Left 4 Dead (or, My Friends are Assholes)

I’m glad to see Valve continuing their proud tradition of Doing It Right. As I frequently make known to anyone within earshot, I believe it’s just a matter of time before the streets fill with the hungry dead. Thus, all media produced on the topic should be given at least marginal attention. Romero should be studied, of course – to a point. Thanks to him we know effective methods of dispatching your former friends and family, and ok, maybe a few people didn’t know that you shouldn’t try to tame the undead as pets. However, I draw the line at supposing zombies could form their own society, where they would like nothing more than to live in peace without scavengers from Bartertown coming in to steal their cigar and whiskey rations. And show them fireworks.

I don’t know why that’s pissing them off really – to my knowledge, they can neither drink nor smoke, and they really seem to enjoy looking at fireworks. Zombies are kind of arbitrary dicks even when they’re not eating you.

Right, so – the game. Behold:



This is the intro movie, which I have yet to skip when I start the game. I’m pretty sure this brief clip is the only time you ever see a cut scene of your group, but I was immediately taken by how real the characters were. I’m not saying that the voice acting is particularly stellar, or that the animation lets me see pores and liver spots. The interaction was just very . . . natural. That’s the best way I can think of to say it. Little details and mannerisms that a live actor displays without thinking are mostly absent in game animation. Obviously the better the tech you have to work with, the closer you can approximate natural human action, but I think it also has a lot to do with developers actually considering how people would react and taking the time to add that, even if it’s just a flicker of expression across a character’s face that might go wholly unnoticed by the majority of their audience.

The other notable thing about the intro is that it is also your tutorial. I won’t go into detail, as others already have, but I will say that everything you need to know about the game is presented to you.

I’m still honestly trying to figure out why I like the gameplay so much. In reality, you play as one of four characters who differ only in appearance, using a basic set of weapons and making your way through maps that also lack much in the way of variation. The only real difference between each of the four “movies” you play through is where they start you and where you’re supposed to end up.

In the end, I suppose it’s all build up and atmosphere. What you hear and imagine as opposed to what you can actually see. L4D uses that visceral “what the fuck is out there?” reaction very effectively. Only you know exactly what it is, and that it shouldn’t be, and that makes it much worse.

That’s not to say you don’t see zombies. Clearly you do, otherwise there would be nothing to shoot. It would be fair to say that seeing a handful them shuffling around a hallway or staring off at nothing in particular is unnerving. Then there’s the moment when one of them has *noticed* you, and the aimless staggering to and fro shifts instantly to focused attention. Or when you see the shadows of horde rounding a corner in a parking garage. Even in a virtual environment, it can still cause half a second of dumbfounded shock.

Additionally, the game is stingy with supplies. You each can carry one (1) first aid kit. And to use it, you make yourself totally vulnerable for a few seconds, so someone has to cover you. You really do have to stay together and cooperate with each other in multi-player campaign or you will die. This fact left little impression on my friends and me, as our game immediately descended into pumping shot gun shells directly into each other’s faces. When we ran out of shells, we just started beating the shit out of each other with the guns – up and down stairs, out into the streets. The zombies mostly tried to ignore us, not wanting to get involved.

When brute force grew dull, we moved on to even bigger dick moves like locking each other in closets. And locking a single person out of the safe room.

Multi-player is still more than worthwhile though, for the versus mode. Mostly because you alternate between survivor and zombie – essentially the same as Team Fortress. Except that one team is utterly without specializations of any kind, while the other has a selection of lethal special moves. It would be nice if you actually could select the type of zombie you spawned as, but I can understand not wanting to allow for the possibility of an all Boomer zombie team simultaneously using their special attack. I imagine it would look something like stumbling into a roomful of feral cats.

Curious Little Monkeys



I am a fan of science – I feel I need to say that up front. Forge ahead confidently, nay, boldly in the pursuit of knowledge. I want a time machine and a re-pet and a replicator and a goddamn spy vacation on Mars injected straight into my brain. I want vials of embryos available at Walgreens just in case I think my caffeine shakes might be early onset Parkinson’s. Maybe powdered embryos, so I can mix it up in my coffee.

But even I will occasionally adopt a “just because we can doesn’t mean we should” attitude. I recant – I’m not even going that far. I’m merely suggesting that “Let’s try it and see what happens” is not a globally applicable policy. Specifically in the following cases:

Ok, maybe try it and see what happens is ok for the robot issue. I will admit that there are appealing possibilities. But then I look at the hyper little engineer, excitedly pointing out that “The robot has no additional control from a human or a computer, its sole means of control is from its own brain.”

Huh. Right. So, we get a robot up and running, let it think for itself and remove any possibility of interfering with its actions other than, well . . . killing it. Have I summed this experiment up? Well that sounds like a top notch idea. Hey, lets put a brain in one of these things. Does it have guns on it? No? Well why the fuck not? Give someone a grant, and get them on that shit.

Can we get these guys a copy of The Terminator? 2001? The Matrix? Anything?

I’m impressed at the ballsiness of attempting to re-create the very beginnings of all we know. Really guys, super cool. I’m just curious – and only because I haven’t seen anything yet released, I’m sure this is all worked out – but what happens if the project yields successful results. What if you make a universe in the basement? Will it be a very small universe? Or will you simply halt Genesis before it gets too far? Perhaps you’ve developed a way to contain it?

The best thing about the big bang article actually has nothing to do with the experiment itself. It’s the fact that political correctness has reached it’s apex:

“In a way it’s biblical”, says Limon. “I’d like to think that this curiosity, this need to know is, if you’re not a religious person, the soul of human beings, the thing that makes us different from dogs and cats. Even though dogs and cats are wonderful”.

Our natural inquisitiveness is what separates us from the lower beasts. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a cat or dog. It’s their choice of lifestyle, and it’s beautiful and valid.

And yes, I added the zombies tag to this post. Because you just never know how it’s going to start, and this is exactly the sort of attitude that opens the door for bullshit like the undead.


More reference:

You Fools!

This is old news by a few days by now, but nobody seems to realize the implications: Space Canister Delivers Zombie Virus to Earth. Possibly that wasn’t the exact title of the article, but it’s alarming nonetheless.

I feel the need to point out just how many living dead movies specifically state that the cause of the resurrection and subsequent cannibalism of the recently deceased is a satellite carrying some bit of space nasty back to earth.

I call dibs on Sam’s Club as my hideout.