I’ll admit it. Multiplayer games are not as popular with me as they are with a lot of people. I find it difficult to get enough players together to play most co-op games, and I hate playing competitive multiplayer games because of the anger involved with most communities. There is, however, one game that solves both of those problems for me. Contagion first released in April of last year, and has become even better since then. I recently got back into the game with my group of co-op buddies, and have been unable to put it down.
I began my time in Contagion playing the “Escape” mode. While this mode is definitely a lot of fun, I found many of the tasks to be without direction and tedious. For example, in the police station you are asked to find a way into the guard station. Sounds simple enough, but unfortunately you are required to find a key that the game doesn’t tell you about. The key usually ends up being all the way back at the beginning of the map, meaning there is a lot of backtracking in order to find an impossibly small key that could be anywhere. Moments like this frustrated me while playing “Escape”, so my group decided that we should try another game mode.
After being unsatisfied with “Escape”, we decided to hop on a server that was featuring the “Hunted” game mode, not knowing what to expect. What we found was one of the most engaging and immersive game types that we had ever seen in a game. The first thought that came to my mind about “Hunted” is that it is almost like Day Z, but without all the survival tedium. The mode starts each player off with a pistol and a random melee weapon, and spawns you at random locations throughout the map. Once you spawn, you are forced to decide for yourself whether you will be friendly to others, or if you will kill on sight. Typically, people will just shoot you as soon as they see you, but occasionally you can find a few good players who are willing to group up for a while in order to defend against the murderers until finally splitting up to finish out the match. The main objective of the game mode is to be the final man standing at the end of the round, but it is so much more than a simple objective.
“Hunted” manages to create a feeling of tension that I have never experienced while playing a game before. The screaming and growling of the approaching zombies is terrifying when you’re hiding in an attic and know that they are below. Imagine this scenario: You’re in the upstairs bedroom when you hear the glass break downstairs. The zombies begin to wander into the house, drawn by the sound of the glass breaking. Soon, you hear the zombies walking around on the upper level, right near the bedroom you are in. Finally, you hear them, pounding at the door in an attempt to break it. The build up of suspense when hoping that somehow the zombies don’t notice you and move on is phenomenal, and is one of the shining features of the game mode.
One of my favorite features of “Hunted” is the fact that there is no way to permanently die. When a human player is killed, they then become a zombie and the objective switches completely. As a zombie, you must now seek out the remaining survivors and attempt to kill them. Being a zombie allows you to roar in order to gather a large horde with which to storm a location. You can have up to 15 zombie companions, and are allowed to tell them where to go. It is quite satisfying to charge a house that you know the guy who killed you is waiting in, and take him out in the most gruesome way possible. Becoming the zombie removes respawn timers and spectating, and it really gives the game that extra push to make it great.
“Hunted” mode is the most entertaining multiplayer game mode I have ever played, hands down. I love the suspense and tension created when you are hiding out in a room. The audio cues of breaking glass and groaning undead are terrifying, and lead to a heart-racing situation. The game triggers the fight-or-flight response, as once you see a horde of zombies piling in you must decide which is the best option. I often found that jumping out of the window is worth the damage in order to escape a particularly dangerous situation. The combination of emotions, gameplay, and stealth involved in “Hunted” are all reasons why I just cannot seem to stop playing Contagion.
If you don’t already have it, you can find Contagion on Steam for $19.99. Be sure to have a look at “Hunted” mode if you decide to purchase the game, as you will definitely not be disappointed. Finally, I would love to hear anyone’s thoughts on the game mode, or Contagion itself. I’m very interested to see if other people enjoy the game as much as I do.