In this, the first of our regular Talkythinks features, we Reticule lot have a natter and share the resulting inane gibberish with you. It’s not a direct copy of RPS‘ Verdict, honest (it’s actually a lot worse). StalinsGhost wasn’t around to Talkythink L4D, but he was there in spirit, blessing it with his good grace.
Chris ‘Evo’ Evans: Who wants to start?
The Poisoned Sponge: Which campaign?
SteveTheBlack: Shall we begin at the beginning?
The Poisoned Sponge: I prefer the penultimate scene.
The Poisoned Sponge: It’s the most exciting.
SteveTheBlack: That’s because you have the patience of a harry potter fan.
The Poisoned Sponge: Zing!
SteveTheBlack: But yes, No Mercy?
The Poisoned Sponge: I like the zombie bums.
Chris ‘Evo’ Evans: Left 4 Dead, it struck a chord with me when I first heard about it because it was zombies, done by Valve. That was a sure fire for an awesome game.
SteveTheBlack: It wasn’t officially being done by valve when i first heard of it, and i was still interested.
The Poisoned Sponge: Well I was interested in it before it was even announced.
The Poisoned Sponge: Well, perhaps just the idea of it. It’s not exactly a new idea, which is probably the reason it works so well.
Chris ‘Evo’ Evans: Yeah, it was by Turtle Rock wasn’t it? They did the AI in CS:CZ and came up with the Director idea didn’t they?
Chris ‘Evo’ Evans: The Director idea instantly caught my imagination. Even though I didn’t understand the principle at first, it sounded great.
The Poisoned Sponge: This is essentially the evolution of the zombie Counter-Strike mods isn’t it?
SteveTheBlack: Seems so, except much less lame than Counter-Strike.
The Poisoned Sponge: Yeah, obv, but so are single cell organisms, and we turned out rather cool. At least, in principle.
Chris ‘Evo’ Evans: As an entity we are cool, singularly we aren’t. Well I am.
SteveTheBlack: I’m just glad they got rid of all the Counter-Strike sounds that were all over the place in the early videos.
Chris ‘Evo’ Evans: Yea Counter-Strike sounds in a fully fledged Zombie game just wouldn’t work.
SteveTheBlack: It’s the counter-strike mentality that would ruin it really.
The Poisoned Sponge: So yeah, the principle is rather sound to begin with, although I have to say they managed to make it less about dying and more about killing, which does work.
Chris ‘Evo’ Evans: They evolved the counter-strike idea of working loosely as a team into 4 people working together, fighting for survival.
SteveTheBlack: It forces co-op in such a subversive way that it’s a little scary really. Unless you’re playing with sponge, then he’s the main focus of the fear.
The Poisoned Sponge: That’s one really big point about the game actually. It’s not about empowerment so much as survival, about just getting to the next safehouse without leaving anyone behind if you can help it.
Most other games make you into some new omnipotent badass, whereas L4D keeps you feeling vulnerable with the reliance on everyone else. It’s nearly impossible to even consider surviving on your own.
Chris ‘Evo’ Evans: I love and hate those moments where you have to leave someone behind to make sure that the rest of you survive. It is a strange feeling.
SteveTheBlack: I got locked out of a saferoom yesterday, and I was so annoyed I started the next map by shooting the person who had closed the door. In the face. With a shotgun.
DuBBle: I like the zombies!
Chris ‘Evo’ Evans: Steve, I remember in the second demo level leaving one person outside the beginning safe room clearing the way. That was fun.
SteveTheBlack: I’ve taken to locking the entire team out now. Tactical betrayal, it’s nice.
The Poisoned Sponge: I do find myself getting frustrated with other people’s incompetence, even when they’re not being incompetent.
SteveTheBlack: Yes, I’ve noticed that.
Chris ‘Evo’ Evans: Me too. It just shows the possibilities of wacky fun you can have in the game.
The Poisoned Sponge: It’s the fact the game takes away control when you’re desperately wanting to keep it all going.
