This review is for the Release Version!tl;dr version:
Though there are some issues with zombie pathing and balancing, the value you're getting at $20 is excellent considering there is Workshop support coming soon and that the devs are commited to bringing releasing free DLCs with new guns, characters, maps and even game modes.
Should you get it? if you like a challenge and prefer realistic gameplay, definitely.Pros:
- excellent gun mechanics with realistic ballistics, penetration, recoil and decent weapon sounds
- varied game modes (pvp, coop and survival)
- solid replayability on the escape maps (you actually get completely different endings, paths, objectives and loot spawn locations, unlike L4D2 that just makes loot random and the odd door here and there)
- challenging (you can die quite easily if you're not paying attention)
- good bullet detection in pvp and not a lot of lag either
- several characters to choose from
- good graphics (still the Source Engine, but the lighting is very good indoor and the weapon models are very detailed)
- a good variety of weapon types (melee weapons, sidearms, SMGs, ARs, shotguns, a sniper rifle, a crossbow and explosives
- weapon animations are very well made
- devs are easy to reach to and helpful
- official modding support (SDK)
- upcoming Steam Workshop integration
- upcoming free DLC
- frequent updatesCons:
- melee play feels clunky (still a lot better than DayZ though, but less fluid than Dead Island)
- pathing issues with zombies (has improved a bit since the alpha, but there are still issues, especially with doors)
- escape objectives are not very clear and can lead to a lot of head scratching at times
- due to the dynamic nature of the escape maps, balancing is hit or miss at times (you can either get quicly swarmed, not find enough ammo or end up with a riot zombie that blocks you and that you can't kill quickly enough)
- no option to control the volume level of the characters
- graphics are inconsistent in outdoor areas (some areas are detailed others not so much)
- few zombie models and only three zombie "types" (slow, fast and armored)
- fairly limited number of maps
- zombie animations can get stuck when in "roam mode" where you see the zombie continue to try and walk when he has an obstacle in front of him (happens a lot less since the last updates)
- crossbow bolts sometimes can't be retrieved (not sure if feature or bug :) )
- zombie clipping can occur (especially near closed doors that have to be activated by a switch)
- learning curve can be steep as there is no dedicated tutorial (this has improved since they've added tooltips post-release)Personal opinion:
Personally, I've followed Contagion since their kickstarter and jumped aboard fairly soon after they got on steam and had the chance to see them build upon the game, adding new content, fixing bugs and improving the experience.
The dev team is comprised mostly of the people that worked on the excellent Zombie Panic Source mod for HL2 and while the production value of this game is very high compared to some other indie titles, they are a small team with a limited budget.
Arguably, for $20, Left 4 Dead 2 offers a ton of content and replayability in a solid experience; so does Dead Island and State of Decay.
Also, for $10 more, there is DayZ, which is pretty much an MMO in terms of what you can do in the game world, the huge scope, vast arsenal, customizing and rich PVP experience.
However, I feel like it's unfair to compare Contagion to similar zombie games like Left 4 Dead, Dead Island or State of Decay that cost millions to make.
I believe that if we continue to show them our support they will also continue to add content to the game, fix bugs and perhaps even come with new game modes or features, similar to what they did for ZPS.
As of 10.05.2014, they've released several updates, an official modding SDK, have revamped the zombie sounds and have promised to release a new escape map, free DLC with new characters, new guns and a new game mode, as well as Steam Workshop integration.