 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. There are no circumstances whatsoever where an execution is better than a charged attack.
    • The grenade and IED are certainly awesome to use, but beyond killing riot zombies or very large hordes like in Roanoke P.D.'s lockup, they take up an inventory slot, can only be used once, and their large Splash Damage tends to end up hurting other players and even the one who deployed the explosive.
    • 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 1911, the .357 Magnum, and all of the rifles. This is because you'll only be fighting zombies, and against regular non-riot ones, headshots (the only effective shot placement) are always a One-Hit Kill regardless of the gun used.
    • Big caliber firearms 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 Remington 700 in particular gets a niche use in Barlowe Square to clear out the zombies further ahead on a street you have to go through, but that's it. The semi-automatic M1 Garand is very inconvenient to reload from a not-emptied clip. The BLR, revolver and Desert Eagle fare a bit better for medium-ranged combat, but even so, the rarity of their ammo types and tiny max reserve make them less than practical. The Desert Eagle at least has some unique utility in that it's the only weapon that can one-shot the Heavily Armored Mook zombies with a headshot.
  • Boom, Headshot!: A headshot from any weapon will nicely pop a zombie's head (or anyone's head, for that matter), and make a nice and moist shower of brain and bone pop out the other side. This is important, because zombies can otherwise soak a few dozen bullets before dropping (though their overall durability was lowered in the 2020/2021 updates), which means you'll run out of ammo after only killing a couple of zombies if you aim for the body. Averted with Riot Zombies, who don't take any extra damage from headshots, and normal zombies with riot helmets. Downplayed with arrows, which are potent enough to make bodyshot kills viable.
  • Boring, but Practical:
    • The SIG. It's not the most exciting of guns, but it's accurate, has a generous magazine capacity (15 rounds, the most of any non-automatic), like all guns it can kill zombies with a single headshot, 9mm ammo is plentiful around maps and each box is a guaranteed full reload, and the max capacity is extremely generous at 150. It's also compatible with practically all attachments.
    • On a similar note, the Colt 1911. It has most of the SIG's benefits, with one exception: the magazine size on it is a meager 7, but this is offset by .45 ACP ammo pickups coming in big 30-round boxes.
  • Deadly Gas: Green gas leaks out of the manhole leading to the first sewer section of Montclair. You have to find the evac zone in the park to get a gas mask to proceed through; climbing down into the gas unprotected, or removing the mask while down there, is guaranteed death.
  • Difficult, but Awesome:
    • Melee weapons. They cost no ammo to use, are especially useful against riot zombies, 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, only some like the baseball bats or the sledgehammer can kill reliably, and putting yourself in melee range equals puttting yourself in a range where zombies can actually hit you, which on higher difficulties means you're very likely to get infected.
    • 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 or even killing allies and 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.
    • The compound bow and the crossbow. Once you learn how to aim them and score headshots consistently at different distances, the powernote , quietness, and re-usability of the arrows, plus the zombies' tendency to congregate where their last buddy got killednote , make clearing out great stretches of the map an almost trivial task. It helps that a single ammo pickup (a compact quiver) gives you max ammunition. They only really fall short in the finales, where there are zombies that know exactly where you are and come in large numbers, a situation where stealth is useless and the slow operation and small ammo pool make them, especially the scoped crossbow, less practical than even the revolver or Colt 1911.
  • Elite Mooks/Elite Zombie:
  • Glass Cannon: Living players are nowhere near as durable as zombies (in Hunted PvP they go down in 7 9mm torso shots or 1 headshot), but they've got firepower backing them up.
  • Gun Accessories: The game has a system where you can attach or detach a number of accessories like sights, suppressors and barrel attachments. Each firearm can take only one of each kind of accessory, some can't take certain accessories at all (e.g. you can't put a suppressor on a shotgun), and others have integrated accessories by default such as the AR-15 and SCAR having a non-removable top rail for mounting holo sights on. The most universally compatible accessory by a long stretch is, thankfully, the tactical flashlight.
