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.
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.
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.