Left 4 Dead [Embedded Reporter]
Nov 24th, 2008 by Dan

Deep from the trenches, it’s time for your Monday video feature: Embedded Reporter.

Saw this on Kotaku, thought it was kind of funny. Enjoy:

More L4D in Response [PC]
Nov 19th, 2008 by Dan

The game they were mentioning in the podcast was Gears of War 2. I agree with that being kind of cool, but at the same time, we were all trying to really push ourselves and play the most challenging version of the game. Even if Simon had more experience, I still don’t think we would have been able to make it through the whole campaign on expert, it’s just too hard.

The game is $60 on xbox, $50 on PC, but it’s not as short as it seems. There may only be four campaigns, but you’d be missing the point if you thought that was all it had to offer.

Valve has gone on and on (and so did 1UP Yours) about the AI Director being an integral part of the game experience. Sure, there are only 4 campaigns (five maps each, so twenty levels), but no two playthroughs are identical. Item locations, zombie placement, even boss zombie placement is all set by the AI Director who analyzes current player healths, ammo levels, difficulty level, and how well you’ve been doing so far, ensuring a dynamic playback experience.

Also worth mentioning is that even just playing the first campaign, No Mercy, I’ve found myself thoroughly enthralled by a game and feel its $50 price tag is well warranted. If this was all that was there, I would play it ad infinitum (not literally, other games will pop up soon), but it’s not. Three more campaigns whose length will be extended by my refusal to play below Advanced and strong desire to conquer each on Expert (achievement points are great motivators) and a mode I haven’t even talked about will extend this.

That mode: Versus Mode. In versus mode you have two teams of four. Four are the survivors, four are the mutated infected. The object is for the survivors to do just what they do in the single-player cmapaign, only this time they’re being dogged by actual players instead of the AI. The players will be respawned on a timer and are able to antagonize the surivors using coordinated attacks. I’ve yet to play it, but it looks promising.

I think it’s more than worth $50, but I’ve heard some complaints from reviewers about it. My guess is that they were playing on Normal or Easy to try and get through as fast as possible for the review, giving a total playtime somewhere near three or four hours. I’d love to see all those editors and reviewers try that on Expert. Without some serious experience, that’s not possible.

Day 2 Impressions of the Zombie Apocalypse [PC]
Nov 19th, 2008 by Dan

It’s the second day of the zombie apocalypse.

No zombie can stand against Chicago Ted. How long does it take to turn after infection? Two weeks? Two days? 2.5 hours!?

That’s some of the flavor text littered around the safe rooms in L4D to add to the atmosphere and, despite never seeing another human being in the game, they effectively make us all feel like the world is actually lived in. Like there just might be other immune survivors roaming around, seeking help too.

Day 2 impressions is kind of a misnomer, since I played at midnight of launch day and at night the same day, but who’s really counting? Hasn’t society been wiped out by the Horde already?

I was actually able to play with my friends this time, but since some of us were newer to the experience than others and we actually wanted to pass missions, we dumbed down the difficulty to the penultimate difficulty level: Advanced. While still hard and rough to get through to Mercy Hospital (in the appropriately named campaign: No Mercy), I must admit that not being incapacitated and killed after two hits from a tank kind of irks me as a person who played many hours on Expert. I guess I’ll have to continue to build up my skills.

The final two missions that I’d yet to witness were both quite cool. The hospital proper and the rooftops both offered numerous challenges, especially the rooftops.

After fighting through wave after wave of zombies, it becomes time to take on a tank. This process is repeated three times. Fighting one tank is bad enough, thank you very much. Fighting it on the roof of a 30+ storied hospital is worse. Our first attempt featured me getting knocked by the tank, no big deal on our difficulty level, until I saw that there was no longer any floor below me as he had knocked me clear off the side of the building. perspective flashed to an exterior shot of the hospital as my body was flung clear. There is no resurrection on the roof. RIP Zoey.

Many unsuccessful attempts later, we found ourselves at the final tank. My friend SimonFrancis was dead, smashed by a tank. We silently thanked him for his strategy that helped us get this far, but grit our teeth with the knowledge that grief doesn’t kill tanks, bullets do. As EricBill (DarekLouis’s friend) and I ran around the rooftops pausing to shoot at the behemoth, I heard a silent cry from DarekLouis.


Little did we know that he meant to say “HEY GUYS I’VE BEEN NABBED BY A SMOKER!”

Only once Eric and I noticed the Tank had been felled did we spot DarekLouis having the last of his life choked out of his poor body. DarekLouis, I didn’t know you well, but it was great to have you aboard. You always kept me from trying to snipe witches in the head. A wise idea.

