So after months of ill concealed fanboy anticipation, Y finally got his hands on Valve‘s Left 4 Dead for the 360. He had to get someone to purchase it on his behalf in the UK and then bring it over. As you can imagine, we were in quite a dither. He because it’s really just the sort of co-op oriented, adrenaline shot game that he lives for (plus Valve is unsurprisingly a favourite with him) and me because I get how excited he was to finally get it.
So after giving it a bit of a test drive in its single player mode, Y decides that we (he and I ) absolutely have to play it together. This is not the first time he has been struck with this particular notion. We actually have a bit of a history with console teamwork, some of our more successful partnerships including: Champions: Return to Norrath for PS2, Dynasty Warriors 6 on the PS3 and Balder’s Gate: Dark Alliance for PS2.
But here is where the problem lies. I’m no good at – well, scary games. This means games that have icky, disgusting realistic monster types that are very, very agile and are passionate about eating you alive against backdrops so bleak and depressing that you’re almost cool with it.
It’s not that I hate them. It’s just that, like with horror films, they scare the crap out of me and when I get scared, parts of my brain turn off.
With horror movies this usually means me doing that thing where you cover your eyes leaving a sliver of window thin enough that you can no longer make out what’s going on and going, “nananananana, etc.” till the scary bit is over.
In game play, it means a glazed look coming over my eyes, my thumbs locking into an insane jabbing frenzy on the gamepads and my ceasing to understand the english language.
That’s right. In the tense situation, when the shit hits the fan, I’m that guy. (or even worse, I’m that girl.)
But Y knows all this and sunnily insists that we play anyway. His optimistic reasoning is that it is all just psychological. I agree with him completely but that’s not going to keep me from entering the phantom zone when zombies begin to come out the wood work.
And let me tell you, if you ever wanted to play a game with zombies and woodwork, this game is it. And there are different types too; zombies that pounce on you from above, zombies that grab you from a distance with ropey, prehensile tongues, zombies that visciously flatten you against walls like wet tissue, zombies that throw up on you and attract, my personal favourite, the zombie horde. For swift, ugly death awaiting you around every dank corner, this game will not leave you wanting.
Anyway, we play the game. Y played Louis the black dude and I played Zoey the chick (we weren’t in an imaginative mood I guess). It took us exactly two hours and seven minutes before we were able to board the helicopter that flew us to safety from the roof top of a dilapidated building swarming with every manner of monstrosity intent on having us for dinner. We lost two good men on that roof top (you always play in a group of four so it was Y, me and two A.I. characters). One of them died saving my life.
I can’t say I was proud of my conduct. Coordinating myself and targeting was a constant challenge. I predictably did the phantom zone thing every time I even heard the audio cue for a boss and in a game that was mostly about covering your teammates, the number of times I was able to rescue anyone was pretty small. And this was playing the game on easy.
On the other hand, I only actually died once and according to Y, I even had some good shooting moments.
By the end of the game, my hands were shaking and I had sweat patches under my armpits. And how did I feel about Left for Dead? Surprised. Why? Because, underneath the panic, even I could appreciate that I was playing a good game.
Things I liked about it include the very basic, plot (just get across town through a series of safe rooms to the helipad) and the pitch perfect script and voice acting which were very appropriate to the genre. I like that their is a black character that doesn’t look like a football player. I also like the A.I. mechanics that respawn a new “campaign” layout of horrors every time you play so you can never play the same game twice. Finally, though it might not be for me personally, I respect the well crafted level of tension that is honed and maintained throughout the entire game.
Left for Dead was tough. The fact that we made it through to the end with only one Game Over speaks more of Y’s skill and experience with FPS types than it does of this game being in any way a pushover. I would definitely recommend it to any gamers who consider themselves good under pressure.
But would I recommend it as a date game?
We-ell…maybe not for the first date…or the second or third one.
In fact, you probably shouldn’t jump into this one with your honey until you’re pretty sure the relationship is on firm ground. The truth is when tensions rise, the gloves sometimes come off and after screaming expletives at your beloved while they shoot impotently in the wrong direction as you are devoured alive by a horde of ravenous zombies, you’ll want to have that strong foundation to return to from the Game Over screen!