A few weeks ago, I was playing through No Mercy on Expert for what was probably the twelfth time, and I realised I wasn’t having any fun any more. This was probably because I had been burning through the same map over and over until my eyes bled and my sperm clawed at the inside of my testes, begging not to condemned to such a sex-starved life.
I’m still playing it, so it’s not like the appeal has worn off just yet, but you may also be feeling the weight of repetition beginning to take its toll, so here are a few completely different things you can do to stave off the stagnation.
1. All 4 Me Otherwise known as “Left 1 Dead” by people with no imagination. All 4 Me has you start a single player game and immediately kick all three bots from the game using the console. You then have to play, not to win or escape, but literally to see how long you can survive without getting pounced, strangled, tanked, paper-cut, fired for lack of work commitment, fired for inadequate health and safety procedure, fired for startling the witch during office hours (including lunch and break hours) or vomited on by a 7-foot tall, morbidly obese telecommunications operator from Redding.
You can choose to fix the boss infected either by entering the server variable “director_no_bosses 1” or simply changing their abilities or spawn frequency for a little more challenge using commands like “director_special_respawn_interval” or “hunter_pounce_ready_range”, but playing it the hard way is a really amazing experience. It may sound sarcastic if I told you that how awesome it is to be instantaneously pinned by the hunter just seconds after an utterly epic and unbelievable man vs tank battle, but it really is an amazing experience, one that only becomes all the more delicious when you actually do manage to complete the level. This is the loneliest way to play Left 4 Dead, and is a highly refreshing experience.
It’s also hilarious to see the credits roll with only your name for every statistic.
2. Puppet the Director Be aware with this one. This follows the classic rule that cheating will cheapen the experience. As I kid, the first thing I did after buying a game was to look for cheats, because they would instantly unlock all the fun in one glorious rush, but it would be over very quickly, leaving me with only the intended, conventional levels of fun to tide me over until my next game. Kinda like eating the icing off a slice of cake. You’ve never had so much fun in a game before, but it may cost you further enjoyment of the game if you don’t know what you are doing.
Fortunately, I do know what I’m doing, so allow me to demonstrate the theory. Start up a single player game now and type into the console “sv_cheats 1” and then “bind mwheeldown z_add”. Now roll your mouse wheel back and forward and watch in awe as you see how far you can push the game before it melts your computer. This is just a fraction of the fun you can have when you screw with the game mechanics. You can, of course, pull the infamous witch trick of spawning a million billion witches in a small space while enjoying the benefits of a good noclip, and watch in awe as they balleticly swarm around your feet. There is more than just spawning zombies of course; you can do pretty much anything you like so long as you find the right command, but I’ve learnt that part of the fun is in the discovery, so I’ll leave you to play with that. I promise, you’ll come away grinning like a mad man.
3. Gun for the Hard Achievements Left 4 Dead has perfect achievements. If anything could be used as conclusive proof that Gamerscore is an arbitrary factor, it would be that the Left 4 Dead achievements are so good and so much fun to get, be they passive or through an investment of effort, that they are more satisfying to get than any of the games I’ve played on the 360.
Gamerscore is good for giving an achievement worth and value; it helps you and others gauge the difficulty of the achievement and thus the amount of effort required and the satisfaction gained. But Left 4 Dead proves that this is a misnomer by designing achievements that are so well intertwined with the gameplay that you know when you or someone else has done something awesome and, without using any words or numbers or multi-coloured rosettes, lets you feel every bit as awesome as you should. I just wish there were more of them.
4. Custom Maps It seems obvious to say with a source game, but custom maps are already in production for Left 4 Dead before the SDK hasn’t even come out yet. Any existing maps can be easily converted and new maps can be prepped in the existing SDK to be ported over at a later date. Speaking of which and considering how easy the Hammer editor is to use, I strongly suggest making your own. Just start by drawing the path in rough blocks, and add the detail as you go. You want the basic route to be satisfying to run, with plenty of twists and turns and depths of sight before anything else.
The community has always been at the forefront of Valve games, with every single game receiving a plethora of mods, maps, skins, gameplay variants, mutators and conversions, but Left 4 Dead can do more with your map. All those Counter Strike maps on FPSBanana are now worth 10 times as much as they were previously. But if you’re still not sold, just imagine this: Left 4 Dead in Portal, with the portal gun. Give it a month.
5. Director Dissection Typing in the command “director_show_intensity 1” while in cheat mode brings up a nice little window on the right-hand side of your screen. This shows you how the director monitors your stress levels. Try playing through a game of Blood Harvest and watch the how the little bars react to how you play. Not only does this give you a fair idea of how the director calculates your stress, not only does it provide you with advanced battlefield strategies and knowledge of the synthetic world around you, but it truly is fascinating to watch the game waver to your actions; to see it weave the gameplay experience around you.
Maybe it’s just me and my love for the design aspect of game design, but I reckon you’ll get a kick out of this too. Try combining it with the cheats as well and see it go spastic when you spawn no less than a million-billions of infected in the safe room while crouched in the corner with an auto-shotgun. Bliss.
6. Endurace Mode This is the most fun you will have with Left 4 Dead. On Act 5 of any level: “director_finale_infinite 1”. Just do it. Incidentally, you might want to bind up “give molotov” to an easily accessed key.
7. Edit: I just Found Another In a single player game, type "director_no_human_zombies 1" into the console. This allows you to play as the infected against bots offline, which is good for devising tactics and practising your wall jumping skills, sure... But combine it with these previous aspects, for example, the ability to spawn infected at will, the ability to force panic events every 12 seconds, the ability to noclip and the ability to increase the difficulty of the finale by an incalculable degree, and you've got possibly the finest gaming experience ever devised.
I ought to point out that I've found a few problems with this. The game is designed to not start until there are players on both teams, and it can become quite a hassle trying to get it to work. You will need to choose your team with M, but this also ends your round, putting you back on the survivors team, so you need to switch back straight away. You also need start the game with the command "director_force_verses_start", but this won't open the locked safe room door. So far, the only way I've found to fix this is to type "ent_fire checkpoint_exit break" in order to make the safe room door disappear. I'll fix this if I find another way. If you're willing to put the effort into getting around these issues, it's definitely worth your time.