The year 2012 isn’t the best of times for the survival-horror genre. Developers are slowly but surely cutting down on horror elements and replacing them with action-heavy set-pieces, advocating spectacle for substance. Some say it’s a creative plague spread by Michael Bay. Some speculate developers wish to lure the young Call of Duty fan base to their games. Whatever the reason may be, purebred survival horror titles come few and far between.
The above statements, however, do not stand true with the mod scene of the gaming industry. Developers who aren’t tied by corporate restraints have held fast against oncoming trends and paved their own way with mods. One such jewel among the mod community is No More Room in Hell, a mod made with Source – the engine that made its debut with Half-Life 2. It’s completely free and only requires you to download Source SDK Base 2007 off of Steam, Valve’s popular game client. Inspired by George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, this mod focuses on hardcore survival against the undead and though only in beta, the game does a pretty good job of it.
I jumped into the game not knowing what to expect (apart from what was advertised at the site and even then I decided to not read through all the details). It was a blind play-through and it showed.
Death came to me right off the bat. As one would expect of such a game, health regeneration does not have a place here and health bars don’t warn you of your state. Loss of health does, however, cause your vision to blur and de-saturate. Without bandaging your wounds, you die of blood loss. And that’s not all! Infection poses a greater threat. The zombies grab you if you get too close to them and one successful bite is enough to spell permanent doom. There are very rare pills that can stave off the infection rate, but only temporarily. Putting it simply, playing lone-wolf in No More Room in Hell will get you killed in a matter of minutes.
Consequently, your teammates are vital to your own survival. You can play with 7 others who may or may not help you in your plight. Players may either spawn at different locations or in the same room, depending on the type of map. The room you spawn in might have much to offer if you’re lucky or you may be left with absolutely nothing. In the latter case, you may be forced to ask one of your fellow survivors for weapons or medicine. I have been fortunate enough to have played with people who are helpful and kind. There are, of course, individuals who would rather shoot you in the back, take all of your possessions and act like nothing ever happened.
It’s impossible for others to know that you’re infected. It’s during these situations that this help/consider a liability factor comes into full effect. Once you let them know of your predicament, you will either get killed straight away, or get saved by a charitable soul. This is a team game through and through and actions like that decide the fate of your team.
As of now, the game offers two game modes and map layouts vary accordingly. For example, Northway Mall is a Survival map. In it, your only objective is to survive waves upon waves of zombies. That may sound simple on paper but in reality, it takes a heck load of coordination to survive the never-ending hordes of the undead. There is ammo to be found, locked areas to open, rooms to board up, zones to repair, generators to turn on, etc. It goes without saying that communication is a must, lest you lose a zone and with it, teammates, and that contributes most to getting overrun.
The other mode, best experienced through the map Chinatown, is Objective. The main difference between Survival and Objective is that the latter has an end while the former goes on indefinitely. You and your team must trek through a zombie-infested map and complete certain small quests to get to an evacuation point. In Chinatown, your first major quest is to find a canister of fuel and fill up a generator powering a metal gate. This small task requires the effort of the whole team as the zombies outnumber you 20 to 1. Again, attempting to stray from the group and going solo only makes it tougher for the team and hinders progress.
The features that I have described so far are anything but unique to the game. Other games have implemented similar gameplay mechanics and sold millions. No More Room in Hell stands out of the crowd because of its tough as nails core and its excellent design. The first thing that describes this hardcore approach is the lack of crosshairs for guns, which forces you to shoot down sights. There’s also the fact that different guns requires different types of ammunition which both encourages decisive gameplay and communication between teammates for ammo. You can even hold Reload to check for bullets left in the magazine, a feature that I loved using in the game Condemned. Another nifty feature that I love is how you can only communicate with people who are near you or carrying walkie-talkies. So if you’re on the other side of a map and without a walkie-talkie, you stand alone and without backup.
There are, of course, other small details that add to the hardcore experience but for obvious reasons I’m not listing them here.
As I’ve mentioned already, No More Room in Hell is still in beta which means there are tons of stuff still left to be implemented into the game and a substantial number of bugs to fix. For example, the game only throws 3 types of zombies at you, two of which are nearly identical. Third person animations are wonky (they are looking for third-person animators to sort this out). Melee weapon hits feel weak and weightless even though the first-person animations look great. These were among the most notable of issues that I had experienced. Note that I don’t mean to file complaints here. I’m merely letting you know of the things that the developers might eventually fix.
If you’re in the market looking for a game that awesomely simulates the zombie apocalypse, give this game a shot. If though, you’re looking for explosions and badass heroes who kick heads off of gun-wielding zombies, look no further than Resident Evil 6.