So we’re back from Valve after a solid week of blasting, igniting, and blowing up zombies in Left 4 Dead. It was an incredibly busy week, but we managed to come back with tons of useful info and assets for the guide. There really are no shooters that play like Left 4 Dead, making it a real treat to those of us who have become a bit jaded with the whole genre. The game’s unique style of play became apparent during our session with the developers on Friday. It was a four on four match with two Prima guys paired with two developers against four developers upstairs. Although I had played the game all week, I was a bit anxious to go up against the developers who have been playing for two years. In other words, I was prepared to lose big time.
In the game’s versus mode, each team gets the chance to play a map as the survivors and the infected; at the end of a level, both teams switch sides and the map is replayed. The goal for the survivors is to reach the safe house at the end of the level while the infected team tries to stop them. It’s a very transient attack & defend style of play, with the survivors trying to blitz through the map as fast as possible while the infected work together to stop them. The developers on our team helped us get the hang of it in the first few rounds, making sure we stuck together and offering advice on how to best ambush the survivors when it was our turn to play as the infected. Still, I was totally unprepared for how incredibly frantic the pace was.
After the first map, the score was pretty close. But in the second map our infected team laid waste to the other team’s survivors. I managed to snare one of our opponents while playing as the smoker, an infected variant with a long tongue that can lasso a player from long range. The tongue can either constrict them or drag them closer for melee attacks. My victim was a straggler who failed to join his team on the lower level of the map. When I snared him with the smoker’s tongue attack, his teammates had no way to get back up to the upper level, allowing me to pummel him into submission until he died. And once a survivor is dead, they’re dead for the duration of the map; there are no respawns for survivors. Since the opposing team was down a man, the rest of my team quickly picked off the remaining survivors one by one. In the remaining rounds, our team did even better. When playing as the survivors we managed to make it to all the safe houses in all the remaining maps and we stopped the opposing team at least a couple of more times during our turn as the infected. Although both teams got through the finale level, by then the score was so lopsided that we were virtually guaranteed a win, regardless of outcome.
Still, I can’t take much credit for the victory. If it wasn’t for the two developers on our team feeding us a constant stream of tips and tactics during the match, we would have been toast. This highlights the extreme importance of communication. Two experienced players were able to lead two complete newbies to an overwhelming win over a very competent team of experts. This match perfectly illustrates Valve’s goal with this game, showing that teamwork can trump skill and experience. That’s what’s so refreshing about this game. It doesn’t just encourage communication and coordination, it absolutely requires it. Those who wander off and try to win the match on their own will be the first to fall. But even more, the intangible rewards and sense of accomplishment offered by teamwork is hard to communicate. Given the severe difficulty of the challenge, simply making it to a safe house with all your buddies is an almost transcendent experience that’ll have you high-fiving everyone within reach…whether they’re playing the game or not.