The copter began its descent. EricBill was closer to the pad and began to make a run for it. The zombies swarmed him. I ran up the ramp behind, shooting zombies as I ran, but full of the knowledge that stopping means death. The Horde wants brains. We want escape. Conflict is inevitable.

As I rush past EricBill I beat away some zombies, shoot a few, jump and securely crouch in the helicopter. I shoot some of the zombies surrounding EricBill, but the damage is too much, he goes down. Before I can hop out and pick up the incapacitated EricBill, the copter decides to high tail it. I am the only survivor. The only one left to tell the tale. EricBill, you were good at finding new explosives, but freedom and safety come at the cost of running away sometimes. Sure, flight before fight isn’t glorious, but dead men tell no tales. Your thirst for battle was your end.

The copter flew away, the screen faded to black.

In loving memory of:

unarmed_gunman (SimonFrancis)
itsdareklol (DarekLouis)
strike (EricBill)

flashed on the screen. It’s brilliant, just like a movie whose casualties were my fellow players. The cast list followed.

ElCapitan BSC as Zoey
itsdareklol as Louis (deceased)
unarmed_gunman as Francis (deceased)
strike as Bill (deceased)

Some stats came by, many of which I led, but many of which I was second or third.

Finally, the closing message I leave to you, scrolled up on screen as we all laughed:

4,907 zombies were hurt in the making of this film.

Left 4 Dead Impressions [PC]
Nov 18th, 2008 by Dan

Hey Dan, did you stay up until around 0300 today playing Left 4 Dead after it went live last night?


But oh man, where to begin?

Valve does not rush a product. They don’t ever release a game that hasn’t been thoroughly playtested and optimized for consumption. It’s why the L4D demo is so brilliant, it allowed them to take a look at the last few things that needed to be tweaked and then release accordingly. Take the difficulty level. There was quite a bit of outcry about the difficulty of the computer version being far too easy compared to the console version. In fact, I’d been refusing to play any levels that were lower than the highest difficulty, Expert. Let’s just say that last night we were stuck on the second level for somewhere around two hours, endlessly being mauled by the zombie hordes.

All the stops were pulled out on this one. The first level used to be devoid of tanks and witches. I’m pretty sure we got rocked by a witch right at the start. Placement is BRUTAL. The tanks just rock everyone’s socks off, the only real valid way to kill them being to molotov and RUN LIKE HELL! It’s so tough that it’s super fun. Who can resist trying to kill these zombie bastards?

Then there was the greatest loop that Valve could possibly throw us. After a particularly difficult part in the second level involving waiting for a door to open and a Gatling gun, the second level usually had a safe room directly following it. Imagine our surprise as we limped into…any other room. They moved the safe room outside to the pawn shop. Naturally, we were rocked over and over again until finally, on the last playthrough, this one guy and I were the only two survivors alive and we scrambled into the pawn shop screaming as Hunters and Smokers chased us, my heart beating at an intense 1000 BPM all the while. The tension is so masterfully created it’s ridiculous.

The other huge heartbeating moment for me (not common in video gaming for me, by the way, I’m generally more sturdy, having seen just about everything) was within the third level (the farthest we got out of the five in the first campaign). There was a Tank and we accidentally aroused its ire. I threw a molotov at it, setting it on fire (and one of the other survivors, but his life was forfeit after seeing the Tank anyway, and began hightailing it back to the start, closing doors behind me all the way. I could hear the Tank lumbering behind me until it died. At this point, I was the only survivor left alive. I’d climbed jumped down the lift, but now I had to get myself properly to the other survivors to rescue them since they’d all respawned in a room nearby. As I make my way back up the lift, I hear not just the Hunter growl, but the Smoker fanfare. I’m thinking “I’m fucked…” After my heart just exploded out of my body running in abject terror from the tank, now I had to face these two zombies who could incapacitate me in one hit via pounce or tongue and cause us to restart.

I first spotted the Hunter. My group kept imploring me to ignore them both and just try to rez them, but I knew that if I did, they would get me, without a doubt, and make it all in vain. After a dodge and some great rifle fire, I’d dispatched the Hunter, but the Smoker used that time to get good position on me. He was above me where I’d never be able to see him until it was too late. Time to make a break for the hole in the floor where I would find my compatriots. Running, jumping, falling through the hole, my partners said that the tongue just barely missed nabbing me as I fell through the final hole in the floor and freed them. It was exhilarating.

One last thing about my first night of playing: Valve is great at using the visual medium to tell a story. In most safe rooms you can find little notes from other people who have passed through warning you to evacuate the city, looking for family, claiming that there’s no survival, assigning blame for the plague. It’s brilliant.

