When we last left off (yesterday) I had just successfully escaped Pittsburgh and was free on the open road again. When I started playing this time, my initial hope was immediately doused by a grim reminder. Only a few miles out from Pittsburgh, I stumbled upon the remains of a previous party and decided to investigate.
It’s a grim reminder of mortality and the frailness of man’s fleeting existence for me to contemplate. I also find a muffler, which causes me to immediately forget anything of consequence I might have otherwise learned. I proceed on with my journey, happy at my upturning luck, when I’m informed that I suddenly find myself surrounded by zombies and must fight for my life. I level my pixelated rifle and lay waste to the incoming monsters like it was my job. Feeling proud of myself, I resume my journey and get about two miles before I find myself surrounded by another horde of zombies. I really have to start paying more attention to where I’m going. I manage to hold them off again, but only just barely. I’m nervous and my adrenaline is pumping, and it’s hard to line up the shots accurately, so I end up wasting far more bullets than I should have. After the battle I check my remaining supply: 133 bullets. Not good. Even less good, I have exactly 0 ounces of food left, which means I need to scavenge or risk starvation. I figure wasting two hordes of zombies must have thinned the local population at least a little, so I should be pretty safe. As I’m scavenging, picking up cans of cat food and mysterious vaguely-steak shaped meat-looking things while darting about avoiding zombies, an electric guitar riff tears the ambiance apart. Suddenly, the atmosphere is completely different, as frantic, violent music blasts out of my computer. I panic, running around in a circle like an idiot trying to figure out what the hell is happening. Then I see them come in from the right side of my screen: zombie dogs.
In this game, most zombies shuffle along at a speed slightly slower than my own brisk walk (what I wouldn’t give for a sprint feature… but sadly, no, this game is old school — one walking speed for you), so unless they cut you off or get you surrounded, they’re not a huge threat because you can simply outrun them. Zombie dogs… are a different story. They are much faster than me, and they close the distance far too rapidly for me to respond intelligently. I run away from them as fast as I possibly can… straight into the crawler I had failed to notice wasn’t in fact dead. At least the dogs didn’t get to eat me… and despite getting injured, the game informs me that I’ve managed to bring back 50 ounces of food for the party, so we’re not going hungry tonight. Back at the camp menu, I check on my health after that… incident.
I’ve… seen better days, to say the least. I use our last med-kit patching myself up and take a few hours of rest before heading out in the morning. Turns out, between 5 people, 50 ounces of food lasts approximately one meal, so by breakfast time we’re already out of food and I have to resort to scavenging again. This time, the zombie activity is much lower, and I’m able to snag 200 ounces of food, which comes out to a little more than two pounds per person, more than enough for a couple days until we reach the Mall. The rest of the trip there is mercifully uneventful, until we reach the Mall itself, when our only car battery decides to die just as we pull in. Of course it does…
Despite the Mall being a mall, the local market set up by survivors has surprisingly little going on; the only thing for sale is food, which I don’t precisely need at the moment. Fortunately, there are plenty of people here looking to trade, and I find someone willing to offer me a car battery (exactly what I needed) in exchange for 24 bullets. I don’t want to part with my ammo unnecessarily, but I need a car battery to drive, so I take the deal. I check on the job board to see if there’s anything worth my time, and spot a Bandit killing job rated Normal difficult with a pay off of 2 Med-kits. A reward like that is far to sweet to pass up, so I accept the job. I get shot immediately. Well, so much for that… two med-kits would have come in great handy right about now. Bitterly cursing any and all bandits (‘normal difficulty’ my ass…), I decide to scavenge around the Mall for supplies to sell or trade to get back on my feet. Once again, my peaceful scavenging is shocked into full-throttle panic by a wail of electronic music.
ARE YOU SHITTING ME?! I unload my rifle into him three times, and he shrugs it off, still coming for me hard and fast. Just like the dogs, it turns out a zombie bear can outrun a human being. The only way to keep him from mauling you is to shoot him, which stuns him for a brief moment and could gives you time to escape. However, in my experience, zombie bears are also adamantium-plated tanks of unending rage and destruction, because I put at least nine rounds into him, and it had about the same effect on him as when I blow in my dog’s face: briefly shocking, but otherwise just annoying and eventually enraging. I managed to survive the bear attack by positioning myself so that he got stuck behind a wall and just tried to run straight through it (instead of going around and eating my face off) until the mission time ran out and I returned to my camp with nothing more than a cool story about how I totally just killed a massive zombie bear while out scavenging. Deciding not to wait around until the zombie bear came back to finish what he started, I loaded up the station wagon and got ready to get the hell out of the Mall. I had 5 cans of gas to get us the two hundred or so miles to my next destination, Indianapolis, which was plenty of fuel, so I had no qualms about just hauling ass and not stopping once. The game had other plans.
Who even starts a fire in a car?? Come on, guys… seriously?
After barely managing to contain my rage about losing 80% of our gas to freakin’ fire in the car (what were we doing, making s’mores?), seconds later another notification pops up. Rather than being especially careful with our last can of fuel, we hit a pot hole and spilled it. And now we’re out of gas. I go out to scavenge, hoping to get lucky and find more fuel, but at least to vent my frustration by killing some walkers. It… didn’t go quite as planned.
I got overwhelmed and injured. Again. I did manage to find $50 though, so I decide to take my chances and wait for a fellow survivor willing to trade their fuel for my money comes along. Eventually, a potential trader does show up, but they don’t want my money. They want my ammunition.
At this point, I desperately need each and every one of my 76 remaining bullets, but I also equally-desperately need fuel to keep moving. After agonizing over the decision for quite some time, I take the deal, deciding I need the gas more immediately than I need the 32 bullets. Now I have 4 cans of fuel and 44 bullets, with about a hundred miles to Indianapolis. A sense of deep dread looms over me as I proceed on with my journey.
Seven miles outside of the city, we come across some… fresh remains. The game presents me with a grisly choice.
I’m not that desperate for food yet that I’m willing to resort to cannibalism, but I will absolutely liberate the guy of his wallet and any supplies he has. Then I get this menu:
… Look, you never know when you’re going to come across your last meal, okay? I thought at the outset I would only be able to pick one, but since I have the option of looting his pockets and field dressing him like a deer, why not both? I walk away with 5 more bullets, $23, and 25 pounds of fat-guy meat.
I walk into the city of Indianapolis and check out the job board first and foremost. I want to set myself up as well as possible for trading later, but the rewards of one job make me forget all about trading. 105 ammo payout, for a Bandit job. Nevermind that it’s a suicidal difficulty, I NEED those bullets. I take the job.
I get showered in a spray of bullets, but at this point, I’ve gotten shot by enough of these bastards to know better. I stay down, in cover, and watch the patterns of their movements. I pop up and take shots when I can, moving in a blur between waves of incoming bullets. I take out one bandit. Then another. My skills are improving. A third bandit falls. I’ve got the hang of it now, they’re done for. As more bandits fall, the spread of their shots thins out and gives me more time to line up my return fire. I can do this.
And then it happened. The moment I had been subconsciously dreading since I first decided how to spend my time picking up supplies back in D.C.
I used every last bullet I had, and there were still four bandits standing. And I was still grievously injured from my last failed missions. There was nothing I could do. It was over. I took a deep breath, remembered the Alamo, and rushed the building.
And that was that; Jimbo Slice had fallen and my adventure was over. All in all, it was a great time, and I learned several important lessons, but the single most important thing I learned: I should have listened to third-grade me… get all the bullets.