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Voodoo Farming #10 (08/27/09): Left 4 Dead

August 26th, 2009 by Ihmhi

Welcome back to Voodoo Farming: A Not-Quite In-Depth Look At Zombies In Popular Culture. It’s been a little while, huh?

Today I decided to finally get around to Left 4 Dead.

What’s with Valve and Lighthouses anyway?

Threat Level:Brains...Brains...Brains...Brains...Brains...

L4D gets 4/5 on the threat level. If it were you against the zombies, it would be 3/5, but anyone who has ever played a cooperative game can tell you the most dangerous thing in the entire game is the idiot with a lot of firepower and no clue how to use it.

Did I mention that L4D always has friendly fire on?

Before I go any further – you now hear the valvE game intro bass riff:

What's with Valve and Lighthouses anyway?

What’s with Valve and Lighthouses anyway?

I am sick as shit of this screen. This is actually one of the many reasons that I dislike playing L4D, and I think I’ve worn out my ESC key. I constantly hammer the damn thing and mutter “Get to the fuckin’ title screen already, get to the fuckin’ title screen already…”

Look, Valve – you make highly successful games. No one disputes this. But you (and so many other companies) go to the trouble to have this seemingly unskippable logo screen at the start of every single one of your goddamned games.

I know it’s an industry standard. Fuck the industry standard. I have what is by all means a modern computer – not top of the line, but pretty damn good – and I want to get into my game as fast as possible. It’s just like booting an OS. If I have time to go make a sandwich while your game is loading and it’s still not done when I get back, you are doing something very wrong.<⁄rant>

Anyway, on to the goddamned game.

Because when it comes to zombie outbreaks, nothing bad ever happens in a forest.

Because when it comes to zombie outbreaks, nothing bad ever happens in a forest.

L4D doesn’t have maps insomuch as it has campaigns. Every campaign runs more like a movie than a game; the loading screen is even styled as a movie poster.

Zoey must have a hard time sleeping at night.

Zoey must have a hard time sleeping at night.

The camera majestically pans in, and the characters talk about their current situation. “I heard we need to $COMPLETE_OBJECTIVE so we don’t die!” That’s basically how every L4D campaign starts. I’ve yet to play any custom campaigns, but I just can’t wait to see a half-assed implementation of the game with the pre-existing dialogue shoehorned into a situation that doesn’t really fit.

'Source Engine' and 'Outdoors' are two things that don't always go well together.

“Source Engine” and “Outdoors” are two things that don’t always go well together.

Valve did a bangup job on the scenary. If you play Half-Life 2 with a critical eye, you can see the places where they cut corners on architecture (using bump-mapped textures instead of actually drawing geometry) so that the beastly Source engine can run better on low-end machines. You don’t notice that so much in L4D.

Here’s the UI – your guns, your health, and the health of your comrades. Cooperation is absolutely necessary in this game. There are many situations where you’re going to be completely helpless unless someone else helps you. Of course, nothing ever goes wrong in that kind of situation.

No more s'mores left?

No more s’mores left?

After a quick look around at the peaceful scenary, you immediately grab as many bullets you can stuff in your pockets. For the newer players, go with the shotgun as your primary weapon. I suppose the Uzi has its own advantages, but I stick with the shotty anyway.

Hey! Down in front!

Hey! Down in front!

And this is why I prefer the shotgun. In the early game, you’re going to have waves of zombies coming at you, often in big, juicy clumps. Personally, I burn through Uzi ammo way too quickly. I suppose that it’s useful for long distances, but why not just use the pistol with its infinite ammo? (One of Valve’s sick jokes is that the pistol actually does a shit-ton of damage.)

You’ll also come across two throwable weapons, namely pipe bombs and molotov cocktails. The molotovs are useful for covering a wide area with fire – they are very useful for fighting stuff like Tanks (huge, hulking infected that have thousands of hit points). When it comes to the regular trash zombies, however, the pipe bomb is superior. Simply throw it…

Beep beep beep beep beep beep...

Beep beep beep beep beep beep…

And laugh maniacally as a few dozen zombies are turned into a fine red paste:

Is it raining?

Is it raining?

The campaigns are split into five parts. Between each part is a safe house where you can restock on ammo and health, take a break, etc. Once you close the safe house’s door, the next section of the campaign loads and you’re treated to a variety of stats about your gameplay and some funky techno music.

Stats stats stats

Stats stats stats

I’d like to say that between Left 4 Dead and Killing Floor, I prefer KF hands down. But one of the things Valve gets right and Tripwire Interactive doesn’t is that they put flashlights on every single gun (and they look beautiful):

Cue 'Prairie Dog Surprise' music.

