Has it really been over 10 years? I can remember my anticipation for this game for a number of reasons. A Valve release, another first-person shooter to give me a break from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and more importantly, an opportunity to massacre hundreds upon hundreds of zombies cooperatively with some pals.
As with any zombie game, the backing story was the usual affair “an outbreak of a virus” as opposed to some cursed burial ground bring the dead back to life. I can remember not being the slightest bit interested in the story then and I am not really interested in it now. The game was never about that. It was a pure adrenaline rush.
You started off choosing between four characters, Zoe, Bill, Louis and Francis. If you did not have enough friends to fill the four spots on the team, you had the privilege of some bots filling the gaps. But make no mistake, communication with your team is the key to success here. Utilising bots just took away from the teamwork and social experience.
The game initially started with four campaigns, later to be added to with “the Sacrifice” DLC adding a further three campaigns. The initial package does sound a little light when you consider each campaign as a level in terms of its structure. Zombies were not the slow shuffling zombies from Resident Evil, oh no, these were more like the modern charge at you variety. At the time it was impressive stuff to see all of these characters on screen at once. Just to keep you on your toes there was the added challenge of specialist zombies in the form of either Boomer (vomited bile), Hunter (could leap and pin you down), Witch (as you are), Tank (battering ram), Smoker (elasticated tongue) or a Jockey (gained control of you).
To get through this many zombies your going to need weapons. The weapons used to dispatch the zombies were a pretty standard affair for this genre of game, guns such as pistols, shotguns, SMGs, assault rifles, sniper rifles and grenade launchers. Melee weapons included axes, bats, chainsaw, crowbar, sword, and a machete. Then throwable items such as grenades, pipe bombs, Molotov cocktails. I was particularly fond of the Molotov’s, “burn you foul beasts”.
Each campaign had a very distinct start and finish point with safe rooms that acted as save points or checkpoints and generally brought an air of relief whilst you and your party did not have the threat of a horde of zombies ripping you to pieces. They presented the opportunity of new weapons, dead teammates to re-join or ammunition restock. As you made it from one safe room to another you very often had the option of finding your own route with your teammates, which kept the game interesting. Some ways were naturally a lot easier than others, but that in itself was not a given and the game liked to spring a surprise or two.
After you had made it from the last safe house to the end of the campaign (as if that was not enough) you were then faced with a bigger challenge of setting up a stronghold to keep the zombie horde away for a set amount of time. This is the point when the game would get really tough. The game would literally throw zombie after zombie at you, then as you think you were making progress the game would throw even more of the specialist zombie classes into the mix.
Careful planning was king here. Prior to starting the end game, you needed to decide on a tactical position. Usually up high for a vantage point. Then place fuel canisters around the area and by shooting them, it would cause them to ignite and set the area alight and burn some of the undead for you. Or you could use a bleeping pipe bomb to distract the Zombie horde. Earning you some valuable time to either heal yourself or revive a teammate.
I have so many fun memories of this game. Usually, if your final escape was by chopper, expect to hear me screaming “get to the chopper” in an Austrian accent. Or the time the chopper turned up and I ran back to revive and save my teammate, upon doing so I got taken down and he successfully boarded the helicopter (so much for the teamwork I mentioned, thanks Lee). Shouting “get back” or “get back you b*****ds, I’ll break your legs” in a Bolton accent akin to Max and Paddy, whilst endeavouring in a zombie massacre.
Getting lost in a high rise building and as you did not want to turn your torch on so you did not disturb any zombies and going round in circles. Or probably my favourite reoccurrence, trying to sneak around the crying witches, before my cousin disturbed one making it turn psycho on us chasing us around the level whilst getting mobbed by zombies. The coined term “witches get stitches” being overused every time we ran into one.
As much as I would like to have believed we were really good at the game anything over normal difficulty felt nigh on impossible, but I still have to say this was a great game and a fantastic cooperative experience. One that is, probably, still struggled to be matched today. Upon writing this article and seeing the price of the game it appears to still be very much desirable, and rightly so.
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