Demos are wonderful things, they give us a glimpse into what a game is like and, in turn, whether the game is worth purchasing or not. I used to live on demos in the olden days, they were my link to the gaming world. There have been some demos which stand out above the rest, they may have introduced me to a game series, a new genre or were the entrance to what would be one of my favourite games of all time. These are some of the demos which stick out in my mind, and always will.
Before I played the demo for the first Command and Conquer I didn’t know much, if anything, of the RTS genre, I just hadn’t opened my eyes to it. One day though I installed the demo for it and was taken aback by the level of creativity evident. The screen after the match showing how many units you built, killed and lost was, in my eyes, a perfect way to finish a level. The level itself that I remember most from the demo was a beach landing with friendly assault boats firing onto those blasted NOD forces. The cohesion of moving the units around and establishing the first base set the wheels in motion for introducing me to RTS games in general. It was soon after playing this demo that I saw a feature for Red Alert 2 in an old PC games magazine (yes, I was a bit late to the C&C party) and I knew where my gaming heart would lie for a time.
I’ve talked about Half-Life Uplink at length before (link) but it is worth talking about again as it is one of those demos you don’t forget.
I remember my neighbour giving me a demo disc many years ago, the headline demo was for Uplink, the demo for Half-Life. I didn’t install it at first, I was young and the demo was an 18. I eventually took the plunge and stepped into the world of Half-Life, one of the finest game worlds ever made. In my eyes, you can’t beat the Half-Life series for storytelling and pure quality, if it wasn’t for the Uplink demo I might not have known the Half-Life world until Half-Life 2 was released. Good thing I played Uplink then.
I was in the middle of a Counter-Strike Source phase when the demo for Battlefield 2 was released, I had read good things about the game in various previews and I thought that it was worth taking a chance with the demo. I am forever grateful that I did, while the demo was limited to the Gulf of Oman map and the stat tracking wasn’t enabled at the time I saw the potential in the game for some truly exceptional multiplayer battles. I wasn’t wrong as I would go on to clock up many hundreds of hours of game time, on my own and later with the -=256=- clan. I have never experienced anything like Battlefield 2 since, the scale of the combat, the weapons, vehicles and more importantly the teamwork were all spot on. The demo gave many people the first taste of what was to come when the game was released, one of the finest multiplayer games of all time.
Finally we come to the demo which I still prefer over the full game, I am of course talking about Left 4 Dead. Yes, the full game was great in its own right, but I wasn’t fond of Versus and the full co-op Campaigns lacked the oopmh that I found in the demo. I challenge anyone who played the demo in those first days not to look back and smile at the sight of multiple Tanks and Witches coming at you in those two short levels of intense zombie fighting. Rarely in the full game did I get the same sense of bloody determination to fight and survive. It was perfect.