L4D2 Cover

I got the right image this time! Yay!

I am not very big on of competitive multiplayer games. It probably has something to do with my complete lack of hand-eye coordination. I usually don’t play video games for the challenge. I don’t really find much enjoyment in grinding the same level for days, until I can do it in my sleep. That is not to say that I want my video games to be a cakewalk. A certain degree of difficulty is actually what makes it fun – it gets the adrenaline pumping. To much of it however is a turnoff. When I play a game I want to be immersed in it’s world and it’s story. If I die every five minutes, this immersion is broken. So online FPS games are not exactly my cup of tea. That said, I do enjoy them from time to time. For example, I fondly remember my high school years where when I played Blood, and Quake Team Fortress mod at lan parties till the wee hours of the night.

Until I found L4D2 my FPS poison of choice was Team Fortress. But I have not touched it since L4D2 launched. I admit that I bought it mainly because of the hype and memetic potential of the original. I mean, I have never played the first iteration of this game, but I do know that Francis hates everything except vests for example. Everyone seemed to love the game, but I was skeptical whether or not it can actually deliver $40 of entertainment to me. I got TF2 as part of the Orange Box, which I bought specifically to get my hands HL2 episodes and Portal. A nice, silly online game was just a bonus.

When Valve released the demo for L4D2 I decided to try it out, and see whether or not it was worth the investment. It turned out that I liked the game so much that I preordered it on the spot, and then got to join an angry mob of Valve customers ranting about the L4D2 release fail on twitter.

For those of you who were not paying attention on the release night – Valve was late with the PC release. The customers who bought the Xbox version got to play the game at midnight. PC users on the other hand had to wait until 3am while Valve team was doing some last minute testing. Of course to us, it looked like they were just playing the game themselves and forgot to unlock it on steam. Needless to say, the fans were not pleased.

I noticed that two months have passed since then, and I haven’t really mentioned the game at all. It’s not because I haven’t been playing it though. I’ve been killing zombies on and off ever since I got it, unless I was playing another game in between (Dragon Age for example). So I figured I might as well say a few words about it now.

I still love it, and I personally think it is one of the most fun online FPS games I have played in years. Yes, I’ve been actually having more fun in L4d2 than in TF2. Go figure. There is just something about this game that draws me in. And I’m pretty sure its not just zombies. Then again, maybe it’s because it’s newer, and I haven’t gotten bored with it yet.

One thing has to be said: the characters in the sequel don’t seem to be as iconic as the ones from the original. Ellis seems to be the fan favorite, with his questionable redneck charm. The character models are very well done, and quite distinctive. I really like how they are all slightly different sizes, and sport different postures so you can easily recognize which character you are looking at, even if all you see is a silhouette. Their voice acting is pretty good too, and they are not bad characters. They just not as good as Francis, Luis or Zoey and Bill. You can see this reflected on the interwebs. The original cast is featured in motivational posters, memes, skits and videos. The new survivors on the other hand have yet to make their mark out there. That’s basically my only complaint about this game. Everything else, I pretty much like or approve of.

I like these poster type level intros

Here is an admission – I hardly ever play the game in standard campain mode. My favorite is Versus and I play it almost to the exclusion of everything else. I tried all the other modes, but I keep cumming back to the PvP combat mode all the time. Perhaps it is because it lets me play against real human beings rather than the shifty AI Director. This means that both failures and successes are far more spectacular. When you are playing against a well organized team of infected getting wiped out is usually both painful and hilarious. Not to mention that playing as infected is actually great deal of fun.

Actually scratch that. The best thing about Versus mode is that there is no grind. When you play a straight campaign, wiping out means that you need to start the level over. When you wipe twice in a row, people get cranky, rage quit or start kicking people off the server out of spite. But on Versus, wiping out as Survivors means that you now get to play as infected, and get a chance to avenge your deaths. Not only that, you can lose every round and still progress through the levels. There is just no downtime, and no repetition – no matter what happens, you get to do something different next round. You are either settling a score, forging ahead or trying to catch up points wise.

It’s also the best way to get to get to know the game. Infected get access to many areas the survivors can’t go, they can climb buildings, set ambushes on the roofs and etc. The best way to find all the tricky spots where special infected may hide is to play them yourself. It also gives you a very good feel for the extent of powers these beasts posses – for example, how far can a smoker smoke, or what is the radius of explosion of a dying boomer.

How about you? What is your favorite game mode and why?

