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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Zombies!

Hello! A few weeks ago I was on quite the zombie gaming kick. I didn't really do it on purpose either; I guess playing several games in a row with the same theme and setting is bound to happen when said theme and setting is so common/overused. Also, I'm not sure why I'm so interested in zombie fiction and apocalyptic settings, even after reading some theories on why it's so popular as a genre. I just embrace that I am. (Also I freakin' love Cracked, check that last link out for sure.)

But yeah, as passé as it is, I played a string of zombie games in Sept. 2013. It was good fun--got some thoughts to share. I think I'll stick with just one of those games for this post.

So back in my first years of college, I was a huge fan of Valve's Left 4 Dead game, and its sequel. Playing those games introduced me to a group of buddies I still hang with now and then, and still rep on my steam handle. But the L4D series are really well made games. That's some primo co-op FPS gameplay right there. As usual for a Valve game, it was populated with fantastic characters with excellent dialogue. So good--in fact, let me introduce you to the characters from each game's opening cinematic scene.

Left 4 Dead

Bill - Old man. 'Nam vet. Father figure.
Francis -  Biker dude. Tough guy. Hates everything.
Louis - Black guy. White-collar. Optimist.
Zoey - Chick. Movie-buff. Youngest one.


The Left 4 Dead opener does a fine job of introducing players to different enemies and gameplay mechanics. You've got your run-of-the-mill infected and your special infected, like the crying girl "Witch", the tongue-shooting "Smoker", the ninja-like "Hunter", etc. All except the "Boomer", whom they are examining the remains of right at the beginning. Even the concept that car-alarms=bad and your choices between the legitimate strategies of "Run, shoot, or both". Are thrown in there. Waaaay more entertaining than a tutorial; I am still impressed to this day.

Left 4 Dead 2

Coach - Big guy. HS Teacher & Coach. Father figure.
Ellis - Trucker hat. Mechanic. Funny optimist.
Rochelle - Chick. News producer. Voice of reason.
Nick - Suit. Con artist. Cynical smartass.

This one's not so much a short story about crossing the street as it is an action trailer, nor is it dropping many hints for new players. I do think it introduced the characters fairly well, especially Ellis and Coach. Man, Ellis is probably one of my favorite characters in a game. Let me just throw another video at you showcasing some of the dialogue from him in the game.

Third degree burns over 90% of his body!

Oh, Ellis. I was him for Halloween once. It was pretty jank--a last minute outfit while my girlfriend at the time was an hilariously good rendition of Dolly Parton. We ironed on the Bull-Shifters logo to a t-shirt and grabbed a typical redneck hat from the excellent selection offered by my local Walmart. No mechanic's coveralls stripped down to the waist, just jeans.

Anyhow, I still use L4D2 to connect to both my OZ and Infamy buddies. That's the beauty of co-op shooters like L4D and Payday. No grind, just jump in and play together. One way we keep it fresh--and this is what I originally wanted to spotlight when I started blogging today--is through user-made campaigns. The folks at the aptly named L4Dmaps.com have a lot of maps of varying quality banked up, but most recently we downloaded and ran through "I Hate Mountains" and "Dead Before Dawn".

"I Hate Mountains" is a fantastically well-done 5-map campaign originally designed for L4D. However, when L4D2 came out as they were designing it, they started concurrently working on the L4D2 version of the map. The maps in the campaign are long, and you can get lost on your first playthrough. Forcing the stress of being lost in the woods/catacombs/mansion is in my opinion a good thing in a game where the ultimate reward is the sense of Overcoming.

Francis and Bill in the catacombs, struggling to see through the film-grain effects.
The second campaign we played through was "Dead Before Dawn", an entertaining romp through one of the classic settings for surviving the zombie apocalypse--a shopping mall! What does that say about the theory that zombies represent modern-day consumerism? Idk, but this campaign has tons of fairly well recorded dialogue by a zany pseudo-Texan guiding you to victory via the mall intercom. I say pseudo-Texan, because to my Mississippian ears, it sounds like a dude trying, and IMO, failing to affect a Southern accent while bungling it up with some Cowboy jargon and other nonsense. But I digress, it's a valiant attempt and really does add... flavor to the campaign.

The maps are entertaining to go through as well. Your gamer instinct will make you want to explore every store available to you, though that may not be the best idea if you waste too much time and get pounded on by zombies. "Dead Before Dawn" is based on a mall map made for a Half-Life 2 mod, based on the 2004 Dawn of the Dead movie remake. I honestly don't recall if I played "DBD" classic or the directors cut, which left4dead.wikia is telling me is different by one of the five maps in the campaign.

Both of these maps fit right in with the Valve-made original maps because of their atmosphere and their attention to detail. I just had to poke around the mansion/tunnels of "I Hate Mountains" and the mall of "Dead Before Dawn", because each room, pathway, and store was compellingly and realistically designed. Also, I though it was awesome that both of these got some unique character dialogue recorded by the original voice actors and supplied by Valve. We know Francis hates almost everything, but I was tickled to actually hear him say that he hates mountains and malls respectively.

Anyway, I hope you were entertained reading about L4D! Thanks for reading.

3 comments:

  1. OMG, I'm so afraid of zombies and all that stuff! Seriously. I had to skip this one, but I'll be there reading the next. ;)

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    1. Haha, well the next one might be about zombies too. I'll just have to see. My urge to write comes infrequently, and I've been playing UnReal World and Crusader Kings II a whole lot lately.

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