Mod Showcase: Death Run

Welcome to another thrilling instalment of Mod Showcase. Brickinator here and I’m gonna chat about Death Run.

Contrary to its name Death Run is not an 80’s action movie and is instead a frantic gamemode in which one team must navigate through an obstacle course of deadly traps. The traps usually kill instantly and you don’t respawn for the rest of the match; it’s basically a Japanese gameshow but without the remorse. All but one player are put on the RED team, known as the ‘runners’. The BLU team consists of that one guy left over- usually whoever won last round. He’s typically referred to as the ‘trapper’, ‘activator’ or ‘arsehole’. The runners must dash through obstacle courses while the traps are activated by the trapper. If any runners reach the finish then they win. If they run out of time or all die horribly the trapper wins. Simple.

When the round begins, the trapper and the runners spawn in two different places, usually with a wall which allows the trapper to see the runners but not vice versa. Remember what I said about voyeurism in the Hunted review? This takes it to a whole new level.

On the trapper’s side there’s usually a conveyor belt thing which allows him to catch up with rushers and smack various buttons with his melee weapon. Each button activates the trap it is adjacent to, and they can be anything. In the time I played it, I saw some of the weirdest things. Gabe Newell ate people. It was horrifying. The runners’ side consists of narrow hallways where the deadly traps are concealed and ready to be sprung. There’s usually some sections that involve jumping onto small platforms to cross a deadly pit below, instantly killing the player with a resounding squeal.

The obvious flaw with Death Run is in its unpredictability. As the traps on most maps are either totally hidden or cryptic at best, you will often get unwittingly crushed or dissolved or whatever. Every time you play a map you’ve never seen before, you can guarantee you’ll be the first to be offed. If this were an 80’s action movie, you’d be the nerdy sidekick with glasses who gets killed off in the first ten minutes. It can be pretty frustrating when you get killed by a trap you didn’t know was there and have to wait for the round to end. It’s so irritating. At least you when you die in real life you don’t have to sit around for ages. Gaahh. I’m so angry I feel like swearing. Fiddlesticks.

I love what you’ve done with the place.

Another problem is that the runners aren’t always a cooperative bunch. You’re often stuck with ungainly fellows who attempt to push you off of cliffs or trigger traps that get you killed. You can bet that there’ll be at least one guy who insists on waddling as slowly as possible around the track too. What a monster. Crouch-walking around as Heavy. It’s like watching an amputee tortoise with a twenty-a-day cigarette habit.

Fortunately, some maps feature a punishment for people who don’t get on and run; something I like to refer to as the ‘motivator’. After enough time has passed in the round and nobody has reached the end, a slow-moving entity will slowly follow the path of the runners from their spawn until it reaches the finish. It will usually kill any runners it touches, thus giving them the incentive they need to sprint to the end and not splatter horribly like a rabbit being crushed by farming equipment. One of the maps I played had a particularly disturbing motivator… It was like a corpse in a straightjacket that confidently strutted along the road, making a constant screeching noise. As it got nearer, the sound got louder like the harbinger of impending doom. There was no escape. We had wasted too much time. A hand clasped around my mouth and teeth sank into my arm. Blood spilled out across the floor and the cold, bony fingers clenched my jaw before twisting my head and snapping my neck. My lifeless corpse slammed to the ground, as a resonating clang tore through the air like a funeral bell.

Anyway, if you do manage to survive the course by channelling your inner Jesus then you get to do a faceoff with the trapper. There are a variety of different ways the game can end; I’ve seen versus minigames where the trapper and the winning runner had to jump over a deadly skipping rope that killed them instantly like the world’s most dangerous cheesewire. There was Russian Roulette-esque one where the survivors were placed opposite sides of a revolver that rotated between them and reduced them to Swiss cheese if they were unlucky. On one map, the survivor and the trapper were pitted against each other in a tiny arena with only their melee weapons and forced to fight to the death like two opposing types of cheese. Okay, the cheese simile doesn’t work for that one. At least I tried.

As a runner, you don’t get any weapons except for your melee and Scouts are locked. The most popular choice for the mode seems to be the Medic because he has decent speed and regenerating health. The Amputator’s taunt can be useful for healing other runners who were harmed by the traps that don’t kill instantly. You can even keep people alive in damage-over-time areas. I saw one guy get dropped into acid and couldn’t escape; I helpfully kept him alive, much to his annoyance. Other popular choices are the Pyro and Spy.  Alternatively you can play as the Heavy if you dislike other people having fun.

As with all custom gamemodes that don’t fit the original principles of the game, Death Run has a bizarre variety in its map selection- that variety being the huge deviations in fairly decent maps and the eye-meltingly bad ones. You guys didn’t see the one where the giant, blocky phallus crushed  those people against a wall, but I did. I will always see it. In my nightmares. Every time I close my eyes. It is burned onto my retinas.

Some of the traps are pretty inventive and- dare I say it- funny. Remember when I said Gabe Newell ate people? Some of the runners were sucked into his mouth and he killed them. Another cool map, entitled ‘Safety First’, depicted a construction site with all of the health and safety requirements infringed. Giant wrecking balls slammed people off walkways. A bulldozer crushed someone into the ground. One unlucky sod fell into a pit that gradually filled with cement, leaving only his head exposed. He died, by the way. They all died.

On the other hand, there are some truly awful traps. One of the traps I hate is the killing doorways; two or three doorways are presented to the runners and only one won’t kill them instantly. The problem here is that, because people don’t want to die, they don’t walk through any of them. People stand there and stare at the doors, each one waiting for someone else to take the bullet. It really is infuriating, especially when you’ve already died and you’re stuck watching them. Go on, walk through the door. I hope you die, you selfish bastard. Not wanting to be killed is so cruel to others.

All in all, Death Run is a refreshing break from the main game and from other mods too. Playing as the trapper is just as much fun as playing as a runner and the thrill of causing the deaths of several innocent people at the touch of a button is exhilarating. Now I know why people become world leaders.

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