How about campaigns? Which one do you like the best? I personally like Dead Center, Parish and Dark Carnival in precisely that order. I really like fueling Jimmy Gibs’ car in the Dead Center finale. It is possibly one of the more interesting and challenging stages in the game. Winning that level as survivors really takes quite a bit of coordination. A common impulse of many players is to split up and try to grab as many gas cans as possible really fast. Unfortunately this allows infected to pick them out quite easily. A lot of people like to form two teams of two (one on the ground level, and one scavenging for cans upstairs) but that is risky – especially on Versus. Most of the successful play-troughs have the team staying together all the time, even if it means taking more time and taking on more hordes of undead.

Also, any Terminalists who play L4D2, please post your steam account name in the comments or friend me – I’m Tuxmentat. I’ve seen k00pa and Gothmog around but they are rarely online when I am. I tend to play late at night and I’m in the EST time zone.

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4 Responses to L4D2

  1. k00pa FINLAND Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    I haven’t have lots of time to play l4d2, as I have lots of other games (tf2,mw2 and tons of games from the steam holiday sale) But I will soon tick my 100 hour to this game :P

    My favorite game mode is the versus mode also. The campaings gets boring after I have completed all of them couple times, but in versus, there is always something different.

    I also sometimes try to play the realism in expert difficult. But usually I just ragequit on that…

    In a whole, the hard rain campaing is my favorite, but the first level of Dead center is awesome. At the start there is nice spot for spitter to incap whole team before they even get out of the saferoom. There is also lots of spots where charger can insta kill survivors by jumping down from the building with survivor. (I have got 2 down with on charge :P)

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  2. Mart SINGAPORE Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    I bought L4D2 after watching Zombieland. Watching someone else blow off a zombie is as fun as blowing one off yourself! :D

    Never played an online match before, which is probably an anathema for L4D2 game. Somehow, playing against completely random strangers never really appealed to me. Maybe that’s my irrational fear: internetimultiplayophobia. So I just stick with Solo Play, which is mindless fun by itself. This game is my 20-minute stress-reliever & hmm-I-got-20-minutes-to-kill-what-should-I-play game.

    I use “Shmutt” to logon to Steam. Not sure if that’s my community ID as well though. :P

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  3. Matt` UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    I have L4D2, but I’ve been having problems with either defective memory (and subsequently low amounts of memory while the replacement ships, turns out to also be defective, then ships again) or being on metered internets at uni, ever since release day. Loved L4D, just a shame I’ve not been able to dive straight into the sequel.

    I’m sure I’ll be fine once I do get in though – can’t imagine the tactics being wildly different (stay the hell together, shoot the zombies) and so long as there’s an assault rifle to play with I’ll be just fine (the stats page is showing 99% accuracy… love me some assault rifle).

    Steam name HJ|man-man, profile at http://steamcommunity.com/id/9999999999999

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  4. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Linux Terminalist says:

    @ k00pa:

    One of the hard rain levels also has that tall building by the corn field where you can charge people off to the ground. If you get a jokey, smoker and a charger and set a trap by the elevator you can easily win the match right there. Falling off the building is not auto-kill but it splits the team beautifully and you can usually deal massive amounts of damage to those who fall off before the others can reach them.

    I like that first level of Dead Center too but it is probably the most rage-quit prone stage for a lot of people. There is a way to avoid the balconies and ledges for the most part though – there are places where you can run through the fire and skip a lot of the dangerous sections.

    Dead Center has many fun areas. That grocery store where you pick up the soda crate is a nasty camping spot. I think twice I encountered survivor teams that would just sit inside and defeat wave after wave of infected. We were trying to flush them out but most people would get annoyed after 5 minutes or so and the rotation on the infected side was so high that it was mostly each man for himself.

    @ Mart:

    Well, online play can be very rewarding if you get a good team. Join a game and listen in. If people have mics and are actively discussing strategies you will have tons of fun. If no one is talking and someone calls you a fag in the chat 5 minutes into the match, you might as well quit and try again.

    @ Matt`:

    Ew… metered internets are evil!

    And yes, the tactics are similar, only you now have few new types of infected like Charger, Jockey, and Spitter. Spitter can be very annoying if used well – best way to incapacitate a whole team is to wait until everyone is in the red and one of the survivors goes down. What usually happens is that one of two team members will run up to help that person. You spit on them, and if you are lucky they will not have enough life left to get out of the acid.

    Charger can be dangerous when used well (he can charge you off ledges often causing instant auto-kill), but it he will often get stuck on terrain features making him an easy target.

    Jockey is pretty much a less effective hunter that does not deal damage on his own, but can steer the victim into a horde of zombies an off a ledge.

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