SteveTheBlack: You seem to play L4D like an RTS, sponge.
The Poisoned Sponge: You mean I treat my team mates as pawns in my master plan?
SteveTheBlack: Yeah, all you need now are cheesy FMVs
Chris ‘Evo’ Evans: Are you saying that L4D is a zombie C&C? In the first person?
SteveTheBlack: When Sponge plays it.
The Poisoned Sponge: I’m not sure if that’s a compliment or an insult to me or the game.
SteveTheBlack: I think it’s all three.
SteveTheBlack: Depending on the mood you are in when playing, if you are well rested it can actually make the game more fun. If you are tired it gets rather annoying. It’s a little like how I imagine a war to be; fun at first, then you realise you can die.
The Poisoned Sponge: Oh definitely, it’s like with all games, there’s what I like to call ‘The Frustration Loop’. You get frustrated with a level, fail it, start it again, fail again, get more frustrated, and so on and so forth, until you’re dying almost instantly because you’re trying to rush it.
SteveTheBlack: Expert mode really does take the piss sometimes
The Poisoned Sponge: I think that’s kind of the point of it though. It’s there as some sort of insurmountable challenge, and when you finally do beat it, you feel broken and alone. Which is as it should be on the hardest difficulty setting of a game.
Chris ‘Evo’ Evans: Last few times I’ve played it we went on Normal, it wasn’t too hard, just provided a nice challenge to get through and enjoy the game.
SteveTheBlack: Three hours on the third level of Dead Air just hoping you get a run where a tank doesn’t spawn.
The Poisoned Sponge: I sometimes wonder whether, had they just called the Director some sort of controlling AI, we would have given it this anthropomorphise shape?
SteveTheBlack: The director AI is a little bit of a child I think, he gets stroppy if you don’t die the first time and punishes you every level afterwards
DuBBle: Steve’s right, there’s an inconsistency to the difficulty levels
The Poisoned Sponge: I don’t know if there is Dubble, I just think that the difficulty is versatile. You pick expert, but that’s just a starting point, and the director constantly reassesses how you’re doing to figure out how hard to make it.
SteveTheBlack: He’s not very good at that, sponge
Chris ‘Evo’ Evans: I find it amusing how in the game we treat the Director as a human player.
SteveTheBlack: Chris, it’s a lot easier to call a person a bastard than doing the same to lines of code.
The Poisoned Sponge: It definitely does seem to have some sort of personality.
Chris ‘Evo’ Evans: I can imagine ‘Damn that line 127 of the Director AI code!’
SteveTheBlack: Then you are a little bit weird, sir.
The Poisoned Sponge: You come to expect certain things of it.
SteveTheBlack: “Oh, we’re all nearly dead, there’ll be a tank AND a witch now.”
The Poisoned Sponge: Essentially, yeah.
SteveTheBlack: I absolutely hate the Tank.
The Poisoned Sponge: Love to be, hate to fight.
Chris ‘Evo’ Evans: I’ve never been it, I don’t want to be. I fear the pressure I would be under as the Tank to do so much damage.
SteveTheBlack: On expert, and advanced sometimes, a tank means you have to restart
The Poisoned Sponge: It’s rather like being ubered in TF2, isn’t it? But even more so. You’re under pressure to just kill everything, and if you don’t, you feel like you’ve failed.
Chris ‘Evo’ Evans: Yes! That is it isn’t it! Never thought of it like that
DuBBle: Instead of a single medic judging you, there’s three of them
The Poisoned Sponge: Actually, 7, if you count the other team and their victoriously mocking cries when they kill you.
DuBBle: Well, I doubt the goodies mind if you mess up
The Poisoned Sponge: They still judge!
SteveTheBlack: But then, the tank is so much rarer than an Ubercharge the warning that its coming along instantly raises the entire infected team’s morale.