  • Hammerspace: Just where in the world do players store all that ammo?
  • Hands-Free Handlamp: Downplayed almost to full aversion. The light sources available are the tactical light attachment, the cell phone (which you can't wield at the same time as a gun or item), and the rare angle-head pocket light. That last one does allow a survivor to have a light while wielding other items, but it takes up one precious inventory slot out of four total, and even then, it's subpar: when you're using it alongside a light-less gun it points awkwardly in a fixed direction that is rarely where you're looking or aiming at and it bobs everywhere when you're movingnote ; to have it point where you want it, you have to hold it in your hand, and you already have the phone for thatnote . The only aspects played straight are that the Player Characters don't have to move their hands to operate the light in their pocketnote , and the pocket light isn't modeled on the character's pocket when it's being used as such.
  • Harder Than Hard: Extreme difficulty. You die in 2 hits, one hit is almost guaranteed infection, 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.
  • Heavily Armored Mook: The riot zombie's armor gives it an assload of hit points and total headshot immunity. It takes quite a lot of bullets, an explosive or a skilled player with a melee weapon to bring one down. A Desert Eagle headshot can also break their helmet and kill them, but Desert Eagle ammo is rare and even finding the gun can be hard on some maps.
  • Hollywood Silencer: Weapons with a suppressor work much like the bow and crossbow – zombies cannot hear the shot fired, only the bullet hitting something.
  • 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:
  • Infinite Flashlight: The cell phone light, the tactical light and the handheld angle-head pocket light will all last forever. That's very fortunate, as the game can get REALLY dark even in daytime maps and pacing is slow and ponderous.
  • Lightning Bruiser: In the Panic gamemodes, 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.
  • Logical Weakness: The Riot zombie is completely clothed in bulletproof armor from head to toe. What's the easiest way to deal with him? Explosives. Also, the armor also doesn't seem to protect them at all from melee weapons, which makes sense: in real life, tactical armor works decent against bullets, but isn't so hot against blunt force trauma or blades.
  • 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. Inverted in that they're the ones doing the chasing.
  • Kill It with Fire: A zombie that gets set aflame will burn until it dies after a little while. Unfortunately for survivors, there's no way to make a zombie burn other than luring it into a pre-existing fire in the environment.
  • Marathon Level: The Montclair map takes way over an hour to complete even if you know the exact route.
  • 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. Provided you have enough ammo and manage to avoid being boxed into a corner and overwhelmed, you could wipe out a whole horde, but there was just enough breathing room before another shows up to complete a few more objectives, run to get more ammo, or use a health kit; with the newer update, the flow of zombies is constant and much harder to negotiate.
  • Nintendo Hard: While Contagion is itself 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. And then you run into a player zombie...
  • Quick Melee: In the form of swinging with the butt of a firearm or a faster but weaker strike with a melee weapon. It's not effective at killing things or breaking doors unless you're holding the fire extinguisher, but it does knock zombies back and down on their asses.
  • Random Drop: In Hunted, zombies can drop ammo when killed.
  • Removing the Head or Destroying the Brain: A headshot with any gun or a charged melee weapon strike will kill anything in the game that isn't a riot armor zombie. Yes, even other players. It's impractical to kill zombies with anything other than headshots, because they can otherwise soak a very large amount of damage before dying. The sole exception is the arrow-based weapons, that can kill a zombie in three body shots.
  • Secret A.I. Moves: Both played straight and inverted. AI zombies can crawl, but only player zombies can grapple survivors and roar.
  • Short-Range Shotgun: Zig-zagged between the models.
    • The Mossberg has a wide spread and each pellet does pathetic damage, making it terrible for killing other players. However, since a single pellet to the head will kill a zombie, it's capable of taking down small hordes with one blast. As such, it's a good choice for co-op or single player.
    • The over-under shotgun averts this with a very tight spread. Its high damage and sharp accuracy can allow players to dispatch human enemies and riot zombies with ease within most engagement distances. The downside is you're unlikely to kill more than one zombie at a time.
