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Video Game / Contagion

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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.

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:

  • Abandonware: In a sense. Though the game's still up for sale, the community is still active and making mods and at least one of the devs keeps an eye out on Steam forum discussions, the game hasn't had a significant update since mid-2016. Monochrome shifted their efforts towards developing a sequel of sorts, Contagion VR: Outbreak.
    • As of Christmas 2019, the game is getting updated again.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • 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 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 and its iron sights don't have low-light inserts like many other guns (unless you get a custom skin with night sights). The BLR fares a bit better for medium-ranged combat, but even so, the rarity of its ammo makes it less than practical. But the worst part is, none of the rifles totes a tactical light, severely limiting their use since the game is so dark.
  • 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, 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. Downplayed with arrows, they're 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, plus the max capacity is extremely generous at 150, and you always start off with it.
  • 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, but they've got firepower backing them up.
  • Gun Accessories: Thanks to the lack of Hands-Free Handlamp, the presence of a proper flashlight attachment means the difference between a "good but situational" gun and an "all-around practical" one.
  • 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 tactical lights on certain firearms, 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 firepower to bring one down.
  • 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 gunlights 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. Subverted however, 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 added in the last update 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 can wipe out a whole horde, but there is just enough breathing room before another shows up to complete a few more objectives, run to get more ammo, or use a health kit.
  • 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.
  • 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 completely 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.
  • Shout-Out: You can't really look at the scoped crossbow without thinking of The Walking Dead and Dixon's Weapon of Choice, can you?
  • 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 ammo capacity, about a third of the reserve capacity, and you find ammo for it less often.
    • 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 has about 3 times the stopping power of the 9mm SIG pistol and can kill a survivor with 2 shots to the chest.
    • 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 a more exotic double-barreled.
    • 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, the others have iron sights.
    • 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 or in the dark, as the AK is less accurate and lacks a light. All three are good picks to take down riot zombies quickly.
      • There are also two submachine guns, the MP5K and its lightless 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 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 unless you're in a dark area and need the flashlight, whereupon the MP5K is the winner.
    • 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 is brighter than the standard flashlights, and can be used to give you a light when you're toting a lightless gun like the AK or the BLRnote .
  • 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.
  • 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. They later said they would reconsider after firearm enthusiasts continued to make it an issue, but never got around to it.
  • 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.
  • 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. There is no way to cure the infection; healing items were rumored to be able to do this, but that is inaccurate. If it happens in single player, you might as well quit and restart the map unless you're within meters of the final objective.


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