“Versus” Ironically Was Also a Good Zombie Movie

23 12 2008

It’s not exactly a holiday blogeration, but I’d like to discuss Left 4 Dead s’more.

I haven’t played it much since it launched. I did run-throughs of each of the episodes with my fellow DFBers in co-op mode, and yea verily it was fun, but then I felt like I’d “done” it already. Unlike City of Heroes story arcs which you can run repeatedly for extra XP even if the story bores you to tears by that point, there’s not as much reason to take on L4D over and over again. I guess you could keep jacking up the difficulty each time, but that feels to me like an artificial means of extending the experience. Once you’ve HAD the experience you’ve had the experience.

Enter Versus mode. After getting back into TF2 a bit last week (see my earlier notes about “goin’ out dancin'” with a Pyro) I decided to try Versus in L4D a bit more seriously instead of 15 minute halfhearted poking, and there is where I found the repeatable fun. Let’s look at it in a bulleted list because I naturally organize my brain into bullets. (But not the other way around.)

* FAIRNESS vs. CHALLENGE. The AI in coop is pretty much designed to wear you down without really defeating you, unless you raise its ‘difficulty’ by making the same brain dead monsters do more damage to compensate for still being idiots. In Versus, the damage they can do is constant (and consistent with ‘Normal’ difficulty in coop) and the only way they can beat you is through teamwork… the same way you beat them. It’s quite fair and still quite challenging.

* INTENSITY vs. PACING. Coop L4D is long, long stretches of absolute tension and intensity, because when you aren’t panicing you’re getting ready to panic. This goes for 10-15 minutes at a stretch. That’s okay now and then but not something I want to be perpetually doing. Versus mode has two flavors… Survivor, which is ALL intensity but is very short (5-7 minutes a go) and more managable, and Infected, which has respawn timers. As noted in my last post, I LIKE respawn timers, because they give me a breather and observer-cams let me tactically plan my next approach. (You also get to chat with your team while dead, which is great for congrads for a really good Boomersplat or a sweet Hunter pounce.)

* DEATH IS MEANINGLESS. In Coop, if you die, that’s it, your game is over and if you wanna proceed you have to do 1/5th of the game all over again. There’s a constant tension, don’t die, don’t die, don’t die, dying will set us back, aaaah… but in Versus? Well, you’re pretty much GOING to die. Infected are blitzkrieg suicide attackers and that’s by design, so your job is to do as much damage on your way down as you can. Survivors rarely actually reach the safe room, so your job is just to do as good as you can and even if you die, you still get to go to the next chapter of the game. There’s less pressure to be flawless and more slack to just do the best you can.

* VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF LIFE. Coop is a mindlessly straightforward affair. Follow the route to the safe house and kill anything that tries to kill you, lather, rinse, repeat. Versus offers the Infected, which means every other round you’re doing something different — and even Survivors get variety because the human Infected aren’t the predictable and nonthreatening monkeys the AI usually uses. Remember how I said I felt like I’d had the experience and was done with it? In Versus the experience shuffles up quite a bit more, so that feeling fades.

So overall, Versus mode is reasonably challenging, well paced (at least for me), involves less performance anxiety, and provides more stuff to do. It’s definitely something I can sink my teeth into for hours, like a really good TF2 server can do to me, instead of something I do for a half hour and then have to stop because it’s just too freaking overwhelming and crazy. Color me a happy little zombie.

I swear I’ll have a more seasonal and festive post for Christmas.

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15 responses

23 12 2008
jengagne

Now now, I’d say that anything that has someone rising from the dead is at least marginally related to Christmas. But Jesus was on a three-day respawn timer.
I always wonder what random new cultures thought when the missionaries showed up. “Wait so… they’re worshipping a zombie… by eating his flesh… and vampirically drinking his blood for eternal life? ZOMG”
Glad you’re enjoying the game. Do you need the DFBers to really play it tactically or are you doing OK with pick-up teams?

