This week I shall explore arguably the most underappreciated medium of modern gaming: free online games. If you don’t know, there are literally thousands of simple games available for free. All they take is a Google search.
For free online games, I recommend ArmorGames.com.
Funnily enough, game developers have managed to swindle people into paying to have them on their smart phones (guilty). Example: the casual gaming phenomenon known Angry Birds, which to date has grossed over $1 billion in games and merchandise, is a simple palette swap of any of the hundreds of tower destruction-type games that are available online for free and had been for years before Angry Birds was first released.
So, with that in mind, let’s talk about my favorite free online series to date, The Last Stand series.
1. The Last Stand
The Last Stand places you in the shoes of an unnamed man who is one of the few survivors of a worldwide zombie epidemic. He has barricaded himself in his home and must hold off an ever-growing horde of undead monstrosities for 20 nights until a military chopper arrives to rescue him.
Each night you’ll use whatever weapons available (a crappy pistol to start) to hold off the hordes, which will grow in size and individual speed and endurance with each passing night. If they reach your barricade, they begin to take down its hit points. Don’t fret, though. Even if they manage to take it down, their speed slows to a crawl when they walk over it for fresh brains.
If you successfully hold off the demons until sunrise, you’ll be sent to the menu, where you’ll have 12 hours. You can use these to repair your barricade for a certain number of hit points per hour, or to search for weapons or survivors (these are separate options).
Weapons you can find include shotguns, automatics, and the classic –if incredibly stupid and impractical in such a situation—chainsaw. Survivors will help hold off the hordes at night with crappy pistols of their own and they will also make your barricade repairs go faster, freeing up more time to search for weapons and more survivors. Don’t depend on them for heroics, though; they’ll flee like frightened rabbits if the barricade drops to 5% integrity.
Anyway, after the 20 days a chopper comes to rescue you, which leads to a small cutscene -- SPOILER ALERT -- in which an infected refugee turns zombie and causes the chopper to crash.
This one takes place immediately after the end of The Last Stand. Your newly-bearded everyman hears a radio broadcast saying that the mainland is being sealed off to prevent the spread of infection. He has only 40 days to make it to Union City.
Right from the beginning you’ll be forced to hold off a fairly strong horde of zombies with no preparation whatsoever. This move by the developers actually ramps up the intensity quite a bit.
After you get through the first night, you’ll see that a few things are different. Instead of spending hours simply searching for weapons and survivors, you now have a map of the city you’re in and you select which buildings you want your character to explore, each with its own number of hours needed to do a thorough sweep.
After you select which buildings you want to search, you confirm your choices and are taken to a menu which shows what you found. These could be weapons and/or survivors as well as two new things: supplies and traps.
Traps can be set on the floor of the area you’re holed up in. You can find bear traps, propane tanks, and land mines. Supplies, on the other hand, have no use, but you need them to travel from one city to the next.
Speaking of travel, you’ll be given the option to do so as soon as you’ve found enough supplies to make it to the closest town/city. Be careful, though; traveling takes several days, and you only have forty to make it to Union City, so choose your path wisely.
This rendition of the series has a much more intense feeling about it. The barricades are not nearly as strong as they were in the first game, and the hordes are considerably stronger, faster, and larger than they used to be.
As for the survivors, they’re infinitely more useful than they were before. They can still help speed up repairs, and now you can give up to four of them weapons that you have but are not using because of the two-weapon limit. (At one point I had four survivors with me, all of whom were wielding automatic weapons. We were unstoppable.)
During battle you’ll see zombies wielding various blades and bludgeons. They will kill your survivors if you give them the chance. Like in the first game, the survivors will tuck tail and run if the barricade drops to 5% health, but otherwise they have no preservation instincts whatsoever, so it’s up to you to keep them alive.
My only complaint about this one is that the difficulty curve is a bit wonky. On one play through I snagged two survivors and some automatic weapons almost immediately and blasted through it easily. On another I would devote entire days worth of hours to searching buildings and still couldn’t find anything useful to the point that I just quit because it was impossible for me to hold off the hordes alone with a crappy pistol.
You no longer play your cool dude. Instead, you’ll play a custom-made character with your choice of names.
From there “you” are seen driving your car to Union City, apparently blissfully unaware of what has been going on in spite of the fact that the rest of the mainland has been putting up with it for over two months now.
You won’t be hiding behind barricades this time, though. No, this version is way more complex and involved than its predecessors. Instead of being a simple point and click shooter, it’s become more of an RPG, with experience points and a leveling system with which to improve your skills.
What you will be doing is traveling on foot to various parts of a city in shambles, fending off the undead while searching abandoned homes for what few supplies they may contain. If you choose survivor mode (as I did), you’ll be required to sleep and eat regularly and supplies will be much more scarce.
For the first time, there’s a little bit of a plot. You’re looking for your wife (or husband, depending on which gender you choose for your character), and as you go along you discover the origins of the zombie outbreak. You’ll also see lots of heartfelt note in notepads and scrawled into walls. The game does a pretty excellent job of creating the right atmosphere.
Minor note: there’s a premium pack which you can unlock if you have an Armor Games profile and donate at least a dollar to Con Artist (that’s the name of the team that developed the game; not the best choice, guys). This will give you access to stronger weapons and armor, as well as hardcore difficulty and the option to make only headshots count.
If you are like me and believe that small time games are extremely underrated and are being smothered by the big boy companies like Bungie and Square Enix, then consider making a donation, even if it’s just a dollar.
What can I say? They’re fun. The first one will take you about half hour to complete, the second about an hour, and the third two to four, depending on how you choose to play it.
That last statement should really shame the mainstream games industry. How is it that a free online game (in 2D, no less) designed by a tiny team (about ten people) makes for a better game than some that cost hundreds of millions and a small army to make and for which I am forced to pay $60? It just goes to show that a good game is certainly not determined by funding.
Normally I have an investment suggestion here, but since the games are free I’ll leave you with a gameplay suggestion instead: get a single-shot rifle as soon as you can, and in Union City, specialize in long rifles and blades.
The above is only my opinion. It just happens to be right.