Picture this. The year is nineteen-ninety-something, and Iím excited for my first online game of Starcraft. My buddy is at the other end of my 56K dialup, ready to show me the ropes. Iíve struggled through the campaigns and have honed my skills for months. The time is now. I pick the class that Iím most comfortable with, the all-around humans, and the game begins. I strategically place my buildings, send out my harvesters, start building my defences and send out my scout. Admiring the aesthetics of my carefully laid out base, I begin constructing my army.
It all happened so fast. My scout suddenly vanishes from the minimap, and the last thing I see before the fog of war covers the land is an army of Zerg heading towards my base. I panic. I donít know what to do; Iím not ready for engagement yet! They never attack so quickly in the campaign. Before I know what hit me, it was over. The few units I had did little to stop the mighty Zergling army. Exasperated and dumb-founded, I drop the game and call my friend. ďWhat the hell was that?!Ē I scream. Heís laughing. ďThatís a Zerg Rush. Sorry man, but I couldnít resist.Ē
And that was my introduction to online RTSes.
Life in PC-RTS land hasnít changed much since then. PC gamers have an awe-inspiring fluidity when it comes to managing their army that I will never achieve. Like Roman gods, they are aware of what is happening at all times. They watch over and command their minions, nary a hiccup in their master plan. I left that place a long time ago, my head down in shame, never to return.
Console RTSes arenít much better for me. I bought the Lord of the Rings RTS when it came out on the basis that the controls were intuitive and easy to master. Not true. Maybe for an experience RTS player. Me, I select every unit on screen and march them towards the enemy, hoping the end result is in my favour. Am I constructing more units in the meantime? Do I have any idea whatís happening back at my base? No, Iím watching the battle ensue because itís pretty and fun. I made it to the fifth or sixth level before calling it a day and returning the game to EB. I never even tried to go online; I didnít want to risk the humiliation of being bested by a 14-year-old with Tourettes Syndrome.
These days, Iíve accepted my gaming handicap. I live my gaming life in the world of console-friendly games that may or may not involve shooting someone or something in the head. If youíre ever in the need of an overseer to command your army, Iím not your man. However, if you ever need another member for your elite organization to take down some invading horde, gimme a call. I can handle that.
Left 4 Dead is brilliant. And why shouldnít it be? It was made by Valve! One of the most ingenious game studios in existence and a shining example of a developer that truly values originality, Valve is a game studio that has consistently re-defined what you are able to do with a first person shooter.
Left 4 Dead is the only TRULY CO-OP first person shooter Iíve ever played. Sure, team tactics could put you at an advantage in any first person shooter versus match or campaign run but they by no means defined the game. Developing on-the-fly strategies for dealing with tanks and badly timed hordes mixed with screams of ďshotty down in front!Ē and ďget in a corner!Ē DEFINE this game. And then thereís the Versus mode. Having two teams of people working together makes for good times; you barely realize you just spent an hour on the edge of your seat.
Unfortunately, this game was not designed with a douche filter. Nothing brings heart break like spending half an hour trying to find a game where no one is team killing or running through the level alone or afk. I gave up a long time ago looking for games where everyone had headsets. Recently, itís gotten much worse. I blame Christmas for putting the game into the hands of meatheads and trigger happy Ritalin deprived 14 year olds. But like a lover whose significant other has put on too much weight and spends days watching Slice, I will wait and hope and search message boards for like minded players. Iíll wait for the douches to get bored and then L4D and I will spend happy days running through zombie infested streets together, hand in hand.