Sunday, December 7, 2008

L4D - No Mercy Couples' Night

My girlfriend and I just finished playing through the No Mercy campaign of Left 4 Dead on easy mode. It took us 2 hours and 7 minutes, and we had one complete wipeout in that time frame.

It was so unbelievably intense and a lot of good fun.

A bit of background first. My girlfriend plays videogames as you can tell from her own blog, but most of the games she plays are either jrpgs like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, or games like Phoenix Wright, Puyo Pop, Animal Crossing and some platformers. She is not a player of first-person shooters. At all. I think she may have tried one of the 007 games sometime in 2003/4, but she hadn't touched one since then. She is one to try though and I managed to convince her that since we would be playing on easy, it won't be a problem, and that she would have three people supporting her throughout the entire game. There would be no problems at all!

None whatsoever.

And there were none. As long as you don't consider occasional panic shooting and the fact that we were the only two people that made it out of the city at the end of the day problems. And at least the other two got to see the helicopter before a Tank jumped on top of the helipad and stomped them to oblivion...

Sorry Bill. Sorry Francis.

Playing with her was actually a lot of fun. Originally I had thought that we would get to a certain level, she would get tired, bored or too stressed out by the game and we would quit and watch some TV or something, but she stuck through the entire thing. This highlighted a couple of things about the game for me and reminded me of why I like co-op games.

1. On easy mode at least, Valve has been able to create an FPS that encourages rather than alienates players unused to the conventions of the genre. At a first glance, it would seem that they were able to achieve this because of the nature of the genre. Zombies do not require advanced tactics to beat as they do not flank or take cover or perform any other type of maneuver that may cause non-FPS gamers to balk at the amount of things they have to do in order to have fun. They just point and shoot. However, they have been able to keep the challenge for more regular players of the genre by including the boss zombies as well as allowing the AI Director to activate hordes of zombies that charge the player. This increases the tension and whenever we survived an onslaught of boss and normal zombies, I could see that my girlfriend got a feeling of accomplishment no matter how small even if she didn't kill most of the boss zombies. She was able to keep some of the normal ones at least at bay.

2. The importance of silence. I love how the zombies in Left 4 Dead do not always attack the minute you can see them. The fact that they mostly just hang around either against walls or standing about aimlessly gives newcomers some breathing space within which they can practice their aiming and get used to the controls within the game, but without the constant pressure being under attack would produce. The fact that the pistols have unlimited ammo helps a lot as well.

3. I love games with audio cues and those in Left 4 Dead are really well executed. Within thirty minutes of play, my girlfriend was calling the presence of Boomers, Smokers, and Hunters with confidence (tinged with a bit of apprehension). And of course we were always acutely aware of the presence of a Witch  or a Tank. This also allowed her to participate in the game on another level as well. She could raise the alarm whenever she caught one of these audio cues and I didn't, and sometimes, she was able to take care of a boss zombie threat behind us because of the audio cues. This is a very empowering thing for someone learning how to play the game and in a small way ties into an interview on co-op gaming that Shigeru Miyamoto gave that was pointed out to me by Derek Rumpler. Providing players of different skillsets something to do in a cooperative game is quite important to making sure everybody has fun.

4. The ability to revive fallen comrades was also pretty nice as well. Whenever she got overwhelmed, either I or the AI would get to her in time and set about reviving her. This was pretty cool as it fostered a sense of teamwork as opposed to the standard respawning method that is used in games like Halo 3 for example.

These are all just quick impressions from the playthrough I had with her and I am sure I will have a lot more thoughts on the game once I can play it with four players on a higher difficulty setting.

Oh, and for all the people out there who may be interested in playing the game with a spouse or loved one, nothing is as cool as rescuing someone from the slimy tongue of a smoker with a well placed shot.


Derek Rumpler said...

Hah. Sounds fun. And thanks for the props. :)

Its a shame that there isn't a PS3 version, as I would very much like to play this with my own sweetheart. She's not really a "gamer", but she does like those kind've games.

Yegwa said...

It really is a shame that Valve has decided that the PS3 is not worth developing for.

Maybe you could always get a 360 as well if it is at all possible? Loads of nice games on it.