Yesterday as I left work, I saw a license plate in front of me. It read Zombied.

Warcraft Retrospective [Embedded Reporter]
Nov 17th, 2008 by Dan

Deep from the trenches, it’s time for your Monday video feature: Embedded Reporter.
I love the Gametrailers Retrospectives. They do a great job of summing up great games. This episode is all about the WoW games.

PA on GoW 2 Dialogue [You Can Quote Me On That]
Nov 16th, 2008 by Dan

Here’s what Tycho has to say about the dialogue in Gears of War 2:

Still. There is a point at which “the rookie” says there are a shitload of grubs down there. Marcus Fenix corrects him, suggesting that there are, in fact, “Ten Shitloads.” I want to grant that Gears of War takes place on the planet Sera, where Shitload may be a genuine unit of measurement – but that’s dumb, and this line is dumb, and the people speaking are idiots, and they live in a world of dumbshits where stupidity of a form of currency.

I love it. Check out Penny Arcade if you want more webcomic goodness.

WoW and L4D [Game Overview]
Nov 14th, 2008 by Dan

Insert another credit, because it’s time for your weekly video game news and you’ve just hit the Game Overview screen.

Just a quick detour from the FF villains feature to talk about two great games that I’ve been playing recently. The first you’ve seen the opening cinematic for on the site. The second just released its latest expansion pack to a horde of slavering fans.

The Left 4 Dead opening cinematic actually happens to be a brilliant tutorial to just about anything that you’ll need to do in the game. There is only one zombie type and one weapon type not really introduced in the trailer, which I absolutely love. Video games are a multimedia medium, so why not show instead of explicitly telling? They show the zombie special abilities, like the tongue grip of the Smoker and the pounce attack of the Hunter, and they show which zombies are most perilous, like the light-sensitive Witch and the damage sponge that is the Tank. Enough marketing spiel though, how good is the game?

The demo consists of just two of the levels from the campaign mode, directly continuing from the opening cinematic as a helicopter announces that anyone still alive in the city should head toward Mercy Hospital for extraction. Once you regain control of your selected survivor (I tend to select Zoey, the female college student, and my roommate tends to pick Bill, the Vietnam veteran ex-green beret), your teammates mention that you can make it to the hospital through the subway tunnels. The game itself is sufficiently tense, at least in the first couple of playthroughs until I became properly acquainted to the gameplay mechanics and the nuances of each of the two levels, but until then, I can guarantee you that I was freaked out the first time a zombie horde attacked me, a Hunter pounced on me, a Boomer vomited on me (attracting said horde), or a Smoker nabbed me.

The game actually has decent replay value too. Once you’ve beat a mission, you want to immediately play it again. This is helped by the fact that the AI makes each level different every time. Enemies spawn in different places, extra equipment is located in different spots, and the zombie types are always different. For a while, every time my roommate and I came across a Tank, it was instant death. They’re still terribly difficult to take care of, but we do a little better nowadays. It’s definitely a great game though and should be on your list for something to try. Demo is free and up.

The other game I’ve been playing, as of yesterday, is the latest WoW expansion, Wrath of the Lich King. I haven’t played too much of the Northrend stuff, since I’m waiting for Min, but the Death Knight starting area quests are all fantastic. Working directly for the Lich King is pretty sweet and a lot of the new advances, including siege weapons, have been fleshed out for the campaign. Even if you don’t really want to be a Death Knight, I would most definitely start one just to see that area.

Left 4 Dead [Embedded Reporter]
Nov 12th, 2008 by Dan

Deep from the trenches, it’s time for your Monday Wednesday video feature: Embedded Reporter.

I know it’s not Monday and that today should be a WMQ post, but I didn’t watch any sports last week and I’d have a really tough time trying to rationalize fighting off the Zombie Apocalypse as a sport, even though it damn well should be, so instead we’re gonna watch the opening cinematic to Left 4 Dead.

It looks great, like a movie I’d watch. The game also features a some of the great in-game storytelling that Valve is so famous for. I’ll have more impressions for you tomorrow and hopefully stick to a more regular posting schedule, work’s got me falling behind.

Strange Bedfellows: Vote
Nov 4th, 2008 by Dan

There is nothing more important for me to say today than vote. Go to your polling place, if you are registered to vote, and cast a ballot.

Embedded Reporter: Rockman 9
Nov 3rd, 2008 by Dan

Deep from the trenches, it’s time for your Monday video feature: Embedded Reporter.

Why this? I can’t resist Rockman music!


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