Friday, August 19, 2011

Off the list: Left 4 Dead 2

Today I'm going to write for the first time about a multiplayer game. For those of you who know me, this is rather unusual, to say the least. It's also a little unusual for me in that I "cleared" it (played through all of the campaigns) months ago. But tonight I played it with some friends and realized I had some stuff to say about it, so here we go. Left 4 Dead 2 is, for those who are unfamiliar, a four-player cooperative first-person shooter. The setting is a zombie apocalypse one and depending on the mode, the game falls somewhere between straight-up action and survival horror. Because it's a Valve game, it's more polished than a Marine's boots and it will run on anything more powerful than a Commodore 64. And it is also really, really fun. The trick is to get a good group of friends together to play with, but once you have that, it's a fantastic experience. I play pretty regularly (at least weekly) with a rotating group of 4 other people and I enjoy the game immensely. It is so much fun as to be borderline therapeutic when played with good friends. And you'd better play with friends, because even the most basic success in the game is predicated on working as a team and watching each others' backs. When you do that, though, the game is magic. You get the benefits of the jokes and chatter through the integrated VOIP and then to that add the catharsis of blasting scores of zombies with various assault weapons. Even though this game has been out for a while (it was released in November of '09) I'd say it's still competitive with newer games. I'd also say this would make a list of essential PC games that every PC gamer should own and play. The rave reviews and awards it's garnered were all very much deserved.

RPG notes: The setting of the game is certainly fertile ground for a great RPG setting to be grown in, and the various "special infected" (particularly the Spitter, Charger, Smoker, and Boomer) would all make very serviceable monsters in a tabletop RPG setting. (The Hunter, Witch, and Tank are too generic and the Jockey is too dependent on the video game aspect, I think.) However, I think the "watch your buddy's back" element that's in there might be the real gem in the game. The cooperative dynamic is pretty awesome in play, and while most adventuring parties generally work together, the kind of loyalty and mutual back-watching that Left 4 Dead characters do would make for a very formidable party with some really nice pathos.

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