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Proving a Point: Tales From The Grave

October 27, 2009


The other day, in response to Blue’s negative comparison of Borderlands and L4D, Zoso wrote:

L4D Versus though is THE MOST strategic MP game i have ever played. I mean, if you stray away from your teamates at all (im talking 20 feet) it could easily mean the game. You constantly have to make crucial decisions that single-handedly make or break you.

I was in full agreement with this statement when I read it, and then Saturday’s gaming basically proved his point.  Note: The following is not a post of self-loathing, even though in this case, it was my mistake that cost the three survivors their lives – it is just an excellent example of Zoso’s point.

We were on the third stage of Dead Air. I had less than 70 rounds in my M16.  I made a special trip to the ammo pile in front of Zoso.  The pile turned white indicating that I would replenish my ammo if I pressed X.  I did, and then ran off with Zos and Grymm – by this time rED was already dead (this not being his fault, but that of all survivors, again, a commentary on the brilliance of the game).  When we got out into the passenger loading zone, I realized that I my M16 was now completely out of ammo. WTF?! For whatever reason, my ammo was not replenished.  Regardless of the cause, I should have made sure that it actually had been, instead of just assuming so because I pressed X above the white pile. Small mistake #1.

No problem.  Zoso immediately pointed out that I had a pistol, and that we were just a short way from the safe house – just around the plane wreckage, up a couple of floors in the parkade, and into the safe house.  Indeed, somewhat to my relief, when I switched to pistols, I discovered that I had duals.  However, even at that, and here is where I made my mistake, I panicked.  Literally.  I didn’t spaz out, but inside I panicked.  I was just, “Lets GO, GO, GO, GO, GO!  We can’t spend a minute longer out here because I only have pistols!”  (In fact, dual pistols are actually pretty effective against everything but the Tank.)

I rushed ahead, pulled tight beside the plane, ran a couple of meters around it, and then  Zoso called out: “Hey, you are getting too far ahead, Grymm is still way behind!”  (Grymm didn’t have a mic).  Sure enough, Zos gets pounced.  Then, before I can make it back around the edge of the plane, I get pounced.  I was literally just inches behind the plane, but Zoso couldn’t shoot the hunter off me, and I couldn’t free him.  And Grymm was still fighting the zombies, or whatever it was that was holding him back.  All three of us died.

In the end, it wasn’t the fact that I didn’t have AR ammo, or the fact that Grymm didn’t have a mic, or the fact that rED was already dead.   It was because I panicked, and ran too far ahead.  All those other things could have been compensated for – but not the distance created by the panic.

There simply is no other game like it.  Ken Levine talked all fancy and proud about the moral dilemmas and emotions that BioShock evokes.  There is awe at the world Irrational designed, fear caused by being startled, and pleasure in the game mechanics themselves.  The moral choices, however, are contrived, and the consequences completely predictable.

In L4D, within a matter of  seconds, I experienced hubris, shock, disappointment, fear, panic and then deep regret.  None of those emotions were faked.  They basically cover  the entire spectrum of human emotional possibility with the exception of laughter, which happens at so many other times in the  game.  Furthermore, the dilemmas are always real and the choices usually with unpredictable consequences.

I have learned so much about myself, and others, playing this game!

  1. October 27, 2009 6:44 pm

    Remaining level-headed is of the second highest priority with communication being the first. Knowing what you have in your kit at all times is essential to your state-of-mind. In Gears 2’s Horde & games that require tactical teamwork, there are so many players that start panicking when their primary weapon runs dry. Remember, you’re side arm still kills. Even if that runs dry, you can still use it as a melee weapon. Separating from your core team to replenish or look for ammo will only sacrifice the integrity of the ENTIRE team. L4D exploits strategical missteps and psychological blunders. That fact alone makes this game the most “strategic” shooter that I’ve played. As Zos has already stated on another post, “You are only as strong as your weakest member.” With L4D, especially, this statement couldn’t ring truer.

    L4D 2 will ramp up the difficulty to an even greater level with the inclusion of the three new Special Infected (Spitter/Jockey/Charger), Uncommon Common Infected (Mudmen/Clowns/Construction workers/HazMat/SWAT), as well as localized body damage. It will be a totally new ballpark where even getting to the Safe Room will be an almost impossible task.

    Those that are so quick to dismiss the greatness of this franchise really need to reevaluate their perspective on “intelligent” shooters. Don’t be shallow by blaming the graphics as the reason why you’re dissuaded from the game. I completely understand if L4D/L4D2 just isn’t “your bag.” However, those that actually give this game a chance will undoubtedly see the greatness in this franchise. Perhaps gamers not liking the game is simply due to the fact that their “teamwork” isn’t as good as they thought they were? Another thing about this game that will send gamers running for the hills is this simple fact: “No pussies are allowed. Real gamers play L4D! ‘Nuff said.”

    • 3Suns permalink
      October 28, 2009 12:30 am

      Yep. (You dropped the Panic Dog! Ha ha ha ha)

      And thanks for listing the Uncommon Common. I was blown away yesterday when Chet mentioned the construction workers with the ear muffs. Pipe bombs and Molotovs will no longer be the Peacemakers that they are in L4D. Mistakenly tossing the wrong kind out may mean that not even one zombie is eliminated by the tool. Survival is completely dependent on thinking quickly and acting intelligently.

      The more I think about it, the more I am feel like L4D is just the training mission. It is possible that had L4D included all the features of the sequel, many may have found it overwhelmingly complicated, mentally more than they could process. Maybe some did anyway.

    • October 30, 2009 4:29 am

      That’s one reason why I think we dominated so much in Versus. People just didn’t think and strategize together nearly as much as we did. And it’ll be even more blatant in this next installment.

      I FUCKING LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!!

  2. slmjr permalink
    October 30, 2009 4:02 am

    Sounds like I am going to have to get this one. I did not buy the first one. Seems as if this is going to be one kick ass game.

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