I was atop the Tower of London, mere feet from the last helicopter leaving the city. I was trapped on a parapet with the final two zombies. The city burned, and the chopper hovered maddeningly close, refusing to pick me up until I'd cleared the roof. I was right up against it. I could feel the weight of all that had come before. My character, a computer technician, had survived for a long time, and I wasn't going to lose her now. Not like I lost Daisy.
Daisy was a cop, determined and serious. I really wanted her to live. She had a small frame, and I imagined she'd fought hard to be a cop, and now was using the same strength of will to survive the end of the world. She was going to be my character, the one that survived. But she didn't. She died in a flooded catacomb, when she got cornered by some zombies in the dark. A bad way to go. She was smart and tough, but she panicked. I panicked.
Daisy was going to find the Ravens, the resistance that promised an escape from the city, and a cure from the virus. She died within feet of reaching their stronghold, where they broadcast their radio signal from, telling people to come to the Tower for evacuation.
Before Daisy I was depressed, after I lost that military kid. I don't remember his name, but he was tougher than he looked. He's the one who made contact with the royal doctor in Buckingham Palace, the first to get the "virucide", the drug could would insta-kill zombies. He lasted a long time using that, surviving close encounters that should have been fatal. I thought he was going to make it. I really did. He had the weapons and apparently the training. He was young and slight, but seemed cool headed enough... until he brought a cricket bat down full force on a zombie wearing a pressurized air canister. Smile you son of a bitch.
By the time he exploded I had grown attached to my little soldier boy, even though I was disappointed by him at first. No soldiers, I told myself. I didn't want this to be the story of some professional warrior kickin' butt during the apocalypse. I wanted my unlikely heroes, my normal people, who sweat and squeal and cry while they're covered in blood in some rat-infested sewer. But who keep crawling, keep pushing through the sobs. I wanted folks like the ones I know, fighting until their last breath. Not the pretty ones, not the "game characters". Fuck those fuckers. Let the rest of us have a try.
My first character I wasn't sad to see go. He was some generic bald white guy. Seen enough of those in video games, so when he got cocky right near the beginning, in the first subway station, and got mauled next to a vending machine, I was kind of relieved. I swear on my honor I never once tried to get anyone killed, but I perhaps did behave less cautiously when a character seemed dull. These tended to be white young men, the sort you'd expect to be a video game protagonist. And wouldn't you know it? They did silly things, like try to take on several zombies at once. Oops. What a shame.
I did like one of my white dudes, a tie-wearing department store supervisor. He was skinny, unassuming, and clearly inspired by Simon Pegg. Okay fine. I guess I don't mind white guys if they're Simon Pegg. He was the first to reach Buckingham actually, before the soldier. He was mostly clever, but he tried to set a landmine too close to a wandering zombie. Guess you really do have to be far away from those when they explode. Both the white guys I liked exploded.
Mr. Pegg was my rebound after Lucy. Lucy was my second character, after generic white guy #1 died. She was a university student, but she was pretty handy when it came to the undead, and was determined not take this end-of-civilization shit lying down. She listened to all the advice, carefully conserved ammo and rations, and grew skilled with weapons. She was my first survivor, the first one I thought would make it.
She made it across town, through the sewers, all the way to the gates of Buckingham. She was careful the whole time. She nailed the doors shut behind her so she wouldn't be followed. Finally she made it to the gates, which were surrounded by an abandoned blockade. Behind it was a mounted gun, and a little further back, around a corner near a shack, were boxes of ammo. Lucy decided not to pick them up. What would she do with them? They were heavy, and they were only for this blockade gun, which she couldn't take with her. She decided to rest in the shack and figure out what to do later.
When she woke up it was raining, and the dead approached. They were everywhere, converging on the blockade. She manned the gun, and but they kept coming. She'd never seen so many, and the gun ran dry. She panicked. My first panic. She couldn't die now - she'd come so far. The bullets! She ran back to get them, but she couldn't open the ammo box they were in, load them into her backpack, and bring them back to the gun in time. The dead were already swarming over it. If only she'd picked the ammo up before, she could have quickly reloaded the gun. She retreated into the shack, next to the cot, her last comfortable sleep. Her last sleep ever.
After that there was a black cop, but who didn't last long in the sewers. Later, after Daisy, there was a bank manager in a smart suit who survived a long time only to be murdered by other survivors in some fucked up zombie gladiator arena they built. My second black character replaced her, only to be cut down in the same arena. Finally this computer technician appeared. She survived the carnival of death, found all the weapons that had been taken from the bank manager, and made her way back through the city to the Tower of London, to the last helicopter leaving.
I had decided she wasn't going to die. But I'd decided that many times before and it happened anyway. Determination means shit. You may really want a particular person to live, but they won't. Welcome to disappointment. And there's always that moment, that shock when you realized you've died, and you see the "saving" text on screen, knowing you can never undo it. It's like that when awful things happen in real life. You are cognisant of a split in time, when the past and future rip away from each other and everything is divided into before and after the horrible event. The second after it happens is the worst. Your first thought is to deny; your second to boggle at how different things would be if you just had that one second back. How many meaningless seconds passed this morning, you think, only to have this last one change my entire world. Seconds mean nothing... until they mean everything.
I was horrified of experiencing one of those seconds on the roof. There were just two zombies. I had taken more on before and lived. But I was a nervous wreck. I could see the city burning across the Thames, I was wounded, the light from the chopper was blinding, the beating air deafening. I had made my way there by abandoning my methodical policy of total zombie removal in favor of blind dashes through dark tunnels, the ghouls clawing at my flesh. I knew I would run out of ammo if I tried to kill them all, so I did the unthinkable: I broke all my rules. I panicked. I panicked as policy. For the first time panic was the only sensible option.
Panic - the most deadly thing in the world, the one true enemy - reached a crescendo on the tower. I had enough bullets left to take out two zombies, but little health and not a lot of space. I had pushed one zombie earlier into the fire consuming the tower below - at least that would save me ammo. The final two were chasing me around the parapet like a rabbit. I used my final bullets but couldn't land a head shot. I started pushing them, hearing my character shriek in exhaustion. I couldn't aim anymore.
After missing four more times, and running around in circles again, I finally got a lucky shot. Just one left. The helicopter lights blazed - our very own spotlight for the final battle. The last zombie was one of the body armored ones, the ones you can't shoot. You have to hit them with the bat until their helmets shake loose. I knew it would be the last time. I knocked the helmet off with the bat, and pointed my pistol at its exposed head. It screamed in my face, as all my other selves had done when I'd found them again. And I shot him the same way I had shot all my other selves - the way I shot Daisy and Lucy - when they screamed at me.
In the final cinematic I saw my computer technician desperately clinging to the rope ladder below the chopper as it pulled away from the city. I was happy she made it, after all the others hadn't. She so easily could not have. What now, I wondered? What else is the game going to show me? What does it think is important? She crawled up the ladder, reached the top. A hand extends to her, and she grabs it. This last shot is a close up, of touching another human hand. Cut to black. The End.
This game understands the zombie genre better than any other video game I've ever played.