I welcome you back to Voodoo Farming: A Not-Quite In-Depth Look At Zombies In Popular Culture, gentle readers. I hope you still have a pulse!
I am a fan of military manuals. My repeated readings of The U.S. Army’s Sniper Training Manual has given me a bit of an edge in first person shooters. I am currently reading a book that is very much along these lines, and it has covered a lot of wonderful tactics that I hope I will never have to use.
In games, I am typically a defensive player. Some may call it cheap, but I like to dig in and pick off the silly folks who like to run around with their craniums all exposed, begging to be put down from my perch. If you had to build a fortress that could sustain a small group for a hundred years, I assure you that I have several blueprints filed away and am currently scouting possible sites for Fort Zombiebuster.
No matter how prepared one might be, you could find yourself in a terrible situation. Supplies are low. The situation is desperate! What would you, my gentle readers, if you had to make The Last Stand?
The scenery would be really nice if it weren’t for the bloodstains.
The Last Stand is a Flash game. It’s the first Flash game by ConArtists. Give it a play (after you finish reading, of course), and consider that my first flash game was The Adventures of Stick Figure in Blockyland.
Let’s get into the nitty gritty of the game:
Making a game involving zombies is tricky business. They basically fall into one of two categories:
Zombies are scary! You’re often short on ammo and supplies. Anytime you go through a door, you can find yourself flanked on either side (or both sides!) by the undead. See: Resident Evil, Silent Hill, Doom 3, etc.
Zombies are scary, but I have enough guns and ammo to conquer a South American country! Anytime you go through a door, you’re definitely going to see zombies. You’ll probably mow down a few dozen at a time with weapons like chainsaws, rockets, and rocket-propelled chainsaws. See: Doom, Doom II, Left4Dead, etc.
The Last Stand falls in the latter category, but not as cleanly as one might think.
You know, I’d like to save pictures for later, but the inventory screen in this game just makes it too damn convenient. (If it isn’t clear by now, Vooding Farming will typically contain massive spoilers.)
Somebody’s been reading my Dream Journal!
I forget the exact order in which you find the weapons, so I’ll just list ’em as you sees ’em.
Top Row: Chainsaw, 9mm Pistol, Sawn-off Shotgun
Second Row: Magnum, Shotgun, Uzi
Third Row: UMP45, Hunting Rifle
Fourth Row: M4A1, AK47
Too goddamned big to fit on the wall: Barret M82
All of your weapons have infinite ammo. Your only real concerns while fending off the reanimated corpses of the locals are reloading and hitting your targets.
More on the weapons a little later.
Cause of the Outbreak:
It’s never specified. All you know is that zombies just came out of nowhere. Our protagonist is smart enough to start building a barricade and stocking up on weapons.
This is a zombie game and nothing but a zombie game.
Sure, you’re going to see a variety of zombies. ConArtists boast that there are over 3,500 possible zombie appearances. This was some keen randomization and animation skills for a first Flash game.
Odds of Survival: Pretty good.
Unlike many zombie games, you do not necessarily have to be alone in this game. I’ve thought about trying a solo run, but I’ve played this game about half a dozen times for… uh, research, and I don’t think I’d like the stress.
Survivors can die as you’re out looking for weapons. The easiest way to make it through 20 days and nights alive is to make sure you always have a couple other people standing by your side taking potshots at the zombies.
The Devilish Details:
Somebody’s writing captions!
Day 1. You start the night off with nothing more than your pistol, your wits, and a hell of a lot of ammunition.
I’d hate to be the guy who has to clean this up.
If your aim is true and you can hold up under pressure well, you can finish off the first night with relatively little damage to your barricade.
After the first night is over (and after every night is over), you’re presented with a menu wherein you manage how you’re going to spend the next 12 hours:
Future Notes-To-Self: Call Mum If I Live; Write Tomorrow’s Note.