    • The Remington is a balanced mix of the two previous shotguns, with medium damage and range.
  • Soft Glass: Averted. Walking into a broken window without clearing it will damage the player going through it unless there's only one unbroken bit. It's best to clear all of the shards out with a melee weapon.
  • 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, they chamber different ammo (9mm for the SIG, .45 for the 1911). The 1911 does more damage but has half the SIG's magazine capacity.
    • Revolvers Are Just Better: The .357 Magnum Revolver (renamed to the Arlene in the 2020 update) has about 3 times the stopping power of the 9mm SIG pistol and can kill a survivor with 2 shots to the chest, but ammo for it is rare and you can't carry much.
    • Hand Cannon: A .50AE Desert Eagle was added as a pistol in a 2021 update. It's powerful enough to break a riot zombie's helmet with one shot, but ammo for it is very rare.
    • Shotguns Are Just Better: The Mossberg, the Remington and the Over & Under. The first and second are your standard pump-action, while the third is an older double-barrel model.
    • Sniper Rifle: The Remington, the BLR and the M1 Garand. While the first is your normal run-of-the-mill scoped bolt-action rifle, the second is a lever-action with a detachable magazine, and the Garand is the Garand. Only the Remington has a scope by default, the others have iron sights but can take rails to mount red dot sights on.
    • More Dakka:
      • Three assault rifles - the AR-15, the AK-74U and the SCAR - 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 or the SCAR are the weapons to use for any battles at long range, as the AK is less accurate but has a bigger magazine. All three are good picks to take down riot zombies quickly.
      • There are also three submachine guns, the MP5K, the KG9 and the MAC-10. Due to their higher firing rates and superior ammo capacities, they're more-or-less direct upgrades to the pistols at up to medium range. The MP5K will outpace the KG9 in range and accuracy, but the KG9's rate of fire is a death sentence in close encounters; the two are about an equal trade-off. The MAC-10 is the clear winner in the firepower category thanks to its heavier caliber, but its sights are hard to use.
    • Beyond the previous mentioned, there are the several melee weapons, a bow and a crossbow, a first aid kit, an angle-head pocket light, the grenade and its placeable alternative, the IED. The baseball bats, sledgehammer, golf club and wrench are usually one-hit kills with a headshot while the machete, knife and fireaxe may require more than one swing. The pocket light can be used to give you a light when you're toting other items or a weapon without a flashlight mounted onnote .
  • 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.
  • The Straight and Arrow Path: One of the last updates introduced a crossbow and a compound bow, Difficult, but Awesome weapons that trade off slow fire rate, relatively difficult aiming with a learning curve, and low total ammo capacity in favor of being almost completely silentnote , very powerfulnote , and having reusable ammo, as you can recycle used arrows with no ill effects.
  • Super-Persistent Predator: The Riot zombie will continue to pursue players throughout the entire map until it is killed.
  • Unique Enemy: Added to the 2020/2021 update to the Camp Whitner map in Escape mode is the PvE mode's only human enemy, Sebastian, a cult leader/drug dealer/arms smuggler who serves as the Arc Villain of the map. You fight him in the escape tunnel at the end of the level; he's armed with a powerful Desert Eagle and can soak almost 2 full mags of submachinegun fire before going down.
  • Who Forgot the Lights?: The majority of indoors environments have no lighting because of blown lamps or power outages. This wouldn't be a problem if the flashlight beam wasn't pencil-thin and short-reached, and if the pocket light's beam actually aligned with the sights of the weapons you'd use it with instead of pointing in a random direction when you actually aim. Newer updates that implemented the switchable Gun Accessories system make this more bearable, as almost any gun can have a flashlight attached.
  • Zombie Infectee: Unless it's turned off before a match, if you get grappled/bitten by a player-controlled zombie (or a regular mook zombie in higher difficulties), you run a high chance of becoming infected. If you do get infected, you will die and respawn as a zombie after a couple minutes. Your only hope is to find an Inoculator.

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