Thursday, December 04, 2008

Loft 4 Dad

I realise videogames (and especially videogamERs) have a reputation for relating to culture in the same way a disease-ridden fly relates to the corpse of a once beautiful creature, but we've already given The Verve a free pass and Grim Fandango sure beats the hell out of them in the Culchuurrre stakes. Therefore, I feel no shame enthusing about Left 4 Dead - the co-operative zombie-exploding experience.

Games have done endless swarms of enemies before (Robotron, Gauntlet, Alien Breed, Serious Sam ... probably a lot more) and they've done blowing things up before (every first-person game ever.) Really, everything in Left 4 Dead is pretty familiar. In some cases it's even reduced from the norm; to count more than ten different sorts of weapon you'd have to include using a first aid kit or a gas cannister as a mighty bludgeon.

But none of this matters at all, because it is tremendous.

just another day at the John Smeaton detective agency

Few things in the hackneyed world of gaming have entertained me as much as the vicious delight the 'AI Director' takes in eviscerating every plucky team of survivors. Each of the four cinematic-style campaigns ends with a brutal Finale, involving wave after wave of horrors being chucked at players until the boat/armoured car/chopper arrives and triggers a mad dash to safety. Playing the 'Blood Harvest' Finale with some chums, we'd come up with a marvellous plan to abandon the main farmhouse and defend a nearby barn. It was perfect, we'd simply back up to the rear of the barn and aim everything at the single entrance. Except as soon as the hordes showed up they tore through the paper-thin walls and started ripping us to bits from behind. Cue panic and an dramatic escalation of friendly fire as we all ran around in circles and tried to make it back to the house.

Or there was the time on the roof of Mercy Hospital when the survivors had been whittled down to just two (I'd been launched off the roof by the fist of one of the huge steroid-pumped zombie hulks, somebody else had simply been overwhelmed by numbers). The helicopter was en route. The incidental music was thumping and doing that squiggling sound which would normally overlay a sudden cut to a half-eaten face with maggots crawling over it. The infected masses were roaring and our two plucky heroes were battling back to the helipad through body parts, vomit and gore. But suddenly, disaster! One is clawed down and the other hesitates for a split second. Should he try to go back and help, or should he save his own worthless skin? It doesn't matter. The moment of indecision costs him his life as a filthy-tongued Smoker-zombie drags him off to a grim demise.


Almost every play-through has situations like this; little nerdy war stories to share with fellow players and irritate the hell out of anybody who doesn't know what you're on about (apologies, non-videogaming readers.) Play with friends if you want to dabble with hiLARrious in-jokes like constantly spamming character speech everywhere (Louis' Joker-like laugh is always a delight, as is standing next to 'nam-vet Bill and constantly saying his name), or risk the untamed wilderness of the internet for that true 'four complete strangers against the world' feel. Although the latter choice can lead to 'you and three total dicks against the world,' obviously. There's a vs mode too, which I haven't even mentioned.

There's a lot I haven't mentioned.

This should explain the rest.

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