Mod Showcase: Zombie Fortress

Welcome back to Mod Showcase. I’m Brickinator and today’s mod is the imaginatively titled ‘Zombie Fortress’; a game type which features the undead because everything does these days. Just as you’d expect, RED team start off as survivors and BLU are the zombies. The survivors cannot respawn but the zombies can, so there’s a constant stream of the brain-munchers throughout the match.  Luckily for the survivors, the zombies can’t use guns. But they can carry baseball bats and knives for some reason. Maybe they were armed by a Glaswegian gang or something.

The classes you can play as are restricted; the survivors can only be Soldiers, Pyros, Demomen, Engineers, Medics and Snipers. Inversely, only the zombies get to be Scouts, Heavies and Spies. I suppose those three were just the token doomed characters in this horror film scenario. Unlike their human counterparts, the undead can only use their melee weapons in combat and elect for diverse tactics like catching bullets with their faces. When a survivor dies, they are switched to the zombie team to nibble on the flesh of their former friends or, if they have friends on the server, piss about a bit and beg for dispensers. It’s kind of strange how the class you play as when you’re a survivor is never the same one you play as when you’re a zombie. I can’t really complain about it though; Team Fortress mods are to logic what a cheeseburger is to a lactose-intolerant Hindu.

The aim of the game is for the survivors to, erm, survive for the duration of the match. If the zombies eat them all, then they lose. Pretty simple. The basic survivor strategy is to all huddle into a little cluster and shoot wildly every time something looks at you funny. When you’re a zombie you have the structural integrity of damp origami and your only hope is to stick in a group with your fellow corpses and rush the enemy together.

Not the first time she's had liquid dribbling out of her mouth, eh?
Pictured: Your mother

I found that the Scout was one of the most useful zombie classes. He retains his double-jump and speed boost and he can also drink Crit-a-Cola and Bonk! Because even zombies love a good energy drink. He’s very effective at undermining Engineers; you can distract their sentries with your invulnerability and steal the limited ammo supplies around the map if you’ve got the right perks. The Heavy is the opposite as his large health pool makes him a decent battering ram against the enemy and you can smack them in the face before you go down. The KGB are quite handy here- kill one survivor and the crit boost will let you go to town on the rest and cause more pain that a hedgehog in the prostate.

The final zombie class is the Spy. Although he can’t use his disguise kit, he still gets his cloak. I don’t see any rationality there either. Perhaps there was a fire in the locker room. The trick is to sneak behind the crowd and stab them before they get the chance to kill you but I found this near-impossible in the games I played. When the enemy are in a big cluster, firing off in all directions, you can’t even get in stabbing distance before you’ve been given more holes than a Swiss cheese. Maybe I just suck as Spy. Or perhaps that’s a flaw in this mod. Yeah, let’s go with that instead.

The most common classes people play as when they’re a survivor seem to be the Soldier, Pyro and Demoman. The explosive-users’ splash damage is devastating against melee enemies and the Soldier’s banners can give the whole team the boost required to survive. Most Demomen I saw were using the Scottish Resistance to protect their perimeter and it seemed to work. Pyro’s flamethrower is pretty handy for air-blasting away the zombies but the ammo is lower than normal so its use is limited.

There’s always at least one Engineer in each match and I didn’t exactly excel as him. Sentry guns can’t be upgraded past level one so you have to build them somewhere clever as they can’t survive a sustained zombie attack. Teleporters are all right for a quick getaway but they’re stuck on level one so they’re not too decent either. My nastiest surprise came when I built my dispenser though; the damn things don’t even work! They don’t give out health or ammo- you’re just supposed to use it as a blockade. I had already displayed my genius to the group when I placed it right in the centre of the group to supply them, only for it to sit there like a broken fridge. Bloody useless.

Medics are quite handy in Zombie Fortress as their overheal never wears off and the Crusader’s Crossbow is great for healing Demomen and  Soldiers who have jumped up to better defensive positions. Snipers seemed to vary greatly in usefulness; one Sniper pelted the zombies with his Huntsman to keep them at bay. When they eventually broke through, he flung his jarate at them and held off the whole lot with his Bushwacka. I was genuinely impressed which is saying something considering I was the Engineer at the back building useless dispensers.

The mod also had a perk system but, as it used Source Mod’s contrived menu system, there was no explanation of what any of the perks did so I picked them at random based on which sounded okay. One of the zombie perks lets you gain ammo and use your weapons which is a great way to trick enemies into thinking you’re going to try and stab them only to shoot them in the face with an Ambassador. As a Scout, I used a perk that set me on fire and let me ignite enemies I hit which was awesome to watch.

Zombie Fortress is a pretty entertaining game mode and the variety of strategies you can attempt with each class are a great way to waste your weekend. It does ruin it somewhat when the survivor team all huddle in one corner and shoot in all directions but the joy of stalking the hapless survivors and picking them off one-by-one is very fun. The highlight of every match is when the survivors’ fortifications are destroyed and the zombies pile onto them in a big frenzy. The humans backpedal, flinging themselves about like a dog in a squash court. Eventually though, each one of them is killed and you stand triumphantly over their corpses and cheer for how great your zombie team are.

Then you switch teams and your brains get eaten.

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