DuBBle: Without strong leadership, or some common bond, the Tank can be awfully divisive. Some will want to make a dash for the safehouse, others to stand and fight
SteveTheBlack: Punching people off of the No Mercy roof for the win, sir.
The Poisoned Sponge: It’s strange, you make all these plans for the tank, and they *would* work, but they all fall apart soon after he arrives. Although sometimes they don’t, and you kill him with minimum loss of health.
Chris ‘Evo’ Evans: He strikes fear, loads of fear at times into the Survivor’s.
DuBBle: Once again, I think the game is terribly inconsistent with the Tank. Sometimes he’s got oodles of health, other times he’s as fragile as a butterfly
The Poisoned Sponge: I think we should talk a bit more about the other infected. Favourites?
Chris ‘Evo’ Evans: To play as? Hunter or Boomer, hate the Smoker.
Chris ‘Evo’ Evans: To fight against? Witch.
SteveTheBlack: I like the smoker of no mercy, hate him on Blood Harvest.
The Poisoned Sponge: I find the smoker just doesn’t seem to work as well… he’s too reliant on circumstance. More so than any other player. It takes too long for him to do damage, and it’s too easy to break his hold.
Chris ‘Evo’ Evans: He is good for separating the players tough.
The Poisoned Sponge: Yeah, hence reliant on circumstance.
SteveTheBlack: Right, I need to nip out.
The Poisoned Sponge: I guess the other two (hunter and boomer) are there to create the circumstance, so maybe we’ll see him utilised more as people get better.
Chris ‘Evo’ Evans: If one falls behind (normally me) than the Smoker is likely to get him and finish him off.
DuBBle: The Smoker is going to take the longest to adjust to – there’s little logic to whether the tongue will lash out and cause the grief to one of the survivors or you.
Chris ‘Evo’ Evans: Favourite feature of the game:
The Poisoned Sponge: I think it’s important to note how much we’ve focused on versus. I really do think that’s where the meat of the game is. Co-op serves more as a stop gap for when you’re tired of losing, basically.
Chris ‘Evo’ Evans: I’ve had limited time with Versus, for me it is all about straight co-op, though I am starting to see the joy of Versus.
DuBBle: I enjoy the Vomiting on People feature most.
The Poisoned Sponge: That’s another thing; it’s different to TF2 where anyone can just play. There is quite an element of skill in play here.
DuBBle: And the drawbacks of the lobby least.
The Poisoned Sponge: The lobby is a mixed blessing. I think it’s necessary, but not great yet.
Chris ‘Evo’ Evans: Good point, if you can’t work with other people, then get lost from the game.
The Poisoned Sponge: It’s not just that Chris, if someone came to the game today, I’d not really be able to play with them for frustration. It’s got a bit of a learning curve.
DuBBle: One of our chatroom chums suggested a matchmaking system for Vs yesterday, a fine idea.
The Poisoned Sponge: As in you get 4 people and it finds 4 for you to kill?
DuBBle: Exactly; and each of these teams of 4 would know each other, they would be coordinated. Rather than the situation we often find ourselves in right now, where they’ll be a team comprising of a predominantly ‘random’ character, and they’ll consistently fail.
Chris ‘Evo’ Evans: That is a good idea.
The Poisoned Sponge: This is a new feature though, so I’m happy to give Valve the time to fix it. Advantage PC!
Chris ‘Evo’ Evans: I’m looking forward to playing versus on all 4 campaigns. They best make that happen.
The Poisoned Sponge: I think it’s in the works.
The Poisoned Sponge: So in conclusion, what say we?
DuBBle: I like the zombies!
The Poisoned Sponge: I like the zombie bums!
The Poisoned Sponge: And Bill’s beard.
Chris ‘Evo’ Evans: I love everything despite all the issues. Heck I like the issues with it!
The Poisoned Sponge: And Steve loves Loius’ bum. He told me. He said it was “akin to that sported by Achilles.”
Chris ‘Evo’ Evans: so we all love it then? Excellent!
The Poisoned Sponge: Excellent!