Miniview: Left 4 Dead (PC)

I love:
…the aural cues for specific zombies. As far as my limited experience goes, it’s relatively easy to tell what direction, say, a Witch is lying, but difficult to tell exactly how far away said Witch is, as the music certainly pierces walls, and the sound effects might. Given that about half the time your field of vision is extremely limited, listening to the aural cues is essential. If you don’t get disoriented playing mute, why have sound in the first place?
…limited vision, come to think of it. Too many games nowadays take the cheap route with darkness that is easily defeatable by fiddling with monitor brightness, with the result of most games being easy to see in no matter whether or not I’m carrying a torch, as I keep brightness on my monitors high by default. L4D doesn’t do that; the flashlight is necessary most of the time you’re inside buildings. Additionally, there are reasons not to use the flashlight. One, at least.
…the writing on the walls. I just love that kind of stuff. There are many more ways of telling stories than having people talk at you in cutscenes. Just look at L4D, Portal, Dead Space, and Uplink.

I like:
…that they let you carry multiple pieces of gear – pistol(s), non-default additional weapon, first aid kit, painkillers and an explosive – but limit you to one of each. That is, you can’t tote a shotgun and a hunting rifle at the same time. Fairly realistic, or moreso than any game that lets you carry and choose from umpteen weapons at once, but that’s the way things seem to be going nowadays, I think?
…pistols and a hunting rifle. I just favoured them over the other available weapons. Non-autofire weapons mean I’m likely not to shoot teammates that much. I need to learn to use molotovs at some point, though.
…achievements. Well, I like them in general, and L4D has a large collection of them. Some are sensible – achievements for completing the campaigns, an achievement for completing anything with everyone alive. Some are a bit silly, like the requirement for the Genocidest achievement.

I hate:
…how my mouse kept freezing every ten or twenty seconds. I use an optical mouse and I usually don’t need a mousemat, even for Half-Life 2, but for some odd reason Left 4 Dead just hates that. I don’t know whether it’s the mouse or the lack of a mousemat, but next time I play, I’ll find out. Either way, finding yourself unable to turn whilst anything is running at your backside is not fun.
…the lack of a manual? It’s an odd thing I have against Steam/Valve games. The one occasion they have a ‘user manual’ available directly from Steam’s game list, it’s for Team Fortress 2. Have you read that thing? It’s not helpful. I know L4D is mostly the standard Steam-FPS controlset, but… nowhere thus far has L4D outright explained the controls, and for half of my recent game I had to stay away from Witches as I didn’t know how to turn off the frigging flashlight. For someone like me who only goes into FPS territory on a fluke, for the most part, it’s a rather high barrier to entry when a manual is not easily available.

Verdict:
Well, usually I don’t play this kind of game. I’m bad enough with horror as it is; I prefer my shambling monstrosities to… you know… shamble, rather than leap on me as soon as I’ve spotted them.
Somehow, though, L4D isn’t as frightening as the normal horror games I play; the Ch’zo Mythos games, for example. This is probably due to me playing with one other living person – horror isn’t as horrifying when you know there’s someone else around, helping and… honestly, being better than you in almost every respect other than protecting other characters and avoiding getting hurt.
The only thing that at times prevented this game from being enjoyable was my problems with my mouse. When it wasn’t playing up, L4D was really quite fun. I get the feeling the game would be much worse for my pulse in single-player, honestly.
If you have people to play with, by all means, go for it.

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2 Comments

  1. Scott Carmichael said,

    January 20, 2009 at 3:33 am

    I’ve been on the fence about playing Left 4 Dead, mainly because I’m very cautious of all the hype the media has given this title. Valve’s last big game (Half-Life 2) wasn’t quite what I hoped for and I’m probably in the minority when I say I just didn’t like it (loved the first one though). Portal was a great game too…although it felt more like a demo than a real game to me…so comparing it to say, HL2 or L4D seems a bit unfair to those two.

    The mouse thing worries me a bit, mainly since I’d be playing this on my computer (I dunno, playing games meant for the computer on consoles [like Bioshock or FallOut 3] seems not-quite-right. You’ll have to let us know if your control issues got better or if the safer bet is to just play the console version instead.

    I also like the way your blog/review is done. The whole, “I like, I don’t like” thing is pretty nifty and easy to read. I now try to check this blog since discovering it a week or two ago. Keep up the good work.

    Scott
    http://www.scottcgaming.com

  2. lioleus said,

    January 20, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    Well, my mouse is odd anyway. Or how my computer handles the mouse; the cursor icon freezes in place when a window is in the process of minimising/restoring/maximising, though the cursor jumps to where it should be after that’s done.
    And the friend I was playing it with reports no problems like that. Likely I just have a substandard mouse.

    Portal is Portal, and HL2 is HL2; Portal is a puzzler, HL2 a FPS. I can’t really compare them on any basis save graphical, honestly. Portal did seem short, but not to the degree that it looked like a demo; it only seemed short because I’m used to games that take longer to play, though, and as you can create your own levels and download other peoples’, that can greatly increase the replayability, if you’re not playing just for GlaDOS.

    I’m glad you like the current format of my reviews. Even if some of them turn out to be not-so-mini. Just keep in mind they completely omit anything I think irrelevant, hm? It’s always best to read more than one review, anyway.
    I’m try to balance between commercial games and free games, but I’m always going to have more free stuff than things I need to pay for, I suppose.


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