For the first two days, I would absolutely pour all 12 hours into looking for survivors. You’re pretty much guaranteed to find at least two people when you search for 12 hours. You can have a maximum of 7 people in your little hovel (including yourself, so 6 other people total).
By the third night, you ought to switch to 10 hours searching for weapons and 2 hours searching for survivors. This pattern will serve you well for the next ten days or so. If you have no vacancies at the “Oh Sweet Jesus I Don’t Want To Die Motel”, then spend all of your time searching for weapons. If repairs have to be made, make ’em, and never repair more than necessary.
After you’ve decided how you’re going to spend your time, you choose your main and backup weapons for the coming night.
Sadly, you never get to use the hammer.
The game progresses at a steady pace. You get new weapons. You maintain your barricade. You hopefully have a few people around you backing you up.
The Last Stand is not without its flaws. The difficulty goes way down once you get your hands on the hunting rifle.
Pew pew riflez.
You can try the other guns out; the M4A1 and AK47 are pretty damn good. But the temptation of occasional bullet penetration (i.e. killing one zombie and hitting the one behind him/her) and the potential for one shot kills is too great. Channel the spirit of Charles Whitman and go for broke with the rifle.
We Americans tend to rely on technology a little too much. Why have a bolt-action rifle when you can have a minigun? Let’s get a bit of a reality check here. Bolt-action rifles can be very deadly in the right hands. They can take a beating, they’re easy to clean and maintain, and it’s not too difficult to find ammo for them.
If you were stuck with just the bolt action rifle, the game would still be pretty challenging. Some zombies don’t go down in the first shot. But around the 17th night, the game breaks.
You’re gonna die, Clown!
That would be the Barret M82 anti-material rifle. You don’t see it very often in video games, and when you do its often toned-down or nerfed in some way. Not in this game, no sir.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Barret, M82, well, let me break it down for you. An “anti-material” rifle is designed for taking out military equipment and not for taking out people. The .50 BMG rounds that it fires are about as long as your hand. It can punch through an inch of steel, and- you know what, I’m just gonna let this awesome ex-Navy SEAL explain it to you. Go ahead and watch that video, I’ll wait.
The Barrett rifle is pretty much completely unfair. Notice how most of the zombie corpses in the previous picture are towards the left of the screen? That’s because only the fast ones can make it remotely close to the barricade.
To be fair, after a couple weeks of sleep deprivation some soldiers walk around like zombies anyway.
If you’ve been attentive while playing, you may have noticed SWAT team members are a bit difficult to take down. During the last few levels, they start throwing soldiers at you. Their helmets and flak jackets protect them to a better degree than the SWAT zombies. If I can’t pull off a headshot, I just go for the comical Persian rug sweep and shoot ’em in the legs. Thankfully, zombies in this game don’t continue to drag themselves towards your barricade after you’ve shot them in the leg.
At the end of the 20th night, a military chopper comes and saves your ass:
There’s only one thing I hear during this entire sequence…
…the title theme to Desert Strike.
It’s over. You’ve survived and you’re safe, at least for now. What could possibly go wrong?
Wrapping It Up:
The Last Stand makes a pleasant distraction. The gameplay is simple but fun, and the minor strategy elements really flesh out the game.
As I’ve outlined above, if you use either of the rifles the game gets pretty broken. The game would be more challenging if you stay away from the rifles. I personally like to think of the last few levels as bonus rounds wherein I pay back the zombies for all the times they nearly ripped off a piece of Mr. Protagonist.
The only thing that bugs me about the game is that the protagonist has enough sense to know how to operate complex firearms and maintain a barricade, but he doesn’t have enough sense to try to capture some high ground or get in a better defensive position. Then again, that might make for less of a zombie game and more of a turkey shoot.
I’ll end this post with the same generic question I always ask: What lessons can we take away from our time with The Last Stand? If you can get your hands on a Barrett M82 and a few thousand rounds of ammo, you have nothing to worry about.
Ihmhi is a developer for Fortress Forever, a free, fast paced Team Fortress mod for Half-Life 2.