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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