23 12 2008
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

Sweet Zombie Jesus!
Pickup teams vary. In the four games I played last night, two were uncommunicative and had bots (because the game wasn’t full). The other two were very communicative, coordinated, and a lot of fun; there was much laughter when we slimed all four survivors at once, pats on the back for good pounces, etc. We didn’t even care who was “winning” or “losing” because it was just pure entertainment, no SERIOUS BUSINESS and grumbling about doing poorly, etc.

23 12 2008
meredy

If you congratulate each other and actually enjoy yourself without it involving griefing the other team, you’re DOING IT WRONG. Don’t you know you have to do things like block the survivors in the elevator and such or it isn’t fun at all?

23 12 2008
kowh

It’s a good thing the game forces you to alternate, everyone always wants to play as the infected. Even if it’s more challenging/fun to play as survivor in versus than in the regular AI mode.
I think what really makes infected is the ability to have meaningful actions for the entire round. Even after doing poorly and the survivors are almost safe, if you all approach the survivors at the same time and *bam* get all four of them knocked down at the same time, you’ve got it. Most of the time the all-down hasn’t even been outwardly coordinated (as no one is chatting), people watch what their team mates are doing and it just works out. Rare, but satisfying when it works out.

23 12 2008
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

I’ve had crap servers (usually where nobody’s talking) where people leave the server immediately after they become a survivor. People who just wanna be happy go lucky bitey zombie and not actually play the game properly aren’t people I’d wanna play with anyway, though.
Also, agreed on the latter. I played a few rounds where they were doing well and we mauled them in the last moments. My favorite was being on the receiving end of this; No Mercy in the unfinished 28th floor area, where I always get lost. We get slightly split up, someone gets hunterpounced, I backtrack and charge, and… a tank kills me with a forklift. Seriously, tank punch, a metric ton of safety yellow machinery comin’ at me, I’m down and dead. Whee!

23 12 2008
jengagne

o/~ He triiied to kill me with a forklift! o/~ (Huzzah!)

23 12 2008
raigne

That was Easter. So holiday related, certainly, but, wrong holiday.
Though, it is when the church celebrates his birth, so I suppose it’s related in as much as everyone’s birth signals the Beginning of the End.

23 12 2008
cmdr_zoom

So I was thinking today… I don’t know exactly where you work, and you probably shouldn’t (or can’t) tell me, but I figure there’s a non-zero chance I’ve gotten into a firefight in its ruins during the course of my wanderings across the Capital Wasteland.

23 12 2008
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

Well, the entire area surrounding DC is a smeared paste of suburbs and mini-cities like Bethesda, Rockville, Germantown, etc. I THINK Gaithersburg is in Fallout 3, and Germantown is at least represented by a police station full of cannibalistic Super Mutants, so there’s that much. But the actual BUILDING where I work, no.

24 12 2008
kamalloy

Greg is excited about playing Fallout 3 because he wants to see the Post-Apocalyptic Alternate Universe DC Metro.

24 12 2008
jengagne

Same dude, different day…

24 12 2008
cmdr_zoom

It is full of hissing, wretched feral mutants. Just like the real Metro, I gather.

24 12 2008
kamalloy

Well, maybe not the hissing.

24 12 2008
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

The trains hiss plenty.
It is kinda creepy to go into the Metro in Fallout. The fonts are wrong and the cars are 50s style, but the actual stations look uncannily accurate with the great cylindrical domed ceilings covered in accoustic cement tile, and even the floating platforms connected to the lower tracks by escalators. It’s on the money.

26 12 2008
Anonymous

Heh… few days ago on that same section of No Mercy 4, I won us the round by knocking a cart into two of the survivors at once.
When the rest of my team was congratulating me, I had to tell them, “I didn’t even notice the cart. I was just trying to pound that guy next to me.”
Being the zombies in L4D is the most fun I’ve had in a game in a long time.
Now, if only the other half of the campaigns were in Versus mode…
-NeoVid

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