Cue “Prairie Dog Surprise” music.

In KF’s latest patch, they finally fixed the flashlight. It looks nice now, but it’s still only on two guns. Shape up, Tripwire Interactive.

You get the opportunity to pick up a second infinite-ammo pistol very early on. You will also typically get a shot at grabbing the second tier of weaponry sometime in the second of five parts of the campaign:

Choices, choices...

Choices, choices…

Between the Assault Rifle, Combat Shotgun, and Hunting Rifle, I almost always pick the Hunting Rifle. Why?

BOOM! HEA... I think I did this joke already.

BOOM! HEA… I think I did this joke already.

That’s why. Boom, headshot. If you’re skilled under pressure you can wreak havoc – even against Tanks (surprisingly). When the other players are crying about being out of assault rifle bullets, you’ll be sitting pretty with half your reserve of Hunting Rifle bullets still in your pockets.

Wrapping It Up:

L4D is an okay game, but I don’t believe that it’s worth the $40 I payed for it or the $50 that many more people shelled out for it.

Killing Floor literally cost me half of what I’ve paid for Left 4 Dead, and I’ve probably played it a hundred times as much. And while KF has had paid DLC (four new character skins for $2, and yes I bought it), they’ve been doing quite well with their free updates (see the aforementioned update).

Valve, meanwhile, decided to cause a shitstorm and announce Left 4 Dead 2 before they released any significant DLC for the first game (READ: new weapons, maps, creatures, etc.). No, Survival mode doesn’t count.

I’m not a member of that L4D2 Boycott group, but I don’t think that I’ll be buying it – certainly not at full price. Why? Valve has taken far too long to release any decent DLC for a very short game that they made a shit-ton of money on. When the price comes down, you’re going to get more content than the early adopters and at a better price. When it’s down to around $20, maybe I’ll buy it.

So should you buy L4D? I highly recommend trying it out at a sucke- er, friend’s place first, or perhaps renting the 360 version. Play through one whole campaign, and that’s the entire game over and over and over again. At least with Killing Floor you have DLC coming out at a steady pace and a dedicated community that has actually been making good maps.

Reader Mail:

No Reader Mail this week.

Special Message From Ihmhi:

I hope you guys haven’t felt particularly screwed over the last few weeks. I’ve fallen behind in my research for VF and had to actually take last week off because I couldn’t sit down to write anything. Part of it is that a friend of mine is really ill and that has been affecting my sleep, and another part has to do with my dad getting drunk on a near-nightly basis and playing polka music until 2am. I typically drown it out with something like loud techno music (which is what I’ve been listening to for the last two hours on loop). So… yeah. I SUFFER FOR YOU GUYS WORSHIP ME AS YOUR NEW GOD.

I’m going to try to keep VF going weekly, but I’m working on fun things like trying to get financial aid to go to college, find a job, etc. I honestly might not be able to dedicate the several hours of research and writing it takes to make an issue of VF every week and still remain sane. If it comes to that, I’m sorry, but I’d rather write quality work every week or two than come out with some crappy stuff every week on time.

That’s it for VF this week.

Ihmhi is a developer for Fortress Forever, a free, fast paced Team Fortress mod for Half-Life 2.

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19 Responses to “Voodoo Farming #10 (08/27/09): Left 4 Dead”

  1. Tervic Says:

    use the -novid flag in run options to skip the stupid brass valve intro thingie of hate and rage.

    captcha: Statement eluding
    Eluding what? Zombies?


    Ihmhi reply on August 26th, 2009 11:19 pm:

    Well, I’ve always hated them and for years I’ve known about said options. Age of Empires II, Source games, etc. It’s usually just something you add in the command line for the shortcut.

    But even so, it’s like… play it once already, that’s enough. (C) GAME COMPANY YEAR is plastered everywhere anyway!


    Tervic reply on August 28th, 2009 9:11 pm:

    But what if some poor sap who’s never seen it before wants to play the game on your computer? We must share the creepy dude with a brain tap with the world! @_@


  2. Anonymous and STILL Employed Says:

    Yeah, played this at some other suckers first. What the hell is it with people and weaponry tiers? Just because you have something they say is tier three and I stuck with the shotgun doesn’t mean I can’t score waaay higher than you (which I did, for anybody who wanted to know)
    I much prefer games were I can decide for myself which guns/characters are the best, if anything it’s easier than arguing with the other players over who has an advantage over who

    Okay, rant over. My apologies


  3. StoneWolf Says:

    Personally I love L4D. That said, CHECK YOUR FUCKING TARGETS! I die more from Blue on Blue than Zacks. My old roomate and I used to play this alot and how we play says alot about us. Take him. He’s about five four and I can bench his skinny ass and I’m not that big myself (6-0 160ish). So he always plays whichever character is closest to a Norse Berserker, then waids straight in hajji-rocking anything that moves to death, usually with the Uzi. Consiquently, he always misses a bunch of Zacks who then swarm him while he screams like a Japanese school girl during her first tenticle penetration. And since I’m terminally stupid and stuck in pack logic, I try to save his dumb as and usually eat a face full of lead. I usually play as Zoey now since he generally shoots Tits McGee less than Joe Blow.

