Welcome to my current obsession: Valve’s zombie-killing freakout game “Left 4 Dead.” I certainly did not see this one coming – I had read about the game in advance, but always thought it looked shallow; four people, play together, make it from point A to point B, yadda yadda yadda… I honestly couldn’t figure out why people were so pumped up about it. But then I played the demo. And now I get it.
The game is like this: it’s fast. It’s intense. It’s unpredictable. And, as gameplay experiences go, it’s pure. So, when I describe why it is awesome, all I do is recite the same description that left me unexcited to begin with – all you do is try to get from point A to point B alive, and with the rest of your team alive. But this is much, much harder (and more fun) than it sounds. Never in my life have I gotten onto XBox live and actually enjoyed myself – in fact, I make it a practice to never go online unless absolutely necessary. Too often I just suck at the game, or don’t know the map, or wind up feeling, for whatever reason, like I’m wasting my time. And then there’s the issue of feeling obligated to talk to other people online. Just… no.
Surprisingly, this was not the case with the L4D demo – I had such a crazy good time playing it over the past week that I became a little bit obsessed with the game. Learning that you could actually play as the infected (zombies) against other human players, and seeing details about how each level plays out like a sweet horror movie only heightened my anticipation.
I did not see this coming.
So, today, while out running errands, I picked up the game. And so far, it exceeds my expectations. In fact, the game is so well-designed that teamwork is totally intuitive; you only notice your teamwork when you realize that you’re still alive and doing a great job of staying that way. Usually you’ll be in an open area, covering one another’s backs, taking down zombies, and for a shining moment, you feel as though you’re gonna be okay.
And then the game just straight fucks you.
I made the mistake of starting my first session on the “hard” difficulty, instead of normal. Big mistake. We made it about halfway through before getting just destroyed, again and again. And again. Until we had to quit the game. And yes, the “we” in question was me and three random Xbox Live users. It’s not the sort of thing I’d usually sign up for. But in this case, it was different – those guys saved my ass numerous times.
So, anyway, until I can really play it with people I know, and have a chance to get to know the levels a bit better (something that’s gonna take weeks, if not months, considering how little free time I’ve got of late), I can’t render a true verdict, but for now, it’s enough that this game has actually made me want to play online with other actual, human people. And if you know me, you know that that’s quite an achievement.