    On the other hand, when I play alone I usually grab the M4 as fast as possible then slowly advace while tapping off two or three rounds into any target I see. I like the M4 becuse when you’re getting gang-raped its just useful to have the rock-n-roll setting on the selecor. The thing that drives me nuts though is that the so called “sniper rifle” looks like an attempt at a Rueger Mini-14 with a scope. Toss the rifle and throw the glass on the M4 while giving it a single shot option and now we’ve got a decent setup. You can play marksman or rifleman as needed.

    Now, I did have a very interesting experiance playing with three other amature tacticians and military enthusiasts. There’s four survivors. There’s four men in a Fire Team. Oh ho! Three M4s with the Marksman switching to pistols for close combat and lots of inter-team communication works really well. Go figure.

    All in all, a damn fun game. And remember, the only thing better than slaughtering Zombies is killing Nazis.


    skippy reply on August 27th, 2009 7:40 pm:

    My god…”while he screams like a Japanese school girl during her first tentacle penetration. ”

    You crammed so much wrong into one paragraph….and I am so going to use that line later


    Minty reply on August 27th, 2009 8:05 pm:

    One of these days, a game should name its token female character something like “Titania McGee,” just so I can watch my gamer friends choke on their own spit.

    Don’t mind me, I’m in a mood.


  4. Gopblin Says:

    My issue with L4D is that zombies are so damn weak.

    You can easily take being gangraped for a few seconds, and they seem to drop dead if you look at em the wrong way. Sure there are lots of em, they appear out of thin air in hordes and run pretty darn fast, but why didn’t Valve just make fewer zombies that are tougher?
    Would’ve been more enjoyable and more “classic” IMO.

    Oh and you should totally review Stubbs the Zombie. That game is truly awesome, and fairly challenging after the first few levels.


    Sequoia reply on August 27th, 2009 8:08 pm:

    Ummm, have you ever played on expert?


    Fiarr reply on August 29th, 2009 10:22 am:

    Haha, Expert is where the fun is really at in my opinion. If I remember correctly, a single hit by your standard zombie takes about 20 of your 100 health.


    Leon reply on September 1st, 2009 1:26 pm:

    If playing solo (or on your own server) you can change game variables such as how much health they Z’s have, how fast they move, how many can spawn at one time. For truly sick insane fun, ramp up the max zombies to 300 and turn on permanent panic events (constant waves of zombies). Absolutely insane.

    Oh and some of the user designed campaigns are very very good. And they’re all insanely harder.

  5. Sequoia Says:

    Try some of the custom maps. A couple are REALLY good. The Helm’s Deep survival map is ridiculously nice. And weapon-wise I am, and always will be, a shot-gun man (for zombie related activities). I have yet to ever run out of ammo using a shotgun. And I always use the pistols for distance shots.


    NekoSniper reply on August 27th, 2009 10:36 am:

    I have to agree on the custom maps. The Death Aboard custom campaign is just as good as the official ones.


    Sequoia reply on August 27th, 2009 12:33 pm:

    I love Death Aboard. It IS as good as the official ones. There’s another one I’ve got called Death City that’s pretty good. The levels are a lot longer than most, if not all, the official ones. In four levels I myself had killed 2000+ zombies.


    Sequoia reply on August 27th, 2009 12:34 pm:

    Make that Dead City instead of Death City.

  6. Captain Scurvy Says:

    I generally get hit with a lot of hordes because I stand in one place and snipe with the M4. I used to go shotgun, but it takes too long to reload, and while I can actually do shotgun sniping for mid-range targets, the M4 has way better range.

    Captcha, naughty four: are they trying to tell us something about the survivors?


    Sequoia reply on August 27th, 2009 12:34 pm:

    When did you get it? Or are you just talking about when you where at my place?


  7. Texan Says:

    Here’s something for you, ihmhi: a published academic paper on the mathematical modeling of infection rates in a zombie attack.


    As a personal note, in my years of doing research papers, that is the most hilarious abstract I have ever read.


    Minty reply on August 27th, 2009 8:14 pm:

    Very fun. Here’s a similar article published originally in the April 1, 1992 issue of the very serious Canadian Medical Association Journal.


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